One of the timeless songs that make a perfect cover is George Harrison’s Within You Without You. A perfect taste of the late 1960s – heavily influenced by classical music from India it still is deeply rooted in the contemporary trends in rock. Harrison actually was a master of incorporating Hindu musical themes into the pieces he wrote for the Beatles. And this is definitely one of his master tracks. Funny, being the least “starish” of the Beatles and the least wanted (girls usually scream either for John, Paul or Ringo), he was probably the most qualified and perfectionist of them all, not only as a musician but also as a composer.
Within You Without You was covered by various artists of different musical genres. From Patti Smith to Thievery Corporation, in this song anyone could find something close to their heart. I decided to pick four of them just for some comparison of how different it may sound.
Unfortunately, I am not including a cover by Adrian Belew – the cover itself is amazing and Belew is one of my favorite musicians of all time. However, as far as I know he never released this song on any of his albums. And the youtube videos of Belew performing Within You Without You are of really poor quality.
First of all, the original. Completely perfect. Harrison performed it together with musicians from India. It is, actually, his solo track. Except him none of the Beatles are featured on this track. It was issued in 1967 on the famous the Beatles’ album Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.
Patti Smith. A legend in itself. This is where Great Britain/India meet the American spirit. She’s touching as ever.
Sonic Youth, the legend of the late 1980s and 1990s. Of course, as a noise band they do perform it in a noise style. What makes an amazing experience is that they go very much in the direction of the Velvet Underground. Actually, that was my first thought. If Velvet would have ever covered Within You Without You, this is how they would sound.
Easy Star’s All-Stars cover featuring Matisyahu. The dub version which was included in the album Easy Star’s Lonely Hearts Dub Band. It could actually be interesting for both, fans of the Beatles and dub fans since the whole album is a dub reggae tribute to Sgt. Pepper’s.
And finally the band that I’ve never been a fan of, however, gotta admit they’re professional. Oasis – who perform the song in a manner very close to the original.