BEATLEFEST!!! – “In My Life” and “All My Lovin’” by the Chandler Travis Three-O; “No Reply” by Steve Shook (with Joey Spampinato on bass, Rikki Bates on drums, Keith Spring on keys, and Chandler Travis on bg vox, recorded by Chris Blood); “Hold Me Tight” by the Incredible Casuals; “I Wanna Hold Your Hand” by Travis & Shook (again w. Rikki Bates on drums); “Julia” by the Chandler Travis Philharmonic (and arranged by Dave Harris); and “Circles” and “If I Fell” by Chandler Travis.
Well, you must know what a Beatlefest is: you get together with other folks who insane about the Fab Four, get drunk, and scream their songs (usually concentrating on some on their early years) late at night. So, by those terms this isn’t a proper Beatlefest, because these aren’t really the drinking and screaming ones, but it’s meant as a sincere homage to each and every occasion along those lines through history (and believe me, I’ve had a few.
Cover songs are slippery ground, because some of the original recordings are so great and the singers so talented that it sort of seems insulting to even try to do anything else with them. You can’t touch James Brown, or Sam Cooke, or so may others, at their game, so what’s the point? But when we first got together in 1968, Steve Shook knew the chords to every Beatles song, and every country had it’s own homegrown version of them, imitating whatever phases the real Beatles were going through at the time in the same order (not unlike the Rolling Stones on “Their Satanic Majesties Request”, still one of their best in some ways, though some folks are too cool to admit it!) Steve’s first band Homer & the Don’t’s was from Caracas, Venezuela, and they had the haircuts and everything; hell, some amateurs back then even stole the accents!
For me, the point is that it’s extremely challenging to try to do a song loved and revered by millions in a completely different way without generating great wads of hatred, and you know I can’t resist that kind of shit.
So yeah, these are mostly arranged pretty different from the originals, the lone exception being the Incredible Casuals’ version of “Hold Me Tight“, where we’re at the Beachcomber in ’97 (and thus a relatively rare recording of David Birmingham on drums), trying to knock it out and stick to the blueprint, just having fun with a big, bouncy beat.
Then at the other end of the spectrum, there’s an ancient Travis & Shook version of “I Wanna Hold Your Hand“, recorded at Mt. Cod sometime in the late seventies (and released in two excerpts on the Casuals’ Inedible Casserole #4, ‘Sammy Davis, Jr.'”; this is the first time it has been heard in it’s entirety), which starts solo in the shower (thus perhaps telegraphing its spoken doo-wop bridge) and progresses as a somewhat elaborate Jackson Five “I Want You Back” rip- a motif responsible a few decades later for the Three-O’s take on “All My Lovin'”, which was on the first Beatles album I ever heard, “Meet the Beatles” (in fact, outside of maybe “Till There Was You”, it was the song I liked least on the album, but that didn’t keep it from burrowing into my brain almost forty years later for no good reason.)
Then you get Steve Shook’s mellow, idiosyncratic take on “No Reply“, previously released on a local Beatles comp in 2006 called “Cape Cod Covers, Vol. 2”; my Smokey Robinson inspired version of “If I Fell“, previously released on RadioBall #20, “You Must Come Over Tonight”; and the Chandler Travis Three-O’s “In My Life” (from “This is What Bears Look Like Underwater”), which was more or less commissioned for my friends’ wedding (love you, Baye and Duh!), but then we kinda liked it so we kept playing it for a few years.
My good friend (and fabulous CTP trombonist) Dave Harris came up with the gorgeous arrangement for “Julia“; as luck would have it, we only played it once, live at the Midway, so it’s pretty rough, but I love hearing it again.
And then I just discovered the George Harrison “White album” Escher demo of “Circles” about a month ago, and was completely shocked that I’d somehow missed a significant and quite lovely Beatles outtake, as I thought I’d pretty much heard it all. And then for no reason I got going on this version, with visions of “And Your Bird Can Sing” dancing in my head (that’s Cliff Spencer on the keyboard solo.)
I guess that’s the nature of really great songs, is that you can play them a lot of different ways, and they’ll still sound great!
(actually by The Incredible Casuals – Bandcamp player uses the album’s artist)
(actually by Travis & Shook – Bandcamp player uses the album’s artist)
(actually by The Chandler Travis Three=O – Bandcamp player uses the album’s artist)
(actually by Steve Shook – Bandcamp player uses the album’s artist)
(actually by The Chandler Travis Philharmonic – Bandcamp player uses the album’s artist)