Archive for July, 2008

'Windpower' is 26 today!

Sunday, July 27th, 2008

On this day in 1982, I released my fifth UK single, ‘Windpower.’ It reached #31 in the UK charts, and not long afterwards I performed it on Top Of The Pops. I think the teen audience (and Sylvian-esque DJ Kid Jensen) must have been very confused! Most of them must be in their 40′s by now. After all, it took quite a few years for renewable energy to catch on, didn’t it? You can see the video here:

Reviving an 80's classic

Tuesday, July 8th, 2008

C’mon, don’t be so uncharitable. I did my part! You can’t hold me responsible for the duck costume.

Actually, I loved doing this music video. I got to direct Tim Robbins, Lea Thompson, and Holly Robinson, all of whom went on to become big stars. I lived at LucasFilm for a few months and hung out with the Oscar-winning sound and special effects departments at ILM. I drove around Marin County in a convertible Morris Minor covered in surf stickers. I wrote the songs for the movie with George Clinton and Allee Willis. My original musical score was kicked out by the studio because it was ‘too weird.’ Many of the themes ended up in Ken Russell’s ‘Gothic’ instead, which was supposed to be a horror film.

And just look at the comments on YouTube! HTD has a massive fanclub all over the world. It’s an evergreen cult classic.

eBay score

Sunday, July 6th, 2008

I scored these splendid steampunk binoculars on eBay today for £46. They are quite large, measuring over 10 inches when fully extended. According to the seller they were handed down from his grandfather, and they once belonged to one of the crew on the RMS Carpathia, the ship that saved 705 people from the sinking Titanic. Of course it’s hard to prove the provenance but it’s a nice story and I’m sticking with it.

I’m going to mount them on the ceiling of the wheelhouse control room in my lifeboat studio, using a concertina scissor mechanism. This will give me a sweeping view of the North Sea, where yachts frequently founder on the shallow sandbanks. Sweet!

Rumour has it that the residents of small villages in Cornwall and the Hebrides used to rig fake navigation and lure ships onto the rocks, then plunder their cargos. I think this would be a terrific way to fund the completion of the studio, and for that matter, my forthcoming album. Lifeboat turns pirate ship! I love it.

Happy Independence Day

Friday, July 4th, 2008

I was emailing back and forth with my old friend Grant Morris, a mad New Zealander. I remember when he was an alternative DJ in New Orleans and he’d play my song ‘I Love You Goodbye’ and people would call in and complain about the fact I said ‘county sheriff’ when in fact Louisiana has parishes, not counties; and they’d marvel at how I could drive all night to the Everglades (Florida) and then crash the car and stand there listening to the bayou (Louisiana!) rain. I could only reply that when you’re writing song lyrics, the historical and geographical (and even grammatical!) precision of the words is less important than how it SINGS. Grant wrote me this back today… very pertinent on the lyrical front, but ending with a classic quote about 4th July that could only have come from an elderly New Zealand mum.

“I agree with you 100%. Better that it sings well than makes any literal sense. I’m not sure that you even WANT a song to make literal sense. Even country songs that are the most literal of all aren’t really. What the hell is a “ring of fire”? When you “walk the line” how do you actually keep your “eye out for the ties that bind”? What does that even mean? It would be a pretty funny SNL sketch to sit down with some of the most famous song lyrics in a meeting with an executive and his results of a focus group test. “Do you have to WANT to hold her hand? Couldn’t it be something a little more ambitious? Could you want to hold her “bag”? It could be about shopping and everybody loves to shop don’t they?” Looking at lyrics cold without music is crazy. Hey, you know who you might like who sings some pretty good narrative songs, Rodney Crowell. Do you know his stuff? If not check out a 2001 album called The Houston Kid and listen to I Walk The Line (revisited) and you’ll be hooked from there.

Happy 4th of July! I was talking to my mother on Skype yesterday and she asked me “Who does the United States celebrate independence from?”. I told her “The British”. She looked genuinely surprised and said, “Did they have the Poms over there as well?”.”