Obviously there’s been a lot of Beatles focus of late thanks to the Sgt. Pepper's anniversary, so we thought we take a specifically local look at the legacy of the Fab Four with some of the great and unique Beatles covers that our own artists have performed over the years. There have been some rippers…
Bee Gees – "Please Please Me" (on Bandstand)
Okay, more nippers than rippers, but this cover from the lads is pretty neat, and it was timely; they were performing it on Bandstand in early 1963, at the same time the song was #1 in England. Surprisingly the Beatles version only reached #36 here nationally; they wouldn’t have a #1 here until "I Want To Hold Your Hand" towards the end of the year. And it wasn’t too long before young Barry Gibb was writing some superb songs of his own in the Beatles style too.
The Seekers - "Yesterday"
Despite their enduring popularity, it’s an often forgotten fact that The Seekers were the first band from Down Under to break in England, and they did so in a massive way. They recorded a beautiful version of "Yesterday" for their 1966 Come The Day LP – the song wonderfully suited Judith Durham’s perfect voice. We’re not sure where this 1966 TV performance is from, but it’s interesting to hear Athol Guy’s introduction, taking about the Beatles folk roots.
Johnny Young & Kompany – "All My Loving"
This is a fab 1967 version from young Johnny, although his version of the song is better known to the millions of viewers of Young Talent Time in the ‘70s – Johnny and the gang would finish off with this tune every week.
Wendy Saddington & Copperwine – "Tomorrow Never Knows"
Stunning version from the Queen of the Australian Underground, as featured on the 1971 live album Wendy Saddington & Copperwine Live, recorded at the Wallacia Festival on the central-coast of New South Wales.
Max Merritt & the Meteors – "Hey Jude"
From their 1971 album Stray Cats, recorded and released when they were based in Australia, before they tried their hand in the UK. "Hey Jude" lends itself well to Max and the boys’ soul stylings – don’t forget Wilson Pickett had also cut it, in 1969.
Doug Parkinson In Focus - "Dear Prudence"
One of the greats. There’s many an Aussie baby boomer who’ll tell you they prefer this over the Beatles’ original. The performance here on Hit Scene with the great Billy Green on guitar. This was a Top 10 hit in 1969. What a voice.
The Zoot - "Eleanor Rigby"
There’s many an Aussie baby boomer who’ll tell you they prefer this over the Beatles’ original as well. A genius proto-metal version (Pink Sabbath anyone?), this one goes down as one of most radical and radically successful rearrangements of a Beatles tune by anyone. And what a lineup - Darryl Cotton on vocals, Rick Springfield on guitar, Beeb Birtles (later of LRB) on bass and Rick Brewster (later of the Ferrets) on drums. #4 nationally in ’71.
Coleen Hewett - "Carry That Weight"
Produced by Johnny Young, this was a hit in ’72. Coleen was the voice of another one of Australia’s all-time great singles – her epic Molly Meldrum-produced "Day by Day" - and she remains one of Australia’s great voices
Sherbet – "Nowhere Man"
One of our biggest pop groups of the ‘70s, Sherbet’s roots go right back to 1970 when their first single "Crimson Ship" was a cover of a song by Beatles-protégés Badfinger. This live track, taken from the 1977 album Caught in the Act… Live, showed they didn’t even need to use a studio to record a hit.
John Farnham – "Help"
He was one of biggest pop stars of the late ‘60s and early 70s, but it took a decidedly contemporary ballad rearrangement of this Lennon rocker to get him back on the charts in 1980. This is the track with which Farnsey reinvented himself; when a likeable lad pop singer became ‘The Voice’. This live version from 1989 features the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra.
Hoodoo Gurus – "A Hard Day’s Night"
The Gurus got started in the early-mid ‘80s, when a ‘60s revival was in full-swing. No one seemed to bother much with the Beatles stuff then – everybody was looking for something more obscure – so it was surprising and something of a revelation when the Gurus included this powerhouse cover on their 1996 Electric Chair compilation.
Katie Noonan – "Blackbird"
Title track from Katie’s 2008 collection of Beatles songs, here performed live on Mornings with Kerry-Anne. As Athol Guy pointed out in the intro to the Seekers track above, Lennon & McCartney drew influence from all sorts of music, so it was fitting that Australia’s premier jazz-pop vocalist of the new millennium would record a whole album of their songs.
John Waters – "Strawberry Fields Forever"
Much loved Australian actor, Beatles fan, and surprisingly effective vocalist (he played in a band called The Riots in London before coming to Australia in 1969), John Waters created the one-man Lennon tribute Looking Through A Glass Onion in 1992, and has been performing it ever since to great response. This is from a 2014 live recording of the show.