The 15 Worst Covers of Beatles Songs: William Shatner, Bill Cosby, Tiny Tim, Sean Connery & Your Excellent Picks

in Music | June 1st, 2012

Thanks to The Wall Street Journal, you can endure boxer Manny Pacquiao singing a version of John Lennon’s 1971 peace anthem, Imagine. It’s pretty painful, not quite as painful as taking a Pacquiao punch, but painful nonetheless. We floated it on Twitter (follow us here) and we were quickly reminded that Pacquiao is hardly the first person to butcher The Beatles. (No real knock on him, we’re just having some fun here.) So we started pulling together your favorites. What are the worst Beatles’ covers you’ve ever heard — ones so bad, they’re good? Let us know in the comments or on Twitter, and we’ll start adding them to the post.

In 1968, William Shatner, riding high on his Star Trek fame, released his first music album, The Transformed Man. It featured poetry mixed with pop lyrics and a nearly blasphemous version of Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds. It’s here that the cheese began.

Also in 1968, the young comedian Bill Cosby released Bill Cosby Sings Hooray For The Salvation Army Band!. The parody album starts with Cosby singing a semi-serious version of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. It was a high point for neither the comedian nor the band.

Telly Savalas — you know him from Kojak — sings George Harrison’s Something in a very lounge lizard kind of way. So awful it’s awesome.

Michael McKean (This is Spinal Tap!) offers up this: Milton Berle singing The Yellow Submarine. It wasn’t one of The Beatles’ best songs, let’s admit it. But Berle didn’t exactly elevate it. Uncle Miltie’s recording was made in 1968 (do you see a trend here?), not long after the animated Yellow Submarine hit theaters.

From her 1966 album Way Out West, old time movie star Mae West sings Day Tripper. Recommended by @tonymolloy.

Sean Connery talking his way through In My Life. And amazingly George Martin is responsible for this.

You can’t talk about so-bad-they’re-good Beatles covers without giving a nod to Wing. The Hong Kong-born singer, now based in New Zealand, has recorded a full album in her out-of-tune singing style. Is it parody? Is it serious? Who knows. Her album can be had here: Wing Sings the Beatles

Elva Ruby Connes Miller, otherwise known as Mrs. Miller, covered numerous songs during the 1960s, including A Hard Day’s Night. Her voice was compared to the sound of “roaches scurrying across a trash can lid.” More recently, this clip was featured on … for pretty good reason. Good find Daniel.

And now the male answer to Mrs. Miller, the immortal Tiny Tim and his version of Nowhere Man.

Here is Germany’s answer to Wing.  It is Klaus Beyer’s remake of Back in the U.S.S.R.

This is from “Banda Plástica de Tepetlixpa.” According to legend, John and Paul went to Mexico, to a town called Tepetlixpa, where people received them as distinguished guests. Local brass bands started playing the Beatles’ music and moved the singer-songwriter duo to tears. Some time later, the Tepetlixpa band recorded Adios a Los Beatles (Goodbye to the Beatles), a 10-song tribute to the geniuses from Liverpool. Jaime Ortega has more backstory in the comments section below.

@Brian_M_Cassidy asks: Is this what you’re looking for? Indeed it is. The Red Navy Singers, Dancers & Musicians sings Let It Be, during the final days of the Soviet Union.

We wouldn’t want to leave France out. Here, Les compagnons de la chanson sing Le Sous-Marin Vert. Thanks Pierre.

And finally pulling up the rear, The Metropolitan Police Male Voice Choir sing When I’m Sixty Four. H/T Olidez

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Comments (32)

  1. Pierre briancoN says . . .
    June 2, 2012 / 11:46 am

    Way up there, France’s Compagnons de la Chanson, a 9-member male pop choir, butchering Yellow Submarine as “Le Sous-Marin Vert” – late 60s/early 70s.. Made you wish it was the Kursk.

  2. Sandra says . . .
    June 2, 2012 / 12:22 pm

    Klaus Beyer is a German cult phenomenon – he was, among other things, part of the troupe around artist Christoph Schlingensief and has translated and sings all (!) Beatles songs in German.

  3. Jaime Ortega says . . .
    June 2, 2012 / 12:50 pm

    Ok, these guys are called “Banda Plástica de Tepetlixpa” and here’s the legend behind those recordings:

    They say that the Beatles did actually come to Mexico. Lennon and McCartney went to Oaxaca and met María Sabina, who gave the guys to try some mushrooms that gave ‘em a really strong experience. When they were returning to Mexico City, they heard the legend of the Popocatépetl and Iztaccíhuatl, two famous volcanoes. In Aztec mythology, there was a warrior who fell in love with the emperor’s daughter. The emperor promised him he could marry her, but only if he brought the victory back with him. The warrior returned victorious, but only to find out his loved one died in the meantime. She was falsely told by her father that his warrior died in battle, and believing the news, she died of grief. He took her body to a spot outside Tenochtitlan and kneeled by her grave. The gods covered them with snow and changed them into mountains: Iztaccíhuatl, or “the white woman”, which is often covered in snow, the beauty forever sleeping. The warrior is Popocatépetl, an active volcano; raining fire on Earth in blind rage at the loss of his beloved.

    Back to the guys, they got fascinated by the legend, and went to visit the place. So in their way there, they got to Tepetlixpa, where people in the town received them as distinguished guests and offered them tipical food and music. Local brass bands in Mexico were common in the 20th century, ranging from the time when mexican communities tried to imitate the military bands that accompanied Maximiliano de Habsburgo —second Mexican emperor—, through his short reign. The local band was playing some music, and then they went into some of the songs the Beatles immortalized. John and Paul felt so touched by the gesture that they were even moved to tears.

