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.

“Girls Can’t Play Guitar”: On Musical Gatekeeping

I watched an excellent mini-documentary on the New York Times website about The Liverbirds. They were essentially the female version of the Beatles: a four-piece group that came up in Liverpool in the 1960s. The documentary featured interviews with the two surviving members of the band.

One of them shared an anecdote that really stuck with me. They were at a club and met the Beatles. John Lennon scoffed and said, “Girls can’t play guitars.”

Obviously this is musical gatekeeping. And it extends beyond the players themselves into the audience. My blog attempts to get to the heart of the music and why we react a certain way to it. So with that in mind, if we go beyond the sexism and flame wars, what is it about the music itself that reads as masculine?

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