Graham Reid | | 3 min read
Others -- like Jim Phelan -- listen to a lot of awful Beatles' music.
Phelan from London is the man behind the hilarious Exotic Beatles collections -- now up to Volume Four -- on which he compiles often terrifyingly bad, frequently bizarre and always odd versions of Beatles' songs from around the world.
You want When I'm 64 by the Metropolitan Police Choir or And I Love Her as interpreted by The 52 Key Verbeek Fairground Organ?
Then Phelan can help. (They are on Volume One).
You want the Beatles in Spanish, Italian or Latin, inna ska or Spanish rhumba style, by Russian throat singers or in Cockney?
As sung by Mrs Yeta Bronstein and Boney Nem (yes, that's not a misprint), or delivered as an academic reading . . . ?
Then Phelan has the albums for you.
"The whole point of the releases is akin to that school playground scenario where somebody comes up with a bizarre fact and your goal is to trump it," says Phelan who runs Exotica Records which also does a nice line in football albums, but that's another story.
(Cantona, The Album? Georgie, The Best Album??).
"I searched high and low for these tracks and want to share them with as many people as possible."
Phelan released his first Exotic Beatles compilation in '93 and that set the tone by opening with the voices of the Beatles (throughout the series they are woven through, lifted from television shows, press conferences and so on).
Then it is on to the British MP Derek Enright reading Yellow Submarine in Latin, then a Japanese version. And so it goes, through Brian Sewell laboriously reading I Wanna Be Your Man to illustrate its sexist lyrics, a close harmony-cum-crass pop version of Penny Lane, a fat-tack flamenco She Loves You (where the singer sounds in pain), Desmond Dekker and the Israelites' spooky version of Come Together, MOR singer Dickie Henderson with McCartney's Step Inside Love . . .
Madness, but thoroughly enjoyable.
Volume Two opens with the sound of Beatlemania and the famous We Love You Beatles song, Ed Sullivan and the Beatles themselves again, then there is Let It Be by the Squirrels ( a country hoe-down), bragging by Murray the K (the self-described "fifth Beatle"), I Saw her Standing There by Joah Valley whose lo-fi treatment sounds like he is on the verge of tears, a disturbingly psychedelic Japanese version of Nowhere Man . . .
Later there is Maurice Chevalier with Yellow Submarine, Frank Sidebottom with Flying, the Beatle Barkers, the mad Margarita Pracatan, Lol Coxhill's children with I Am the Walrus. Mae West with Daytripper . . .
Volume Three and Four follow similarly mad paths. Volume Three has Oasis' Noel Gallagher admitting to ripping off Lennon songs and that leads into a peculiar mock-classical version of Ticket to Ride by Cathy Berberian.
Volume Four -- aka Plastic Soul -- favours Russian artists and has some spoken word intro by Bob Dylan from his radio shows.
This is a strange journey.
Each of these albums has been lovingly annotated and comes in a cover which broadly parodies the Beatles image. Phelan has been a longtime album cover designer (the Damned, punk compilations, Captain Sensible, etc) and his artwork is a melange of collages, words and photos of the "performers".
And even those who know of William Shatner's arch reading of Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds (from the Golden Throats album, perhaps the most best known track in his series) are stunned by the sheer diversity -- and perversity -- of his collections.
Select said of Volume Two released in '94, "as inexplicably brilliant as it is totally obscure". Volume Three ('99) drew Record Collector magazine to comment, "This record really is beyond rational criticism".
Those assessments seem undeniable.
This is an utterly absurd project for a grown man like Jim Phelan to be engaged in.
I hope he never stops.
Life isn't complete until you have heard the strangeness contained within this series.
"The sound of the world going mad," according to Record Collector.
A splendid time is guaranteed for all.