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I collect cover versions of Beatles songs, because I’m fascinated by the variety of artists who have recorded them and the range of instrumentation and styles they employ. Many covers are just okay, some are outright bad, a few are great, and others are pretty well unclassifiable. The two covers I want to share with you today offer very different takes on elements of the Beatles’ work that might be described as transcendent.
One of the more improbable Beatles cover albums is Dutch musician Louis Van Dyke’s pipe-organ-only Louis Van Dyke Plays Lennon-McCartney. I discovered this album through Dave Henderson’s book The Beatles Uncovered (Black Book Company, 2000). Here’s Henderson on one of Van Dyke’s interpretations:
“The indecipherable ‘Nowhere Man’ . . . sounds like one of those modern Methodist hymns where it’s just impossible to know where the words are actually supposed to come in, not that they do.”
I can’t find an internet-friendly version of this “Nowhere Man” to share with you, but here’s Van Dyke doing “Hey Jude”:
For a polar opposite, listen to the Yugolsavian band Laibach’s 1988 cover album Let It Be, a deliberately brutal take on the Beatles. Henderson calls the Laibach album “a bruising, almost frightening vision of the dark underbelly of pop music.” Another excellent book about Beatles cover versions, Belmo’s The Beatles Discovered (Beatlology, 2005), describes the sound as “hard-edged,” except for “Across the Universe,” which is “a beautiful and haunting cover of Lennon’s masterpiece.” Belmo notes that “For some reason Laibach chose not to cover the song “Let It Be.” Not hard to understand why, really: that song’s message wouldn’t fit the gloom of the album. Here’s Laibach’s version of “Across the Universe,” the only song on the album that includes female vocals:
Which of these do you prefer? And what other Beatles cover versions do you enjoy most or find most intriguing?