Back to Tuesday Tens after a bit of a break (an enforced one, really, after a busy period of work and other commitments), and I return this week to a post I’ve actually been thinking about for some years (and it will continue next week, too).
The subject this week is that of dreaming, of the ideas, emotions and feelings that come into your head, usually during sleep. I’ve long wanted to cover this subject, but until I put out a call for song suggestions, I didn’t have the right songs to write about (and even with the mass of suggestions – I had 84 to choose from – I still stuck with two or three of my original shortlist from years back). Thanks as ever to everyone who offered suggestions.
Next week I will flip things over and look at nightmares, and perhaps obviously, next week’s playlist will be rather darker than this one.
As usual, if you’ve got something you want me to hear, something I should be writing about, or even a gig I should be attending (aside from the nine in my calendar for May already!), e-mail me, or drop me a line on Facebook (details below).
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Whatever Gets You Through The Night
One of the many highlights from one of the best albums ever covered on amodelofcontrol.com (#1 on Countdown: 2010: Albums – seriously, though, it’s been that long already?), the story behind this song only came clear when a video was released for it, although it was never clear whether the events detailed actually happened or were the result of very detailed dreams indeed (well, the press at the time suggests it was “real”, but I was never sure!). Either way, it’s a great story, and an even better song, frankly, as the dreamlike sequences sinuously curl around the muscular beat and the glorious chorus. If you’ve never heard this album, I’m not exaggerating when I say that it one of the best electro-synth(pop) releases in the past two decades.
Dreaming of Me
Speak & Spell
The very first DM single, and while it sounds primitive compared to the lushness of their early work, it is still an intriguing song. The upbeat synths and jaunty beat suggest a bright, positive song, until you dig into the stark lyrics, which provide a picture of anything but. There are films, there is hope, perhaps unrequited love as the protagonist keeps dreaming of a better future. The future was indeed possibly better than the band could ever have imagined, even for early bailer Vince Clarke, who went onto great success with Erasure, although even that was eclipsed by the planet-straddling sound of Depeche Mode just a decade later.
Whatever (I Had a Dream)
Romeo + Juliet OST
One of the great mysteries of Alternative Music’s explosion into the mainstream into the nineties is quite how Capitol Records thought signing these acid-drenched lunatics was a good idea. Somehow, they did have a few minor hits – and more importantly, perhaps, found their way onto a lot of soundtracks, and made a bigger audience for themselves along the way. The song provides an even more strange, twisted take on the famous love story than Luhrmann’s neon-lit film does, but somehow still smooths the edges of the band’s genuine oddness a bit. God only knows what curious listeners thought of the rest of the band’s output when they started investigating a bit further…
I Had A Dream, Joe
Even among the rich, three-decade back-catalogue of the Bad Seeds’ work, Henry’s Dream still towers over much of it (although my wife, I’m sure, will remain fixed with Murder Ballads as her favourite). Of course, much of the album, as the title suggests, is preoccupied with dreams, visions and unreality (and unreliable narrators, too, although that’s very much a Nick Cave trope – “never take things at face value” might be a common takeaway from his work), but one of the strongest moments is the driving, punky rush of this track, that appears to be dealing with visions of Jesus in dream – and nightmare – form.
Not all dreaming happens when asleep, of course, as Massive Attack remind us in one of the (many) highlights on Blue Lines. Until listening to it again for this, I had somehow not noticed that the song is very much structured like a daydreamer might hear it. While Shara Nelson’s vocal soars into the clouds, and floats along – the daydreamer – the members of Massive Attack provide the grit of real life, with the thundering, sampled rhythm, and the boastful rapping sequences that provide a stark contrast to her.
Never exactly a band – or more particularly a singer – rooted in reality, it perhaps seems apt to feature Queen Adreena here. Katie Jane Garside always seemed to be a singer that was on a different plane of existence to everyone around her, only joining everyone else, it seemed, when she used her surprising physicality onstage to bounce off – or floor – her bandmates. Which brings us to the rolling, swinging beats of Soda Dreamer, with the buzzing riffs and the dreamy, cryptic (as ever) vocals of Katie-Jane. Queen Adreena were a fascinating band – and an astonishing live band, too – they were just perhaps too strange for mainstream consumption, not to mention just plain unstable as a unit.
One artist who came up time and again in the suggestions thread for this post was Kate Bush, who on closer inspection has used dream imagery in many songs (and indeed on entire albums, and it could perhaps be said that I could have featured The Ninth Wave suite as a whole), but the one most fascinating to me was The Dreaming, a deeply conceptual and yes, difficult album that was met with bemusement at the time and nearly ended her career. The title track, though, deals with the Aboriginal concept of Dreamtime, in short their creation story (although it’s far more complex than that). That said, this unusually structured track was probably the most accessible song on the album, which maybe says a lot about how difficult this album can be.
The Tooth Fairy and the Princess
A common trope in film and TV is to dismiss previous fantastical, outlandish events with a closing “it was all a dream”, to almost excuse the lunacy that has passed before, as if it couldn’t possibly happen. But in music, that idea is rarely used, probably because it would mostly need a concept album to carry it. It has happened, though, and Hüsker Dü are that band who did it – on what was just their second full-length album. The twenty-four song, sprawling double album details the unremittingly miserable life of a boy who leaves home and finds that life away from home is even worse – and yes, as brilliant as it is, this is a tough listen at points. But, this song then seems to make clear that has happened before was just a dream anyway. Cop out, or not? Your call. Either way, it is an album worth returning to, that’s for sure.
Such an exquisite song that it has long since eclipsed the rather forgotten film that it comes from (which, interestingly, was perhaps a long way ahead of it’s time in dealing with human-computer “relationships”, in 1984), this is perhaps the best thing Oakey ever was involved in. And yes, that’s a bold claim, thinking about how good much of the earlier Human League output was/is, but really, this song is absolutely, gloriously, perfect. Moroder provides the sleek electronics, while Oakey delivers a soaring, rousing vocal that is one of love and hope, and likely refers to the unfulfilled hopes and dreams of the protagonists of the film. But even if you know nothing of the film, it is still brilliant – an encapsulation nowadays of the tangling of our real-life and electronic relationships, perhaps, how our connected world allows us to hold deep friendships over the longest of distances…
The Impossible Dream
1992 – The Love Album
The Impossible Dream for Carter at the time was the Christmas Number One, and while released in time for Christmas 1992, it didn’t work out as it peaked at #21 in the charts a few weeks before (the album was a #1 hit, mind) – the Number One at Christmas that year, by the way, was the awful, saccharine Whitney Houston cover of I Will Always Love You. Anyway, back to Carter, and this sweeping ballad, a cover of course of the song from Man of La Mancha, is a surprisingly tender take, without the usual bitterness, cynicism and humour that were the hallmarks of Carter’s best songs.
Next week: nightmares provide the flipside.