Revisit Sonic Youth’s mindblowing cover of The Beatles song ‘Within You Without You’
Stepping back into the Far Out archives, we’re revisiting the moment indie stalwarts produced a unique cover of The Beatles song ‘Within You Without You’.
The original track, released by the Fab Four in 1967 as part of their now-iconic concept album Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, was famously written by guitarist George Harrison as he began to flex his songwriting capabilities.
Feeling inspired by his visit to India 1966, Harrison has spent a prolonged period of time working with his mentor and sitar teacher Ravi Shankar. “‘Within You Without You’ was a song that I wrote based upon a piece of music of Ravi [Shankar]’s that he’d recorded for All-India Radio,” Harrison once commented. “It was a very long piece—maybe thirty or forty minutes… I wrote a mini version of it, using sounds similar to those I’d discovered on his piece.”
The song marked a change in style for both Harrison and The Beatles, even flipping up the way the group worked in the studio. “George has done a great Indian one,” his bandmate John Lennon once said. “We came along one night and he had about 400 Indian fellas playing there… it was a great swinging evening, as they say.”
Given the legacy that the track has built in the years that followed, numerous different artists have attempted to put their own spin on the material. While the likes of Oasis, Patti Smith, the Flaming Lips and more did the song justice, it is this Sonic Youth’s expansive rendition which remains its lasting tribute.
Recorded as part of 1988 multi-artist compilation album Sgt. Pepper Knew My Father, Sonic Youth joined the likes of The Wedding Present, Billy Bragg, The Fall and more by contributing to the record in a bid to raise money for the Childline charity, Thurston Moore and the rest of the band delivered what might be the greatest cover of all time.