Feb 232024

Get Back to the beginning.

50. Flaco Jiménez — Love Me Do

“Love Me Do” is so vibrant and primal as to seem to come from a distant age. Arguably it did, as the first slice of of the Beatles band to storm the dozing attentions of radio listeners, caught in the interminable lull between rock and roll and the saccharine blandness all over the charts. Flaco Jiménez, the king of conjunto, is arguably the most celebrated Tex-Mex squeezebox player we have, with a career stretching from the early 1960s up until the present, although physical health has had an effect on his more recent output. Despite much of his early work being with the late Doug Sahm, who found his own breakthrough from Americanizing the style of the mop-tops, you might think there little traction between the accordion and Merseybeat. Which is where this track proves you wrong, with the harmonica riff of the original a straightforward and effective transfer. If Lennon’s urgent vocals were raw, here the vocals are positively ragged, a frayed firing of Jiménez and no less than Buck Owens, himself an accredited influence of the Beatles (or, at least, Ringo: “Act Naturally”). A rowdy barroom version, you can smell the sweat as you slip on the beer-soaked sawdust. It is a masterful account of how to seize a song for yourself. — Seuras Og

49. James Apollo — One After 909

James Apollo often gets compared to Tom Waits, and you can hear that in his cover of the Let It Be deep cut “One After 909.” Not in his voice, which is a million times smoother than Waits’, but in the dark-carnival-cabaret of the music. This is not a song many cover, and perhaps Apollo simply drew the short straw when MOJO magazine needed artists to cover every song on Let It Be for a compilation, but he turns what I would consider a lesser Beatles song into something mysterious and magical. — Ray Padgett

48. Steven Archer — I Am the Walrus

The opening seems a little like a computer-glitchy sounding dreamscape, but then crashing beats take over. These big sounds are not quite at heavy metal sonic-boom level, but the effect is enough to claim your attention. The vocals are intentionally placed in the background, with varying levels of distortion and places along the singing-vs-screaming spectrum. Around the two-minute mark, that initial dreaminess comes back very briefly, giving your ears a bit of time to recharge before the song returns to the heaviness that continues to escalate until the very end, when a quick fade-out replaces the increasing dissonant sounds. — Sara Stoudt

47. Ernie Garrett — Eleanor Rigby

The tragedy of Ernie Garrett’s vanished past is one to match the tragedy of Eleanor Rigby. Where did he come from? Where did he belong? Best I can tell, he’s an American soul singer who moved to Europe. He recorded a couple singles in Sweden, played with a Spanish band named Alcatraz, and died in 1978. It’s frustrating how much isn’t known about Garrett, as his cover of “Eleanor Rigby” (backed by a Swedish singing trio called the Superbirds) is a stunner that deserves to break – and break him – out of cult status. He brings across anger, confusion, and defiance that never appeared in the Beatles original. And when he describes Father McKenzie “as he strolls from the grave,” I’m seeing the overly familiar priest in a way that never once occurred to me before. — Patrick Robbins

46. Little Richard — I Saw Her Standing There

Little Richard was one of the Beatles’ many American rock n’ roll inspirations. His feisty yowl was often imitated by the lads, especially on tracks like “I Saw Her Standing There.” Little Richard turned things around when he covered the song on his 1970 album The Rill Thing. He dropped the piano boogie-woogie sound that defined his early records and instead recorded the track as a hard-driving southern R&B tune more in the style of artists like Wilson Pickett. It’s still Little Richard, the artist who helped invent rock n’ roll, it’s just from another chapter of his career, one that deserves more recognition. — Curtis Zimmermann

45. Patti Smith — Within You Without You

George Harrison is synonymous with rock & roll’s embrace of Indian classical music and Eastern philosophy. But for the rest of The Beatles, Harrison’s open-mindedness wasn’t always the most natural fit. His earliest offerings to the band in this realm like “Within You Without You”—written before the Beatles’ group expedition to India in ’68—sound, in retrospect, a bit overextended, dabbling from afar without all the worldliness to match. With more life under her belt, it’s Patti Smith who’s able to offer a version of “Within You Without You” that fulfills the brief of Harrison’s Sgt. Pepper centerpiece. Recorded for Twelve—Smith’s reverential late-career covers album from 2007, released when she was 60—the Godmother of Punk’s cover is full of grit and gravitas, sung in her signature weathered low range. Smith’s band, too, finds a loose confidence as they move deftly through the song’s open harmonics, now transformed with a bounding 6/8 feel. The depth of lived experience is the key added ingredient here. Sung from some distance, Smith captures the prescience and wisdom that was within a young George Harrison from the start. — Ben Easton

44. DeVotchKa — Girl

DeVotchKa’s take on “Girl” opens in a Kurt Weill mood. Far from Lennon’s intimate vocal, here we have a theatrical delivery, as if the setting is a Berlin cabaret. Soon it segues to a Russian-leaning folk dance, and at last builds to a quickening violin crescendo straight out of a Balkan village. This is DeVotchKa being DeVotchKa. And yet their cover is faithful to the musical elements baked into the original song. “Girl” was always more than just Dylan-inspired balladry. The oompah bassline, the bouzouki-like instrumental section (written by McCartney in Greece), the exotic flatted notes in Lennon’s melody–the song had Eastern European DNA from its inception. DeVotchKa just gives it full expression. — Tom McDonald

