Today’s Dilemma ~ Is Sparks’ Cover of I Want to Hold Your Hand a Work of Sublime Genius or Total Rubbish?


Sparks are one of the few bands that have had a career spanning three decades and yet still retain great artistic integrity. They are also one of those bands, like The Fall, Gong, Zep and The Smiths, who inspire utter devotion among their coterie of loyal fans.

And it is via one of these devoted Sparks nuts that I bring you today’s Pop Junkie. Inspired by some Facebook fun as to what are the best and worst Beatles covers, my pal Andy threw this into the mix. Even he is, at best, frosty towards it; “My favourite ever band covered the Beatles….fucked it right up…swamped it with strings.”

Other comments came through: “I thought that Scott Walker was going to pipe up, then this weedy little vocal squeaked out! A quite horrible version, yet compelling…” “rubbish though…total rubbish.” “terrible…I can forgive them though for the rest of the great songs they made.” An online article on the recording calls it “this execrable orchestral assault.”

See, even the world’s biggest Ron & Russ fans hate it – yet such is the devotion that the brothers inspire you can sense that they hate themselves for hating it! It’s quite possible that even the brothers themselves wish they’d never embarked on the version.

Dating from the August 1976 sessions for the Big Beat album, with the lead vocal originally intended for Marianne Faithfull, I would appear to be alone in thinking it rather sublime. A work of great Phillyesque schmaltz. The song scores additional guilty pleasure points by being produced by Rupert ‘Pina Colada’ Holmes.

How tongue-in-cheek the cover is supposed to be I couldn’t tell you. We’ll need some further adjudication from Mael scholars, but I just thought I’d throw it into the PJ lion’s den. Is it a victorious gladiator or hapless Christian?

Not the greatest song I’ve ever heard, not even the greatest Beatles cover, but it gets the thumbs up from me.


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