Aquarius/Let the Sunshine In – Celia Cruz, Raquel Welch, Alice Donut, Killdozer and the Golden Dream Orchestra

Aquarius was one of those songs that got covered by everybody and their dog in the late sixties/early seventies, but Celia’s version (on record with Tito Puente) stands above the crowd simply because of her extraordinary voice. She’s the Queen of Salsa for good reason; she’s not only got all the moves, she invented them.

Aquarius/Let the Sunshine In is a medley of two songs written for the 1967 stage musical Hair by James Rado and Gerome Ragni (lyrics) and Galt MacDermot (music). It was first released as a single by the 5th Dimension in 1969 and won a Grammy for Record of the Year.

Here are a few other other crazy Aquarius cover versions…the Jodorowsky-esque visuals of the Raquel Welch number are worth tuning in for alone…

Listen to Cover to Cover on Spotify


Dear Prudence – Siouxsie & The Banshees

In 1983 Siouxsie and the Banshees released a cover of the Beatles’ Dear Prudence as a single, with the Cure’s Robert Smith temporarily standing in on guitar. It became the group’s biggest hit to date, reaching number 3 in the UK charts, only being kept from the top spot by Culture Club’s Karma Chameleon.

Dear Prudence was written by John Lennon in 1968 while the Beatles were in Rishikesh with the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. Lennon later said it was “a song about Mia Farrow’s sister, who seemed to go slightly barmy, meditating too long, and couldn’t come out of the little hut that we were livin’ in. They selected me and George to try and bring her out because she would trust us…She’d been locked in for three weeks and was trying to reach God quicker than anybody else. That was the competition in Maharishi’s camp: who was going to get cosmic first.”

Prudence herself (who only heard or even heard about the song after it was recorded) said: “I would always rush straight back to my room after lectures and meals so I could meditate. John, George and Paul would all want to sit around jamming and having a good time and I’d be9 flying into my room…they just weren’t as fanatical as me…[Dear Prudence] epitomized what the Sixties were about in many ways…it’s very positive. I think it’s an important song…It’s a beautiful thing to have done.”

Listen to Cover to Cover on Spotify

I Can See For Miles – Lord Sitar

You might never have heard of British session guitarist Big Jim Sullivan, the man behind the moniker of Lord Sitar, but you’ll certainly have heard him playing on over fifty number one singles from the sixties and seventies, ranging from Sandie Shaw’s Puppet on a String to Serge Gainsbourg’s Je T’aime. If you’re a follower of this blog, you might have even unwittingly seen him playing guitar for the James Last Orchestra on this cover of Hawkwind’s Silver Machine.

I Can See For Miles was written by Pete Townshend for the Who’s 1967 album The Who Sell Out. Townshend believed it would be the Who’s first number one single yet it peaked at number 10 in the UK charts. Townshend was disgusted: “To me it was the ultimate Who record,” he said “yet it didn’t sell. I spat on the British record buyer.”

I Can See For Miles was also reportedly the inspiration for the Beatles’ Helter Skelter. Paul McCartney recalled writing Helter Skelter after reading a review of The Who Sell Out in which the critic claimed I Can See for Miles was the ‘heaviest’ song he had ever heard. Helter Skelter was McCartney’s attempt to one up the Who by making an even heavier track with “the most raucous vocal, the loudest drums, et cetera”.

Listen to Cover to Cover on Spotify

I Had Too Much To Dream (Last Night) – The Space Lady

I Had Too Much to Dream (Last Night) was originally recorded by The Electric Prunes in 1966. The Space Lady, a.k.a Susan Dietrich Schneider, was a street musician who performed in Boston and San Francisco in the 80s and 90s.

In her twenties Susan married a musician called Joel Dusany who was evading the Vietnam draft. In order to hide from the authorities and save Joel from being conscripted, the couple lived with no I.D’s and made money selling home-made paintings, collages, jewellery and poetry on the streets of San Francisco. Joel had the idea to perform songs under the moniker of The Cosmic Man, but was too nervous to play in public.