43. P.M. Dawn — Norwegian Wood

In an era when hip-hop was still seen as an aggressive art form about gang misconduct, P.M. Dawn were hippies, talking about the mystical and the goodness and how it had the power to transform. As an example, “Norwegian Wood” is no longer the tale of infidelity that John Lennon conceived. Rather, it’s a tapestry of swirling music that lifts the listener from cloud to cloud. Rappers had sampled Beatles records before, but to transport an entire song of theirs into another soundscape altogether seemed irrelevant and unnecessary until P.M. Dawn showed ’em how it’s done. — Patrick Robbins

42. Bill Wells & Aidan Moffat — Yellow Submarine

“Yellow Submarine” has never been a cool Beatles song to cover. Though there are deeper possible meanings to be divined—LeRoi Jones said it was about race relations; Donovan said it was about the perils of fame—it is generally treated as a children’s song. Many of the covers that do exist, in fact, are by children’s artists. Bill Wells and Aidan Moffat are decidedly not that. The Scottish duo, Wells on bass and Moffat on vocals, strip the song down. In fact, there’s barely any melody left. It’s almost spoken word, like Leonard Cohen if he had a thick Scottish brogue. A martial snare drum gives it a sharp military edge. For the bridge, a trumpet comes in like it’s playing taps while Moffat recites his own new lyrics (between the brogue and the competing noises, a little hard to decipher). This “Yellow Submarine,” whatever it means, is definitely not for kids. It might give them nightmares. — Ray Padgett

41. Pretenders — Not A Second Time

When the Pretenders covered ’60s songs—primarily Kinks songs—in the ’80s, they invariably made them sound ’60s, with none of that synthesizer stuff, and definitely none of that gated-reverb drum stuff. Their lesser-known 1990 interpretation of the less-covered “Not A Second Time,” originally buried on side two of 1963’s With the Beatles, continues in this vein. Principal Pretender Chrissie Hynde’s reverence for the underappreciated Beatles gem and early Beatles sound, indeed, knows no bounds on a majestic cover that the band strangely consigned to the B-side of “Never Do That” off the Packed! album. Straight into the song with no intro. Check! Double-tracked vocal. Check! Simple piano solo à la George Martin. Check! Hell, even the fadeout sounds identical.

But it is, of course, the Hynde voice that makes the difference. That uniquely strong, sultry, and deeply emotive thing which, remarkably, she said she didn’t like the sound of around this time in an interview. If anyone was going to attempt to rival Lennon’s incredible vocal, so full of hurt and torment, on the betrayal-themed “Not A Second Time,” no one better than Hynde. Plus, to note William Mann’s famous treatise on the song in The Times in 1963, she clearly knows her way around an Aeolian cadence! — Adam Mason


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  22 Responses to “The 75 Best Beatles Covers Ever”

Comments (22)
  1. oh HELL yes. Looking forward to digging into this.

  2. Esther Phillips… ‘And I Love Him’. just sublime….

  3. Steve Earle – “I’m Looking Through You”
    Richard Barone – “Cry Baby Cry”
    Elvis Costello – any of a number of Beatles covers
    Lou Ann Barton – “Every Little Thing”

    . . . just off the top of my head. Thousands more and these are 75 best EVER? Dial it back a bit. How about some beatles covers instead without the outrageous claim?

  4. Well, I don’t know. There was no way you were going to do this and not have folks take you to task. Reasonable people can disagree and all that, I suppose, but it seems you all went out of your way to be contrary. You certainly warned us where you were going with #75.

    I’ve been collecting covers of the lads’ tunes for some time now. and there’s precious little overlap between what you privilege and what I prefer. Admittedly, I have a (relative)recency bias that you all do not and you all were more eclectic than I am, both in the songs you selected and musical genre in which they were covered. I mean, “Honey Pie” is in the bottom 10 percent of all Beatles songs. Why would I want a cover of it, let alone rank it among the best ever?

    So, here are few I like that you didn’t include.

    I like both of these, one very different than the other, better than the version you selected:



    And this, a beautiful rendition:


    George’s only song on SPLHCB:


    Our Johnny climbs inside his head:


    Pretty Paul:


  5. A few more:

    Margo Timmins renders a lovely jazz lounge version of “Things We Said Today”:


    A nicely arranged version of “Fool on the Hill” by Bruce Cockburn:


    JT and Yo-Yo do George’s “Here Comes the Sun”


    I’m available for consultation should you choose to edit and resubmit your list!

