Across the Universe

My first day back at the office for a while meant loads of forms, a revision lecture, and lots of time chatting with students about project choices for next year. I hope I convinced them all that I’m a terrible project supervisor and they really should pick someone else’s projects…

Anyway the upshot of all this is that I’m fair knackered, so in lieu of my usual meandering posts I’ll offer you a musical treat, one that’s quite different from the usual fare I serve up on this blog. Quite a few people pull my leg about my old-fashioned musical tastes, but I’m notpretending to be young and trendy by posting this piece. After all, the vocal artist, Brian Molko, lead singer of the popular beat combo Placebo,  is himself nearly forty and therefore nearly the same age as me. Oh well, perhaps not. Anyway, I found out about this recording, made last summer, from a friend and thought I’d post it because of its vaguely cosmic title and, well, other reasons.

The song Across the Universe was penned by John Lennon and appeared on the Beatles’ final album Let it Be. The appearance of the Sanskrit phrase “jai guru veda om” dates it to the time when the Beatles were dabbling with transcendental meditation; it involves a greeting to guru dev (a.k.a. Brahmananda Saraswati) as well as the mystic symbol om used as a mantra.

It’s impossible to translate “om” properly – that’s the whole point of a mantra, I guess – but one meaning attributed to it is a kind of primordial vibration. I’m tempted to suggest that it means the acoustic oscillations that created the temperature variations in the cosmic microwave background and seeded the formation of the large-scale structure of the Universe, but I won’t.

There’s a bonus second song in this clip, a cover version of Ne Me Quitte Pas by Jacques Brel, a singer and songwriter who should be on everybody’s list of famous Belgians, as indeed should Brian Molko as he was born in Belgium. That might be why he got to perform in the unlikely setting of the European Parliament in Brussels at event called I♥EU. I suspect there weren’t many UKIP members there…


5 Responses to “Across the Universe”

  1. Anton Garrett Says:

    Ironic that John wrote Across the Universe because he soon became cynical about the gurus he met in India – it was George who kept to that path.

    OM’s Law?

  2. Mark McCaughrean Says:

    Fabulous song; truly awful cover version for so, so many reasons. Horrific.

    Now, if you want a great version, perhaps even better than The Beatles themselves, if I might make so bold, you want the one sung by Fiona Apple over the end credits to the film Pleasantville:


    • telescoper Says:

      I much prefer the Brian Molko version, actually, although I like the subtle way she sings out of tune and the ironically inappropriate clattering drum beat drowning it all out.

      The one I really don’t like is the insipid original by the Beatles. However…

      … Les goûts et les couleurs ne se discutent pas.

    • Mark McCaughrean Says:

      Les goûts et les couleurs ne se discutent pas.

      Spoilsport … 😉

  3. […] Some months ago I saw a message going around on Twitter that the Guardian was looking for new science bloggers acrsoss a range of disciplines for its website. After thinking hard about it, I decided to submit an application. The idea wasn’t to scrap In the Dark or move it all to the Guardian, but to post less frequent and more sciencey pieces there and keep this as a personal ego-trip blog. The advantage of that being that they pay, whereas this blog doesn’t make me any dosh at all. As well as making a pitch for the content of the proposed blog, I had to think of a new title if In the Dark was to carry on, so I came up with Across the Universe, which seemed to me to emphasize nicely the cosmological slant of the pieces I would be likely to write. It’s not a new coinage, of course. It’s based on a Beatles song I have posted about previously. […]

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