Feb 232024

Get Back to the beginning.

20. Cowboy Junkies — Run For Your Life

John Lennon once called “Run For Your Life” his least-favorite Beatles track, one he always hated. Many other fans might agree. It’s extremely catchy musically, but the lyrics can be, to put it mildly, distracting. Lennon borrowed the line “I’d rather see you dead, little girl, than to be with another man” from an old Elvis song, then wrote an entire song around that dark premise. There’s nothing wrong with a song’s narrator being a terrible person—see: Randy Newman’s entire discography—but the menacing lyrics clashing with the perky performance puts many people off. Perhaps they’d prefer the Cowboy Junkies’ cover, where the music carries the same threatening undertone of violence as the words. — Ray Padgett

19. Tom Petty, Jeff Lynne, Steve Winwood, Dhani Harrison and Prince — While My Guitar Gently Weeps

Only one person on stage at this posthumous Rock Hall tribute had no direct connection with Harrison, and that was Prince. The rough plan was to have the Purple One take the guitar outro. But this was unrehearsed, what with the noncommittal Prince being rather busy: like George, he was being inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame that night.

Petty and Lynne sing the verses with heart and tenderness, enough to get you gently weeping. But as the band forges into the outro, it’s time for the wailing. And Prince steps out of the shadows to deliver. His frenetic shredding and his showmanship steals the show, and turns the occasion from mournful to joyful. As the song’s last chord rings out, Prince tosses his guitar into the air, and it never came back down. A moment to remember from a cover not to forget. — Tom McDonald

18. Celia Cruz — Ob‐La‐Di, Ob‐La‐Da

The Queen of Salsa moves McCartney’s music hall kitsch to the center of the dance floor. Featured on an incredible compilation of Tropicalia Beatles covers released in 1996, Celia Cruz was in her 60s when she recorded this version of the White Album classic. She sings with the casual eminence of a legend letting loose, and she’s clearly having a lot of fun — you can practically see and hear her grin when she inserts her own mononym (instead of Molly’s) into the all-Spanish lyrics. The band’s energy is spry and sparkling, horns blasting, bass bumping at full tilt. Key to this danceable version, too, is the song’s two-and-a-half minute finale jam, the players teasing out riffs on McCartney’s tight changes until it breaks off into a dance fantasia that’s distinct from the song itself. (The background vocal figures, playing on the title’s natural syncopation and starting at the 2:53 mark, are particularly a joy.) — Ben Easton

17. Michel Benita — Blue Jay Way

Among all of George Harrison’s Beatles-era songs, this is the dark horse, the one too quickly dismissed. In his trippy contribution to the Magical Mystery Tour, Harrison lets go of guitar and lets go of Indian instruments (but not an Indian influence). It’s psychedelia inspired not by LSD but by jet lag and boredom. It’s a weird one, “Blue Jay Way.”

Bassist and bandleader Michel Benita makes it even weirder. A laptop emits skittish bleats while a hand-percussionist plays a trap kit and an EBow plays an electric guitar; a dreamy Japanese koto, a double-bass, and a muted trumpet all play acoustically. Their soundscape is by turns soothing and stimulating, but thick with atmospheric tension throughout. When the meandering jam at last returns to the refrain (“please don’t be long”) it’s like seeing a friend you’ve been waiting for emerge from a dense fog. — Tom McDonald

16. Joe Cocker — With a Little Help from My Friends

One of the most famous of Beatles covers, and with absolute good reason. Joe Cocker’s growling, at times unhinged, vocal performance is immediately unforgettable. Cocker doesn’t seem to care all that much about the original lyrics as his ad-libs seem to get much more enthusiasm as he shouts barely enunciated words between lovely backup vocals that serve as a counterpoint to his gruff delivery. Add to that the heavy jam-band instrumentation, especially the driving drum fills, and it’s a cover that will forever get at least a nod of respect and recognition no matter how many more versions come along. — Mike Misch

15. Siouxsie & the Banshees — Dear Prudence

Robert Smith of The Cure, rejoining the Banshees for a recording date during a fractious phase in the band’s history, knew “Dear Prudence” and so was able to come up to speed quickly when Siouxsie decided she needed a song from The White Album to add to her previous Beatles tribute, “Helter Skelter.” Their version has warmth, both in the mood and the mix, and it soars in new and innovative ways. In the decade and a half since the original came out, synthesizers and production could add extra musical layers and emotional hooks, and the band took full advantage of the opportunities. Last year’s marvelous Siouxsie tribute album takes her version of the starting point, rather than the original.

