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I watched a lot of films in my late teens and early twenties and often rewatched my favourites multiple times. One of these was (what is perhaps) a little known WWII film called, “A midnight clear”. Directed by Keith Gordon and starring Ethan Hawke, Gary Sinise, Peter Berg, Kevin Dillon and Arye Gross, the film is more drama than action. It is based upon a novel by the same name, whose plot is built around a Christmas eve truce between German and US soldiers, forged after the two sides engaged in a snowball fight. We see the kindness and the humanity of these characters plus the psychological trauma and inherent madness that results from the killing and loss in war in both sides.
The whole concept and idea always reminded me of “All together now”, my favourite tune off The Farm’s debut album “Spartacus”. Though the song has been used in plenty of adverts and films and as the theme for football matches and tournaments so that its original intent has been diminished over the years, it was originally written by the group’s frontman, Peter Hooton, as an anti-war song. The lyrics refer to a no man’s land truce, this time during World War I, between British and German soldiers and though they only refer to December, we can assume it was Christmas.
The song is uplifting, anthemic in mood, and full of hope. And if it feels familiar, it’s because at keyboard Steven Grimes’ suggestion, the group lifted and used the same chord progression as that of Pachelbel’s Canon. Those chords set the tone right from the beginning and underpin the rest of song, like a gauze curtain or a beam of light from the clouds of heaven, even as the nasty guitars and danceable drum beats drag you on to the floor for debauchery.
The Farm only ever released three full-length albums before breaking up in 1996 and “All together now” is probably still their best-known tune. Personally, I could think of many worse songs to be remembered for. Indeed, though it is a popular tune and sounds lightweight, it’s imbued with the Liverpool outfit’s favourite themes.
I’ll dance to that.
For the rest of the Best tunes of 1991 list, click here.
(Vinyl Love is a series of posts that quite simply lists, describes, and displays the pieces in my growing vinyl collection. You can bet that each record was given a spin during the drafting of each corresponding post.)
Artist: The Sisters Of Mercy
Album Title: Some girls wander by mistake
Year released: 1992
Year reissued: 2017
Details: standard black, 4 x LP box set (includes 2 x 12″ singles at 45 rpm)
The skinny: I thought I had already bought the only Sisters of Mercy vinyl box set in “Vision thing” and had no intention of getting this reissue of the early singles compilation, “Some girls wander by mistake”, when I first caught wind of it. Then, my friend Tim, whom I’ve already credited a few times in these pages with turning me on to this band, pointed out that the 12″ singles being reissued with the box were the final two singles ever released by the band. The fact that these two, “Temple of love (1992)” and “Under the gun”, are two of my favourites really sold this one. And now, I really don’t know what I was thinking when I first considered taking a pass. Every time this hits my turntable, I remember how essential this box is to my collection.
Standout track: “1969”
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A couple of days ago I posted a tune from the era that is arguably R.E.M.’s apex for my Best tunes of 1991 list and today I present my favourite tune from the end of their career. “ÜBerlin” was the third single released off the American alternative rock band’s fifteenth and final album, “Collapse into now”. And yeah, it’s awesome.
R.E.M. had just come off one of their most successful albums in years, 2008’s “Accelerate”, and during the tour in support of it, all three members had independently decided that it was time to go out on a high note. With this in mind, they recorded their last album, knowing that these sessions would be the last time they would perform together. Then, they broke up officially, six months after its release. There are apparently hints throughout the record that this would be it but if the clues are there, I never heard them. Perhaps it’s because I didn’t want to hear them. I remember first listening to “Collapse into now” and falling for it, much like I did “Accelerate”, and thinking “They’re back”. I had lost interest in the band in the 2000s, feeling that they had stopped challenging themselves, though I am sure that’s not the case. Regardless, I didn’t hear a lot to be excited about on those years. So imagine my disappointment when I learned R.E.M. were done after being lured in by them all over again.
As I mentioned above, “ÜBerlin” was not just my favourite on the album but likely my favourite of their tunes for a decade or so. It’s because it feels so personal. Peter Buck’s acoustic strum and pluck is pushed forward in the mix, closely shadowed by Mike Mills’ bass, the tricky-tack drum beat and organs just add ambience. It’s a crowded coffee house, mugs are clinking and baristas are busy steaming milk but Stipe is there, in the corner with his stool, and his band in the shadows. It’s German noir, black and white, save for a red technicolor balloon. And this is hope. A hope that everything will be okay in the absence of R.E.M.
Five years later and I’m still not so sure but at least we have a recording like this to soothe us.
For the rest of the Best tunes of 2011 list, click here.