In the early 80s, now with a ten month old daughter, Susan started performing herself with an old accordion. Susan says that she was inspired by watching seagulls in the sky and wondering how they could subsist and sustain themselves. “And I just had the understanding that if you are in tune with nature…then nature will take care of you. Mother Nature does care about us.

In 1983 Susan swapped the accordion for a battery powered Casio keyboard and began wearing a winged plastic Viking helmet with a flashing red light on top, which had been a part of Joel’s Cosmic Man costume. People on the street began calling Susan ‘The Space Lady’ and she adopted the name herself.

Susan continued performing until 2000 when at the age of of 52 she left Joel and California to go and look after her ageing parents in Colorado. Ten years later she had remarried and her new husband persuaded her to bring The Space Lady of retirement and so, at the age of 63, Susan signed with a record label for the first time and toured Europe and America – still wearing the silver winged helmet with the flashing red light on top. Although now playing indoor venues around the world, she can often still be found performing in the streets and parks of her home town.

Listen to Cover to Cover on Spotify

Datemi Un Martello (If I Had a Hammer) – Rita Pavone

There’s something very disconcerting about the way Rita Pavone weilds her hammer in this clip. You just know that if she really wanted to do some serious damage to you, she totally could, and would enjoy every second of it. I’m scared of her, I’ll be honest with you.

If I Had a Hammer – originally titled The Hammer Song – was written by Pete Seeger and Lee Hays in 1949 and went on to become a signature song for the civil rights movement. Originally recorded by The Weavers, it wasn’t a hit until 1962 when it was recorded by Peter, Paul and Mary, and then again in 1963 by Trini Lopez. Rita Pavone, who was a huge star in Italy in the sixties, recorded her version that same year. Ironically, later in life she entered politics and stood as a candidate for the Per l’Italia nel Mondo party, led by infamous Italian fascist Mirko Tremaglia. So maybe I wasn’t too far off with my initial assessment of her.

On a lighter note, possibly, depending on how you look at it, Leonard Nimoy’s version (recorded in 1968) was deemed so objectionable by sado-masochistic perfomance artist Bob Flanagan that he pounded nails into his own scrotum whilst playing it. Maybe he could have got Rita involved in that endeavour, I reckon she’d have been up for it.

Listen to Cover to Cover on Spotify

Reach Out – The Pleasure Seekers

It’s a real shame there isn’t a better quality clip of this out there, because not only is it a great cover, it’s a great perfomance, especially from an 18 year old Suzi Quatro on lead vocals, putting out some spectacular sixties dance moves.

The Pleasure Seekers were formed in Detroit, 1964, and were one of the first all-female groups to be signed to a major record label (Mercury). Founded by Patti Quatro, the band featured three other Quatro sisters – Suzi, Arlene and later, Nancy. In 1969 the group changed their name to Cradle and adopted a sound more akin to Black Sabbath. A couple of years later, Suzi was signed by British producer Mickie Most and began a successful solo career that continues on to this day.

Reach Out was first recorded for Motown in 1966 by The Four Tops. Written by Holland, Dozier and Holland, Lamont Dozier said that he wanted to write a song which contained “a journey of emotions with sustained tension, like a bolero.” He developed the lyrics with Eddie Holland, stating that they were strongly influenced by Bob Dylan: “We wanted Levi [Stubbs, Four Tops vocalist] to shout-sing the lyrics… as a shout-out to Dylan“.

