209 Beatles Songs in 209 Days: Memphis Musician Covers The Beatles’ Songbook

There’s a dan­ger for musi­cians in cov­er­ing well-known songs from famous artists. The obvi­ous prob­lem: one can fail to meet the chal­lenge and deliv­er a sub­stan­dard per­for­mance of a beloved clas­sic, almost a crim­i­nal act in the esti­ma­tion of die-hard fans. But it’s too tempt­ing not to try. Musi­cians, like writ­ers and oth­er artists, learn best by mim­ic­k­ing the greats, then take what they’ve learned and devel­op their own style. Some of the best cov­ers of pop­u­lar songs are those that trans­pose them into a dif­fer­ent key, style, tem­po, or anoth­er genre entire­ly. “Make it your own!” as they say. Still a risky move… espe­cial­ly when it comes to the Bea­t­les.

There are indeed many phe­nom­e­nal Bea­t­les cov­ers—such as Bad Brains’ live take on “Day Trip­per” (for me anyway)—that rival the orig­i­nals. Some oth­ers… not so much. But when a Bea­t­les cov­er is real­ly good, and I mean real­ly, real­ly good… it’s usu­al­ly a pro who pulls it off. So hats off to David Brook­ings, an able non-famous musi­cian and Bea­t­les super­fan who set him­self the gar­gan­tu­an task of cov­er­ing 209 Bea­t­les songs in 209 days. Are all his cov­er ver­sions gems?

No, but the bar is set so high that it’s an impos­si­ble expec­ta­tion, espe­cial­ly giv­en the con­straints. Brook­ings isn’t re-invent­ing the pop genius wheel. He’s hav­ing fun with Bea­t­les’ songs, accom­pa­nied by an acoustic gui­tar, a key­board, a friend—singing Yoko’s parts in the sil­ly “The Con­tin­u­ing Sto­ry of Bun­ga­low Bill,” above—or his wife Shel­by, as in “Please Please Me,” below.…

With their home video pro­duc­tion val­ues, Brook­ings’ cov­ers don’t rise far above the wealth of oth­er such efforts that flood YouTube, many of which are high­ly admirable in their own way. But what sets his project apart—beyond its ambi­tious scope—is his occa­sion­al­ly tren­chant com­men­tary and an inter­est­ing per­son­al back­sto­ry. Brook­ings under­took his Bea­t­les cov­ers project in 2010 as a trib­ute not only to the Bea­t­les, but also, per­haps, to Steve Jobs, founder of that com­pa­ny named after the band’s own label (and like­ly tax shel­ter). Brook­ings says the whole thing may have been just a stunt just to show that “some idiot record­ed all 209 songs in 209 days.” But it’s sure­ly more than a coin­ci­dence that the year ear­li­er, while work­ing as a tour guide at Mem­phis’ leg­endary Sun Stu­dios, he made such an impres­sion on Jobs that the Apple founder invit­ed him to Cuper­ti­no to help build Apple’s iTunes library of blues and ear­ly rock and roll.

A dream gig for any musi­cian and stu­dent of musi­cal his­to­ry, and enough of an inspi­ra­tion to take on the entire cat­a­log of the most famous band in the world. What’s more, Brook­ings hap­pened to be recov­er­ing from liv­er-trans­plant surgery when he met Jobs at Sun and scored the job. See Brook­ings and his adorable daugh­ter McKin­ley sing “Nor­we­gian Wood,” above and “She Said She Said” below, and check out all of his cov­ers, as well as orig­i­nal songs and per­for­mances with his band, on his YouTube chan­nel. Find Bea­t­les cov­ers 1–110 here. And songs 111–209 here.

h/t Mark at Par­tial­lyEx­am­inedLife

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Hear 100 Amaz­ing Cov­er Ver­sions of Bea­t­les Songs

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

Jimi Hen­drix Plays “Sgt. Pepper’s Lone­ly Hearts Club Band” for The Bea­t­les, Just Three Days After the Album’s Release (1967)

Josh Jones is a writer and musi­cian based in Durham, NC. Fol­low him at @jdmagness

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