The House Of Love | The Beatles And The Stones
I grew up listening to The Beatles. Nothing unusual there; I’m from Liverpool but that in itself is of little significance, as exposure to The Beatles seems to be a key stage in the development of a lot of kids in the UK (or at least it was in the 1970s and 1980s). Everyone grew up listening to The Beatles, whether they know it or not. Like many I listened a lot more keenly in my teens, and bought the albums and devoured the story like many others before moving on. Every couple of years it suddenly occurs to me that while I may have listened to The Beatles by osmosis – the occasional performance of Hey Jude by Macca at some ceremony or other, etc. etc. – it has been some time since I last sat down and listened to an album or two from start to finish. At these points I realise I’ve almost forgotten about them as an actual band, who released records, and I’ve been thinking of them (or not, as the case is) in the same way I think about paint, or grass, or ice-cream: they are things that exist, that are always there, and in life you come across them regularly enough so you can forget about them when they’re not directly in front of you. So it was two weeks ago, after which I played Abbey Road and Rubber Soul in their entirety. They still sound great, in case you were wondering.
No band has been choked by the cruel hand of familiarity quite like The Beatles, although I dare say Paul, Ringo and those that benefit from the estates of John and George do not care too much about the lie of the land 40 or 50 years after the fact in 2014. I guess the only other band taken for granted quite as much is, of course, The Rolling Stones, yet even their most well-known and admired singles and albums are not as ubiquitous in the landscape of learning and development as the original scouse gang of four. The Stones, much as I love them, still feel like part of music history. The Beatles – to differentiate – feel like a part of life; I see Jumpin’ Jack Flash as a 7″ still, whereas Yesterday feels about as much like a single as the likes of Ring a Ring o’Roses or Twinkle Twinkle Little Star do.
I’m often in admiration of those who really are huge fans of The Beatles way into their twenties and beyond. That’s a great many people, of course, but I genuinely think it’s impressive. I am part of that larger group, made up of people who had a Beatles phase and will always appreciate the band when they actually think of them, but at times simply forget for long periods about just how good they were.
In recent years my familiarity with both bands has led me to seek out interesting cover versions. A note on this, quickly: any ’30 best covers of Beatles songs’ or ’20 best covers of Rolling Stones songs’ lists out there on the web are invariably full of shit. There aren’t actually that many truly great Beatles or Stones covers. There are admittedly many versions that are passable, or even ‘quite good’, but few that are the equal of the originals in my opinion. And there are way, way too many piss-weak jazz arrangements or cheesy 70s moog covers held up by ironic lounge fans who for some reason didn’t get bored of all that claptrap in the mid-90s. Anyway, here are a few I love that I’ve heard in recent years:
Merry Clayton | Gimme Shelter
Ellen Warshaw | Sister Morphine
Petula Clark | Rain
The Deirdre Wilson Tabac | Get Back
Freddi, Henchi and the Soulsetters | Folsom Prison’ Blues
Yeah, I know the last one is a Johnny Cash cover, but the way the Hey Jude coda comes in at the end makes the hairs on the back of my next stand up every time I hear it. Brilliant energy.