I also thought David's redition of John Lennon's Imagine was very good. This is not something I would say easily, but his was the only version that I truly enjoyed besides John Lennon's.
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Finding covers that best the originals is extremely difficult, IMO. But I'll offer a second for the Joe Cocker version of "With A Little Help From My Friends" as I actually think it's a better rendition.
The only other Beatles cover that I feel betters the original is Patti Smith's version of "Within You Without You" on her album titled "Twelve." This is a very well recorded album with 12 covers from artists ranging from Hendrix to Tears For Fears. The Harrison song is my favorite cut on the album.
A lot of the early, popular Beatles' tunes are themselves covers.
In my view, your question really has absolutely no answer. Whether something is "better" to one person in terms of musical enjoyment is totally, utterly subjective.
With this in mind though, I will pitch in that Bryan Ferry's version of "It's Only Love" is my favourite Beatles cover. I prefer it over the Beatles' version.
And to reverse the question, although I like John Lennon's cover of "Stand by Me", I prefer the earlier Ben E. King version.
Hard to beat The Beatles doing The Beatles, but here are a few of my favorites...
Fiona Apple, Across the Universe
Tori Amos, Happiness is a Warm Gun
Elliot Smith, Blackbird
Wilson Picket, Hey Jude
Eddie Vedder, You've Got to Hide Your Love Away
Johnny Cash, In my Life
Joe Cocker, With a Little Help from my Friends
In the Boston area there's a band named "Beatlejuice" that was headed up by Brad Delp ( of "Boston" fame). Great covers live. You could close your eyes and swear you were listening to the Beatles live, right there. They are still giving limited performances (pretty good), but it's just not the same without Brad doing the vocals. I don't believe there are any recordings out. Maybe they have material that can be issued in the future!!!
"Better" than originals? Nothing comes immediately to mind. But I do very much like Rufus Wainwright's cover of "Across the Universe," from the soundtrack for the movie "I Am Sam," which features lots of other covers of Beatles songs.
As for the new movie, "Across the Universe," directed by Julie Taymor -- sorry but I have to disagree with the previous post in favor of this movie. I found it charming for about ten minutes, then it started to take itself too seriously and lapsed into wretched excess. The director kept trying to force the Beatles' songs to fit her concepts, and too often it just didn't work. The cover of "Come Together," transformed into a hallucinogenic "Uncle Sam wants you" recruiting fantasy, went so far over the top that it hit bottom.
I did see "Across the Universe". I liked the musical performances very much. The cast was very talented and put some nice different twists/edges on several songs. I would like to get the soundtrack.
The story line left a bit to be desired, I thought. These were clearly 21st century kids pretending to be in the 1960's. I thought they should have just gone with a more contemporary story line rather than trying to put a different edge/spin on the 1960's. That did not work for me.
I've seen several leading BEatles cover acts including "Classical Mystery Tour" (with symphony orchestra doing the fills, wonderful!), Rain (twice), 1964 (very good, early BEatles stuff only, simple arrangements), and others. All were most enjoyable and I would recommend each. Classical Mystery Tour, in particular, may appeal to many on this site due to the use of symphony orchestra.
All these acts do a good job reproducing the BEatles recordings live using modern techniques to great affect.
First off, I would like to tell Marty that "Tomorrow Never Knows" is very highly regarded among the Beatles legacy! Forging a head, I don't think anyone doing a cover of the Beatles is going to sound better than the Beatles themselves and I wouldn't think that to imitate their style would be very easy. They made it sound easy, but a lot of their songs are not easy to vocalise. I always felt that even when as solo artists, one of the Beatles would perform a Beatles song with other musicians, it still was not as good as when they performed it with each other. Anyway, that's only my opinion and I would like to add to the list Elton John's rendition of "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds". I thought it was pretty good, but still not as good as The Beatles.
There's a group out there called "1964 The Tribute". Perhaps some of you may have heard of them. They've been doing this since the early 1980's I believe. I've seen them live twice in the past few years. They have are jaw dropping fantastic. They have a live double CD set that sounds better than the original Beatle cuts. It's called "All You Need.....is Live". This is a live recording but it's done very well. Overall fidelity is great. If they come to your area, don't miss them if you're a lifetime Beatles fan. Website: 1964thetribute.com.
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One more interesting cover:
The Feelies cover "Everybody's Got Something To Hide, Except For Me & My Monkey". I never heard The Beatles (do this one) live, but The Feelies nail it in concert. I think they included this on the first Feelies CD, but it's pretty clear to me that it was intended for live performance.
At the risk of offending the Beatles scholars who objected to my lowish opinion of "TNK" in an earlier post to this thread, I would also humbly note that I believe that this song is not a Beatles classic.
Elton's Lucy in the Sky better than the original?Audiofeil-
"Better" is subject to opinion. If you read my post the first sentence was "Here are a few I like:". No insinuation of which was better. Even though that was the OP question, I don't feel throwing in a few I like is too far off topic.
One of my favorite Beatles covers was one that I saw live. Frank Zappa and band playing "From Me to You" with Sting on vocal.
My favorite recorded cover is Peter Gabriel's "Strawberry Fields Forever".
I always disliked the Joe Cocker Beatles covers, which would put me in the minority, it would seem.
Hard to top the originals. They were fab!