For our latest Weirdify playlist on Spotify, we decided to try something a little different: a track-for-track tribute to one of our favorite albums, 1968’s The Beatles, better known by its unofficial name, The White Album.
For some reason, we honestly thought that finding super-weird versions of every song on The White Album would be a piece of cake. As it turns out, however, it kinda took forever. There are a lot of terrible Beatles covers on Spotify. And not terrible in an interesting way (we included plenty of those); just terrible in that “we’re slavishly copying the original because we have no imagination whatsoever” way. Seriously, why would anyone want to hear your shitty acoustic-guitar cover of “Blackbird” when they can just listen to the original? Do a fucking death metal version of it or something. Even if it sucks, it will still be a thousand times more interesting than you just playing the sheet music.
So anyway, yeah, this one took a while. But tell us what you think; if enough of you people really like this playlist, maybe we’ll do more track-for-track weird album tributes in the future. We do think the results are kinda fun.
Ready for a dreadful flight? Fire up the ol’ Spotify and off we go:
1. Orbit, “Back in the U.S.S.R.” Spotify lists the album Orbit III on the page for Boston ’90s alt-rock band Orbit, but we’re 99% sure this is inaccurate. As near as we can tell, Orbit III was a one-off project created to showcase the Wurlitzer-made synthesizer of the same name. In addition to several other White Album tracks, it also features what may very well be the worst cover of “The Dock of the Bay” ever recorded.
2. Kenny Rankin, “Dear Prudence.” We had only vaguely ever heard of this early ’70s folkie, but he was apparently pretty successful in his time, both for his original tracks and for overcooked covers of ’60s hits like this trying-too-hard-to-sound-like-Nick-Drake rework of “Prudence.” Actually, the horns are a nice touch.
3. B for Bang, “Glass Onion.” A bunch of jazz and classical musicians from Italy cover the Beatles in the style of a bad progressive rock band. And if you think that’s bad…
4. Island Steel Drum Band, “Ob-la-di, Ob-la-da (Steel Drum Version).” Doing the White Album‘s bounciest track on steel drums actually doesn’t sound like a half-bad idea. Then they added a house beat to it. Bad idea, bra.
5. Part Chimp, “Wild Honey Pie.” Part Chimp is a noise-rock band from London who, sadly, apparently just broke up last year. But not before they gave this throwaway track the lurching, sludge-metal thrashing it so richly deserves.
6. Beatle Jazz, “The Continuing Story of Bungalow Bill.” Eventually, you will actually notice that this really is “Bungalow Bill.” Mostly, though, it’s just an excuse for seven minutes of cocktail lounge noodling, courtesy of these guys.
7. Wu-Tang Clan featuring Dhani Harrison, John Frusciante and Erykah Badu, “The Heart Gently Weeps.” Yes, it’s a hip-hop interpretation of George Harrison’s most famous White Album track, made with his son Dhani’s blessing and active participation (he played rhythm guitar on the track; ex-Red Hot Chili Pepper Frusciante plays lead). I just watched the HBO documentary George Harrison: Living in the Material World, and my guess is that George, far from spinning in his grave, is laughing his ass off over this.
8. Tori Amos, “Happiness Is a Warm Gun.” Hey, Tori, what if you took John Lennon’s silliest White Album cut and turned it into a 10-minute space-rock jam filled with lots of spoken-word samples discussing the Second Amendment? That would be incredibly pretentious and self-indulgent, don’t you think? And that’s kinda your thing, so…have at it.
9. JP Video, “Martha My Dear.” This is another mystery artist we could find no information on, but whoever he is (they are?), he’s pretty out there. This is from an album called Spooky Action at a Distance that also includes an epic instrumental entitled “The Exhumation and Incidental Resurrection of Morton Feldman” and an eight-minute electronic freakout called “Music for Teenage Sex.” Compared to those tracks, this harpsichord-led version of Paul’s ode to his sheepdog is actually pretty straightforward.
10. Orquestra Mondragon, “I’m So Tired.” Our Spanish is a bit rusty, so about all we could get from this band’s Spanish Wikipedia page is that they’re from Spain and they’re been active since 1976. Usually, when they sing in English, they play it pretty straight, but this seems to be a Spaniard’s attempt to parody of the broken English of an over-emoting Frenchman. It’s no yoke!
11. Sylvester, “Blackbird.” McCartney’s original version is pretty and all, but you know what it’s missing? Boogie. Enter the disco drag queen best-known for the hit, “You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real).” You were not waiting for this moment to arise, were you?
12. Bubblyfish, “Piggies.” I’m sorry it took us 12 whole tracks to get our first 8-bit Beatles cover. But it was worth the wait, don’t you think?
