One Man Bannister
Like buses, it’s a long stretch between Beatles cover albums – and in the same month that you’re in love with the solo guitar instrumentalversions of various Beatles songs by guitar-slinging wizard Joel Paterson there’s also the latest from Mr. One Man Bannister. You remember Matthew Bannister from Sneaky Feelings of course. From The Changing Same perhaps. And from Dribbling Darts of Love. You may even already know that under his One Man Bannister-guise he took on The Beatles’ Revolver and called it “Evolver”.
Whether the concept is just bedded-in now, or whether it’s a better set of songs to work with I am really digging his Rubber Solo.
I liked Evolver, sure. And it arrived when my son was just getting into The Beatles and playing the albums on repeat, so this little distraction of cover-versions was a nice ‘break’ for me. So it is, in the cosmic timing of the world, with Rubber Solo. We are knee-deep in Beatles appreciation all over again in this house, no car-ride complete with a Beatles album or two. So I’ve been sneaking away from all that (I love it, of course) to spend time with Bannister’s versions and vision for a reworked Rubber Soul.
The tracklist runs the same, so we start with Drive My Car. But no big crossover drum-fill as the keys fire up in the ignition, rather a light bossa glide to the percussion and the guitar winds itself around the stick-shift of the song. This is Bannister’s great strength here, determined to set his versions apart, to remove the very signature parts. In this way you can listen to these songs brand new – it’s both tribute and radical rework, speaking to the power of the songs and to the vision of the interpreter.
Norwegian Wood seems almost unrecognisable, a jaunty almost Scandinavian-pop feel to the bounce of the vocal atop the keys. And if there are traits or tropes from the Beatles playbook, they’re recontextualised. You Won’t See Me floats along like dream-pop, rather than its punchy stop-start feel but when a gauze of backwards-guitar effect arrives it feeds into the lyric of the song, wafting along like a veil, a blanket.
Nowhere Man feels like a spiritual chant here under shimmery guitar before the drums join. Think For Yourself is stretched out away from its proto-powerpop shape too – The Word is almost folk music here.
But what do you do with something like Michelle? A classic bit of McCartney whimsy that’s both sickly-sweet and sophisticated pop? Well Bannister kicks it in the gut, hog-ties it, drags it behind his horse – creates a Duane Eddy-esque guitar-slinger instrumental. Those precious Beatles melodies will never be hidden and this is something really special, you can almost catch yourself singing (even the French bit) in near double-time to this country/rockabilly sway.
What Goes On rocks along gently on a little acoustic-blues vamp with Bannister aping the Ringo vocal very well in the intro.
Girl is placed in a mellotron-loop that evokes Strawberry Fields; you can hear “Let me take you down” behind every utterance of the title lyric.
It’s in these moments where you can sense Bannister’s glee – he’s having fun, being clever and making something new out of the vestiges of more than one old song. So it is to with the closer, Run For Your Life. Lennon’s hideous horror-show lyric is here married to some overt T-Rex-isms which of course also evoke the Gary Glitter that everyone was so enraged by when it was placed deep in the new Joker film. Now, that might not have directly been his intention but it’s all open to interpretation; the very point of opening these songs up further via these interpretations.
Elsewhere you’re just reminded that so many great, great Beatles songs were stuffed into these albums. Wait was perfectly covered anew by Bettye LaVette back in 2015 on her excellent set – Worthy. Here, with a little mandolin singalong, Bannister shows yet another way into a song that is second-tier in the great canon of Beatles gems, but top shelf when you give it the time.
I’m glad he gave his time to these songs to make them new in this way. I’m sure glad to give my time and ears to this – a lovey wee curio. It’s like he’s building his own kooky time-capsule.
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