Categories
Tunes

Best tunes of 1993: #26 The Waterboys “Glastonbury song”

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“Glastonbury song” is the very first song I ever heard by The Waterboys. In fact, I heard it and fell for it well before I ever heard of the band and their driving force and ringleader Mike Scott.

I’ve already told the story of my real introduction to the band when their fourth album, the now iconic “Fisherman’s blues”, appeared at number three on my Best albums of 1988 list. After finally giving in to the haranguing of my work colleague Chris, I downloaded the title track off of Napster, back sometime in 2000, using dial-up internet speeds*. When that marathon finally finished up, I listened to the MP3 a few times before going to see a film called “Waking Ned Devine” at the local repertory theatre and coincidentally, its opening credits featured the very same song. If I wasn’t already in love with “Fisherman’s blues”, that little bit of serendipity really did me in.

I purchased the album on compact disc shortly thereafter and had to admit to Chris that he was absolutely right. The Waterboys were right up my alley. It didn’t take too much convincing from there for me to check out their other work, which in itself was an interesting exercise. Much like how the band’s membership changed with pretty much every album, so too did their sound. And imagine my surprise when, in amongst all of these tracks that I was sampling, I hear this song that I used to note when heard on the radio seven years earlier but one for which I had never seemed to track down its name, or its purveyor.

“Yeah, I just found god
(I just found god)
Yeah, I just found god where he always was”

Mike Scott busted up the band after 1990’s “Room to roam” was recorded by pretty much the same personnel and continued the same themes and sound as “Fisherman’s blues” but wasn’t nearly as successful, critically or commercially, and really, as an album. Scott figured it was time to change things up but the rest of the band, especially fiddler Steve Wickham, weren’t on the same page so he recorded the next album, 1993’s “Dream harder”, pretty much by himself**. It was a more straightforward rock sound as a whole but still had Scott’s literate and storytelling lyrical style, name-checking Keats and Hendrix, paganism and religion.

Nowadays, the name Glastonbury seems to be synonymous with music and hedonism, the town being near the site of one of the longest running and perhaps most famous music festivals in the world. So it would be easy to look at this song as finding religion and having a spiritual experience at such an event. But I’m pretty certain that Scott had more ancient history in mind when he wrote the words, as is evidenced by the cover art for the single when it was released.

“Glastonbury song” is crashing drums and roaring guitars that are reined in and soothed by airy synths and Scott’s bohemian bard vocals. You can almost see him standing by himself in the sunshine, surround by green, hilly fields, dressed all in white, eyes closed, and soaking it all in, accepting the blessing bestowed upon him.

“There is a green hill far away
I’m going back there one fine day”

It sounds to me like a place where we would all like to go, one fine day.

*Some of you may recall the time commitment that this might’ve taken.

**There might have been session musicians involved in the recording as well…

For the rest of the Best tunes of 1993 list, click here.

Categories
Vinyl

Vinyl love: Secret Machines “Awake in the brain chamber”

(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: Secret Machines
Album Title: Awake in the brain chamber
Year released: 2020
Details: Black vinyl, 180 gram

The skinny: Much like last week, this week’s Vinyl love post is one of my favourite albums from 2020. However, unlike “The view from halfway down”, which I came across too late for it to officially make my end of the year list, Secret Machines’ fourth long player “Awake in the brain chamber” did not escape my notice and easily found its way to the number five spot on said list. Released more than a decade after their last record and almost as much time since the untimely death of one of the band’s founding members, it was the polar opposite of a disappointing return. It had all the hallmarks of the band’s big and epic sounding first two records but scaled back into manageable serving sizes. Of course, I was going to procure a copy of this for my vinyl collection. It didn’t matter that it was a bare bones release (as is evidenced by the few photos above). It was a heavyweight, 180 gram disc and had impeccable sound.

Standout track: “Everything’s under”

Categories
Tunes

Best tunes of 2002: #2 The Flaming Lips “Do you realize??”

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Have you ever been so completely turned off by one song that you very nearly missed out on the experience of an excellent band?

This is how it was for me and The Flaming Lips for many years. It was their biggest commercial hit, 1993’s “She don’t use jelly”, that really did me in from the first. Not that it was a particularly bad song, it was just that ultra push foisted upon us by their major label. It was overplayed to the point where they warranted an appearance on an episode of Beverly Hills, 90210 and gained Steve Sanders’ seal of approval. “You know, I’ve never been a big fan of alternative music, but these guys rocked the house!” Ugh.

Interestingly, it was television that brought me back to the psych-rockers from Oklahoma City. More to the point, it was a television commercial. For many years, I have misremembered the ad being for Volkswagen, probably because it fell in line with the other songs that had been used for their ad campaigns, but when I googled it, discovered that it was actually for Hewlett-Packard (and also featured famed magicians, Penn and Teller). More on that in a minute.

The Flaming Lips actually formed as early as 1983 and they released four full-length studio albums before they caught the attention of Warner Brothers. And then, they released four more albums on that major before they finally found their feet and released 1999’s “The soft bulletin”, an album many critics see as the best album in a decade that included “Nevermind”, “Loveless”, and “OK computer”. And the band didn’t stop there. Indeed, eight albums later and they still show no signs of slowing or falling into ruts or making anything that vaguely resembles pedestrian tunes.

My ears pricked up with the first notes of “Do you realize??” that I heard at the end of that Hewlett Packard commercial. I was at my desktop computer with the TV on behind me and I heard spaceships and angels and beauty. I turned around, made notes, did some google searches, and eventually found the full song. I played it and replayed it and replayed it. Then, I listened to the rest of the album on which it appeared, “Yoshimi battles the pink robots”, and declared myself in love.

These days, I wouldn’t consider myself a diehard of the band. Yet I do very much love “Yoshimi”, along with the two albums that bookend it in their chronological discography, and totally respect everything they do, even if I don’t like it all. I saw them perform live at Ottawa Bluesfest in 2011 and would jump at the chance to witness their live extravaganza again… But I’m once again getting away from our song today.

“Do you realize??” is possibly their most recognizable song. It was honoured by their home state as its official song for a period of time in 2000s and is considered by the band as the best thing they have ever done. It was inspired by multi-instrumentalist Steve Drozd’s struggles with drug withdrawal and by the death of frontman Wayne Coyne’s father. It is about the precariousness of life, the planet, and everything else.

“Do you realize that you have the most beautiful face?
Do you realize we’re floating in space?
Do you realize that happiness makes you cry?
Do you realize that everyone you know someday will die?”

It all starts with a robotic count in and the falls up the rabbit hole in the clouds and the ether where everything is in stasis and sparkly. The strumming of the guitar holds everything together and roots you in reality while everything flies around you – memories, feelings, life, death – and everyone is singing along. It is gentle and beautiful and sad and perfect. Just wow.

For the rest of the Best tunes of 2002 list, click here.