Best tunes of 1991: #12 The Farm “All together now”

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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.

100 best covers: #83 The Farm “Don’t you want me”

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Here’s a cover for the list that I realize might not be my most popular pick. I’m well aware that it is purely about nostalgia and time and place. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

When I was very young, I had a vinyl collection, mostly 45s, and mostly records connected with storybooks from the Walt Disney and Sesame Street family. I don’t know what age I was, but definitely before ten years old, I received my first “real” music record from one of my cool aunts, probably my Aunt Kathy. It was, as you might have guessed, the 7” single of Human League’s “Don’t you want me”, backed with “Seconds”. Of course, I didn’t know then that it was the fourth single to be released off the synth pop group’s third album, heck, I didn’t even know what synth pop was, but I played it all the time, along with its B-side, and danced around my little bedroom like a maniac.

Just under a decade or so later, I had just graduated high school and was wondering what to do with my life. I was quite deep into music, this new alternative stuff, mostly of the baggy, madchester persuasion, and one of my favourite albums of the moment was “Spartacus”, the debut album by The Farm. My friend Andrew Rodriguez got a copy of the sophomore release, “Love see no colour”, for Christmas, which he promptly recorded for me. I won’t lie. I was a bit disappointed with the first few songs but then, there were some higher moments, and then, six songs in was a cover of this song from my youth. I fell in love with it all over again. I only later learned that the cover was originally recorded for an NME-related compilation called “Ruby Trax” a few years later when I picked it up in a used CD store on McCaul street in Toronto.

Despite being recorded almost a decade apart, the two versions are not all that far apart in sound. The Human League’s “Don’t you want me” is definitely more synth heavy and mechanical and The Farm’s cover has more guitar work and some synth flourish to plug the gaps left by the austere original. Nevertheless, both are quite dated sounding today. Again, definitely time and place. And if I hadn’t been there for both originally, this post might not have happened at all.

Thoughts?

The cover:

The original:

For the rest of the 100 best covers list, click here.