Sunday, October 7, 2018

"Life in a Northern Town" by The Dream Academy

Top 10 Alert!
Rated 10 Alert!
Song#:  2550
Date:  11/30/1985
Debut:  89
Peak:  7
Weeks:  21
Genre:  Chamber Pop, Dream Pop

Pop Bits:  This UK trio formed in 1983 and consisted of Nick Laird-Clowes, Gilbert Gabriel, and Kate St. John. Their concept was to do their own brand of pop music that would featured more non-traditional instruments in the arrangements, such as oboe, which was part of multi-instrumentalist St. John's skills. Their unique sound wasn't met with open arms by labels and they spent nearly two years in search of a deal. Finally, Warner Bros. took a chance on the band and signed them up. It certainly helped that Laird-Clowes had become friends with Pink Floyd's David Gilmour and the pair ended up co-producing nearly all the tracks on the band's self-titled debut album. This atmospheric track was pushed out as the first single and despite its unusual (for pop) arrangement, the song caught on. It would reach #7 at both Pop and Rock while nearly topping the AC chart at #2. The hit certainly sold albums and their debut would reach the #20 spot. In their UK homeland, the song would do well reaching #15.

ReduxReview:  This song hit so many of my buttons that I remember nearly crying the first time I heard it. It had great melodies, a big hooky chorus, an African chant, and an awesome arrangement complete with oboe and timpani! What is not to love? The song's folky, wistful feeling was something completely different for pop radio yet it worked. I absolutely adored this tune and still do. The album was also one of my favorites that year. You'd think that perhaps a remake of this song might be a bit impossible as the whole aura of the song would be lost. However, I've heard two that didn't disappoint. One was by Sugarland (see below) and the other was a rockier one by Chris Collingwood. I'm sure there may be others, but these stood out to me. One of my favorite songs from the 80s.


Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) Although the song is not specifically about him, the band considered it a tribute to influential English singer/songwriter Nick Drake. Drake was known for his three meditative folk albums recorded between 1969 and 1972. While the LPs barely sold (about 5k each), they were highly influential to many artists and were critically well-received. Drake shied away from the spotlight and suffered from depression. In 1974, he died from an amphetamine overdose at the age of 26. Cause of death was determined as suicide. Over time his legacy grew and a whole new audience discovered his music thanks to the use of his song "Pink Moon" in a 1999 Volkswagon television ad. Since then, his albums have sold nearly 3 million copies and have continued to inspire many artists.  2) The hit country band Sugarland would later cover this song on their 2007 tour. They would be joined on stage by their tour mates Little Big Town and Jake Owen for the performance. A video of the three acts performing the song on tour was created for CMT and it quickly became popular. Although it was not officially released as a single, airplay of the song made it peak at #28 on the Country chart while downloads of the song (it got issued out as part of the deluxe version of Sugarland's Love on the Inside album) allowed it to get on the Pop chart at #43. The recording would earn the three acts a Grammy nomination for Best Country Collaboration with Vocals.


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