17 July 2008

More Beatles Cover Versions

Spectrum Ob La Di Ob La Da

Band: The Spectrum
Single: Ob La Di Ob La Da
Label: RCA
Year of Release: 1968

As I'm sure I've said before, an entire MP3 blog could probably be created dedicated solely to Beatles cover versions - in fact, one probably exists already, but the subject doesn't fascinate me enough to go looking for it.

You see, for every inspired Beatles cover version there are at least 6,000 which ignored the sage wisdom behind the cliche "If it ain't broke, don't fix it" (or, as a forthright ex-colleague of mine used to say: "If it ain't your concern, don't f__k about with it"). To cover a Beatles song effectively, you've really got to do something surprising with it, something which either shows the world what weird really means (The Residents) or something which highlights raunchy or aggressive elements of the track some of us might have missed (Otis Redding's version of "Daytripper").

Sadly, the vast majority of sixties cover versions of Beatles tracks were somewhat pedestrian cash-ins. A favoured trick amongst record companies of the time was to issue Beatles album tracks as singles. You would simply put a band in the studio you'd been waiting awhile to break, give them a relatively new Beatles tune, and get them to bang it out quickly in the hope that it would be a hit, and their careers would be launched.

If you were really being a silly arse about it, of course, you released your favoured band's single in competition with another band covering exactly the same song, meaning somebody had to lose (or both did) in a rather unusual battle of the bands contest. In this case, The Spectrum's studio clock-watching yawnfest of a cover of The Beatles already quite uninspired "Ob La Di Ob La Da" went head-to-head with The Marmalade's slightly less dreary version. The public must have been thrilled to have had three Ob La Di Ob La Das in the same place at the same time*. The Marmalade went to number one and subsequently lasted a few more years despite hippies screaming "sell out!" in their faces, whereas The Spectrum's effort flopped, and they didn't trouble us for much longer.

"Why should we care?" I hear you ask, and as always I have no reasonable reply, except to say that the B-side "Music Soothes The Savage Breast" is an unusual piece of orchestral popsike, and should be given a chance - unlike The Spectrum generally who, it has to be said, leave me somewhat cold with their other singles, although there are plenty of folk online happy to defend them. Takes all sorts. But before you go...

Orange Bicycle Carry That Weight

Band: The Orange Bicycle
Single: Carry That Weight - You Never Give Me Your Money
Label: Parlophone
Year of Release: 1969

...here's The Orange Bicycle with their particular stinker. Essentially an amalgamation of session musos created by Morgan Studios, The Bicycle nonetheless had a number one hit in France and did create some seriously interesting pieces of light psychedelia during the late sixties. It's only recently been deleted, but if you can manage to pick up a copy of the Morgan compilation "Psychedelic Pstones III: House of Many Windows", then do so. Besides featuring three Orange Bicycle tracks, most of the other acts on the CD usually involve the same musicians, either in production, engineering, session or songwriting roles. Far from being cheap plastic Carnaby Street styled novelties, the vast majority of tracks on there are interesting and unusual pieces of period work.

Of course, this doesn't feature, and no wonder. Again released at almost exactly the same time as a rival version** (in this case Trash's "Carry That Weight - Golden Slumbers", which I've actually never heard - if anyone has an MP3 of it, please let me know) The Orange Bicycle take one of the better tracks off "Abbey Road" and make it sound like a tired rehearsal in a metal dustbin. The flip is a curious guitar solo strewn effort entitled "Want to B-side".

Download them all in one bundle below:


(*And that's if we ignore the "Ob La Di Ob La Da Story" by Jimmy Scott, who coined the phrase in the first place. It's a completely different tune, but certainly milks the topic. It's almost surprising an "Ob La Di Ob La Da" concept album wasn't issued).

(**In fairness, I suppose I should add that putting rival versions of songs head-to-head on the charts seemed to be quite standard music industry practice until the mid seventies, even if it does seem quite mind boggling now).


Anonymous said...

Cool, thanks! Been looking for the Spectrum songs for a long time now. Superb guitar solo on "Savage Breast".

23 Daves said...

No problem - I do own another Spectrum 7 inch, "Heading for a Heatwave". If you don't have that one already, let me know and I'll try to upload it at some point.

Randy said...

Hi-any chance you could repost these songs as all of the download links are dead...