Booker T. and the MGs

Booker T. and the MGs

Booker T. & the MGs

McLemore Avenue (Reissue!)


Cover songs are one of the best examples of imitation being the sincerest form of flattery. Think about it: would many bands start out by practicing others’ songs if they weren’t inspired by them? And would multiplatinum-selling artists risk ridicule by recording another artist’s work if they didn’t love it? Booker T. & the MGs wanted to pay tribute to one of the greatest records of all time: Abbey Road. Frontman, keyboardist, and producer Booker T. Jones was so impressed by “music that was so bold, so different and so creative,” that he felt compelled to cover the entire album. The Beatles delivered their final record in late 1969. Booker T. & the MGs released McLemore Avenue in January 1970.

The initial release of McLemore Avenue (named after the location of the MGs’ label, Stax) featured 13 songs from Abbey Road in three medleys and one regular track. The closing songs of Abbey Road comprise the nearly 16-minute first medley – minus “Her Majesty.” (In addition, McLemore Avenue doesn’t include “Maxwell’s Silver Hammer,” “Oh! Darling,” and “Octopus’ Garden.”) Like virtually all work from the R&B soul quartet, McLemore Avenue is (mostly) an instrumental. The only lyrics occur in the first medley. Booker T. Jones sings the infamous “and in the end/ the love you take/ is equal to/ the love you make” five minutes in, and a repeated “come together” finishes the track. The first medley juxtaposes a positively elevator-Muzak version of “Here Comes the Sun” and a groovy “Come Together.” “Something” is the second separate track in both McLemore Avenue and Abbey Road. The MGs’ version starts faithful to the original and slides into a hand-clapping soul jam, which ultimately serves as the best example of their sound. The third (and most of the fourth) medley presents songs in the same order as Abbey Road. “Because/You Never Give Me Your Money” starts even slower and more somber than the original but quickly builds into a Shaft-esque groove. The last medley continues the organ-based funk of the previous one while staying true to the original songs.

The reissue of McLemore Avenue includes extra goodies in the form of five additional Beatles covers. Two versions of the lesser-known ditty, “You Can’t Do That” bookend the bonus songs. The previously unreleased last track is half as slow and twice as long as the first rollicking “You Can’t Do That.” The middle four songs are Beatles classics. Booker T. & the MGs somehow removed the inherently sad tone of “Eleanor Rigby” and replaced it with wah-wah guitar effects. And “Lady Madonna” has got to be the most funky, booty-shaking song on the entire reissue. It was a good choice to include, just like Booker T. & the MGs’ interpretation of Abbey Road.

Booker T. and the MGs:

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked with *

Recently on Ink 19...

  • Halloween Nuggets
    Halloween Nuggets

    Halloween Nuggets (Liberation Hall). Review by Charles D.J. Deppner.

  • RoboCop Steelbook
    RoboCop Steelbook

    Computerized police work in 1987? What could possibly go wrong? Carl F. Gauze reviews.

  • Memoria

    Winner of the Jury Prize of the 2021 Cannes Film Festival, Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s Memoria subtly draws viewers into a connective reality shaped by the sounds and images emerging from the unknown. Lily and Generoso share their thoughts on the film, currently touring North America.

  • Say Goodnight, Gracie
    Say Goodnight, Gracie

    Lose a job? Eh, there’s always another one. Review by Carl F. Gauze.

  • New Music Now 007: crêpe girl
    New Music Now 007: crêpe girl

    Episode 007 features new music by Jack White, Snail Mail, and crêpe girl, and 2 sweet Yoko Ono covers from Stephin Merritt and Deerhoof. Stick around for joy!

  • Hot Water Music
    Hot Water Music

    Feel The Void (Equal Vision Records). Review by Charles D.J. Deppner.

  • Watcher

    Chloe Okuna’s new thriller Watcher is an immersive journey into fear. Review by Phil Bailey.

  • From Here
    From Here

    A mass shooting changes the world, but not the people in it.

  • True West
    True West

    Two brothers attempt to get into movies without killing each other. It’s a close call.

  • In The Heights
    In The Heights

    A lottery ticket and a blackout shift a man’s life in the New York Hispanic community.

From the Archives