I’ll admit it: I first heard Brian Eno’s greatest pop song as a cover on 2001’s The Beach, starring Leonaro DiCaprio. Director Danny Boyle may have worked with Eno and John Cale in the past, but for this soundtrack, the song was covered by none other than Sugar Ray. Yes, that Sugar Ray.
Funny enough, it’s the best Sugar Ray recording by a landslide. This is because it’s an almost exact reproduction of the original tune, completely redundant. For the real real, just press play on the original:
Whether you’re familiar with Eno through his groundbreaking ambient work, his production for bands like Slowdive, U2, and even Coldplay, or even his time in Roxy Music, you likely never anticipated something like this. Likewise, Cale and Velvet Underground fans were probably caught off guard by this warm burst of tropical synth pop. It’s the bright single off the pair’s 1990 collaborative album, Wrong Way Up, and it holds up damn fine in 2016.
I discovered this album a few years back in one of those lightning-bulb eureka moments: this is the song I knew and enjoyed years ago, never knowing it was a cover, never knowing it wasn’t the original! Playing it now, I still get goosebumps of those wild post-school years full of first loves, psychedelic journeys, and dozens of nights spent on the beach. It’s weird to feel nostalgia through a song I never knew at the time, but it works. The jumpy African hi-life inspired guitar tones, the layered choral patterns, the rubbery bass – it all adds up to one of the clearest pictures of ocean side bliss I’ve ever heard in a song.