Cover Versions of #1s – Fats Domino & Alma Cogan

Day three of cover versions week… and I got a couple of Fab Four facsimiles for you!

‘Lady Madonna’, by Fats Domino – 1968 album track

(Originally a #1 in March 1968, by The Beatles)

Paul McCartney was quite open about the debt that ‘Lady Madonna’ owed to Fats Domino, and so it was perhaps no surprise that Fats himself repaid the compliment less than a year after the original was released. It is probably the most faithful of all the cover versions I’ll post this week… Other than some extra piano flourishes it could easily be Fats singing over the original instrumental track. Doesn’t mean it doesn’t rock, however, and it took the rock ‘n’ roll legend to #100 in the US, just when it looked as if he might never have another chart hit.

‘I Feel Fine’, by Alma Cogan – 1967 album track

(Originally a #1 in December 1964, by The Beatles)

Towards the end of her career, and just before her much too early death aged just thirty-four, Alma Cogan had a go at covering some of The Beatles’ biggest hits. She put her own twist on ‘Help’, and ‘Ticket to Ride’, but I’ve gone for her very swinging-sixties take on ‘I Feel Fine’. (Actually, her best Beatles’ cover is her gorgeous ‘Eight Days a Week’, but that original was never released as a single in the UK…) Cogan had a close relationship with the Fab Four – especially, the rumours suggest, John Lennon – and I covered this in more depth in my post on her a few months ago. Sadly, none of her Beatles covers seemed to grabbed the public’s attention, all of them failing to chart.

Another two tomorrow, this time a couple of takes on the same well-known chart-topper…

183. ‘I Feel Fine’, by The Beatles

And so we hit the mid-point of the swinging sixties. Slap bang in the middle, and The Beatles are knocking The Stones off the #1 spot. How very 1960s. Peak sixties!

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I Feel Fine, by The Beatles (their 6th of seventeen #1s)

5 weeks, from 3rd December 1964 – 14th January 1965

But this is a new version of the Beatles. I mentioned when covering their last chart-topper, ‘A Hard Day’s Night’, that that was the sound of the MerseyBeatles being killed off – their last pure pop hit. And, as if to make sure of that, their sixth UK number one enters to the sound of feedback. A deliberately jarring intro, one that’s been done to death by now but at the time must have sounded strange indeed.

Their voices, too, have changed. They’re deeper, huskier… manlier? The mop-top boys have grown up. Baby says she’s mine you know, She tells me all the time you know, She said so… There’s an arrogance to it. The girl doesn’t have a name – she’s just ‘baby’. Tomorrow there’ll be a new one. That’s what happens when you’re in the world’s most popular band. She’s in love with me and I feel fine…

The guitar is rocking – apparently the riff came first when Lennon and McCartney were writing it – and drives the song along. The bridge, though, is still pure bubble-gum. Old habits die hard, I guess. I’m so glad, That’s she’s my little girl, She’s so glad, She’s tellin’ all the world… The relationship doesn’t seem to be built on the strongest of foundations, though – it’s more about buying diamond rings to keep his little girl happy.

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This disc is a world away – both lyrically and sonically – from The Beatles earlier chart-toppers. Think the innocent ‘From Me to You’ and the earnest ‘I Want to Hold Your Hand’. It’s a cool record, the first Beatles record that your older brother would have admitted to liking.

There’s been a lot of discussion, for years, over when and where the band first started taking drugs. As far as I know Bob Dylan thought they must have been smoking as early as 1963, as he misheard the ‘I can’t hide’ lyric in ‘I Want to Hold Your Hand’ as ‘I get high…’ And they definitely were by October 1965, as Paul McCartney admitted to smoking a joint in the toilets of Buckingham Palace when they collected their MBEs.

If I had to guess, I’d narrow it down to the few months between ‘A Hard Day’s Night’ and this release. There’s a glazed, detached air to their voices here… They sound pretty stoned. Plus the name of the song just sounds like something you’d say when you’re high… ‘Dude, I feel fine…’ Then there are the mmmmhhs as the song fades out. The Beatles MK II are here.

It’s the perfect way to end 1964 – by far the best year yet in terms of the quality of its #1s. It has felt like walking through Madame Tussaud’s at times – look there’s Diana Ross, and Roy Orbison, and over there, The Kinks and Cilla Black! So to end it with The Stones and then The Fab Four –the decade’s two biggest bands – is perfect. 1965 looks like being a much more eclectic year, though the overall standard of chart-topper might drop off slightly… Onwards!