The key aspect is that the lyrics, in the hands of a female leader of music and people, are empowering. John Lennon is requesting that Prudence Farrow comes out of her room to join the party at the Maharishi’s. Looking at just the lyrics, some have suggested it is menacing, although the music itself suggests a welcoming vibe. Siouxsie is asking that people—particularly women—be themselves, and proudly join the world. Smile, if that is what works for you. You can embrace Siouxsie’s mindset, fashion sense and striking eye makeup any way that you like, but you can be proud and open about it, and she will welcome you to the family, no matter what others think. You don’t need to be miserable and hide in your bedroom, although you can if you want! You could, as the video does, go to Venice and take in the culture. Generations of post-punk enthusiasts have since taken her up on the offer and been grateful for her urging. — Mike Tobyn

14. The Breeders — Happiness Is A Warm Gun

Boston-based alt-rock supergroup The Breeders were never the kind of band to reinterpret Fab Four toe-tappers like “Eight Days a Week” or “Can’t Buy Me Love.” They were more the kind of band to perform unpredictable and unsettling songs about perverts, drugs, and sex, as they did on their glorious 1990 debut Pod, on which a cover of Lennon-penned White Album track “Happiness is a Warm Gun” made perfect sense. The stylistically diverse and experimental Beatles double record of 1968 had already been the single biggest influence on Kim Deal’s other band, the Pixies, but now here was Deal, with Tanya Donelly, Josephine Wiggs, Britt Walford and engineer Steve Albini, dialing up the fragmentary, stop-start nature of the track to even darker and more threatening levels.

The band gave the song a more primal and rawer sound overall, while perhaps wisely dispensing with the complex doo-wop section. Deal, meanwhile, added her dirty-sexy vocals, which more than did justice to the disturbing lyrics that spoke of sex pests on the loose (the “man in the crowd with the multicolored mirrors on his hobnail boots”), heroin addiction (“I need a fix ’cause I’m going down”), and sexual innuendo (“I feel my finger on your trigger”). They were rewarded with a minor hit on college radio, but more importantly, an extraordinarily unruly and menacing track to tie the whole Pod album together. It certainly won over Kurt Cobain. — Adam Mason

13. Yes — Every Little Thing

The version of Yes that started in the ‘60s started as many other bands have started before them, and ever since. As enthusiastic, talented young musicians who play cover versions so that they can get bookings and test themselves in front of an audience. Practicing during all their waking hours until their own voice emerges. “Every Little Thing,” from Yes’ debut album, finds the band in transition, with a mixture of covers and their own material. The musicianship is there, and the comfort between the band members is clear. The introduction is long and involved, until a phrase from “Day Tripper” arrives. The song comes from a phase of the Beatles where they are happy, with each other, their lovers and the level of fame they have achieved, and therefore is a joyous celebration of all those things. This version retains all of that whilst capturing something else: a yearning for the unknown. — Mike Tobyn

12. Stevie Wonder — We Can Work It Out

Stevie Wonder performed his cover of “We Can Work It Out” for Paul McCartney in 1990, when Paul won a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award, and in 2010, at the White House, when Paul was awarded the Gershwin Prize. And he performed it again in 2014, at the 50th anniversary celebration of the Beatles’ appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show. So, he must have thought it was pretty good—and he’s not the only one. Slate declared that Wonder’s cover was “The Greatest Beatles Cover” in 2016, stating, in fact, that it is the only Beatles cover “that is definitively better than the Beatles’ original.” It is, undeniably, great, transforming what was a folk-rock song about the deterioration of McCartney’s relationship with Jane Asher, featuring a darker, ¾ time interlude written by Lennon, into a much more joyful, danceable confection. — Jordan Becker

11. Sufjan Stevens — What Goes On

Call this a reconstitution of “What Goes On” rather than a cover. Its true inspiration seems to be early Yes rather than Rubber Soul-era Beatles, with more “Roundabout” musical quotations than anything Beatlesque. The two bands are not often conflated (except at #13 on our list!), but who knows what goes on in the heart and mind of Sufjan Stevens. He sees fit to merge verses, and to repeat lines as if transfixed. The simplest three-minute ditty becomes a lush, kaleidoscopic mystery tour (with sleigh bells) that is twice the length of the original and ten times more imaginative. — Tom McDonald


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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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