Covers Corner: “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” by Bono

I feel like “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” is one of those songs that you learn about when you’re first getting into classic rock lore. “Yeah, man, it really means ‘LSD.'” (Well, they do sing about the flowers that grow so incredibly…high. Subtle.) Paul and John were quick to say that it was either just about Alice in Wonderland, or that it referred to a girl at Julian Lennon’s school. I’m not totally convinced either way. They were doing a lot of substances back then; who knows.

Bono, the lead singer of U2, did a cover of the song for the 2007 film Across the Universe. It was a musical based on the Beatles’ songs and was just as trippy and experimental as the band’s later works. I think one of my favorite scenes is when they’re dancing through the bowling alley. It’s just so joyful, and the color wash is fantastic.

So, okay, that’s a whole movie of covers, but let’s focus on this one in particular. It gets slowed way down and has a much less nasal sound. The cover also sounds weirdly sexy, but maybe that’s just me. Bono’s voice is just kind of breathy and urgent in a way that the Beatles’ original definitely isn’t. You can tell that his voice was edited a little bit to make it echo. The reverb really works. The emphasis on strings makes the body of the song feel suspended and dramatic, especially as it leads into the chorus. Speaking of the chorus, I really love his take on that part, too. The drums stand out so much more.

It’s hard to do the Beatles justice with a cover because their impact on popular culture is virtually unmatched. There will be naysayers who will protest that a cover dilutes the value of the original. Personally? I think it’s fun to compare the two and see the value in both.

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