Several Sides of Searchin’

Michael Gerber
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Alvin Robinson.

I’m going through a bit of a Northern Soul period (c’mon, I’m always going through one of those), and found a nice version of the song “Searchin’,” performed by Alvin Robinson in 1961.

But of course readers of this blog might remember it from the guys’ ill-fated Decca auditions…

…which is much closer to the Coasters’ original.

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  1. Avatar Anonymous wrote:

    In an alternate universe where I’d never heard of the Beatles, if someone told me about a rock n roll group of British boys with funny haircuts who covered American r&b and soul records, then later went on to write all their album cuts, I’d assume that the covers were probably rather embarrassingly bad, and that their fans were relieved when they progressed to covering their own tunes. And of course, I’d be wrong.

    The Beatle covers are so good, so strong, thanks to the ballsy rhythm guitar, the powerful bass, the percussive, choppy lead guitar, the steady drumbeat, and the innate melodic genius of the singing.

    I think JP&G’s talents for crafting unforgettable melodies in their own songs also made their cover versions something special, because if you have a head for melody, you make the right choices in singing someone else’s song.

    – Hologram Sam

  2. Avatar Nancy Carr wrote:

    Agree with you on the Beatles’ choice of covers, Sam — and their chops could make even so-so choices great. Case in point: “Mr. Moonlight.” Lennon’s vocal makes it something special. (And McCartney’s Hammond organ playing doesn’t hurt, either.)

    Impossible to imagine the Beatles doing such a range of original material if they hadn’t started by loving such a wide spectrum of music.

  3. Avatar Anonymous wrote:

    Nancy, I agree about their choices of covers, but I meant the sort of melodic choices they made while singing the covers. I’ve heard other people cover songs, and the result is less tuneful, sometimes unpleasant. I’ve even heard this when others have covered Beatle tunes… wrong melodic choices are made, and the song loses charm.

    The Beatles often improved other people’s songs, something that isn’t easy to do.

    – Hologram Sam

  4. Avatar Nancy Carr wrote:

    Good point about choices made while singing, Sam — the recent “Let it Be Roberta” album by Roberta Flack featured what seem to me to be some wrong turns with melody and phrasing.

    Here’s a question: are there ANY covers of Beatles songs that you think are improvements on the originals?

    There are some I’d set beside the originals: the Five Stairsteps’ cover of “Dear Prudence,” Stevie Wonder’s cover of “We Can Work It Out,” and Billy Preston’s “Blackbird” spring to mind. All those covers show a new dimension to the song. But are any truly better? I’d have to say no.

    But what do others think?

  5. Avatar Ingrid wrote:

    George Harrison said that his favorite cover of “Something” was by James Brown!

  6. Avatar Ingrid wrote:

    George Harrison said that his favorite cover of “Something” was by James Brown!

  7. Avatar J.R. Clark wrote:

    Ingrid, I crack up laughing every time I hear James Brown rasp rap, “I just gotta believe in something!” as his cover version begins.

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