4 Crazy, Early Foreign Language Versions of Beatles Songs
By Arika Okrent
It was 50 years ago this week that the Beatles first landed in the U.S. and set off a wave of Beatlemania from coast to coast with their historic appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show. By the end of the 1960s, their music had spread worldwide, not only in their own recordings, but in versions translated into other languages and sung by local pop stars. Here are 4 of the …best?...strangest?...most dumbfounding? Whatever they are, you don't want to miss them.
1. Russian: "Let It Be"
Be careful with this one; you won't be able to unsee it. It's from a 1974 Russian film called Magic Lantern, and at the time this was one of the only state-sanctioned ways Soviet youth could get access to Western music. Here's what the lyrics are saying:
Everything's happened before in the world People are always the same That's how it was, it is, and always will be
Ah, refreshing Russian pessimism. The best part is at 1:04, where the woman singer reacts to the children's chorus joining in. You know that's the expression every pop diva secretly makes in her head whenever a children's chorus starts up in her song.
2. French: "When I Saw Her Standing There"
Johnny Hallyday, the first French rock star, has been huge in the French-speaking world for decades. His most recent album, a live recording of his Born Rocker Tour, just came out last year. Here he is 50 years ago, applying his signature rocker growl to "When I Saw Her Standing There (Quand Je l'ai Vue Devant Moi)". It will charm you, if you can just ignore the off-beat clapping of the audience.
3. Cantonese: "Eight Days a Week"
Chan Po Chu, otherwise known as Connie Chan, was the biggest teen sensation of 1960s Hong Kong. Here's a clip from one of her many films, where she and her friends use some of that newfangled music to distract a guard while they break out of prison. They sound so sweet and jolly. He'll never suspect a thing.
4. Hindi: "It's Been A Hard Day's Night"
I found this by chance on YouTube. There's not much information about it, but it's by Mahendra Kapoor, whose voice was featured on Bollywood movies for decades, and it's amazing. The syncopated beatnik handclapping, the sax solo, the male backup singers, the joyful background whoops and yelps—you never heard Beatles like this before.