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Friday, September 27, 2013

Glee Takes on the Beatles

Written by Kyle Slagley

This week marked an important week for all the Gleeks out there, as the new album Glee Sings the Beatles hit shelves on Tuesday. It takes quite a bit of gall to take arguably the most sacred band in rock n’ roll history and pop-ify their work, but that’s exactly what the kids at William McKinley High School did. Judging by how well the album is selling, fans aren’t exactly complaining either.

After listening to the entire album, the Glee renditions I enjoyed most were “Drive My Car,” “Here Comes the Sun” which features Demi Lovato, and “I Saw Her Standing There.” Strangely enough, Glee has covered Beatles songs in the past, and my favorite of their covers, “I Want to Hold Your Hand” – sung by Chris Colfer, who plays Kurt, and which originally appears on Volume 4 – was not included on this album.

Glee is far from the first group to cover the Fab Four, nor will they be the last. Though many of your patrons will be far too young to remember, or even know of the performance, you cannot mention Beatles covers without mentioning Joe Cocker’s rendition of “With a Little Help From My Friends” at Woodstock in ’69 or Neil Young’s version of “Imagine” at the 9/11 TV tribute concert. More recently, Mumford and Sons have been known to cover “Hey Jude” during their concerts, and one of my favorite obscure cover finds (if you can get past the crowd noise on the recording) on YouTube is Alice Cooper, Steven Tyler, and Weird Al Yankovic singing “Come Together” at a New Year’s Eve party in 2012.

When it comes to entire albums of Beatles cover songs, my absolute favorite would be the Across the Universe Soundtrack. The film came out in 2007 and was another instance where the story was structured around the music. It received mediocre reviews, but the soundtrack is still one of my favorite soundtracks of all time.

For some, the first cover soundtrack to come to mind will be the one that went with the first Beatles-oriented film, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. The film, starring Peter Frampton and the Bee Gees, was loosely based on the Beatles album of the same name, but with a 15% on Rotten Tomatoes, I think I can safely say the film was a total bomb. It is worth mentioning, though, that in later years, after memories of the film had faded, affection for ‘70s nostalgia and kitsch brought the soundtrack back into the light.

The fact is that there are too many different covers of the Fab Four to mention in just one column, and they span all different styles: from Beatallica (who plays Beatles tunes in the style of Metallica), Roberta Flack (who puts her R&B spin on the songs), to even Sesame Street and the Chipmunks. Check out our collection of Beatles cover albums Midwest Tape offers, and don’t forget to remind your younger patrons about the original band too!

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