  6. Sublime, Paul Brady covers “You Won’t See Me”:


  7. Guitar, cello (or is it bowed upright bass?), voice and a terrific arrangement:

    Lisa Lauren covers “Look What You’re Doing”:


  8. Paul Weller and friends rock “Come Together” (check out the keyboard player):


  9. And though I appreciate George’s songs getting some slots on your list, when it comes to Thea and Beatles covers, I very much prefer this one:


  10. Respect your choices, love the reader comments, and have to say that any list titled Best Beatles Covers should most definitely include these 25 (in alphabetical order or She Loves You by Peter Sellers would be first, best Beatles cover ever).

    1. Come Together by Axl Rose and Bruce Springsteen
    2. Come Together by Roberta Flack
    3. Come Together by Sophie Urista
    4. Eleanor Rigby by Aretha Franklin
    5. Golden Slumbers By Gracie Abrams
    6. Got to Get You Into My Life by Earth, Wind, and Fire
    7. Help by Alejandro Escovedo
    8. Help by Little Wayne
    9. Helter Skelter by Aerosmith
    10. Her Majesty by Chumbawamba
    11. I am the Walrus by Oasis
    12. I am the Walrus by Spooky Tooth
    13. I Feel Fine by Leslie West
    14. I Need You (acoustic version) by Steve Perry
    15. I Want to Hold Your Hand by T.V. Carpio
    16. I’ve Got a Feeling by Pearl Jam
    17. I’ve Got a Feeling by Billy Preston
    18. Long, Long, Long by Tim Bernardes
    19. Long, Long, Long by Tanya Donelly
    20. Sexy Sadie by Rachel Unthank and dThe Winterset
    21. She Loves You by Peter Sellers
    22. Something by James Brown
    23. While My Guitar Gently Weeps by Girl in a Coma
    24. Yesterday by Marvin Gaye
    25. You Never Give Me Your Money by Tenacious D

  11. And… 26. She Said She Said by The Black Keys; 27. Tomorrow Never Knows by Junior Parker. Both essential Beatles covers.

    • Stan, that Junior Parker cover of Tomorrow Never Knows is one of my personal all-time faves! Perfectly eerie and gorgeous! We just didn’t have enough room this time :) And Rachel Unthank and the Winter Set’s epic Sexy Sadie is in there, at #30. Love your lists and gotta add that while I do adore Marvin’s Yesterday, Donny Hathaway’s is the one that steamrolls my heart :)

  12. Okay, okay — I’m not trying to suggest the Alternative 75 Best Beatles Covers Ever, but also: 28. Yes it Is by Don Henley; and All You Need is Love by Noel Gallagher, which even though it was done for the Teenage Cancer Trust belongs in the Irony Knows Know Bounds Hall of Fame given the loving, graceful, forgiving nature of the Gallagher Bros relationship.

  13. Yeah, more covers to sort through! Thanks, Stan.

    So, sometimes I like covers that translate well to other genres (and in this case languages):

    A French gypsy jazz offering of George’s “If I Needed Someone”.


    • Thanks for all the sharings, Kevin. Like you I’m a fan of that “John, Paul, George, & Django” gypsy jazz album. Not sure if you noticed, but we selected a different song from it (see #64).

  14. Aargh, Forget this one; it’s a masterpiece. Across the Universe by Laibach. The version by AURORA is excellent too, but the Laibach version…whew. (You’re welcome Kevin…in the hands of masters these interpretations from the shoulders of giants can be pretty fulfilling to listen to, hope it does that for you and others).

  15. Can I please, like, get banned from posting on this site? I run a company, have other stuff to do! And yet…Things We Said Today by Dwight Yoakam. Sigh. LAST ONE, I SWEAR.

  16. Yeah, I can’t stop just yet, either:

    John (effing) Entwistle rocks George’s “Here Comes the Sun”


    Whereas JT and Yo-Yo give it a distinctly different treatment:


  17. As an Australian I’m pleased to see that Tommy Emmanuel made the list. Perhaps I’m biased (I don’t think so) but I would always include in a list of this size Zoot’s heavy cover of “Eleanor Rigby” and Doug Parkinson in Focus with “Dear Prudence”, a big hit in 1969. Oh, Lowell Fulson’s chugging “Why Don’t We It In the Road” is a personal fave.

  18. Now I’m just flat out using posting here to procastinate.

    Margo Timmins renders a sultry jazz “Things We Said Today”


  19. And allow me to use Ms. Timmins to pivot to covers of the boys’ offerings after they regrettably chose to go separate ways:

    George — “I’d Have You Anytime”


    Paul’s “Maybe I’m Amazed” by Brian Vander Ark:


    John’s “Working Class Hero” by Hilton Valentine


    I say regrettably chose to separate only because they did so in such a definitive way that led to them never really working together again as a quartet. I understand and respect their need for individuation. But, with a little perspective, I think they might have instead announced an extended hiatus that would give them the space needed, but also more readily allowed for reuniting. Bands don’t need to formally “breakup”. Why not leave it more open ended?

    Of course, the effect was that we have four solo careers to enjoy. So, there’s that.

  20. So I just stumbled upon this. Had no idea about its origins and at first thought about whether I wanted to share a cover of this great song from an animated series about bugs. And the lead singers voice, well, I wasn’t sure about that either. But I gave it couple listens and have come to quite like it:


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