There is always one band that comes along and catches you at just the right time with a wallop that changes the way you see things. For an entire generation in the sixties, that band was The Beatles, and they have continued their reign of benevolent wallops to this day.
Bruce Springsteen was yet another youngster caught up in their barnstorm of culture-changing brilliance, back in the early sixties, when their Promethean brand of pop music seemed to be grabbing the world by the lapels at every possible occasion.
One fellow that it shook it up was a 15-year-old Springsteen, who can even recall when he heard them for the very first time. “I saw Elvis on TV and when I first saw Elvis, I was 9 but I was a little young, tried to play the guitar but it didn’t work out, I put it away,” Springsteen recalled to Rolling Stone Magazine. “The keeper was in 1964, ‘I Wanna Hold Your Hand’ on South Street with my mother driving.
“I immediately demanded that she let me out, I ran to the bowling alley, ran down a long neon-lit aisle, down the alley into the bowling alley. Ran to the phone booth, got in the phone booth and immediately called my girl and asked, ‘Have you heard this band called The Beatles?’ After that, it was nothing but rock ‘n’ roll and guitars.” Hearing them for the first time was a moment, he profoundly adds, that “just changed the course of my life.”
Thereafter, ‘The Boss’ has played homage to heroes on several occasions. Below we have collated his five best covers of the ‘Fab Four’ from ‘Eleanor Rigby’ to one of the songs that kickstarted it all for the blue-collar troubadour.
Bruce Springsteen’s 5 best covers of The Beatles:
‘Eleanor Rigby’ (with The Castiles)
If you needed any proof that The Beatles had a profound early influence on Bruce Springsteen, then look no further than the video below (or precisely 41 minutes into the video below). When he was a young lad of 18, ‘The Boss’ or rather ‘The Junior Employee’ at that stage, was a member of the band The Castiles.
The high school buddies may have disbanded in 1968, but based on the clip below, their love of music was profound and certainly pointed them in the right direction. This lo-fi recording of ‘Eleanor Rigby’ might not be soaring stuff, but it is, nevertheless, a beautiful insight to a boy on the run and high on the fuel of good old rock ‘n’ roll.
‘I Saw Her Standing There’
One of the most remarkable things about pop culture is that quite often stars not only ended meeting their heroes but even take to the stage with them. If you had told a young teenage Springsteen that one day he would be introducing Sir Paul McCartney as a guest on his show, he would have told you that it was a fallacy that even his hungry heart could not beget.
Nevertheless, at Hard Rock Calling, Springsteen was delighted to introduce ‘Macca’ for a jazzed-up duet of ‘I Saw Her Standing There’. The charming thing about the performance is that Springsteen can barely wipe the smile off of his face enough to even attempt singing at certain points.
‘Tell Me Why’
“We’re glad to be here in Atlantic City Convention Hall and we´re gonna dedicate this next song to all the bands that played in this room that inspired us….hope we do alright with this,” Springsteen began while introducing ‘Tell Me Why’ back in 2003. He has covered the track on five other occasions over the years, but the crisp audio on this soaring version makes it the definitive outing.
As it happens, the Atlantic City Convention Hall was one of the very first venues that The Beatles played when they first went stateside. Springsteen has never ventured to say whether he was at the show, but he decided a homage would be fitting all the same.
‘Twist and Shout’
Albeit ‘Twist and Shout’ might not technically constitute a Beatles cover owing to the fact it was first written by Phil Medley and Bert Berns back in 1961, it is clear which version ‘The Boss’ is drawing the most inspiration from.
John Lennon once described his own vocal take for the track as “just a frantic guy doing his best,” and it is clear from the unfettered energy that Bruce pours into it that he is gunning for the same thing. He races through the track like all good renditions of ‘Twist and Shout’ should, and then he even has time to tag ‘La Bamba’ on at the end.
It is to Springsteen’s credit that he looks upon all of his peers without judgement or prejudice and is supportive of musical ability no matter what form it comes in. The erratic ways of Axl Rose might be worlds apart from Springsteen’s diva-free persona, but that didn’t stop them from performing a cracking duet of ‘Come Together’.
There are certainly better covers of the song knocking about, but the simple strumming pattern that Springsteen adopts brings out the inherent groove to track and the gravel-voiced vocals suit the song like a sonic hand in glove.