Band: The Spectrum
Single: Ob La Di Ob La Da
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.
(*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).
(This blog entry was originally created in July 2008. Not much to add since, of course, except to say that this was put up in a last-minute panic when I realised that my original planned entry had been re-issued officially a few months back, and its appearance here has more to do with the fact that I'd already uploaded the mp3s to Box.com rather than because I wanted to draw attention to its present ebay "for sale" status.)