Don’t Forget the Songs-365: Mach Dos: Day 231
Fri. Aug 31, 2012

“White Light/White Heat”
Nick Cave, Warren Ellis & The Bootleggers feat. Mark Lanegan


“♫ White light is lighting
up my eyes/ don’t you
know it fills me up with
surprise?/ White heat,
tickle me down to my
toes/ White light, I tell
you now, goodness knows

This strangely uplifting cover by Nick Cave and Warren Ellis of the Velvet Underground’s “White Light/White Heat” actually inspired a sign of happiness. What an amazing rendition of “White Light!” This weird yet killer rendition sounds as if The Velvet Underground were stranded on the Mason Dixon line and played a show with a bluegrass band down south just to get back home to New York City. Former Screaming Trees and sometime Queens of the Stone Age member Mark Lanegan’s vocal echoes a near perfect John Cale tribute. It sounds like Cale is singing this bluegrass cover and it’s simply spectacular.

Did you know Nick Cave and his collaborator Warren Ellis originally recorded the backing track of “White Light/White Heat” for bluegrass great Ralph Stanley to sing over. Cave explained how The Lawless soundtrack came to light when he told Rolling Stone Magazine, “We wanted to do a relatively contemporary song about drug taking, say ‘White Light/White Heat,’ and have it sung by Ralph Stanley, who has at least one foot set in the period we’re dealing with. “We’d already recorded a version of ‘White Light/White Heat,’ and we wanted him to sing over the top of that. He’s used to not only a different style, but singing with bluegrass players, and we’re not, and that’s not what we’re trying to do. We were still trying to get Ralph to sing in the same time signature and key so we could lay it on top of the tracks we had already recorded “We’re like, ‘Do you reckon you could do this in C?’ And he says, ‘Ralph don’t do C.””

Nick Cave’s solution was to Mark Lanegan and he added his soulful vocals to make a sinful drug song sound a little more vintage. And it works, it works so well I imagine one day walking inside a New Orleans neighborhood bar and hearing The Bootleggers cover of “White Light” playing on the jukebox.

Thank You to Cave, Ellis’ & The Bootleggers for making my day. What a cover! One of the best cover songs I have heard in ages brought me out of the darkness with this amazing rendition of the Velvet Underground’s drug fueled “White Light/White Heat.” It’s amazing how it took a soundtrack for The Lawless and specifically, the bluegrass cover by Nick Cave, Warren Ellis and featuring Mark Lanegan to help me open my ears and feel the “White Light/White Heat.” Who would have thought The Bootleggers would have turned the VU song that inspired punk into an instant bluegrass classic?