13. The Moments, “Rocky Raccoon.” Rocky gets transplanted from the black mining hills of Dakota to the ghetto. Where there’s a club called The Hoedown. Just go with it, OK?
14. The Ribeye Brothers, “Don’t Pass Me By.” The intro to this song is kind of a red herring; it’s actually a pretty faithful rendition of the faux-country stomp of Ringo’s original. The Ribeye Brothers, by the way, are from New Jersey, and really, really want to be featured in a Quentin Tarantino soundtrack. At least that’s what it sounds like they’re going for.
15. Les Boreades de Montreal, “Why Don’t We Do It in the Road?” This is from an album called Beatles Baroque, Vol. 3. And yes, there are actually another two whole volumes of this shit.
16. Pickwick Panpipers, “I Will.” This is from an entire album of Beatles songs played on panpipes. Mercifully, there’s only one volume of it as far as we can tell. Unmercifully, it includes a panpipe version of “Imagine.” We just listened to it and actually, we can now very easily imagine there’s no heaven.
17. Jazz Studio Quartet, “Julia.” We really, really apologize for the fact that this monstrosity is nearly nine minutes long. But when the vocal kicks in, you’ll understand why we just had to include it. Oh and just wait till the male counterpoint vocal arrives at the 4:00 minute mark. And the “Give Peace a Chance” chorus. And the “Imagine” interpolation. And the…oh, for fuck’s sake, just listen to it.
18. The Swingle Singers, “Birthday.” This is why most people hate a cappella groups. White folks doing mouth percussion is almost never a good idea.
19. Deanne Iovan, “Yer Blues.” This former member of The Dirtbombs and The Gore Gore Girls recently did a project called Every Nine Days, in which she covered the entire White Album by releasing a new cover every…well, nine days. She plays it pretty straight for the most part, but there was something about her detached reading of John’s proto-punk tantrum that we found appealingly odd.
20. Twenty Four Hours, “Mother Nature’s Son.” This cover isn’t particularly weird, but we liked it and there are surprisingly few “Mother’s Nature Son” covers on Spotify, so what the hell. The band is from Italy, apparently. Those Italians do like doing freaky Beatles covers.
21. R. Stevie Moore, “Everybody’s Got Something to Hide Except Me and My Monkey.” Moore is a prolific outsider singer-songwriter who’s released a Daniel Johnston-like torrent of homemade cassettes and CD-R’s since the late ’70s. He doesn’t actually do a whole lot to transform this Lennon track, which was pretty outsider-y to begin with.
22. Damills, “Sexy Sadie.” Is it just me, or is it fucking crazy how well this song works as a bossa nova romp?
23. The Bobs, “Helter Skelter.” Scratch what I said earlier about The Swingle Singers. This is why most people hate a cappella music. All is forgiven, Swingle Singers!
24. Ranko and His Social Skills, “Long Long Long.” This is from a George Harrison tribute album called Harrisongs Vol. 1, which also includes a cover “Here Comes the Sun” by someone named Harry Octopus. And yes, they did make a Vol. 2. Oh, don’t worry, we’re getting to it.
25. Piano Tribute Players, “Revolution.” A surprisingly jaunty tune when done entirely on piano.
26. Barbra Streisand, “Honey Pie.” Paul was probably turning cartwheels when he heard Babs was covering his little Side 4 tribute to English music hall. Then he probably heard the results and was like, “Uh…”
27. Devero, “Savoy Truffle.” Remember when I warned you about Harrisongs Vol. 2? Well, here it is. We’re not sure who Devero is or where she’s from, but we really hope she hasn’t been allowed anywhere near a George Harrison song since.
28. Ramsey Lewis, “Cry Baby Cry.” Lewis was a popular ’60s jazz cat who did fantastic, piano-led, juke-joint-style versions of pop hits like “Day Tripper” and “Hang On Sloopy.” The White Album seems to have had a profound effect on him; in 1968, the same year it came out, he released a very psychedelic set of White Album covers called Mother Nature’s Son. The cover art depicts Lewis frolicking with doves, parrots and rabbits. We’re sure none of them are in any way drug references.
29. Chuck U., “Revolution #9.5.” The joke of this playlist was going to be that we’d get to “Revolution 9” and just throw in the original, because shit, how are you going to top the original? Then we stumbled across this “cover” from a great little album called Across Their Universe: Lowbudget Records Does the Songs of The Beatles and we were totally hooked. It starts out kind of like a meta-“Revolution 9,” with interview snippets of Lennon talking about the original track, then goes off on its own thing. It was created by a Boston radio reporter named Chuck U. Rosina. Well done, sir!
30. Marty Gold, “Good Night.” Let’s end this playlist with a little Moog music, shall we? Good night, everyone. Good night.