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Served Three Ways: Three Covers of Neil Young’s “On The Beach”

Neil Young’s On The Beach was originally released in 1974 as the follow up to the commercially and critically successful Harvest. It was raw and loose, and from the lyrics and sparse production, it’s clear that Young was in an emotionally dark place at the time. For a modern equivalent, you could compare it’s emotional bleakness to Kanye West’s 808 & Heartbreaks, except that where 808s was overproduced with autotune, On The Beach was underproduced (also: On The Beach is just a better record). We find Young here grappling with frustration, despair and, on the title track, with the pitfalls of fame. As an interesting aside: the album went out of print in vinyl format in 1980 and Young declined to release it on CD until 2003 when it was released as an HDCD. As a result it developed a cult following. Anyways, here are my three favorite covers of the title track. Reo offers the most original take on the track, but Radiohead and Golden Smog pretty much nail it.

Radiohead – On The Beach (Neil Young Cover)
Golden Smog – On The Beach (Neil Young Cover)
Emily Reo – On The Beach (Neil Young Cover)

So what do you like about these covers?  What don’t you like about ’em?

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Posted by Matthew Hickey

Matthew is the music editor and co-founder of Turntable Kitchen. He’s addicted to vinyl records, pour over coffee, craft beer, small batch bourbon, and pan roasting pork chops.

  • Brian

    My brother in-law is obsessed with this song. I watched him do a moving solo cover of it as part of a variety show in a ramshackle Williamsburg loft.

    Radiohead just crush the song like they have other Neil Young songs. Can’t wait to hear the other covers!

  • What an awesome song to be obsessed with, and I’d agree I love Radiohead’s take on it.

  • Ben Waites

    Even better in my humble opinion was the version by The Walkabouts, which was on a CD (sorry I know this is supposed to be about vinyl) of Neil Young covers given away with Uncut magazine a few years ago.

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