The Beatles, the now-iconic group once comprised of John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr, are rightly regarded as one of the most influential bands of all time. The Fab Four were integral to the development of 1960s counterculture and popular music’s recognition as an art form. Rooted in skiffle, beat and rock and roll, their sound famously incorporated elements of classical music and traditional pop in wonderfully innovative ways.
While the band later explored music styles ranging from ballads and Indian music to psychedelia and hard rock, as pioneers in recording, songwriting and artistic presentation, the Beatles revolutionised many aspects of the music industry we recognise today. While their time at the top was dramatically short, the band achieved monumental levels of success and were often publicised as the leaders fo their era’s sociocultural movements.
Throughout their illustrious musical career, The Beatles were responsible for creating material that was undoubtedly way ahead of its time. Sonically speaking, they were unparalleled. Their work has been adored and appreciated by almost everyone in the world and has influenced countless artists. Looking closely, one can see that almost all The Beatles’ songs have been covered by numerous artists at some point or another. A few famous covers being ‘Come Together’ by Aerosmith, then The Beach Boys covering ‘Tell Me Why’, Jeff Beck’s cover of ‘She’s A Woman’, Black Sabbath’s cover of ‘Day Tripper’; the list is endless. Out of so many covers, one that stands out in my book is the Pixies’ sensational rendition of ‘Wild Honey Pie’.
‘Wild Honey Pie’, originally released on the 1968 double record commonly known as the White Album, was written by Paul McCartney as part of a singalong during their time in Rishikesh, India, and recorded at the end of the session for ‘Mother Nature’s Son.’ Less than a minute in length, the song mainly consisted of the title being chanted repeatedly and was performed by McCartney without the participation of the other Beatles.
In truth, the track was often viewed as a filler number and was generally regarded as inconsequential and unmemorable due to its experimental nature. In fact, McCartney was once heard saying, “We were in an experimental mode, and so I said, Can I just make something up? I started off with the guitar and did a multitracking experiment in the control room or maybe in the little room next door. It was very home made; it wasn’t a big production at all. I just made up this short piece and I multitracked a harmony to that, and a harmony to that, and a harmony to that, and built it up sculpturally with a lot of vibrato on the strings, really pulling the strings madly. Hence, ‘Wild Honey Pie’, which was a reference to the other song I had written called ‘Honey Pie’. It was a little experimental piece.”
‘Wild Honey Pie’ was sequenced between ‘Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da’ and ‘The Continuing Story of Bungalow Bill’, on side one of The White Album. According to McCartney, the song was almost excluded but Harrison’s wife, Pattie Boyd, “liked it very much so we decided to leave it on the album” but, in truth, the song was met by mixed reviews. While some truly enjoyed the experimental nature of the filler track and considered it to be “amongst the top 10 filler tracks” created, the discordant guitar felt like a ‘half song’ giving dynamics to a cluttered double album.
The Pixies meanwhile, closely associated with the 1990s alternative rock boom, drew on elements including punk rock and surf rock when elbowing their way into the mainstream. Their music has always been known for its dynamic “loud-quiet” shifts and song structures. Hailing from Boston, Massachusetts, the original lineup is made up of Black Francis on vocals and rhythm guitar, Joey Santiago on lead, Kim Deal on bass and backing vocals and David Lovering on drums. While the band disbanded acrimoniously in 1993, they took the decision to reunite in 2004, much to the delight of their adoring cult fanbase. Francis, the Pixies’ primary songwriter, delivers his often surreal lyrics to cover offbeat subjects such as extraterrestrials, incest, and biblical violence. Their jarring pop sound influenced acts such as Nirvana, Radiohead, the Smashing Pumpkins and Weezer and, as their popularity grew in the years after their break-up, they returned to sold-out world tours following their comeback.
While Pixies have undoubtedly helped inspire a new generation of musicians, Black Francis and the band have never been shy to admit the adoration for a certain group from Liverpool and, in 1988 as a part of a BBC live session, the Pixies performed their version of ‘Wild Honey Pie’ and soon afterwards it became a huge hit. In fact, it is fair to suggest that this cover became much more popular than the original song itself. Transitioning between their signature “loud-quiet” shifts, they managed to harmonise the melody of the song far better than the original version. The drums added texture which was missing in the original. Francis’ vocals were a sharp contrast to McCartney’s, giving the song a grungier approach and the guitar tones were completely different. Detuned and mids boosted guitar sounds along with the lead with a microtonal tone accompanied by a bass with a very prominent low end formed a much better melody. The way Pixies performed this song turned it from a half track to a complete number with their signature style of music.
This sensational cover became a huge hit and appealed to music lovers of all genre. So if you’re a big Beatles fan but do not love their version of ‘Wild Honey Pie’, give the Pixies cover a listen. Not only are you going to love it, but you’ll also become a Pixies fan in the process.