Revisit the magical moment Elliott Smith covered The Beatles song ‘Because’
The late Elliott Smith was an undoubted great of music, an influential creative who the world lost way too soon when he tragically passed away by suicide aged 34 in 2003. His cover of The Beatles song ‘Because’ is a testament to his greatness and proved what an absolute genius Smith was. Not many people can take a song by The Fab Four and improve it—but that’s exactly what the mercurial singer-songwriter achieved with this rendition.
The Beatles were a huge influence on Smith who, in turn, covered a whole host of their tracks over the course of his career such as ‘Blackbird’, ‘I’m So Tired’ and ‘Yer Blues. However, it his version of ‘Because’ which remains his most special tribute to his icons. During an interview with NME in 2000, Smith spoke about his rendition of the track which he gave a sneak behind the curtain at how he takes on a cover from a band as legendary as The Beatles.
“It felt weird because I don’t see the point in covering a Beatles song,” he said referencing his cover of the Abbey Road track. “Except to take it apart and put it together again. There were four vocal parts, so there was a question of whether I could do it.”
Smith’s love affair with The Beatles was an intense one, as he recalled in a piece he wrote for SPIN about John Lennon in 2001. “My friends and I were just starting to teach ourselves guitar in 1980. I was 11 and really into Beatles songs like ‘Julia’ and ‘Sexy Sadie’— cool, kaleidoscopic chord changes,” the late singer wrote in awe.
“I was totally immersed in trying to figure it all out, and it was slowly happening when some madman gunned down the guide. At first, kids at school acted like it was a hoax. It didn’t seem real at the time, and to be honest, I rarely think of John Lennon as dead. There’s too much life in his music to think of him as gone,” Smith continued from the heart.
“For some reason when I think of him now, I usually picture him the way he looked and sounded during the ‘hairy and scary’ phase, around the time of Abbey Road. Definitely on his own trip. It’s neat when you’re a kid to see people who aren’t scared to change. I was mainly into the musical side of things, however, and Lennon’s murder further separated his music from his fame in my mind,” Smith added.
“I went back to figuring out how to play his songs and pretty much acted as if nothing had happened. My folks were Beatles fans and supposedly played Sgt. Pepper’s for me before I was born. In junior high, I thought that ‘A Day in the Life‘ was probably my favourite song ever,” he then concluded.
There have been so many below-par Beatles covers over the years that when one of Smith’s quality comes along makes it even more glorious. The respect he had for The Fab Four is evident in the precise details that are in his version of ‘Because’ that you could tell that he had slaved over and 20 years later, it still holds up as one of the definitive Beatles covers that John would have no doubt loved.