Brett Alan wrote:
Read more carefully. I didn't say the Beatles didn't do good jobs on covering songs, only that they never, with the possible exception of Twist & Shout (and that is highly debatable), recorded the DEFINITIVE version of any song they didn't write. Period. They never supplanted the original record. Not once and considering their popularity and the exposure those versions got over much lesser heard originals like "Boys", "Matchbox" or "Dizzy Miss Lizzy", that is astonishing.
How about "Bad Boy" or "Slow Down"? I think those are pretty definitive. I've heard some artists cover "Bad Boy", for example, and none of them use the backing vocals from the original.
I think you can make a case for their "Boys" being definitive, too, but while you're right that those three songs weren't so exposed in their original versions, that wasn't true of all that many of their covers. Their versions of "Rock And Roll Music", "Roll Over Beethoven", and "Long Tall Sally", for example, are all classics in their own right, but the originals are such legendary recordings that there was no way in the world anyone else could have done a definitive version.
Those are songs you would've thought the Beatles versions would've superceded the originals, since they weren't as widely known, but they haven't. Larry Williams work in particular has been revisited by music fans and historians and is still considered definitive. On a purely personal note, I think the Stones actually top his version of "She Said Yeah", but even there the original still remains the go-to performance. As for "Boys", it got more noteriety because the Beatles did it of course (it was only a B-side for the Shirelles), but maybe because it sounds stupid being sung by males the original is definitive even now.
As far as the more well-known covers the Beatles chose to do - Roll Over Beethoven or Long Tall Sally - being done by major artists that were major hits so it'd be hard to surpass that, Presley did the same with Hound Dog (#1 for 7 weeks in 1953 and like "Boys", lyrically it is meant for a woman, but unlike the Beatles with Boys, Presley totally obliterated the meaning and claimed it for himself). Even when they had the same source - Arthur Alexander, The Beatles with Anna and Presley with Burning Love, the definitive version of the first remains Alexander while the definitive version of the second remains Presley.
Again personally speaking, I happen to prefer a lot of the originals Elvis cut, though his are great too, but his versions have overwhelmed the originals in the public consciousness. This doesn't make one artist "better" than another, it just shows that the Beatles were songwriters first, performers second, whereas Presley was a performer first and foremost. I think that's actually what makes them both so interesting, that they had totally different approaches to their craft.