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A look at Nick Cave’s Beatles covers


Recently when looking back at the legacy of The Beatles, Nick Cave humorously mused: “The best thing that Yoko Ono ever did was break up The Beatles. They’re a band in decline and Yoko Ono stepped in and allowed everyone the freedom to go on to make some really beautiful records.” Adding with a dry smile, “John Lennon and the other guy.”

If the second chapter of The Beatles was akin to one band wandering in their own emancipated directions, then the amorphous journey of The Bad Seeds has been similar. In the case of ‘The Fab Four’ solo life was always likely to be tethered to the big bang that came before, and The Bad Seeds are like some sort of reverse of that, the line-up may chop and change but the beast always absorbs fresh impetus and evolves.

Aside from his wry comments about The Beatles being in decline, Cave hasn’t ventured to discuss the Promethean rock ‘n’ roll force all that much. However, he has let his music do the talking with a couple of stunning covers from back in 2001, when he joined the likes of Rufus Wainwright and Eddie Vedder to provide a few tracks for the soundtrack for the film I Am Sam

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The logline for the Jessie Nelson directed drama starring Sean Penn, Michelle Pfeiffer and Dakota Fanning, reads: “A mentally handicapped man fights for custody of his 7-year-old daughter and in the process teaches his cold-hearted lawyer the value of love and family.”

The soundtrack featured Beatles covers like ‘Two of Us’ performed by Aimee Mann and Michael Penn, while Sheryl Crow took on ‘Mother Nature’s Son’. However, the highlights come in the form of Cave’s filigreed covers of ‘Let It Be’ and his bonus track take on George Harrison’s stirring epic ‘Here Comes The Sun’. 

With a nuanced jamming sound, the songs swell in style similar to the latter half of the Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds record Abattoir Blues / The Lyre of Orpheus which was released only three years after the contributions to the soundtrack. Similar touches of Tom Waits-esque warts and all light and shade can be heard in the renditions.

It is astoundingly heard to cover The Beatles, the songs have proved so transcendent and entered our everyday lives that it is almost like reinventing a cup of tea. Cave doesn’t do much to them after than sift out the old milk and add a refreshing dash of lemon and honey (not that they are as camp as that beverage sounds). In short, for a man who hasn’t spoken about The Beatles all that much, he certainly has a handle on their work. 

Nick Cave’s Beatles covers:

‘Let It Be’

‘Here Comes the Sun’