The Beatles’ ‘Revolver’ Recreated Through Cover Songs
For all the experimental sounds on the Beatles’ Revolver, one of the reasons it’s held up so well over the years is that, for the most part, its songs are rooted in the classic pop traditions of melody and harmony that served the group throughout its career. As such, the songs lend themselves to a variety of interpretations, which we’re spotlighting in our collection of cover songs from Revolver.
We’ve recreated the record one song at a time with a wide variety of artists. You’ll hear versions from genres as diverse as the blues, mainstream country, Britpop, heavy rock, soul, power pop, funk and alternative country. All of the covers showcase the exceptional songwriting of John Lennon, Paul McCartney and George Harrison, as well as the covering artists’ talents. Take a listen to all of them below.
Stevie Ray Vaughan‘s take on Revolver‘s opening cut, “Taxman,” didn’t surface until 1995, where it served as the only previously unreleased track on the Greatest Hits set. Vaughan replaces the jerky groove of the original with a slinky blues vibe, and if it’s comparatively light on the guitar fireworks. But Vaughan makes up for it with a particularly sinister vocal.
Aretha Franklin replaces the string octet the Beatles used with the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section and completely transforms “Eleanor Rigby,” giving it a gospel fervor no one else could have pulled off. Released as a single in 1970, it reached No. 17 on the Billboard Hot 100 and No. 5 on the R&B chart.
“I’m Only Sleeping”
The daughter of music legend Johnny Cash, Rosanne Cash is no stranger to the Beatles, having placed a cover of Beatles for Sale‘s “I Don’t Want to Spoil the Party” at No. 1 on the country chart in 1989. She gave another John Lennon tune, “I’m Only Sleeping,” a similar treatment later. It appeared on 1995’s Retrospective, a compilation of deep cuts and unreleased songs that closed out her time on Columbia Records.
“Love You To”
Best known in the U.S. for their mid-’90s alternative hit “Brimful of Asha,” Cornershop often pay tribute to the Indian heritage of frontman Tjinder Singh by using sitar and Indian percussion. Their faithful cover of George Harrison’s “Love You To” was a slam dunk.
“Here, There and Everywhere”
After her mentor Gram Parsons died in 1973, Emmylou Harris began a wildly successful solo career as a country singer. Her second album, Elite Hotel, featured a version of one of Paul McCartney’s most beautiful songs. The arrangement — particularly in the instrumental section in the middle and end — increases the sap content a little, but the ethereal beauty of Harris’ voice renders it irrelevant.
Since “Yellow Submarine” is essentially a children’s song anyway, who better to capture its whimsy and silliness than the Muppets? Very early in the show’s history — its 17th episode — they tackled the number by having Pumpkin, Fat Blue and Purple sing it while hanging out in a crudely drawn yellow submarine. More Muppets, including a very young Cookie Monster, show up for the chorus.
“She Said She Said”
Matthew Sweet became one of the leading lights of the power-pop boom of the early ’90s on the strength of 1991’s Girlfriend. For Born to Choose, a benefit album for pro-choice and women’s-rights organizations, he offered a live version of Revolver‘s second-side opener, “She Said She Said,” that removes the psychedelic flourishes for a more straightforward rock approach.
“Good Day Sunshine”
Not much seems to be known about Roy Redmond, other than he recorded a couple of Jerry Ragavoy-produced singles for Loma Records, a soul-based imprint of Warner Bros., in 1967. One of the A-sides was a “Good Day Sunshine” makeover, where the original’s bouncy piano is replaced by a Southern soul arrangement, complete with horns, clipped guitar and female background singers.
“And Your Bird Can Sing”
The Jam were one of the few bands of the English punk and New Wave era to combine Beatles-style songcraft with the energy and passion of punk. They broke up in 1982, but 10 years later, Extras — a collection of B-sides, demos and other stray tracks — hit shelves. Their cover of “And Your Bird Can Sing,” one of the set’s previously unreleased songs, is a little more driving than the original. They get the guitar-harmony part right too, albeit with a keyboard to recreate one of the parts.
“For No One”
Jones’ 2000 album, It’s Like This, was a collection of covers that leaned heavily on the Great American Songbook, but it also made room for Steely Dan‘s “Show Biz Kids,” Traffic‘s “The Low Spark of High Heeled Boys” and the Beatles’ “For No One.” Her plaintive reading reinforces the sadness of the lyric.
“Doctor Robert” is one of the slighter songs on Revolver and not very conducive to cover versions. But Sarah Borges, an alternative country singer from Massachusetts, did a bang-up job by playing up the country aspects of that guitar riff.
“I Want to Tell You”
Like the Jam, the Smithereens helped bring the Beatles into the post-punk era with a handful of jangly, tuneful songs that played well at both rock and alternative radio. They faithfully recorded “I Want to Tell You” for a 2003 George Harrison tribute album, a bit of a cheeky move considering their “Only a Memory” radio hit began with a riff that inverted Harrison’s.
“Got to Get You Into My Life”
The Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band movie is the unfortunate answer to the question, “What happens when you throw money, cocaine and the Beatles’ catalog at Peter Frampton, the Bee Gees and Toto?” While widely regarded as a mess, the soundtrack’s sole saving grace is Earth, Wind & Fire‘s slinky and funky take on Paul McCartney’s tribute to Stax Records. It reached No. 17 on the Hot 100 and No. 5 on the R&B chart.
“Tomorrow Never Knows”
After breaking through in the late ’80s with an innovative mixture of funk, metal, jazz and political lyrics, Living Colour broke up in 1995. But they returned eight years later with Collideøscope, which featured shifting drum n’ bass rhythms and guitar work from Vernon Reid that alternated between droning power chords and atonal soloing.