This Sunday, Feb. 9, marks the 50th anniversary of the Beatles' first television performance in the United States. It happened, of course, on "The Ed Sullivan Show."
Since that historical night, the Beatles have influenced thousands of musicians and the Billboard Hot 100, before and after their split in 1970.
Not just with their recordings, but with so many covers. Here are some examples:
"Yesterday," Ray Charles (No. 25, 1967)
"Hey Jude," Wilson Pickett (No. 23, 1968)
"Eleanor Rigby," Ray Charles (No. 35, 1968), Aretha Franklin (No. 17, 1969), David Cook (No. 92, 2008)
"We Can Work It Out," Stevie Wonder (No. 13, 1970)
"Here Comes the Sun," Richie Havens (No. 16, 1971)
"Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds," Elton John (No. 1, two weeks, 1975)
"Got to Get You Into My Life," Earth, Wind & Fire (No. 9, 1978)
"Come Together," Aerosmith (No. 23, 1978)
"I Saw Him Standing There," Tiffany (No. 7, 1988)
... and, who can forget "Medley" by Stars on 45 (No. 1, one week, 1981). It includes "No Reply," "I'll Be Back," "Drive My Car," "Do You Want to Know a Secret," "We Can Work It Out," "I Should Have Known Better," "Nowhere Man" and "You're Going to Lose That Girl."
Gary, what is your favorite Beatles cover? Mine? A tie between "Help!" by Little Texas, from the 1995 album "Come Together: America Salutes the Beatles," and "I've Just Seen a Face" by British actor, singer and songwriter Jim Sturgess, from the 2007 film "Across the Universe."
Thanks and take care!
Mackenzie (Mac) Scott,
Fajardo, Puerto Rico
We're already counting down the Beatles' 50 Biggest Billboard Hot 100 hits this week, with today's post revealing Nos. 20-11. There's lots more Beatles coverage coming to Billboard.com leading up to the anniversary of their landmark "Ed Sullivan Show" appearance 50 years ago, so let's add to our own Beatlemania with your question.
*We'll keep this "Ask Billboard" Beatles-only; some other great questions, including an extremely insightful analysis of Katy Perry's "Dark Horse," are on tap and will appear in the next mailbag soon.
In the meantime, Mac, fun to see you include two tracks (Earth, Wind & Fire's and Aerosmith's) from the "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band" soundtrack. Even though it's sometimes ribbed for its kitsch, the movie and album gave us some major '70s acts remaking the Beatles; and, the soundtrack reached No. 5 on the Billboard 200. (It also introduced my brother, Michael, and, thus me, to the Beatles, as well as surely other music fans born a bit too late to experience the band's chart heyday. Because I was four years old when it came out, however, for a long time I got the Beatles and Bee Gees confused. I'm also still a little scared of Steve Martin.)
Some other notable Beatles covers that have hit Billboard charts:
"With a Little Help From My Friends," Joe Cocker (No. 68 Hot 100, 1968; the song famously doubled as the theme to ABC's "The Wonder Years" in 1988-93)
"She Came in Through the Bathroom Window," Joe Cocker (No. 30 Hot 100, 1970)
"I Don't Want to Spoil the Party," Rosanne Cash (No. 1, one week, Hot Country Songs, 1989)
"Rhythm of the Rain"/"Rain," Dan Fogelberg (No. 3, Adult Contemporary, 1990; a medley of the Cascades' No. 1 AC and No. 3 Hot 100 hit from 1963 and the Beatles' No. 23 1966 hit)
"Sgt. Pepper's Lonley Hearts Club Band," Paul McCartney with U2 (No. 48, Hot 100, 2005)
"Revolution," Rascal Flatts (No. 57, Hot Country Songs, 2007)
And, the cast of Fox's "Glee," the act with the most Hot 100 chart entries (207), has charted with three Beatles covers: "Hello Goodbye" (No. 49) and "I Want to Hold Your Hand" (No. 36) in 2010 and "Blackbird" (No. 37) in 2011.
