It’s very hard to find someone who doesn’t like The Beatles. Rather, it’s very hard to find someone who doesn’t like The Beatles and isn’t just stating their dislike out of some sort of forced attempt at cutting against the grain. After all, The Fab Four has sold a serious amount of records (the most), and such popularity tends to send the anti-trenders in a frenzy of hate.
Okay, not everyone is going to love them. Tastes are tastes. But really hating The Beatles? Isn’t that kind of unnatural? Shouldn’t everyone be able to find some thread of fantastic sound that they appreciate among that vast library? The answer is yes, yes they should. Those four fools from Liverpool not only became the biggest band in the history of rock, but they revolutionized the use of melody in popular music, while eventually maturing and expanding the definition of exactly what rock could be.
Want proof? Just look to the disciples (everyone), and this insane list of cover versions. It spans both decades and vast musical styles, and is obviously not immune to the metal adaptations, which you’ll find a selection of below. Some of these heavier covers are well known, others less so; some are top notch tributes, while others might have been better left unsung (or unposted in this article). More notable, every band here approaches these wildly different songs from differing angles and with varying degrees of imagination. Most importantly, they are all united in their love of George, John, Paul, and Ringo, and that speaks volumes.
So… onto the jams!
(For the record, a Boris and Merzbow collaboration was deliberately left off for its lack of goo goo g’joobing. Not cool.)
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REALM – “ELEANOR RIGBY”
The original “Eleanor Rigby” is widely considered one of the most gorgeous, heart wrenching songs ever written and released under the rock banner. Attempting to duplicate this emotion and beauty is therefore both difficult and largely futile. What did Realm do instead? They thrashed their brains out, tossed in some great bass work and banshee vocals, and delivered just the kind of tongue-in-cheek cover that is both perfectly acceptable and fun as all living hell.
RUNNING WILD – “REVOLUTION”
The Running Wild take on “Revolution” manages to somehow be a tad embarrassing and kind of fun all at the same time. In other words, it feels like Running Wild, and it is just about exactly how you would expect them to treat a Beatles song. With plenty of big rhythms, big leads, and big Rolf, the ambiguous tone of the original is completely gone, replaced with a huge dose of rawk. Those looking for a thoughtful take on classic material can look elsewhere. Those looking for a reason to get drunk and ignore iconic lyrics? Come on in.
CORONER – “I WANT YOU (SHE’S SO HEAVY)”
As the darkest, most eerie tune on the complex and layered Abbey Road, “I Want You (She’s So Heavy)” is a natural choice for a heavy metal cover. In fact, even for a guy who considers Abbey Road to be the best Beatles album, it may actually be even better suited for a genre that takes its veiled creepiness to its natural conclusion. The Coroner cover does just that, knowing when it’s okay to thrash out but letting the “she’s so heavy…” parts sound oddly final, giving the song all it needed to truly sound like the words of a man about to obsessively murder the woman that he knows he can’t have.
TROUBLE – “TOMORROW NEVER KNOWS”
The Trouble take on Revolver closer “Tomorrow Never Knows” is the only instance on this list of a band adding heaviness while also enhancing the psychedelic nature of the original. Amplifier haze replaces sitar; drumming follows the same pattern but with a greater depth of tone; caked guitar layers do their best to duplicate the bizarre noises. Eric Wagner even does the great delayed-vocal-release that haunted the original. It isn’t quite as odd and jarring as The Beatles’ version, but the dissolving, flattening finish leaves an ideal image for the song: that of some thoroughly baked, drooling drug addict falling slowly off the side of a chair. Plomp.
SATAN’S HOST – “NORWEGIAN WOOD”
A killer example of a classic Beatles melody translating oh-so-naturally to the metal realms, the Satan’s Host take on “Norwegian Wood” might – to uninitiated ears – just sound like a band injecting a folky melody and rhythm into a normal metal song. It just fits that perfectly, especially when you undercut the main theme with some blast beats. But the real star of the cover is vocalist Harry Conklin, who makes the song his own, plays around with the original arrangement, and generally chews the musical scenery. Pure infection, this one.
MÖTLEY CRÜE – “HELTER SKELTER”
In 1968, before the term “heavy metal” had any real meaning, “Helter Skelter” was The Beatles’ heavy metal track. Bits of screaming, palm-muted chords, and that huge chorus hook added up to a tune that was every bit as proto metal in nature as other late 60s music that gets similar credit. So why are we relying on a Mötley Crüe cover for inclusion in this list? Because strangely, there isn’t much else. Also, there’s the little fact that it really rocks, fitting in seamlessly on Shout at the Devil and – for better or worse – showing that The Beatles were just as responsible for the hair bands of Sunset Strip as anyone else.
HELLOWEEN – “ALL MY LOVING”
The original “All My Loving” is one of the bubblegummiest, sweetest tunes from The Beatles early days, so why oh why did Helloween need to sweeten it up even more? Who knows, but this is disgustingly sweet. Andi Deris is notably timid here, doing his best to not wail, while the entire thing comes across like it belongs on some cheap 90s punk covers comp. Let’s be honest, this one just kinda honks.
TYPE O NEGATIVE – “DAY TRIPPER MEDLEY”
Type O Negative’s love of all things The Beatles was never a secret, but it took until World Coming Down for “The Drab Four” to finally lay a tribute down on tape. A medley of “Day Tripper,” “If I Needed Someone,” and “I Want You (She’s So Heavy),” the tune show’s that Type O’s knack for multi-sectioned tracks wasn’t just limited to their original material. But most of all, it showed how well a Beatles riff could be translated to metal, turning the main “Day Tripper” line into a fierce slice of doom rock.
BONUS: SOUNDGARDEN – “COME TOGETHER”
While it isn’t a whole lot more metal than another famous cover of “Come Together,” the Soundgarden treatment has something that neither the original nor Aerosmith could bring: Kim Thayil. With one shattering lead, repeated throughout the song’s verses, Thayil takes what was always a badass strut and makes it downright menacing. Really makes a guy want to hear him just playing around in all kinds of classic jams, seeing the sorts of moods that might crisscross.
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