The Surreal Legacy of Eraserhead’s “In Heaven”

Created by director David Lynch and musician Peter Ivers, “In Heaven” made its appearance in Lynch’s directorial debut Eraserhead. Lynch’s film, Eraserhead, is a surreal interpersonal voyage for its protagonist and viewers. This haunting musical number portrays these feelings of confusion, ambiguity, and anxiety. “In Heaven” is performed as a turning point in the film by actress Laurel Near.

The Pixies Cover

However, the song saw life beyond the film. American rock band Pixies did a live cover of the track on their Complete B Sides album. Although other bands have covered the song, including DevoBauhaus, and Tuxedomoon, the Pixies cover is arguably the most famous. 

The Pixies, formed in 1986 in Boston, Massachusetts, grew to fame in the alternative rock boom of the 1990s. Their sound is attributed with the loud-quiet-loud sound structure. Many of their songs open with a yell or jarring noise, only to immediately switch to whispering and monotonous talking, without a hesitations notice. Songs like “Monkey Gone to Heaven“, “Bone Machine“, and “Vamos – Live” all follow this structure.

The Pixies have been notoriously attributed with the claim that no two of their concerts ever sound the same. This can be heard through the live performance of “In Heaven” above. Not only is the instrumental different, but instead of frontman Black Francis on vocals, as is in the studio recording, Kim Deal now sings. This ever-changing performance of “In Heaven” adds to the surrealism that Lynch sought for with its creation. 

“In Heaven” in skating

A skate video, produced by Thrasher Magazine, AA For Vans showcases a selection of tricks by Andrew Allen, and features two songs by the Pixies. In this, Andrew Allen skates crusty and never-been-skated spots with technical expertise and relaxed casualness. If someone watches this, and doesn’t skate, they may leave the video unimpressed. However, for those that do skate, any viewer will close the video mind blown and hyped to hit the streets. And all the while, Andrew Allen does all this in casual outfits, not necessarily belonging to the “skater aesthetic”, but to the average working class man. 

These elements are elevated, and represented through the music of the Pixies. The first track in this video is “Gouge Away” from the Pixies’ Doolittle album. The closing song, which in the skate community is the most important, is “In Heaven”. Andrew Allen, an older man, (especially in the context of working skaters) tackles heavy tricks with a sweaty back and battered limbs. There is a rage in his skating that is hard to pick up on simply from observation. But when paired with “In Heaven”, it allows viewers to have a glimpse into Allen’s aggression. 

Which version of “In Heaven” is your favorite?

Despite the song coming in at just over a minute, and being released almost 50 years ago, it’s clearly still resonating. The haunting vocals, simple lyrics, and message pair so well with a variety of media, sports, and photography. So, the legacy goes on. Do you prefer the original recording of “In Heaven”, or more modern interpretations?

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