I also wish the above had charted, just for its mix of clever and cute: Sesame Street's "Letter B"
Meanwhile, two Beatles charted with material that, while not covers of their former band's songs, drew inspiration from their time as members. George Harrison rose to No. 23 on the Hot 100 in 1988 (and debuted years ago today) with "When We Was Fab," while Ringo Starr reached No. 94 on the Billboard 200 in 2008 with "Liverpool 8." "Went to Hamburg, the red lights were on / With George and Paul and my friend John," Starr sings in the set's title cut. "We rocked all night, we all looked tough / We didn't have much, but we had enough."
Starr even throws in a chart reference: "In the U.S.A, when we played Shea / We were No. 1, and it was fun / When I look back, it sure was cool / For those four boys from Liverpool …"
Anyway … oh, right, your question. Actually … first … before ranking my favorite Beatles covers, let me list my five favorite songs by the Beatles themselves:
5, "With a Little Help From My Friends"
4, "Here, There and Everywhere"
3, "Here Comes the Sun"
2, "Penny Lane"
1, "She Loves You." For me, the poppier the better for the Beatles, with this Hot 100 No. 1's deceptively simple hooks making for an everlasting perfect pop song.
And, why not, my favorite solo song by each Beatle:
"This One," Paul McCartney (1989)
"If That's What It Takes," George Harrison (1988; we've ranked Harrison's biggest Hot 100 hits here)
"Weight of the World," Ringo Starr (1992; and, check out Starr's top Hot 100 hits here)
"Grow Old With Me," John Lennon (recorded in 1980; released in 1984. Mary Chapin Carpenter's standout piano-based cover reached No. 17 on Adult Contemporary in 1996.)
Okay … NOW your question. It's so tough to top any Beatles original, but sometimes acts put their own spin on them that do the Fab Four proud. With that bar established, here are my top 10 favorite Beatles covers (also keeping in mind that my point of reference age-wise is essentially from the '80s on, so I'm surely leaving out great covers from earlier years):
10, "I'm Happy Just to Dance With You," the Lubbock Babes. Late '80s/early '90s TV junkie that I am (see the "Wonder Years" plug, above), I'm starting with the girl group from ABC's "Growing Pains" spin-off "Just the Ten of Us" (obviously!) At 15 (that explains it), I loved their version of the Beatles' No. 95 1964 Hot 100 hit, before I even knew the Beatles had recorded it.
9, "You've Got to Hide Your Love Away," Eddie Vedder. From the all-Beatles "I Am Sam" soundtrack, released in 2002.
8, "I Want to Hold Your Hand," Haeley Vaughn. The 2010 "American Idol" contestant added a playful, soulful/pop element to the song, impressively making one of the most iconic recordings in music history her own.
7, "Rocky Raccoon,"
6, "I Feel Fine," Peter Mayer. The longtime member of Jimmy Buffett's band released a great all-Beatles covers album in 2010, including these two interpretations. Keen chart-watchers might remember that Mayer formerly fronted the pop/rock trio PM. In late 1988, the band rose to No. 11 with the melodic gem "Piece of Paradise."
5, "Two of Us," Aimee Mann and Michael Penn. Also from the "I Am Sam" soundtrack. (Honorable mention from the album: the Wallflowers' "I'm Looking Through You")
4, "Strawberry Fields Forever," Candy Flip. A trance-y No. 11 Alternative Songs hit in 1990.
3, "We Can Work It Out," Phil Keaggy and PFR. Also from "Come Together: America Salutes the Beatles," a kicking collection of country Beatles covers, as noted above.
2, "She Loves You,"
1, "All My Loving," both by the Well Pennies, a Los Angeles-based, Boston-formed husband-and-wife duo who reworked them as sweet, harmony-driven folk songs, even bringing out melodies not present in the originals – an amazing accomplishment for any remake; that feat has to be multiplied exponentially when covering the Beatles. The latter appears on the compilation "Beatles Reimagined," recently released for the 50th anniversary of the group's breakthrough.
With my favorites out of the way … "Ask Billboard" asks you: What are your favorite Beatles songs? What are your favorite Beatles cover songs? And, what are your favorite solo Beatles songs? Please feel free to share your top picks by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or by Tweeting @gthot20 and we'll include them in the next "Ask Billboard."
The end (for now).