Iterations: My Bloody Valentine – “When You Sleep”

Iterations: My Bloody Valentine – “When You Sleep”
My Bloody Valentine - "When You Sleep"

It’s been an unofficial kind of My Bloody Valentine week, what with the band’s catalog returning to streaming services globally and coming back into print, albeit with some confusion around what versions are available in what form and where.

Basically, you can’t buy the Domino versions of Isn’t Anything or Loveless – in other words, the ones Kevin Shields spent eons remastering – because Sire still holds the North American rights. But you can buy them from the band’s online store, or you could if they weren’t sold out of pre-orders. And you could buy them as imports from any non-North American retailer if they also weren’t sold out of pre-orders. But the good news is that, unlike the initial issue of the remasters the band put out in 2018, there will be further runs so eventually, anyone who wants it should be able to get it. It’ll just take a while.

But that’s neither here nor there. Today I’m looking at one of the centrepieces of Loveless, with the best shoegaze flute anywhere and one of Bilinda Butcher’s finest vocals:

There’s not actually a lot of good live MBV footage out there, not least of all because the decibels of the experience will overpower most camera or phone mics, resulting in audio that’s just “kkdksfaksdfasfadsfasfda”, but not the good kind of “kkdksfaksdfasfadsfasfda”. With that in mind, here’s some that’s kind of comprehensible – first from the Loveless tour at the Town & Country Club in London, December 1991:

And 22 years later, at Primavera Sound in Barcelona in May 2013:

There’s a lot of covers of this song, a lot of them very much on the nose. Florida’s Mira included a version on their self-titled debut in 2000, when doing so was a deeply unfashionable thing. I’m partial to it because I think I had this track in my MP3 collection from around then, probably gotten off of Napster when searching for covers of favourite songs in my CD collection. A more outdated collection of words than that last sentence, you will not find.

Toronto’s Memoryhouse recorded a piano-led cover of the song as part of a live sessions for now-defunct music zine Yours Truly back in 2010:

Athens, Georgia’s Japancakes took it upon themselves to cover not just the song, but the entirety of Loveless in 2015, but doing so in instrumental fashion with cello and pedal steel guitar taking the place of vocals and guitar. It’s really quite a lovely take.

And from Japancakes covering the album to Japanese bands covering the album, Shonen Knife covered the song as their contribution to 2013’s Yellow Loveless, which as stated above was a collection of Japanese bands covering Loveless; you can hear the whole thing on YouTube:

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