Tuesday, January 26, 2021

Over: Don’t Dream It’s Over

Crowded House: Don’t Dream It’s Over

When this theme was announced, I decided to write about the X song, “Once Over Twice,” but before I even started that piece, I heard Crowded House’s great ballad, “Don’t Dream it’s Over” twice on different Sirius XM stations while driving around in my car. So, it seemed like the universe, or at least the satellite radio folks, were telling me something. 

This song was discussed on this blog back in 2011, before I started writing here, by “boyhowdy,” who was one of the fine writers who attracted me to the blog as a reader first, and then as a writer. Unfortunately, he doesn’t write very often here anymore (and not at all since 2018), but still writes quite well and somewhat irregularly at Cover Lay Down. As it is my oft-stated policy not to try to write something if someone has said it better already, and because boyhowdy is a really good writer, let me quote briefly from his short post: 

this well-known EnZed pop ballad is clearly intended to be romantic in nature. But strip away the pop production . . .and it, too, transforms effectively as an anthem for our times, a call for change in a world where the vitriolic stream of talk radio madness overwhelms any attempt at rational discourse, where the news stations dumb down our world daily in their attempt to demonstrate that every idea has two equal and equivalent sides, where my inner city students struggle to find safe haven in a culture which seems to have forgotten them. 

And remember that passage was written in 2011, when the idea of Donald Trump as president still seemed like a joke. (Damn. Can’t stop inserting politics into music posts. Bad Jordan.) 

“Don’t Dream It’s Over,” was written by Neil Finn, who I still have trouble distinguishing from his older and also very talented brother Tim, for his band Crowded House, and was released on their 1986 self-titled album. It was a massive international hit, peaking at No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100 in the US. Since I’m stealing stuff from better writers, here’s a description of the song two Australian writers, Andrew Ford and Anni Heino, from their book, The Song Remains the Same: 800 Years of Love Songs, Laments and Lullabies, as excerpted in The Guardian

It was the song you danced to at the end of the night, pressed close to the intriguing person you’d just met while wondering what might happen next. The palpable sincerity in Neil Finn’s voice and the expansive melodic line of the song’s chorus encouraged hope. The song was also fast becoming an anthem for Antipodeans overseas, the slightly maudlin counterpart to Men at Work’s novelty song Down Under. 

If you read the Guardian piece, there’s a lot more about the musical attributes of the song that I have no ability to write myself. 

According to Finn, despite the fact that he knew the song was good, it almost didn’t come together. He told Uncut (I can’t find a link to the whole interview): 

The day I did it, I knew I had something quite special. Then the next day we played it with the band and it sounded like a bag of s--t. It was only when Mitchell (Froom) suggested the bassline, which Nick (Seymour) elaborated on, that it really found its groove. I was wavering away doing demos, and Mitchell made some quite profound suggestions. Like an R&B bassline might be better than a rock or pop approach, or a Hammond organ could sound nice. These were not textures I was used to. He filled in quite a few areas that we weren't covering, but maybe it made our individual sound less distinctive. It took a while, but then 'Don't Dream It's Over' started to work in the US and whole record went on to have a pretty big life. 

Somehow, Neil Finn ended up in the most recent touring version of Fleetwood Mac (replacing Lindsey Buckingham), and the band performed the song as a duet by Finn and Stevie Nicks. Check out this version from a show in Auckland, New Zealand, not that far from where Finn was born, and where he probably never dreamed he’d be singing on stage with Stevie Nicks.

Hey now!