When I decided last week to put together an alternate version of Joe Cocker’s second album – the 1969 self-titled outing with an added exclamation point – there were a couple tracks that had me a bit concerned: Would I find enough covers to make a decent selection? (In the case of one track, which we’ll get to by and by, I wondered if there were even any other versions of the song out there.)
One track about which I had no worries was the second one on Side Two: According to several sources I’ve seen in the past week, George Harrison’s “Something” has been covered more than 150 times, making it the second-most covered Beatles song after “Yesterday.” The song first showed up on Abbey Road in September 1969 and went to No. 1 in November that year as a two-sided single with “Come Together.” (And I suppose I maybe should have tackled the tracks on the Cocker album in order, but I didn’t.)
As it happened, Cocker was one of those who had the first chance at recording the song, according to Walter Everett in his 1999 book The Beatles as Musicians: Revolver Through the Anthology. Everett says that Harrison offered the song to Joe Cocker in March 1969, before the Beatles recorded the song (and while the group was working on the album that became Abbey Road).
But Abbey Road came out in September 1969, and Joe Cocker! came out that November. Still, Cocker’s version of the tune was among the first covers – if not actually the first – to be released. Second Hand Songs notes that Peggy Lee’s version also came out in November 1969 (and cites a recording date in April of that year), as did a version by Tony Bennett. The most recent cover listed at Second Hand Songs is one by Billy Sherwood, released in April this year on the tribute compilation Keep Calm and Salute The Beatles.
Here at the EITW studios, there are thirty versions of the tune on the shelves; those include multiple versions by the Beatles (from Abbey Road and Love), by Harrison himself (from the 1990s Anthology, from The Concert For Bangla Desh and from the 1992 set Live In Japan), and by Paul McCartney (from several live sets, including the 2002 Concert For George).
Among those I passed over for this portion of the Cover Cocker project were easy listening versions by Ray Conniff, the Lettermen, the Mystic Moods Orchestra and Ferrante & Teicher, a faux Twenties take by the Templeton Twins with Teddy Turner’s Bunsen Burners, a stellar instrumental by Booker T & The MG’s (from McLemore Avenue, the group’s Abbey Road tribute), and an eleven-minute version by Isaac Hayes.
I was tempted by Booker T & The MG’s, but then I wandered a bit further down the list and clicked on the cover of Harrison’s tune by Jr. Walker & The All Stars. It’s from the 1971 album Rainbow Funk, and it went right to the top of the list: