Revisit Fiona Apple’s dreamy cover of The Beatles song ‘Across the Universe’
We’re stepping back into the Far Out Magazine Vault to unearth what we believe is Fiona Apple’s best cover rendition to date, a calming and dreamy version of The Beatles song ‘Across the Universe’. With a recent career-defining album in the bag, Apple’s cover is worth remembering as it offers a look back at her connection with music.
The song, originally written by John Lennon but credited to the Lennon–McCartney songwriting partnership, first appeared on the 1969 charity compilation album No One’s Gonna Change Our World. As the cracks began to show in the band, the song would later arrive in different form as part of The Beatles’ final album Let It Be which was shared in 1970. The song has since become recognised as one of the most iconic pieces of the band’s canon.
Famously, as the primary songwriting duo of the band went about their not-so-subtle war of words, ‘Across the Universe’ marked the occasion when Lennon accused McCartney of “subconscious sabotage” amid frustration around the song’s creation. In an interview with Playboy in 1980, Lennon said the Beatles “didn’t make a good record of it” before adding that “the guitars are out of tune and I’m singing out of tune… and nobody’s supporting me or helping me with it and the song was never done properly.”
Taking things a step further, Lennon added: “Paul would sort of subconsciously try and destroy a great song. Usually, we’d spend hours doing little detailed cleaning-ups of Paul’s songs; when it came to mine… somehow this atmosphere of looseness and casualness and experimentation would creep in. Subconscious sabotage.”
Despite the clear frustration from Lennon, ‘Across the Universe’ remains one of The Beatles’ most delicate numbers and, when film director Gary Ross was putting the final touches on his 1998 comedy-drama film Pleasantville, he recruited Fiona Apple for the soundtrack.
In what would become the opening track of the official score, Apple’s rendition of ‘Across the Universe’ acts as a wonderful counterbalance to the chaotic scenes it is matched within the film. It sees the singer employ her unique vocal tone and affectations to create one of the finer examples of the track we’ve ever come across as she uses her keen sense of connection with the song to imbue it with a tender authenticity.
Given an official single release by Apple, she took her rendition of The Beatles classic by teaming up with acclaimed director Paul Thomas Anderson for the official music video. Using the same diner and a scene from Pleasantville, Apple walks calmly through a riot while singing “nothing’s gonna change my world” which seems perfectly apt.