Loyal Reader Laurel recently celebrated a birthday. Though she appears to be a mere sprig of her girl, she is old enough to have seen The Beatles 17 times in her native LA. She also carried on a brief but intense postal correspondence with a prominent member of the late George Harrison’s family. In honor of Laurel’s birthday, here’s a quick look at one of the most-covered Beatles’ songs, Revolver’s “Tomorrow Never Knows” (1966).

(“Tomorrow Never Knows” is one of the most-covered Beatles songs? How did I figure that one out? Entirely unscientifically, so shut UP.)

“Tomorrow Never Knows,” the final track on Revolver, is a nightmare of a drug trip complete with lyrics from the Tibetan Book of the Dead (which is currently ranked 8,836 on Amazon, with 78 mostly positive customer reviews). It appeared in August, a month after another altered-consciousness classic, The Byrds’ “Eight Miles High” (on the album Fifth Dimension). What a summer that was for non-linear thinking…“Tomorrow Never Knows” features pioneering technical effects and a strong Indian influence. In just 2 minutes and 58 seconds it terrified parents and thrilled middle-schoolers like me.

The Mirage, Tomorrow Never Knows – The Pop Sike World of the Mirage: Singles & Lost Sessions (2006)
The first band to cover this epic song was The Mirage – a British psychedelic act that’s so obscure they’re practically frozen in a block of carbonite. In the fall of 1966 they released their version, which sounds like U.S. garage rock minus the accents. Some simple yet effectively melancholic piano in the middle. Perhaps because they knew their own limitations, they wisely held their song to 2:36 – the only cover here that’s shorter than the original.

801, 801 Live (1976)
801 was a short-lived avant-garde outfit put together by Brian Eno and Phil Manzanera while on sabbatical from Roxy Music. Between my disco phase and my punk phase I had a brief avant-garde phase, which was a struggle for me because I don’t smoke, I don’t look good in a beret, and I have a generally positive view of life. Eno and Manzanera’s version, which they called “TnK,” is the longest I know (6:15). It’s breathtaking.

Monsoon, Monsoon Featuring Sheila Chandra (1995)
Sheila Chandra has an indelible voice. She had a hit in the U.K. in 1982 with “Ever So Lonely.” Sometime in the ’80s she also recorded “Tomorrow Never Knows.” I like this Britpop/Indian hybrid, but it’s maybe a little too comfy, given the subject matter. Running time: 4:05.

Various artists*, The Craft: Original Soundtrack (1996)
The Craft is a sensitive, incisive look at four teenage witches who learn about life and love at a Catholic school in LA. The soundtrack is even worse than what I wrote in the last sentence. However, Canadian rockers Our Lady Peace turn in an excellent 4-minute cover that bows respectfully to The Beatles while also giving you a state-of-the-union message on mid-’90s alternative rock. It’s the opening track, too, so you can hit Eject immediately after.
* When I say “artists,” I’m being generous.

Invert, Between the Seconds (2003)
Invert is, or was, a classical string quartet that inverted the normal string-quartet lineup and presented us with violin, viola, and two cellos. Heavy on the bass! No singing on their cover but lots of spacey space sounds. They clock in at a relatively svelte 3:12.

Emmanuel Santarromana, FAB4EVER (2006)
The Italian Santarromana produced an interesting collection of Beatles covers. His “Tomorrow Never Knows” is more of a novelty number, as fun as Sheb Wooley’s “The Purple People Eater” or Afroman’s “Because I Got High” but not something to place in regular rotation. The vocalist sounds like Max Headroom’s younger brother. Running time: 3:29.

Giacomo Bondi, A Lounged Out Homage to the Beatles (2007)
Signore Bondi hired an Italian Beatles cover band (The Apple Pies) to faithfully record the songs on this disc. Then he ran their work through his software, supposedly to reconstruct (or deconstruct) everything. The songs come out different, I’ll give him that. I vote for “Paperback Writer” and “Tomorrow Never Knows.” The running time on the latter is 4:53, which is too long, and the opening sounds like the last 10 superhero movies I’ve seen, but it’s definitely worth a listen. (There are two versions of this album. I briefly reviewed the one from 2010.)

I like all of the covers here, some much more than others, but I have to say that no one has topped John Lennon and Paul McCartney. As in most things. Happy birthday, Loyal Reader Laurel, and I’ll try to write about The Beatles again before your next birthday.

  1. Who covered these Beatle tracks?

    I Want to Hold Your Hand
    You’re Gonna Lose that Girl
    I’ll Cry Instead
    Things We Said Today
    You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away
    Ticket to Ride
    Last Night I Said
    Please Please Me
    You Know, If You Break My Heart
    Eight Days a Week
    She Loves You
    Thank You Girl
    Hard Day’s Night

  2. Laurel says:

    This Loyal Reader is deeply moved and humbled by your birthday offering. For Beatles trivialists, Tomorrow Never Knows is the gift that keeps on giving. In music classes it’s always reported that the song is built on only one chord. Though it closes Revolver, it was the first song recorded for the album (they started with the rhythm track on April 6, 1966). For part but not all of the song Lennon’s voice was fed through a (revolving) Leslie speaker – that part starts 87 seconds into the song. Since they didn’t have multi-tracking, they just removed the erase head on a tape recorder and kept adding sound effects by recording over what was there. The addition of honky tonk piano was a nice touch. Sorry…I’ll stop now…but…thank you…

  3. On our return flight from Majorca last Wednesday, Melody and I notice one of our stewardesses was called Lucy… Cue for a song – second best Beatles cover, Elton John.

    Best Beatles cover is Jaco, again – Blackbird.

    (The Tibetan Book of the Dead has a much higher rating on Amazon.rip)

    • Run-DMSteve says:

      In the U.S. we call them flight attendants, my dear sir.

      I approve of visiting Majorca, but not of listening to Elton John. However, I will say that the ONLY Elton John songs I like are his cover of “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” and most of “Funeral for a Friend.”

      • Yes, but I live in the U.K…. sir.

        You’re a bigger fan of EJ than I; I ONLY like LitSwD.

        (Best Beatle covers might be an interesting list.)

      • Run-DMSteve says:

        But we used to call them flight attendants in this country. I figured that in the U.K. you called them spanners or bumbershoots or bonnets or something.

        I am devastated to learn that I am twice the Elton John fan of anyone else on the planet!

        Best Beatle covers would be very interesting indeed. Plus it would only take me the rest of my life.

      • William (Bill) F Seabrook says:

        (Of course, had she been called Mandy, I’d have got off the plane immediately.)

  4. Accused of Lurking says:

    I just googled Tomorrow Never Knows and read the lyrics. Totally freaked me out!

    P.S. You DO look good in a beret.

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