Jun 182022

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50. The Drifters – Every Night

The R&B vocal group the Drifters seemed to have countless lives, not to mention countless lineups. They are known best for their ‘50s and ‘60s hits like “Save the Last Dance for Me” and “Under the Boardwalk,” but they kept recording and bringing in new singers long after falling off the charts. In the early ‘70s, they released this cover of Paul McCartney’s “Every Night.” While the track was recorded in England, with its heavy orchestration and soulful emotional punch, the song seems like a lost Philly soul classic. – Curtis Zimmermann

49. The Shazam – Helen Wheels

“Helen Wheels” is a rocker with an early Beatles feel to it; it was inspired by Paul and Linda’s dependable Land Rover, which was given the punny name. Originally released as a single before the Band on the Run album came out, it was not on the original UK album, but was added to the US release (and later versions of the album). The Shazam, a power-pop band from Nashville with a strong British Invasion influence that was active in the late ’90s and early 2000s, contributed their pretty faithful (and fun) cover of the song to 2001’s Coming Up: Indie Tribute to the Music of Paul McCartney. – Jordan Becker

48. Aldous Harding – Single Pigeon

Singer-songwriter Aldous Harding’s chameleonic approach might feel at odds with a lot of McCartney’s solo material. While Macca thrives on big-heartedness and transparency, Harding is enigmatic, nesting lyrical puzzles and layered personas in her work. What the two do share is a knack for clarity when it comes to melody and song construction — musically, both are masters of cutting to the chase. Harding’s cover of “Single Pigeon,” a two-minute oddball from 1973’s Red Rose Speedway, makes demonstrable sense. It’s one of Macca’s most distilled solo tunes, but it’s also one of his most narratively obtuse, a sweet-spot combo for Harding on both fronts. Normally elusive on the subject of her own material, Aldous Harding has been unusually transparent about her love of “Single Pigeon” — going on the record about the track for a feature with Pitchfork called “The Song I Wish I Wrote,” as well as performing the cover at countless international tour stops. Like the original cut, Harding’s live arrangement is appropriately small and creaky, pared back to just keyboard and voice. She brings a sharp focus from this otherwise innocuous Macca track, a summation of Harding’s own rewarding, strange, incisive work. – Ben Easton

47. Glen Campbell – Mull Of Kintyre

It might surprise American readers to learn that “Mull of Kintyre” was McCartney’s most successful single ever. In the UK, that is. Here in the States, the single didn’t get much of a hearing, maybe because very few US citizens can define “mull,” and fewer still can abide bagpipes. A further surprise is that Glen Campbell–the world-class guitarist, the TV show host and actor, the singer of “Rhinestone Cowboy” and a few dozen other American classics–can rock some bagpipes. And well he should, on Paul’s tradition-soaked ode to his farm in the Scottish Highlands. For all of Glen Campbell’s all-American aura, he likely identified more than a wee bit with his Scottish ancestry. Ages ago, the Campbell clan was the dominant Scottish clan; they ruled over the Scottish Highlands, Mull of Kintyre included. Note that Paul recorded the original version with a Pipe Band from Campbelltown, an historic city just down the road from the McCartney farm. I’m not suggesting Glen Campbell’s forebears may have been the founders of Campbelltown, or that his distant kin maybe played on the original recording, but, well, maybe someone should look into it. – Tom MacDonald

46. Shonen Knife – Jet

Covers from the powerhouse Japanese pop-punk legends Shonen Knife usually skew towards the punky and primitive — P-words you might not immediately associate with the prim, proper, (mostly) poppy Paul. But Shonen Knife find something combustible and rewardingly bubblegum-y in their cover of “Jet,” released initially on the band’s 2009 full-length album Super Group. The trio bump up the key by a full step from the original, giving the overdriven power chords a big turbo boost, and the song’s iconic post-chorus “ooh ooh ooh ooh”s a kind of loose, helium-induced delirium. The tempo isn’t sped up per se, but Shonen Knife’s version of “Jet” still whizzes by like a comet, explosive and rambunctious. – Ben Easton

45. Ron Sexsmith – Listen to What the Man Said

Ron Sexsmith has an official YouTube channel for his music videos and such titled, naturally, “OfficialRonSexsmith.” But the real wealth lies in his side channel, “Rawnboy.” Over there, he’s covered hundreds – thousands? – of songs, all simple and direct to camera, all intimate and moving. Though on the surface they look like a million other YouTube covers, a middle-aged guy in poor lighting with an acoustic guitar singing classic rock and singer-songwriter tunes, he brings a passion and tenderness even to these simple performances. Listen to what this man sings. – Ray Padgett

44. On Video – Temporary Secretary

East London indie four-piece On Video replicate the flippant experimentalism of the original “Temporary Secretary” on their 2019 version. They pluck the second song from the gloriously lo-fi and divergent McCartney II album of 1980–frantic synthesizer sequence, sleazy-boss narrator, managerial talky bits and all–and pump it full of steroids. So much so that it sits perfectly alongside their self-penned guitar-pop sizzlers “Clap Trap” and “Ghee.” The bit where it all breaks down at the 1:27 mark, in anticipation of a renewed explosion of garage-rock energy, is particularly pleasing. – Adam Mason

43. Tom Jones – (I Want To) Come Home

Everybody’s Fine was a 2009 movie featuring Robert De Niro struggling to reconnect with his grown children. It got mixed reviews, but one who liked it was Paul McCartney. “The fact that he’s lost his wife and has grown-up children with situations of their own and is trying to get them all around the table – I could relate to that quite easily,” he said. So easily that he wrote a song for the movie, “(I Want to) Come Home.” Tom Jones’ take on the song makes you wish he could have made more albums that feature him dialing back. Reminiscent of Johnny Cash’s American sessions, it shows Jones, older and wiser, finished with fantasy and ready for reality. His vocal really is a revelation; he avoids his trademark robust power and opts for a sound that skirts resignation but ends up at total peace. – Patrick Robbins

42. The Pontiac Brothers – Magneto & Titanium Man

The Pontiac Brothers reveal how well the melodies and rhythms of McCartney’s Beatles-esque original translate to other styles. This swinging blues rock number works great as a call-and-response rocker. The lyrics don’t really matter too much here, but the rhythm drives the song forward, backed by pounding drums and steady guitars. It’s a wonderfully simple celebration of a fun song. – Mike Misch

41. Dr. John – Let ‘Em In

Dr. John retains nearly every eccentric detail of Wings’ “Let ‘Em In” on his 2014 cover of the song, from the opening doorbell sound to the piano-based groove, the militaristic beats, the flutes, the trombone solo, and the false fade-out. He also tells of receiving exactly the same people at his door, from Phil and Don (the Everly Brothers) to brother Michael and auntie Gin, even though he can’t possibly know them like McCartney knows them. But he distinguishes his version, of course, with that voice. That iconic Dr. John voice, which sits alongside the iconic voices of Dylan, Willie, and fellow New Orleans legend Allen Toussaint on the Art of McCartney tribute album. He growls and purrs his way wonderfully through the song, while giving the inferred invitation to party a distinctly Big Easy flavor and a promise of something voodooish and untoward. As host, therefore, he makes plain that he’d certainly entertain sister Suzie, uncle Ernie, and all the other visitors in the song. But in what kind of weird way? – Adam Mason


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  One Response to “The 50 Best Paul McCartney Covers Ever”

Comments (1)
  1. That Neil Young cover is amazing.

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