This post is gonna offend people.
But it shouldn’t.
People are really sensitive about their media. People are especially sensitive about remakes, covers, books that are made into movies and special editions. For a lot of us, the first version of a song or a story we hear is THE version of that song or story, and anyone who tried to do it again, well, it’s just not as good. The word remake, especially in the cinematic universe, is often a four letter word. Especially these days, when we’ve got remakes of “Poltergeist” coming out. Why do we need to remake movies that are already so good? I mean, I’m with you people on that. We don’t need a remake of “All the President’s Men” or “Dog Day Afternoon”. That’s why Hollywood has come up with the term “reboot”. Reboots are suppose to be film franchises that restart in a modern age, but let’s face it, they’re really remakes. You know what remake I’d love to see, though? “Capricorn One”.
“Capricorn One” or: Elliot Gould thinks something is wrong and he can’t tell you who is gonna kill him
Yeah, that was O.J. Simpson.
See, that film has some good ideas, and some good production value, but it could be made better and stronger, and more well thought out than its original production. My point is: some things should be remade, or be covered. Soderbergh’s “Ocean’s 11” is better than the ratpack version, for example. Even some movies are better than their books. Yes! How bout “Casino Royale”, which is seriously a great piece of literature with one of the best endings to a book I have ever read in my life, yet somehow EON productions made a movie version of it in 2006 that is better (and not surprisingly less racist–looking at you, Ian Fleming) than its book predecessor. (I actually think that Purvis-Wade script is one of the best scripts in the last 10 years. James Bond can be art, too, ya know).
So why can’t we admit it might be the same with certain songs? Even Beatles songs. I’ll say, right out of the box, that The Beatles kind of have a target on their back because since they have written the best rock songs in history, that means that EVERYONE is ALWAYS covering them–that even one of the songs on this list is the most recorded song in the history of organized sound. And there’s no reason Beatles fanatics should be offended by this list. I think it’s an honor for great songs like those done by The Beatles to be produced, arranged, performed equal to or better than its original recording. It puts The Beatles in the same category as Tin Pan Alley folk. Ya see, back in the day, recording music was basically the art of covering popular songs. In the 30s, 40s, 50s, no one cared if you recorded a famous song and no one cared if your version of a song was better than the original. I mean, the original “Singing in the Rain” isn’t half as good as the version that was created for the movie, but no one would be offended by me for making that claim.
The dancing is better in the Gene Kelly version, as well
So here’s my list of the 5 Beatles songs that are better than the original.
(5) “Got to Get You Into My Life” by Earth, Wind and Fire
Uh, let me just say, I’m a sucker for horns and ridiculous horn riffs. I know The Beatles version has horns, too. But it doesn’t swing like the Earth, Wind and Fire version does. This version just attacks you, straight up, with funkadelic surface-to-ear missiles. But it’s not done there. Nope! After a little intro, there’s that intoxicating and incredibly catchy “do, do” interlude that was added to the song. Let’s face it, this is a very well written song, musically and lyrically, but perhaps Sir Paul bit off a little more than he could physically chew when he called for those belting high notes. On the original Revolver track, it kinda sounds strained. But it’s no problem for Phillip Bailey; he kills it on this version of the song.
I think it’s an interesting cover, because you can listen to the original and sorta hear the funk trying to crawl out from the woodwork. The original is very marching-band-y and straight forward. Like, if this Earth, Wind and Fire version was the original, I could hear the MSU Marching Band playing it and it would sound like The Beatles version. That’s not to say that marching band interpretations are not good, but you can’t snap your finger to the Revolver recording like you can to the EWF version.
(4) “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” by Tom Petty, Steve Winwood and, especially, Prince
This was one of those videos in college, when you started talking to people about great guitar performances at a party, they would always say: “Well, have you seen Prince shred on ‘While My Guitar Gently Weeps?'” and it always ended up with us sitting around a Mac laptop, speakers plugged in, ready for youtube to load. You gotta think that George Harrison knew exactly what he was doing when he wrote this song. He needed something simple, but special, that people could jam on at Guitar Center for generations to come. This would have been that song, if “Stairway to Heaven” had never been written. Still, many people cover it, and no one has ever done it as much justice to the original as Prince does here.
This is one of those performances that makes people fall in love with rock ‘n roll. The song itself, “While My Guitar Gently Weeps”, is all that epitomizes rock. And so is Prince.
For reals, someone needs to check that guitar and make sure it’s all right.
(3) “With a Little Help from My Friends” by Joe Cocker
The Beatles version is fun, cheerful and upbeat. You play that version when you’re with friends at a campfire and want to sing along and things are good. Joe Cocker’s version is different. There’s a darker tone and build up in the beginning. I don’t mean it’s in a minor key or anything, I’m just saying it feels heavier and it has more consequences to it. I don’t know, it just seems like while The Beatles version is the version you sing with friends, this is the version you play when something has ended, or you want a melancholy reminder of what was once good. Also, it just down right rocks. The drums and gospel choir, with the decrescendos and build ups, just make you want to stand up out of your chair, push your laptop away and scream, “preach it, Joe! Preach it!”
And, yes, you’re right. This version takes me back. Takes me back to a time when mom would let me stay up late to catch the rerun season 6 ending of “The Wonder Years”, syndicated on Nick at Nite. Whenever I hear Joe burst out with that first “Whaaat would you do?” lyric, I am instantly back in front of my TV, watching Kevin chase Winnie and ruin his chances, and listening to it all in stereo, where available.
(2) “Ticket to Ride” by The Carpenters
I absolutely love this recording. I don’t know if there was a better arranger in the ’70s than Richard Carpenter. The guy had a knack for taking popular songs and transforming them into something completely different; adding a particularly new flare and style to each cover. More importantly, he was so fine tuned to the talents of his sister, that he tailored every song for her to a T. Put that on top of Karen Carpenter’s hauntingly beautiful pipes, almost any song covered by The Carpenters is better than its original.
This one is just great, though. That baroque-esque piano ditty in the beginning, that fades in and out with some 70’s strings, introduces Karen and the opening lyrics as they are so eloquently accompanied by some small percussion hits and all kinds of bells and and whistles. Then, with the call of a loan french horn, the song kicks into gear.
It’s soooo good from there. This is the kind song that you can listen to three or four times and just hone in on one instrument each time and enjoy it like it’s its own song. I love how it goes in and out of that 3/4 waltz during the chorus and how they really belt it out during the bridge.
And the end?
“Think I’m gonna be sad…”
This music video is pretty badass, too. Karen Carpenter, you were beautiful!
(1) “Yesterday” by Marvin Gaye
A’ight, look. I know this choice is gonna get flack, because not only is “Yesterday” one of the greatest songs ever written, it’s also one of the greatest songs ever recorded. In fact, at one point it was the most covered song in history—could still be, I have to check that.
The Beatles version is nearly perfect. The cool thing about music though, is it means different things to different people, sure. But it also means different things when it’s done differently by different people, right? Let’s face it: it’s another experience listening to these wonderful lyrics from the heart, soul and voice of Marvin Gaye than it is coming from Sir Paul McCartney. There is just more weight to it when I hear it from Marvin. That, along with those welling Detroit strings, it’s just—perfect. I’m not gonna waste your time with your reading of my superlatives, I’ll just let you listen to it.