Brian Eno & John Cale – Spinning Away


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.

5 thoughts on “Brian Eno & John Cale – Spinning Away

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  3. I’m listening to Wrong Way Up tonight and decided to google “spinning away” to see if anyone out there had any thoughts about it, and lo and behold! I too have adored this song since first hearing it on The Beach soundtrack, round my sophomore year in college. For me too, that soundtrack and the other electronic music I started exploring were crucial aesthetic elements of my first steps into adulthood, First travels, first experiments with this and that and so forth. I discovered the original version before long as I explored Eno’s work, and this gem of an album holds a special spot. I don’t have any profound thoughts to share, just want to raise my hand as a fellow traveler. Thanks for the post!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Listened to Spining Away for the first time through Spotify suggestion feature last week. I’m 48 years old and after listening to this song I’m hooked….period. Inspired me to listen to Wrong Way Up album and more of Brian Eno and John Cale’s past work. Dave from Ancaster, Canada.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Wow, that’s an awesome discovery, exactly how my favorites were all found. Grabbing those threads when they appear and following them all the way down. This was your first time getting into either artist? I’m almost jealous. So much to discover and enjoy. Eno is just one of my favorite artists ever, and Cale isn’t so bad himself! I’m curious what you’ve heard so far? Thanks for commenting, Dave!


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