Beatles Fans Bobbie Gentry, Four Tops, More Sing The Alternative ‘Revolver’

An imaginary track-by-track ‘Revolver’ remake, also starring Spanky and Our Gang, Liza Minnelli, and Junior Parker.

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Bobbie Gentry - Photo: David Redfern/Redferns
Bobbie Gentry - Photo: David Redfern/Redferns

The worldwide excitement surrounding the fall reappearance of The Beatles’ 1966 landmark Revolver emphasized again what a majestic game-changer of an LP it was, and remains. The remastered, expanded editions returned the album to the upper echelons of charts worldwide, introducing it to another new generation and reminding those who were there first time around of the extraordinarily experimental masterpiece they were revisiting.

As an affectionate companion to the reissue, we have put together our own multi-artist tribute, in the same song sequence as the original. It underlines just how many times the 14 songs on the record have been covered, in myriad styles and genres, and exactly how these compositions can shapeshift into some surprising and sometimes lesser-known dimensions. Welcome, then, to the alternative Revolver.

Loose Ends‘ version of George Harrison’s sardonic opening gambit on the LP was released on Decca the very same day as The Beatles’ album itself, August 5, 1966. Someone clearly had advance access to the test pressings. Overseen by in-house Decca producer Noel White, the Midlands group’s “Taxman” was a confident freakbeat nugget by a five-piece formed in Kent late in 1963, and fronted by singer Alan Marshall, born in Lahore. Since the original was, like so many Beatles staples, never a single, the field was open for Loose Ends’ version to win chart honors, but they failed to materialise.

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Many of the interpretations in our alternative Revolver tracklist were rushed out in tandem with the 1966 LP. Not so the Four Tops’ take on “Eleanor Rigby,” which they didn’t release until January 1969, nearly two and a half years on, then included on the album The Four Tops Now! The Motown favorites made several visits to the Lennon--McCartney songbook, including another on that set, which ended with a reading of “The Fool On The Hill.” When the Tops sang about all the lonely people, their take had far more in common with Ray Charles’ 1968 reading than with the Beatles’ blueprint.

Surprisingly, the dreamy third track on Revolver, “I’m Only Sleeping,” didn’t attract the first of its several dozen covers until 1972. Las Vegas close harmony trio the Lettermen, by then American chart regulars for a decade, included it on their Lettermen 1 album. “Love You To,” the second of three examples on Revolver of Harrison’s growing confidence as a songwriter and the first Beatles track to embrace their Indian influences, was a perfect choice for British-Asian indie band Cornershop.

Here, There And Everywhere

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Paul McCartney’s gorgeous ballad “Here, There and Everywhere” has attracted more than 500 covers, starting immediately when Episode Six, featuring a pre-Deep Purple Ian Gillan and Roger Glover, released it as a single. The rendition we’ve chosen for our imaginary multi-artist remake is the one chosen for the Local Gentry album in 1968 by the ever-distinctive Bobbie Gentry.

You’re spoilt for choice with covers of every track from Revolver, and “Yellow Submarine” has attracted some weird and wonderful versions. They include those by puppet pigs and UK TV stars Pinky & Perky (don’t ask) and the piano-pumping Mrs. Mills (ask Elton John). We head for the late 1966 Elektra album Beatle Country, and as the band begins to play, we see that it’s 1960s bluegrass stalwarts the Charles River Valley Boys, giving it an improbable Appalachian flavor, banjos and all.

When Dan Auerbach and Patrick Carney made their album debut as the Black Keys in 2002, one of the formative songs they included among the largely new material of The Big Come Up (alongside songs by R.L. Burnside and Junior Kimbrough) was the track that ends Side 1 of the original Revolver, “She Said She Said.” The duo gave it a characteristically l0-fi, garage treatment.

Good Day Sunshine

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The uplifting “Good Day Sunshine” was covered right off the bat by British groups the Eyes and the Tremeloes. Several more takes on it ensued in 1967, including one by Parisian pop vocal stylist Claudine Longet. It was included on her second LP The Look of Love, produced by Tommy LiPuma. The album made the US Top 40, and the song did the same on Billboard’s easy listening chart.

And Your Bird Can Sing

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Sunshine popsters Spanky and Our Gang put their own spin on “And Your Bird Can Sing,” largely a John Lennon composition. It became the first single by the Chicago ensemble, but again was a surprising flop, just before “Sunday Will Never Be The Same” gave them their first taste of chart glory.

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Then there’s the version of Paul’s melancholy “For No One” by Liza Minnelli. The singer-actress chose it for her self-titled LP of pop covers released as her first set for A&M after three for Capitol. The album also featured three Randy Newman songs and a version of Bacharach and David’s “The Look of Love.”

Much-missed Californian singer-songwriter Andrew Gold was an avowed Beatles nut, as shown in some of his own compositions and in a cover of “Doctor Robert” that was part of his live setlist in the late 1970s. The version he recorded in concert at the Roxy in Los Angeles in 1978 is on the expanded edition of his album of that year, All This And Heaven Too. Fellow Fab fanatics the Smithereens also took a crack at a Revolver track when they did “I Want To Tell You” for the 2003 various artists album Songs from the Material World – A Tribute To George Harrison.

Got To Get You Into My Life

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Our penultimate selection takes us back to Motown, which always maintained strong ties with The Beatles. The Fab Four came together (pun intended) in the first place in part through their shared love of the Tamla sound, leading to their early covers of Barrett Strong, the Marvelettes, and the Miracles. Berry Gordy’s artists were happy to repay the compliment in the wake of the group’s US conquest, and we hear another example as “Got To Get You Into My Life” is retooled by ever-underrated Californian talent Chris Clark, for her Soul Sounds LP of the summer of 1967.

Tomorrow Never Knows

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Who, you may wonder, will take on the challenge of covering the final crowning glory of this unforgettable long player? “Tomorrow Never Knows” was a sonic tour de force on a record full of them, and any attempt to mirror its technological finesse would surely be doomed. Mississippi bluesman Junior Parker knew it, and instead turned it into a brooding, soulful slowie for his 1970 Capitol album The Outside Man. Thirty-five years after his death, it was deftly recast for the soundtrack of the 2006 dystopian thriller movie Children of Men.

Do you have other favorite covers of tracks from Revolver? Be sure to let us know in the comments box below.

Buy or stream the special editions of The Beatles’ Revolver.

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