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Wednesday, 13 April 2011

When All I Knew Was A Sunny Day: 'Under The Milky Way'

As we've been getting all melancholic and reflective of late, I thought this would be the ideal opportunity to write a Blog about a song that I really feel I should have written about before now.
But first a bit of perspective....

About 10 years ago, Griff asked me to compile a mixtape(this was in the days before we had mastered burning CDs or compiling MP3 playlists) of the songs that meant the absolute world to me, songs which had soundtracked my life to that point, and songs which I simply couldn't live without.
I began the tape with the song that not only meant the most to me, but which I felt was ME in songform, if that's not too pretentious! It's a song I can barely listen to now as it just get's me right HERE every time I hear it, so overpowering is it's hold over me. Simply hearing the song alters my perspective, and for a few minutes my DNA, and takes me to time free of unhappiness and stress, and one full of brio and nights on the lash.

The song is 'Under The Milky Way' by the Australian band The Church.
No other song in my vast collection of records, tapes, CDs and MP3s has the effect this song has on me. From it's strummy minor chords intro I'm drawn into a world that no longer exists but which comes spectacularly alive; "Sometimes when this place gets kind of empty// Sound of their breath fades with the lights".....the place IS empty now, but when I hear this song it rings with laughter, with passion, with the hopes of a young generation.
'Under The Milky Way' was released in late 1987(I think) and was played on Radio 1 a few times in early 1988 but failed completely to make the British charts at all. I find that utterly bizarre! Were there really 75 records that outsold this wonderful song at any point in 1988? Really??
In 1988 I jettisoned the bratty, obnoxious Punk image I had cultivated for the previous 5 years and began to take myself more seriously. It almost felt like I was emerging from a badly dressed coccoon. 'Under The Mily Way' soundtracked that whole experience. It was a song that was played before embarking on nights of revelry, and a song which acted as soothing balm when I crashed in in the middle of the night either with a heart full of young love, or a heart torn in a million pieces by some thoughtless girl. But mostly it acted as a salve for the intense burning of unrequited love that seemed to plague me in those days.
"I think about the loveless fascination".....Griff has always said that I'm too much of a romantic for my own good, but if being a romantic means suffering the painful pleasure of that REALLY unattainable girl....then I'm happy as I am.
"Wish I knew what you were looking for// Might have known what you might find".....sometimes I have to admit that I think the lyrics of my records are a voice speaking directly to me. As an Atheist, music is my religion and I often feel that certain voices and lyrics are like the voice of my own God directing my life. The amount of times I've heard that lyric and wondered if it was speaking directly to me, so often did I play the record in moments of emotional crisis.
"And it's something quite peculiar// Something that's shimmering and white// Leads you here despite your destination// Under the milky way tonight"....if you've read our Blogs you'll know that we talk a lot about how we spent our teenage years outside, prowling the streets on even the coldest of nights. I think that's why these lines resonate so deeply within me....the voice is saying "You may think you know where your life is headed, but that special girl, the one you can't see yet, will take you away from all this, to a better place".
The melancholy poignancy of the music aches like a stinging tattoo, the little scattershot synth flourishes flutter like your inside when she first speaks to you, the subliminal backward keyboard melody fills the air like her smile fills your dreams, the song reeks of perfume and lipstick, you can hear the gush of the burn at the bottom of the Auld Toon Brae as she wraps her arms around your head, the thump of the snare drum like second heartbeat required as your own is bursting at that first kiss.
You never forget those nights and you never forget the soundtrack that accompanies them.

Is this my favourite song of all time? You know, I'm not quite sure! It's certainly one of my Desert Island Discs, but does it mean more to me than something by The Smiths or The Beatles or Tindersticks or The Monkees or indeed ANY song I've written about in these Blogs? Who can tell? All I know is I could never live without it. What would be the point??
Interestingly despite my absolute adoration of this song I never checked out ANYTHING else by The Church....not one single note of music. Maybe I'm scared to tarnish the feelings I have for this track, or maybe my head hurts that EVERY song they have is as good as this one. But I'm happy to leave it like that.
They've left their mark on me.... that lovebite you hope never fades!


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