Tuesday, September 18, 2012

The Dream Academy--Life in a Northern Town (1985)

     The story of The Dream Academy began with the meeting of singer/guitarist Nick Laird-Clowes and keyboard player Gilbert Gabriel in the late 70's. They formed a duo called the Politics of Pop which emphasized different musical textures such as strings and woodwinds. They met and invited multi-instrumentalist Kate St. John to be a part of the group. With her addition, they changed the name to The Dream Academy and spent the next couple of years developing their sound. They were rejected by many record companies when Warner Brothers took a chance in 1985.
     The suits and Warner wasn't convinced of the marketability of  the first single, "Life in a Northern Town" and attempted to change it by adding a drummer, but Laird-Clowes and Gabriel dug in their heels and refused to change it. The song, released in the fall of 1985, made it up to number 7 on the charts, and the debut album it was on made it to the top 20. A follow up, "The Love Parade" found it's way to the top 40 the next year. Those were the only two hits here in the US, with the last showing on the top 100 coming in 1986 with a song off of the soundtrack to the movie, "Ferris Bueller's Day Off". Oddly enough the group never toured until 1991, years after they were relevant, then split up.
     The song itself was about Nick Drake, the British singer-songwriter of the early 70's. It's sound perfectly captured the melancholia of the tragically short life of Drake. It was a striking difference in sound from everything that was around it at the time, and of course like the best songs of any era, it cannot be pigeon-holed into a certain era.


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