    Some time later, that led into the Tepetlixpa band recording “Adios a Los Beatles” (Goodbye to the Beatles) a 10-song LP tribute to the genius from Liverpool.

    As I said, this is all local folklore, but I like to think that it’s all true.

  4. Daniel Best says . . .
    June 2, 2012 / 12:55 pm

    Behold the magic of Mrs. Miller.

  5. Pierre briancoN says . . .
    June 2, 2012 / 1:21 pm
  6. MarjorieM says . . .
    June 2, 2012 / 6:24 pm

    I think this is an interesting, hilarious topic (it’s still William Shatner for me, hands down!) but think that the clip that apparently started it all– Manny Pacquiao’s– is one that doesn’t belong here. Manny was cajoled into singing by the interviewer. He was clearly very shy about it. (Personally, I believe that the interviewer wanted to find an excuse to show off his own voice.) Unlike all the other clips, Manny’s clip was never produced as a commercial recording or done with any idea of it being a professional singing performance. I don’t think it counts as a “cover” version, and that since it was not created in an attempt to garner praise or make money as an independent music recording or performance, it should not be made the object of derision. If and when he goes into a studio and records it and releases it, it would be fair game for a listen at that time, to see if it might make the hall of fame of worst Beatles covers. Sorry, this just seems mean. Yes, I think it would have been best for him to decline this particular invitation to sing, for various reasons. But I don’t think his lapse in judgment should have landed him on this page.

  7. Fintan Kavanagh says . . .
    June 3, 2012 / 10:58 am

    How could you have missed Sean Connery doing “In my life” ? Difficult to listen through to the end..

  8. phb256 says . . .
    June 3, 2012 / 11:40 am
  9. kurt says . . .
    June 3, 2012 / 1:00 pm
  10. Olidez says . . .
    June 3, 2012 / 1:13 pm
    The great Peter Sellers…

  11. Olidez says . . .
    June 3, 2012 / 1:17 pm

    The Templeton Twins – Hey Jude :

  12. Olidez says . . .
    June 3, 2012 / 1:19 pm

    The Whole Sgt. Peppers in in Reggae-dub, well worth the ride :

  13. Olidez says . . .
    June 3, 2012 / 1:21 pm

    The Metropolitan Police Male Voice Choir – When I’m sixty four :

  14. Olidez says . . .
    June 3, 2012 / 1:23 pm

    Los Fernandos made the perfect cover :

  15. Olidez says . . .
    June 3, 2012 / 1:24 pm

    Fire in the hole :

  16. Olidez says . . .
    June 3, 2012 / 1:26 pm

    And my personal warad goes to the legendary Tiny Tim :

    (note to everyone, I made a 80 minutes mixtape containing all I posted, send me an email if you want the mp3)

  17. Shelley says . . .
    June 4, 2012 / 8:31 am

    The weird thing is, I feel sure that John Lennon would have had something interesting to say about all this.

    I miss him.

  18. Jan Molineaux says . . .
    June 9, 2012 / 1:43 pm

    Comrades! Let it be!

    Another weird soviet cover…

  19. George says . . .
    July 3, 2012 / 1:17 am

    What about this One?

    So Oriental)))

  20. Oliver says . . .
    August 9, 2012 / 6:10 pm

    Has anyone mentioned the ‘Beatles Barkers’ yet.

    Born in the ‘you can turn any sound into a musical instrument, wow’ novelty phase of the sampler/early electronic music. The concept is simple, what would the Beatles sound like if they barked, miaowed or clucked.

    It’s either awful or brilliant. This depends, I fear, on how sleep deprived/stoned/drunk/otherwise altered you are at the time.

  21. Oliver says . . .
    August 9, 2012 / 6:13 pm

    p.s. there’s about 5 of their covers on the ‘tube.. for example

    It’s almost 3 am and I must sleep now.

  22. Josh says . . .
    September 4, 2012 / 8:17 pm

    Cathy Berberian “Ticket To Ride”

    Funniest thing I have ever heard.

  23. George Harrison says . . .
    November 13, 2012 / 1:19 pm

    The Green Submarine?

  24. Chris says . . .
    April 10, 2013 / 2:59 pm

    I don’t see how The Metropolitan Police Choir fits in this list—I liked it quite a bit and find it true to the spirit of the original. Recording might not be the best but no matter, I’m glad I got to hear it :)

  25. coffeemug says . . .
    August 29, 2013 / 1:28 pm

    The Beatles loved Tiny Tim! And I like his version, it is so unique, so rare for cover versions.

  26. Nick says . . .
    July 17, 2014 / 8:12 pm

    Yeah I agree with Chris the Police choir sounded great.

  27. Valentu00edn Gonzu00e1lez says . . .
    September 11, 2014 / 5:55 am
  28. Dave R says . . .
    September 18, 2014 / 7:17 am

    I’m sorry but Sean Connery singing ‘In My Life’ is absolutely FANTASTIC! No way should he be included on the list of Worst cover versions. Instead he should be on the list of BEST cover versions!nnThis is simply Awesome.

  29. Don P says . . .
    March 24, 2016 / 8:17 am

    Dave R, yes, agreed. Connery’s “In My Life” is a great thing.

  30. Patricia Lazarus says . . .
    March 24, 2016 / 9:11 pm

    Indeed that recitation by Sean Connery is very good… Why on earth are some people saying it’s bad? Because he doesn’t sing? But it’s just like a delightful poem, recited in Sean’s powerful & beautiful voice!

  31. mark b says . . .
    March 24, 2016 / 9:57 pm

    As great as this list is, it needs a second Tiny Tim. His rendition of Hey Jude (cha cha cha) with Brave Combo is brilliant.

  32. Stef says . . .
    October 12, 2016 / 4:27 am

    I’ve heard IF I NEEDED SOMEONE by the Hollies. Absolutely horrid. Please add it.

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