Which version is better? Smokey Robinson, or the Beatles? Vote now!

This is the second installment of the series which pits two excellent versions of a song against one another. Which will triumph as the better version? You decide, good people.

This week, it’s Smokey Robinson’s “ever fallen in love with someone you shouldn’t have fallen in love with” classic, “You Really Got a Hold on Me”.

Smokey Robinson & the Miracles

This is the original version, released as a single in November 1962, featuring Smokey’s keening tenor falsetto. Here, Smokey sounds like a little kid, in love for the first time, and yet knowing that love means a lot of pain. Yet, because it is Smokey singing, it can’t sound anything less than joyous. This is a pure Motown sugar-rush, yet with a dark undercurrent (also a characteristic of a lot of Motown singles), that outlines that love is not always the safest of pursuits. You can find this version on the recent Smokey Robinson & the Miracles compilation The Ultimate Collection.

The Beatles

The Beatles loved Motown, and took this tune to their hearts when they recorded it for their second album With the Beatles, released in 1963. John Lennon’s voice is raspier and more raucous than Smokey’s smooth as silk original, with a hint of desparation behind it that serves the material well. George Harrison’s backing vocal is a shadowy response to Lennon’s call, which helps to capture that same undercurrent of darkness to an otherwise joyous delivery.

So, which is it to be? Smokey or the Fabs? Or is it some other version? The Zombies did a good one. So did Percy Sledge, M Ward, and many others. Vote now, good people!

7 thoughts on “Song rendition showdown: “You Really Got A Hold On Me”

  1. My first instinct was to go with the Beatles. I like the Smokey Robinson Version but, nope, my second instinct was to go with the Beatles.
    Beatles it is.

  2. No disrespect to Smokey, but this one goes to the Beatles. I’d also add that Smokey is not the only one who’d lose to the Fab 4 in such a contest.

    In my view, if Lennon and MacCartney hadn’t been such talented songwriters the Beatles would still have enjoyed some success as a cover band. They were that good at it.

    The bottom line is that their love and passion for these songs is genuine, and it shows.

  3. Thanks guys! Your votes are appreciated.

    So far the Beatles are ahead. Any love for Smokey, people? Who else wants to chime in?

    To what you said, Tom, I think the Beatles love of pop music in general can be heard in every cover they’d done. I’ve got a lot of favourites, but one of mine is their cover of “Money”, off of that same album, especially the part where John roars: “OH YEAH! I WANNA BE FREE!” as if he momentarily forgets himself.

  4. Rob,

    “Money” is an excellent example.

    So is “Please Mr. Postman”. And what about “Twist and Shout”? The latter cover is so good that, to be honest, I don’t even like the original anymore.

    “Anna” and “Chains” are also favorites.

    It’s actually easier discussing the covers that don’t work so well, such as “Till There Was You” and “A Taste of Honey”. I know a lot of people like the former, but while I have no problem listening to either song, they seem a bit more robot-like than, say, a “Dizzy Miss Lizzy”.

  5. … Or “Slow Down”, which is another one of my favourite Beatles covers. On the Live at the BBC record, they do a number of covers, including an amped up version of Chuck Berry’s “Too Much Monkey Business”, which kicks the crap out of it. And their version of Arthur Alexander’s “Soldier of Love” is pretty special too, as is their take on “Some Other Guy”. That’s actually a really great record for Beatles covers, which by then they’d been playing for a while at the Cavern, and before then in Hamburg.

    The Beatles prided themselves on being able to incorporate obscure covers into their early repetoire, and I think that this is how they learned their songwriting craft, personally. I’ve always thought that the cover version is the best measurement of how much a band is in love with music, and how far their range spans. The Beatles set the bar pretty high.

    Thanks for comments, Tom!

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