(Meet) The Flintstones – The BC-52s

(Meet) The Flintstones was composed in 1961 by Hoyt Curtin, Joseph Barbera and William Hanna. Originally performed by the Randy Van Horne Singers as the theme song for the opening of The Flintstones animated series, this cover by the BC-52s (geddit?) was for the best-forgotten 1994 live-action remake, starring John Goodman, Elizabeth Perkins, Rick Moranis, Rosie O’Donnell, Halle Berry, Kyle MacLachlan and Elizabeth Taylor (in her final theatrical film appearance). The film may not have been great but the cover is pretty good. The samples are nicely done (thank Junior Vasquez for this, he remixed the track) and it’s got a great break and guitar solo. Even the cast look like they’re having fun, out on some hokey set in the 1990s California sunshine, before the internet kicked in and ruined everything for everyone…what a great time to be a film star!

A Day In The Life – José Feliciano

José Feliciano’s solo acoustic cover of the Beatles’ A Day in the Life appeared on his album Alive Alive O! in 1969, which was recorded live at the London Palladium.

For me, this is one of the best solo acoustic covers ever. José captures and conveys the emotional core of the song whilst also making up for a lack of orchestra or studio possibilities with just his voice and a single acoustic guitar. It really is quite phenomenal.

A Day in the Life originally appeared on the Beatles’ 1967 album Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. John Lennon attributed the inspiration for A Day in the Life to a Daily Mail newspaper report of Guiness heir Tara Browne (a friend of Lennon and McCartney) dying in a car crash in 1966. McCartney, remembering things differently, said:

It has been attributed to Tara Browne, the Guinness heir, which I don’t believe is the case, certainly as we were writing it, I was not attributing it to Tara in my head. In John’s head it might have been. In my head I was imagining a politician bombed out on drugs who’d stopped at some traffic lights and didn’t notice that the lights had changed. The ‘blew his mind’ was purely a drugs reference, nothing to do with a car crash.”

Later, however, in his 2021 book The Lyrics, McCartney said that the lyrics were about the death of Tara Browne.

A Day In The Life ends with one of the most famous final chords in music history: John Lennon, Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr and Mal Evans shared three different pianos while George Martin played a harmonium, and they all produced an E-major chord simultaneously. The chord was made to ring out for over forty seconds by increasing the recording level as the reverberance faded out.

A Day in the Life‘s final chord went on to inspire composer James A.Moorer, who said that both A Day in the Life and a fugue in B minor by Bach were his sources of inspiration for Deep Note, the audio trademark he created for the THX film company.

On the Sgt. Pepper album, the end of A Day in The Life is followed by a sustained 15 khz tone – the same frequency as a dog whistle; beyond the upper limit of human hearing, and only audible to animals.

Season of the Witch – Julie Driscoll, Brian Auger and The Trinity

Occupying the middle ground between Donovan’s trippy 1966 original and Vanilla Fudge’s brooding 1968 version, Julie Driscoll, Brian Auger and the Trinity’s psychedelic cover of Season of the Witch was released as a single in 1968.

To be honest, I much prefer the Hammer Horror of the Vanilla Fudge version to listen to. But visually that clip of Julie Driscoll et al is amazing. Just conceptually, bearing in mind this wasn’t a music video, this was a TV studio where the set designer had thought through how the whole performance would be framed by different angles of their design. It’s genius. I’ve never seen anything like it in the context of a TV band set. And for that reason alone, Julie’s cover gets top billing. But listen to the Vanilla Fudge version. It’s properly disturbing and definitely the more interesting take, musically.

Hazy Shade of Winter – The Bangles

The Bangles’ cover of Simon and Garfunkel’s A Hazy Shade of Winter was recorded in 1987 for the Rick Rubin produced soundtrack of the movie adaptation of Brett Easton Ellis’s debut novel Less Than Zero.

A Hazy Shade of Winter was originally released by Simon and Garfunkel as a stand-alone single in 1966, but was subsequently included on their fourth studio album Bookends in 1968.

In 2019 Gerard Way, and fellow My Chemical Romance member Ray Toro, recorded a cover of the The Bangles’ interpretation, which featured in the Netflix adaptation of Way’s comic book series The Umbrella Academy.

