April 7, 2009

1985: The Dream Academy

The Dream Academy Life In A Northern Town:



The strange thing for an American obsessed with British music is that there are many videos I've never seen before. This tune, Life In A Northern Town, hit #7 on the US charts, but I don't really remember the clip, which is, of course, so very XO. Why couldn't I have been an English pop star running up and down the hills of Hebden Bridge in Yorkshire?

Second question: Could Nick Laird-Clowes be any cuter? I firmly maintain - pun intended - that the 80's were really the end of the great male pop stars. In the 90's, they became sexually self-conscious. Watch an interview with the band where baby-faced Nick talks about Nick Drake, whom he resembles. I love how he describes Dream Academy's tour as "very very Renaissance Fair." Sadly, they only did three albums before it all collapsed in a cliched drug haze.

I should note that the eponymous 1985 album this song come from is a fine, fine example of great early 80's British pop. People forget it was produced by Pink Floyd's David Gilmour, the same man responsible for bringing Kate Bush to the world of pop. Peter Buck of REM, pre mega-stardom, even plays on one of the tracks. Standouts include In Places On The Run, (Johnny) New Light, Edge Of Forever, This World and this one...

Dream Academy The Love Parade (TV appearance):



Note the rubber legs on that boy. Nick is now 52 and has aged well.

12 comments:

Dan said...

Great post! I only really know them through "Life In A Northern Town" but this post caused me to search out the album. I might be picking it up.

John said...

That first record (an actual record, mind you) was great stuff, and for a 14-year-old boy who romanticized all things England in his mind, it was a lush postcard that even the mundane was fabulous. Thanks for the reminder. The group Sugarland recently had a minor country hit with a remake of this that stripped away so much of what makes this song great.

countpopula said...

Great post! You know, I don't think we in America would remember the video because I believe they played a different clip on MTV here. I remember it being more of a performance/psychedelic set of images rather than an actual northern town.

This song will always be incredible. Edge of Forever was a fave of mine as well. Guess they couldn't really follow this up as the songs weren't catchy enough in the traditional sense--maybe Gilmour had something to do with that.

In any case, watching video #2, I am taken back to an era when people put so much effort & production into their songs, that if they tried to play them live, it could have been disastrous. Now, with technology and the general air of "it's OK to play live", much of that has gone (unless you are Britney or Janet and are too busy dancing). It's funny watching 3 people try to cover all the parts, and I realize that, while Pet Shop Boys or Erasure only have one instrument on stage (usually mimed), putting an accordion on Kate St. John which doesn't exist anywhere in the song's mix is like trying to compensate for having people just standing around with no instruments. I love how she tries to make it look like that synth sound is actually coming out of the accordion! Same with she & Nick trying to cover multiple vocal tracks. I seem to remember Debbie Harry being terrible at the lip sync on shows like Solid Gold.

Michael said...

The first album was really good. Life and Love Parade are still among my favorite songs.

The second album had a few good tracks. I was really fond of Indian Summer (despite its attempt to replicate Life) and the cover of Everybody's Gotta Learn Sometime.

The third album was pretty forgettable beyond the funky drummer John Lennon cover.

Phil said...

Nick wrote Life in a Northern Town in Newcastle where I come from. At the time, he was presenting the Channel 4 music show The Tube (look him up on YouTube, he's frightfully posh) and the Salvation Army band he mentions were stationed just down the road from the TV studios, Tyne Tees... pop fact, pop tarts!

will said...

I love "Life in a Northern Town". Definitely one of my favourite songs of the mid 80s! As is the case with all great songs, they get bastardized in car commercials in a veiled attempt to appeal to our generation's market share.

countpopula said...

I was just watching the Pet Shop Boys doc Life in Pop today, and Newcastle was featured a lot, as Neil is from there. Must be Newcastle Day!

Poster Girl said...

Another "I only knew them from 'Life In A Northern Town'" comment (pre-clicking on the "The Love Parade" video, that is), but, boy, is that a great song...

xolondon said...

Michael - I actually think the 3rd album is better than the second, because it's back to David Gilmour and the sound of the first.

Phil, I think you might be running around in the video as a young boy, yes?

Not sure about that Sugarland cover, but they DO have good taste.

Count I had not even noticed the miming stuff. Hilarious!

btaust said...

at the risk of sounding like a total completist - Dream Academy really were one of those admirable bands. their look? complete Mod Squad. "Love Parade" had a fab sleeve in an homage to Warhol's flower series. still have a VHS of initial vids of theirs complete w/ a cover of the Smiths "please please please'. 2nd lp was a little bit of a snoozer for me, but "indian summer" was supposed to be their attempt at Brian Wilson's "smile". 3rd lp - "a different kind of weather" contained a poignant and catchy "julie september" about heroin abuse - perhaps Edie's? or theirs? last big whiff I heard from Nick was a reincarnation as Trashmonk on Alan McGee's rehab of Britpop "Mona Lisa Overdrive". very trippy & in parts quite catchy. finally - didn't he have incredible cheek bones? beauty and melody in the bone.

Yuяi said...

No way! You are Facebook friends with Nick??!

Maguca Marnef said...

You can feel how cold was that town and how wet !!!! Of course, very melancholic too .One of my favourite videos of the 80´s...