The Independent (June 21, 2002, Friday)
DOUBLE TAKE: ROBERT WEBB'S GUIDE TO POP'S MOST INTRIGUING COVER VERSIONS; 'DEAR PRUDENCE' - THE BEATLES / SIOUXSIE AND THE BANSHEES
Deprived of electricity at the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi's transcendental meditation retreat at Rishikesh, John, Paul and George finger-picked their way acoustically through a suitcase of songs. The inspiration for this delicate Lennon number was their fellow traveller Prudence Farrow, sister of Mia, who was something of a recluse at the Himalayan hideout.
"Prudence meditated and hibernated," recalled Ringo. "We saw her twice in two weeks. Everyone would be banging on the door: Are you still alive?'" Lennon figured music would coax her from her chalet: "All the people around her were worried about the girl because she was going insane. So we sang to her."
The competition at the ashram was to see who was going to "get cosmic" first. "She'd been locked in for three weeks and wouldn't come out, trying to reach God quicker than anybody else," said Lennon.
Back in London, at the end of a steamy August bank holiday, the group (sans Ringo) entered Trident Studios to record and mix "Dear Prudence". Carefully pieced together track by track, with Lennon's vocals dubbed twice over, it shimmers in the haze of an Indian summer: "The sun is up, the sky is blue/ It's beautiful, and so are you/ Dear Prudence, won't you come out to play?"
The song was given second billing on the hegemonic White Album, a prime influence on the Banshees. "The Beatles got slated for it when it was released - it was unbelievable - but there's just something about that record," said Siouxsie. "One of the main reasons we chose "Dear Prudence" was that John Lennon's version sounds a bit unfinished," concurred the bassist, Steve Severin. "We recorded it in Sweden, and the idea came from touring round Scandinavia, listening to the Beatles."
On their version, Siouxsie is a siren bewitched, luring us through the swirling mist, while Robert Smith's guitar twists helter-skelter in a vortex. In October 1983, as Cruise missiles arrived at Greenham Common and industrial unrest loomed, "Dear Prudence" was a call from Britain's dark side - more a winter of discontent than an Indian summer. It was Siouxsie's biggest hit, kept off the top spot, much to the band's annoyance, by the feckless "Karma Chameleon".
Contributed by Jerry Burch.