I bought the Less Than Zero soundtrack at the time, mainly because it was on Def Jam and it was the soundtrack to a movie of a Brett Easton Ellis book. One of those records you think you’re cool for owning regardless of what it was actually like. Which was pretty rough. I remember the movie was also a disappointment. Apparently, at the time, Brett Easton-Ellis hated it too and felt nauseous about what Hollywood had done to his novel. These days, he says, he’s grown somewhat fond of it. He thinks it’s quite beautiful.

I guess his message now is that even the ugliest of children can find love. Was that his message then? Maybe. Possibly he’s learned to love himself a little more too now as well. Though I’m not sure that’s a positive thing. Have you read his last couple of books?

Anyways, like the movie, the Less Than Zero soundtrack was also mess, but it’s similarly interesting to look back at now. Amongst the awfulness (Poison shambling through a KISS anthem with less than zero pizazz, Aerosmith butchering Huey ‘Piano’ Smith…) there is unquestionable brilliance – LL Cool J’s awesome Goin’ Back to Cali; Slayer’s cover of In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida; Roy Orbison singing a Glen Danzig number; Glen Danzig going full on Roy Orbison/Burt Bacharach with an entire orchestra…it’s pretty fucking mental.

Plus The Bangles’ take on A Hazy Shade of Winter. Which was a huge hit on both sides of the Atlantic and could of been a watershed moment for the group, seeking to establish their credibility as a serious band after the pop hits of Manic Monday and Walk Like an Egyptian. Bassist Michael Steel later said: “we sounded the most on this record the way we actually sound live… If we hadn’t been so messed up as a band, it could have been a turning point for us.”

Yellow Submarine – Snoopy’s Beatles Classiks On Toys

From the 1995 album Snoopy’s Beatles Classiks On Toys, produced and arranged by Michel Laverdiere and Robert Lafond.

Written as a children’s song by Lennon and McCartney, Yellow Submarine originally appeared on the Beatles album Revolver in 1966. The song was also released as a double A-side single backed with Eleanor Rigby.

In 1980, Lennon said about the song: “Yellow Submarine’ is Paul’s baby. Donovan helped with the lyrics. I helped with the lyrics too. We virtually made the track come alive in the studio, but based on Paul’s inspiration. Paul’s idea. Paul’s title … written for Ringo [to sing].”

According to McCartney, the idea of a coloured submarine originated from a 1963 holiday in Greece, where he had enjoyed an iced dessert that was yellow and known locally as a submarine. Lennon had also thought of an underwater craft when he and Harrison and their wives first took LSD in early 1965. After visiting a London nightclub, they returned to Harrison’s Surrey home, where Lennon perceived the bungalow design as a submarine with him as the captain. Musicologists Russell Reising and Jim LeBlanc note that the band’s adoption of a coloured submarine as their vessel also chimed with Cary Grant captaining a pink one in the 1959 comedy film Operation Petticoat, made during the height of Grant’s own experimentation with LSD.

Yellow Submarine became the inspiration for the 1968 animated musical which, alongside new and existing songs by the Beatles, featured an orchestral score by George Martin.

Shakin’ All Over – Mae West

Mae West recorded her cover of Shakin’ All Over at the age of 73. The track appeared on the first of her two rock and roll albums Way Out West in 1966 and featured Somebody’s Chyldren as the backing band.

Shakin’ All Over was originally a UK number one for Johnny Kidd and The Pirates in 1960. Two other artists also had number one hits with the song – The Guess Who in Canada (1964) and Norman Rowie in Australia (1965). Due to some confusion at the time between The Guess Who and The Who, the latter also started covering Shakin’ All Over (recorded at Woodstock and on their Live At Leeds albums) and The Guess Who began covering The Who’s My Generation.

Shakin’ All Over was also covered by Wanda Jackson at the age of 74 on her Jack White produced album The Party Ain’t Over in 2011.