In 2000, Trainspotting‘s Danny Boyle directed The Beach, a modest box-office hit starring Leonardo DiCaprio as a young traveler in Thailand. With a soundtrack co-produced by acid house veteran Pete Tong and composed by Twin Peaks’ Angelo Badalamenti, The Velvet Underground‘s John Cale, and Roxy Music member and ambient pioneer Brian Eno, you’d think that between the four of them, there’s gotta be at least a few pretty good ideas on the album. So what exactly happened when these great minds of timeless compositional brilliance came together and decided to enlist the help of Sugar Ray on the album?
Wedged in between hits from Moby, New Order, and Blur, Sugar Ray’s “Spinning Away” is a cover of the Cale and Eno original from their 1990 album Wrong Way Up. Unlike the sunscreen-scented, soul patch reggae of their hits “Fly” and “Every Morning,” the cover stays as true to the original as one can expect from the chart-topping band, as they trade clunky ad-libs and vinyl scratches for shimmering synth strings and a buzzing distortion not all too distant from The Verve’s “Bitter Sweet Symphony.” The clean, upbeat rhythm of guitarist Rodney Sheppard marks the closest link between “Fly” and the original song, which comes to Eno and Cale by way of post-punk’s early dub and Afropop influence.
Listening now, what’s most striking is that even across this critical divide, it’s eerie just how well the song fits into the Sugar Ray repertoire. As much as we rank and systematize these records into critical hierarchies, sometimes it’s never more clear just how much some songs have in common until a wild mixup like this comes together.