It was also around this time that the first Beatles-inspired novelty records started to appear. Even though the boys had yet to have a major hit in the USA, one of the first off the block – The Boy with the Beatle Hair by The Swans - was released by US label Cameo Parkway in 1963. That yuletide British actress Dora Bryan made one of the most popular of all Beatle-related novelties All I Want for Christmas is a Beatle, and plenty more followed. In fact more than 200 Beatles-inspired novelties were produced in 1964 alone and it’s continued ever since: German girl group Die Sweetles had a hit at home with Ich Wunsch Mir Zum Geburtstag Einen Beatle (roughly translated as I Want a Beatle for my Birthday); we’ve had dogs sampled on a keyboard and then made to ‘sing’ Beatles hits, beloved comedians (Milton Berle’s hideous version of Yellow Submarine), people with connections to the group (John’s dad Freddie Lennon released That’s My Life); even songs released by major rock and pop acts that have used the Beatles (or a Beatle) as their inspiration (Elton John, Queen, Cher and many more)…the list goes on.
Today I present you two of the most hideous of all Beatles tributes, along with one of the absolute worst Beatles covers.
First up is Rainbo, who released John You Went Too Far This Time on Roulette in the US in 1968. Rainbo had been playing guitar in Greenwich Village coffee houses for some time, and became attached to Andy Warhol’s factory mob. John You Went Too Far This Time tells of the singer’s disillusionment and shock over the sight of John and Yoko naked on the front cover of their Unfinished Music No. 1: Two Virgins album. She’s put up with him dissing God and having long hair…but nudity? Now that just won’t do. Despite it's Beatlesque baroque instrumentation, or perhaps becase her singing is so flat in places that comparing her to a pancake would be unfair on that particular delicacy, Rainbo’s single failed to chart and she was quickly dropped by Roulette.
Never mind: Rainbo gave up the coffee houses, reverted to her real name and within a couple of years landed a spot in a brace of episodes of the Waltons. Mary Elizabeth ‘Sissy’ Spacek (although interestingly the B-side to her one single, C’Mon Teach Me To Live, is co-credited to C Spacek) would, of course, find fame in Hollywood in roles in Badlands, Carrie, Coal Miner’s Daughter and The Help.
Next is Forbes, a Swedish band who represented their country in the 1977 Eurovision Song Contest with the dire Beatles – an awful piece of drab euro-disco. Forbes ended in 18th and last place in the competition, gaining only two points and giving Sweden one of their worst placements ever. I recall seeing their dismal performance live on the night, sung in Swedish rather than English, with the only recognisable words to any non-Swedish ears being 'Beatles', 'Ringo Starr', 'John', 'Paul', 'George' and 'Yeah, Yeah, Yeah'. It’s out there on YouTube if you really want to see it. Horrifyingly the band is still together today.
Finally, from the album Beatle Barkers by the Woofers and Tweeters Ensemble, comes a hideous cover of one of the band’s most heinous releases – Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da. Originally released in Australia in 1983, the project came about when Gene Pierson, whose day job was compiling albums for companies like K-Tel, met Roy Nicolson a British born but Australia-based musician who invited him to his Sydney studio where he showed him a computer program that could emulate a wide range of different sounds…including animals. Nicholson agreed to put an album’s worth of material together on the strict understanding that his name would stay off the sleeve. The album went on to sell over 850,000 copies in Australasia alone.
There’s on accounting for taste.