Best tunes of 2002: #10 David Bowie “Everyone says ‘hi'”

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Wow. It took almost three and half years for this blog to see its first proper post to feature David Bowie. Fittingly, it was his 2002 album, “Heathen”, that really set me on the course to fandom. Of course, I’d heard him before, knew many of the hits, heard a few of his compilations, but I feel sure that this was the first of his albums to which I listened in full and took an immediate liking.

Seen by many at the time as a comeback of sorts, David Bowie’s 22nd album was his highest charting album since the early 80s and was generally as well-received by the critics as it was the buying public. It saw him easing back from the electronic sound he focused on in the 90s, consecutively dabbling in soul/jazz, industrial, and electronica/rave sounds, and instead, playing with a more fulsome and organic palette. The cover art of “Heathen” felt like a play or self-parody, an older Bowie looking clean cut and almost too normal, except for those eyes, those eyes felt alien. Yeah, alien.

Right neat the end of album, at track ten, sits this tune, “Everyone says ‘hi’”, the album’s second single. You might think by its title that it’s a happy and light number and listening to it superficially might find you in the same place. But this big sounding tune that mixes solid acoustic strumming and plenty of chameleonic synths, is really a song about loss and missing someone so terribly that you can’t accept it and instead, choose to imagine them having gone temporarily, vacation-like.

“Said you took a big trip
They said you moved away
Happened oh, so quietly
They say”

This song is magic and the more you listen to the words, the deeper they cut. And suddenly, the cheerful tune becomes haunting, the saxophone rings in nostalgia, recalling his youth, the strings gather you all in. “Everyone says ‘hi’.” Everyone misses you, Bowie is saying, the pain is so great that everyone feels it, like pathetic fallacy. Just amazing.

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

Best tunes of 1992: #8 Inspiral Carpets “Dragging me down”

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“Dragging me down” was definitely my introduction to Manchester’s Inspiral Carpets. In fact, it might’ve even been another of those tracks that came to me via one of those evenings out in my friend Tim’s ride.

It was definitely Tim that loaned me his CD copy of “Revenge of the goldfish”, the band’s third full length album, which I dubbed to cassette and dutifully and thoroughly studied. I remember my friend Andrew Rodriguez trying and failing at convincing a DJ at one of our high school dances to play this very track. And unfortunately, I still don’t believe I’ve had the pleasure to dance to this track at a club to this day, though there’s been a few others by the group (like this one) to which I’ve killed a dance floor or two.

Yes. The Inspiral Carpets were, for me, what “Madchester” was all about. Psychedelics and beats. Driving guitars and good times. Shaking maracas, persistent organs, and dancing to the point of exhaustion. The five-piece weren’t the biggest name from the scene – indeed, a certain one of their roadies (hello, Noel) most definitely eclipsed them in popularity- but man, did they put out some cracking songs.

“Dragging me down” starts off with this percussive beat, very much like the chugging of a train. Then, comes Clint Boon’s wicked keyboard line, evoking the image of some crazed artiste getting a hold of the most magnificent church organ ever and knowing that if he didn’t give it his all at that moment, some Puritan would wisen up and the gig would be over. And that’s just the first few seconds. Things only get better from there. Craig Gill really brings his “A”-game on drums and Boon’s keyboards continue to wash and whirl and zip and crash. All the while, Graham Lambert, who doesn’t get nearly enough credit for his part in creating the Inspirals’ sound, screams away on guitars, driving us all out on the dance floor, daring us to keep up with his pace. And yeah, Tom Hingley delivers the goods in that deadpan, sing/speak that we know and love.

“I would search this world for you, even though you can’t imagine
I want to take you to China, I want to kiss you in Rome
I’d use rocket ships, mine sweepers, transistor radio receivers
I want to hold you, want to hold you too tight
Gonna break every bone of everybody in sight“

Yassss! “Dragging me down”!

For the rest of the Best tunes of 1992 list, click here.

Best tunes of 1992: #9 The Beautiful South “Old red eyes is back”

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I’ve already written in passing on these pages about how I wrote all of my first year university essays to Beautiful South’s third album, “0898”. The reason behind this was quite simple: it was one of the first albums I purchased on compact disc. Of course, it was a quieter album and I wrote most of my first years essays late at night. You see, I was living at home at the time and it was the only quiet time I had to myself in a very full house. I remember one night in particular when I had two essays due on the following day and I hadn’t started either one. I hopped myself up on Jolt Cola and set myself down with the intention to write both that night. I finished one and started the other, printing both in the early hours of the morning while sipping away at a Folgers instant. And the whole night long, “0898” was playing.

You might think that the way I experienced this album that year might have intrinsically led to me tying it up with bad memories. But not so. It is because of those long, arduous sessions that I know this album I intimately. I know every song, every note, every word. Whenever I listen to it, a smile is brought to my lips, many times throughout the listen, for different songs, for different reasons.

Is this Beautiful South’s best album? In my opinion, yes. I realize I am biased here. But I am willing to fight anyone who disagrees.

“Old Red eyes is back
Red from the night before the night before
Walked into the wrong bar walked into a door“

The album starts off with “Old red eyes is back”, a track that wasn’t particularly obvious as a single, but there it was nonetheless, the first single, poking at us with a sturdy red finger. It begins with Heaton singing passion, all alone against the heavy-handed playing of a grand piano, then, at the end of the first verse, the rest of the band joins in, drums and guitars and synthesized strings, back up vocals and all, making a statement, an exclamation mark, railing against the evils of alcoholism. I was new to alcohol at the time, only just  experimenting here and there with beer and wine and rum. I’d had a good time with it but understood there were dangers there. And of course, I clung to the tragedy of it all.

“Old Red he died
And every single landlord in the district cried
An empty bottle of whiskey laying by his side
A lazy little tear running from each eye
They could never be blue“

The Beautiful South were a pop band but they were also a social conscience and that’s what I loved about them, especially at the beginning. Yes, there was that singular voice of Paul Heaton. But without the meaning that spoke to me, I may never have fallen for them.

I did, though, and this song is a big reason why. So, so good.

For the rest of the Best tunes of 1992 list, click here.