Wednesday, 20 March 2013

Don't Dream it's Over: Picking the hits

Games people play
Me and my best friend Chris Vining used to have this game we’d play, where we’d try to figure out what the next big radio hit would be. That comes from hours of working by ourselves at a greenhouse.

One day, he says, “I’ve got it.”

“What?” I asked.

“I Just Died in Your Arms Tonight by Cutting Crew,” he said.

“No,” I scoffed. “Don’t Dream It’s Over by Crowded House.”

“Are you kidding,” Vining said. “You can’t even understand all the words.”

Well, as the weeks passed by, the two songs followed each other up the charts. I told him Crowded House had some pedigree. It was made up of some of the guys from Split Enz. We all loved them because of that record they had a few years before that had designs cut into the vinyl itself by laser. Cutting Crew was new on the scene.
One day Saturday morning, Vining made a breakthrough.

"I think I've got it," he said.

I was puzzled.

"The third line, I think I've figured it out."

The album cover for Crowded House's
self-titled debut album "Crowded House"
The album cover for Cutting
Crew's debut album "Broadcast"
Lead singer Neil Finn tried to stuff as many words as humanly possible into it, and I couldn't understand it, no matter how hard I tried.

"Try to catch the deluge in a paper cup," he said.

"What?" I said. "That doesn't make sense."

Sure enough, the song came on the radio not too much after and Vining was bang on. There is an even more dense line, that I still haven't completely figured out.

Our contest concluded with Cutting Crew hitting number one. I heard it on Casey Kasem's Coast to Coast Countdown. I thought I was alone when I heard the news. Then, from the confines of that greenhouse's washroom, I could hear Vining yell: "Hey Vogt, did you hear who's number one."

I had a lump in my throat. It was the pride I had to swallow.

"Ya," I said. "But Crowded House is number two."

But number two is the first loser, on the Billboard charts, and especially to competitive teenagers. Although I take solace in the fact both songs hit number one on the Canadian charts.

The test of time
Cutting Crew may have won that battle but they lost the war. They have been relegated to the list of one-hit wonders of the 1980s, although that is a bit unfair. Their debut album "Broadcast" had a couple other great songs too: "One for the Mockingbird", which made an appearance in one of my favourite all time movies, "Can't Buy Me Love"; and "I've Been in Love Before", which actually hit number nine on Billboard. They petered out after that.

Crowded House had a couple great songs follow from their debut album, namely "Something So Strong", which also hit the top 10 on Billboard, and "The World That We Live". They kept on producing music, following up with their second album "Temple of Low Men", and the single "Better be Home Soon".

Neither band hit the level of success they had with their first albums, and the epic battle for number one their two songs waged in the spring of 1987.

The true test of longevity for me is simple. "Don't Dream it's Over" has been on Glee, and "I Just Died in Your Arms" has not.

And finally I understand all the words.

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