Stephanie Phillips is a London-based freelance journalist and content writer, specialising in music, race and feminism.
I like to think of myself as a bit of a music nerd with an encyclopedic knowledge of everything from Nicki Minaj to Archie Bronson Outfit but there’s one band I’ve been neglecting about all these years. I’m ashamed to say it but, my name is Stephanie Phillips, I am 23 and until a few months ago I had never properly listened to a Beatles record.
Now, that’s quite a feat you must be thinking, considering how many Beatles records are embedded into popular culture, on shopping centre soundtracks and used as background music in adverts (and there are a lot of Beatles records on adverts when you look for them).
I’m the kind of person who needs to be listening to music in the right way for it to make a real impact on me. I need to be detached from the reminder of adverts I’d heard it on or the recommendations of friends, colleagues or casual acquaintances that on hearing my Beatles tragedy feel I’m deranged and won’t be normal until I just listen to a teensy bit of ‘Strawberry Fields Forever’. If not then I can never fully connect with the song or artist making it better if I had never listened to it in the first place.
So I put myself to work a few months ago to correct this irregularity and forced myself to listen to a few Beatles tracks. What was the obvious outcome of this? Well, I loved them. Not all of them obviously. I think it was Kim Deal that said most of the Beatles records were just advert jingles, which is quite true. Songs like ‘She Loves You’, ‘Drive My Car’ and ‘Can’t Buy Me Love’, while catchy and enjoyable, still feel like they have something missing to me.
I loved songs like ‘I Am The Walrus’, ‘Dig A Pony’ and ‘Across the Universe’ as there was something otherworldly about the lyrics and song arrangements that made them stand out to me. I obviously haven’t listened to every Beatles song but while I was in Beatles research mode I found quite a few covers of the band that I loved just as much, and sometimes more, than the original. So I’ve put together a small list for your perusal, add to it if you want to, question it if you want to but here’s my list of bands that matched or beat The Beatles:
6. Dig A Pony- St Vincent
St Vincent does what St Vincent does best and that’s lay out face-melting lead riffs that make thousands of brain dead fools splutter: “Wow, I wish all girls played guitar like she does.” Don’t get me started on that one. Riffs aside, Annie Clark’s energy alone during her solo performance of ‘Dig A Pony’ is enough reason for her to be on this list.
5. Across The Universe- Fiona Apple
This song is astoundingly beautiful and too be honest I don’t think it is any worse or better than the original because you just can’t go wrong with this. And, if you’re wondering yes I did first hear this song on the Pleasantville soundtrack. What’s wrong with that.
4. Happiness is a Warm Gun- Breeders
How can the super team of Kim Deal and Tanya Donelly ever go wrong. Back when the Breeders were a side project for both ladies they decided to cover one of the most inventive Beatles songs and they pulled it off. MOTHER SUPERIOR JUMP THE GUN.
3. Cry Baby Cry- Throwing Muses
Not to be confused with the Muses song of the same name ‘Cry Baby Cry’ is such an odd song only Throwing Muses with their forward-thinking approach to sound could do this song justice.
2. Don’t Wanna Hold Your Hand- Thee Headcoatees
The reason I love Thee Headcoatees cover of ‘I Wanna Hold Your Hand’ is because it’s so childish and immature but they just don’t care. It’s probably not a cover that proper Beatles fans would feel matched the original but I love it.
1. Wild Honey Pie- Pixies
Many people have decided that ‘Wild Honey Pie’, which was written and performed entirely by Paul McCartney, was the worst Beatles song ever. With it’s repetitive, deep vocals and hellish carnival-esque feel it is certainly the most challenging. Obviously The Pixies weren’t put off by this. They stripped it down, turned up the distortion and threw on the trademark guttural screams and within no time they had themselves a winning cover song.