Jun 182022

Go back to the beginning

40. The Shins – Wonderful Christmastime

“Wonderful Christmastime” is less a song than an inevitability: you will hear it dozens of times each and every December, whether you want to or not. For this cover, the Shins invoke the sound of the second most-famous ’60s band beginning with the letter ‘B’ – The Beach Boys – mixed in with their own signature style. The compilation album this cover can be found on, Holidays Rule, also features a contribution from none other than Paul McCartney himself, who sings “The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire)”. – Tim Edgeworth

39. Richie Havens – Band on the Run

“Band on the Run” is one of McCartney’s signature solo tracks. Yet folk legend Richie Havens managed to unearth new meaning from the track when he covered it for his 1974 album Mixed Bag II. The song tells the story of someone “stuck inside these four walls” longing to break free. McCartney’s version is dominated by the upbeat refrain, which drowns out any implied darkness. Haven’s rendition, however, leaves little doubt that “Band on the Run” is a prison song. Havens emphasizes the song’s bleaker elements, repeating the refrain “If ever get out of here” over and over again, like a plea for help. – Curtis Zimmermann

38. Laurence Juber – Jet

Guitarist Laurence Juber is one of those musicians whose name you may not recognize, but whose music you have definitely heard. His first studio session was with George Martin, on a Cleo Laine album, and he also played on the theme for The Spy Who Loved Me. In 1978, Juber gave up his successful studio career to join Wings, unable to pass on the chance to play with one of his heroes. His tenure in the band lasted three years, ending when Paul’s drug bust and the death of John Lennon led McCartney to break up Wings. Juber moved to New York, and met his wife, Hope Schwartz, whose father Sherwood created, among others, Gilligan’s Island and The Brady Bunch. This connection led to Juber playing on, and composing, TV and movie soundtracks, including “Time of My Life” from Dirty Dancing. Juber’s 2005 album One Wing features him covering 13 post-Beatles McCartney songs in a beautiful acoustic, fingerpicking style, including “Jet.” – Jordan Becker

37. Sigrid Haanshus – My Valentine

This song was one of the few originals on Paul’s 2012 Kisses on the Bottom album that was otherwise made up of mostly cover songs. It’s an easy-listening, prime slow-dance song that also has that air of mystery, like it could be playing in the background of a swanky party in a James Bond film. Sigrid Haanshus faithfully maintains these properties of the original, her strong and soulful vocals paired with romantic strings and guitar strums. – Sara Stoudt

36. John Cowan – Heart of the Country

In 1971, McCartney released Ram and a band called New Grass Revival got itself together. True to its name, the young outfit rocked the insular world of bluegrass, swapping out Bill Monroe material for the music of the Beatles, Bob Marley, and other suspect influences. The “newgrass” band and its singer John Cowan retained the traditional high lonesome sound, but the high was of a different kind. Four decades later, Cowan covered “Heart of the Country” on a star-studded solo effort. Noam Pikelny (Punch Brothers) kicks it off with a banjo run that quotes McCartney’s guitar lick. The singer and his fleet-fingered bandmates blaze through the song in barn-burner fashion. I would never have guessed this laid-back ditty could be a great vehicle for a fiery jam. – Tom MacDonald

35. Alice Fredenham – Bluebird

Majestically melodic and romantically daydreamy, “Bluebird” is the lush calm in the middle of the raucous candy-coated storm of Band On The Run’s side one. While Corinne Bailey Rae did a fine and more famous version of “Bluebird” back in 2014, the cover that comes the closest to nailing the perfect vibe of the original is Alice Fredenham’s 2017 take. Welcome to the most lustrous, languorous, warm ‘n’ windblown cover of “Bluebird” in existence. The instrumentation is wonderfully fulsome, but it’s Alice’s sultry and winsome vocal that lifts this one into the all-time “truly swoonworthy” category of Macca covers. – Hope Silverman

34. Terrorvision – Coming Up

Terrorvision’s tight and speedy cover of “Coming Up” came out as the B-side of their first single. The take is driving and semi-feral, metallic but not metal. It’s a great song for Terrorvision to cover, because “Coming Up” is, like the band itself, a curious amalgam of styles and sensibilities, a weird experiment that succeeded due to force of personality. – Tom MacDonald

33. Linus of Hollywood – Warm and Beautiful

Beneath its simple form, “Warm and Beautiful” feels like it contains something far more rad and outsized: a killer power pop tune. Indeed, the track seem spiritually aligned with far bigger (Beatles) ballads: the inviting schmaltz of “The Long and Winding Road,” the contented maximalism of Abbey Road’s back half. It’s in this poptimistic spirit that L.A. multi- instrumentalist/producer Linus of Hollywood offers his golden-hour version of “Warm and Beautiful.” Released independently on his album Reheat and Serve in 2008, LoH’s version is expansive and radiant. The track floats dreamily beside the likes of The Zombies and Fountains of Wayne: rainbows of stacked vocal harmonies, heaped-on Paisley Underground schmaltz. Yet in spite of the new vibes, Linus of Hollywood wisely manages to keep Macca’s original sweet feeling at the fore; the song remains an ode to (and co-write by) the Lovely Linda, and the warm, beautiful love that the pair shared. – Ben Easton

32. Brad Mehldau – Junk

Powerhouse jazz pianist and composer Brad Mehldau plays plenty of tunes from the jazz repertoire, but he’s as likely to draw from the rock catalog. He’s jazzified Rush twice, Nick Drake four times, Radiohead five times, and McCartney eight times. Eight! Half of those are from the Beatles period, but even there Mehldau selects the Lennon/McCartney songs that are all Paul’s. Mehldau likes to take a song’s main riff or melodic hook as an off-ramp into a lengthy and wayward excursion. His improvisations follow long and winding backroads. Sunday driving, not arriving. (Example: his cover of the Stone Temple Pilot’s three-minute-long “Interstate Love Song” clocks in at seventeen minutes.) And yet Mehldau’s live recording of “Junk” is a concise and economical five-minute piece, perhaps his bow to the song’s sweet simplicity. See also Mehldau’s treatment of “Blackbird,” a song written in the same period as “Junk.” – Tom MacDonald

31. Tanya Donelly & Parkington Sisters – Let Me Roll It

In 2010, McCartney clarified a couple of things about “Let Me Roll It,” another great track from Band On The Run. First, it was not written to John Lennon, despite the obvious stylistic debt that the song owes to him, and second, it’s about rolling a joint. Tanya Donnelly, whose work with Throwing Muses, The Breeders and Belly should be enough, has continued to release music as a solo artist pretty much without pause. In 2020, following the release of a series of quarantine covers for charity, she released a proper album of covers with singers and multi-instrumentalists the Parkington Sisters. Their version of “Let Me Roll It” is a beautiful string and harmony-filled country ballad. And, according to Donelly, although she hadn’t planned on using electric guitar on the album, she felt that this song needed one. – Jordan Becker


Cover Me is now on Patreon! If you love cover songs, we hope you will consider supporting us there with a small monthly subscription. There are a bunch of exclusive perks only for patrons: playlists, newsletters, downloads, discussions, polls - hell, tell us what song you would like to hear covered and we will make it happen. Learn more at Patreon.

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

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

 Leave a Reply

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>