Five of the Best Paul McCartney Covers
With the turn of the calendar page to June 18th, Paul McCartney turns 70 today. The songwriter has managed to crank out an unmatched discography over his seven decades that only few have managed to edge close to. Creating a list of the top Paul McCartney songs may be a bit of an impossibility, how do you possibly separate “Yesterday” from “Blackbird” and “Maybe I’m Amazed?” You don’t. So here are a few selections from the long list of other people singing McCartney’s songs:
“Eleanor Rigby,” Godhead – It is almost unfathomable to think that a song this good was originally released as a B-Side (to “Yellow Submarine”), but when you have a discography as deep as The Beatles, something has to come up on the flip side. Godhead’s cover reconstructs the song into a very interesting Industrial Rock/Alt Rock format. The Washington, D.C., band’s take gives it a different vibe as harder drums and synth sounds replace the haunting strings of the original, but the version still holds up very impressively.
“Helter Skelter,” U2 – The Irish band began their monumental concert film/documentary Rattle and Hum with their cover of this White Album track. The Edge opened the film with a simple strum of the guitar before Bono tells a raucous crowd, “This song Charles Manson stole from The Beatles… we’re stealing it back” before launching into a terrific cover of the song that was cut at U2’s Denver stop on the Joshua Tree tour.
“Yesterday,” Ray Charles – If there is one singer who could possibly construe this song in a way that is comparable to the oft-covered original, it was Ray Charles. The passion and soul that the icon poured into his cover of the song speaks to both the power of the lyrics and the unmatched way that Charles could deliver a song.
“Maybe I’m Amazed,” Faces – One of the best covers of one of McCartney’s signature songs, the track from the Face’s second record Long Player was released in less than a year after the original release of 1970 the solo record McCartney.
“Band On the Run/Blackbird,” Foo Fighters – Among the Foo Fighters’ growing list of covers includes a pair of songs from McCartney’s Wings and Beatles career. Their most prominent cover to date, “Band On The Run,” was cut for the BBC’s Radio 1 and was re-released with their 2011 LP Medium Rare. This take gives the song a harder edge and subtracts the synthesizers in favor of more guitar.
After strumming a few chords of “Blackbird” at the Foo Fighters November 2011 gig in Philadelphia, Dave Grohl paused to say, “this f***- shit is hard, that’s why Paul McCartney is Paul McCartney” before continuing on with a beautiful rendition of his verse from the White Album. The Foo Fighters’ unplugged cover of “Blackbird” from an unreleased acoustic bootleg is simply David Grohl taking as best as shot at the track which singularly belongs to McCartney, but also shows how his range as an artist as well.
Grohl also sang a memorable duet of “Maybe I’m Amazed” with Norah Jones at McCartney’s Kennedy Center honors in 2010.