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I Could Be Dreaming: the Belle and Sebastian song-by-song, album-by-album thread

Discussion in 'Music Corner' started by Lance LaSalle, May 21, 2020.

  1. Lance LaSalle

    Lance LaSalle Prince of Swollen Sinus Thread Starter

    On this thread, starting tomorrow, the 22nd of May, I will hold up one song per day for discussion and rating by the Scottish band Belle and Sebastian, including side projects.

    Songs will be rated on a 1-5 basis. Decimals are OK! While ratings are appreciated, there is no obligation to rate songs to participate in the thread. It is mainly a place for fellow fans to explore and discuss the development of the band's music, especially the songs of lead songwriter Stuart Murdoch, but also for the other members of the band and their various side-projects.

    A self-described "product of botched capitalism", Belle and Sebastian formed in Glasgow, Scotland in 1994 when young, out-of-work musicians Stuart Murdoch and Stuart David met in a pop music course at Stow College for which they had signed up in order to keep themselves drawing government money for the unemployed.

    I plan to cover every song I can discover; live albums will be covered too, though as a whole, not as a song-by-song basis, unless the song is unique to that live album.

    If you're a fan of any or all periods of Belle and Sebastian, please chime in with your thoughts on the music or your experience with the band over the last twenty-five years!
    Last edited: May 21, 2020
  2. lemonade kid

    lemonade kid Forever Changing

    Have heard good things, especially as a gateway to Nick Drake, but I don't know their music...hope I find a new music love here..
    vivresavie, popscene and WilliamWes like this.
  3. Catbird

    Catbird Forum Resident

    Go for it, chiel!
    I’ve got all the vinyl lps up to and including The Life Pursuit. Plus the collection Push Bar Man to Open Old Wounds on cd. Also, I’ve got the first three vinyl lps from Looper.
    popscene and Lance LaSalle like this.
  4. Chemguy

    Chemguy Forum Resident

    All for it! Great idea!
    popscene and Lance LaSalle like this.
  5. Catbird

    Catbird Forum Resident

    I didn’t go off them - I thought The Life Pursuit was a terrific record. But for some reason I just never got round to buying those lps that came after it.

    Edit: just realised I’m missing Dear Catastrophe Waitress too.
    popscene and Lance LaSalle like this.
  6. therunner

    therunner Forum Resident

    Hi Lance, you seem vaguely familiar, I've got a feeling I've come across you somewhere before :D

    I'm amazed that someone else besides me likes the Finns and Belle & Sebastian, given how different their musical styles are from each other, but maybe the wonderful melodies are the link ?

    Anyway, it's exciting for me to set off on another of your thread journeys, having seen what a brilliant job you do with them, so thanks for this my friend.
    popscene, BeSteVenn and Lance LaSalle like this.
  7. WilliamWes

    WilliamWes Forum Resident

    New York
    Hey Lemonade Kid I hope you're doing well with this stuff going on. Definitely Nick Drake but I always got a Donovan vibe off them and I'm sure you like Donovan so you'll be fine. They had an anonymous period early in their career so it took me a long time to actually see what the group looked like but they've always been highly melodic from the get-go. Their earlier albums are great so you'll be able to decide early on.
    Hey Lance, nice to see you again since the alternative thread last year. I know you're on the Lennon thread with me too. I'm a fan of Belle and Sebastian, I'm hoping there's enough here for a song-by-song and you doing it by song is the only way I'll have enough time to comment since I'm so thrilled about the 90's and beyond/alternative threads going on lately that I'm on all of them. I can post but only after each album is completed.
  8. Lance LaSalle

    Lance LaSalle Prince of Swollen Sinus Thread Starter

    According to Wikipedia, core members of Belle and Sebastian, Stuart Murdoch and Stuart David recorded several demos in 1995 while in the Beatbox course at Stow College. Four of those demos were compiled into an EP called Dog On Wheels, whicih was released on the 12th of May 1997.
    AT the time of release, the band had already released two albums, however, the recordings on the EP predate their debut album. As far as I know they are the earliest recordings that the band made that have been released. (Please correct me if I'm wrong!)

    At th time of recording the core members of the band were:
    Stuart Murdoch: vocals, guitar
    Stuart David: bass
    David Campbell: drums

    The four songs on the EP were:

    1. "Dog on Wheels"
    2. "The State I Am In"
    3. "String Bean Jean"
    4. "Belle & Sebastian"
  9. Lance LaSalle

    Lance LaSalle Prince of Swollen Sinus Thread Starter

    Today's song is "Dog On Wheels", written and produced by Belle and Sebastian.

    Lyric can be found HERE, among other places.

    The line up on this song was:

    Stuart Murdoch: vocals, guitar
    Stuart David: bass
    Mick Cooke: Trumpet
    David Campbell: drums

    Mick Cooke would later become a full-fledged member; however this is the only song he played on on this EP.

    Additional contributors to the EP were Mark McWhirter, Michael Angus and David Mackenzie; however it is unclear which songs they played on and what they played. However, I don't hear much else than guitar-bass-trumpet-drums on this song. The EP was released on Jeepster Records
  10. Lance LaSalle

    Lance LaSalle Prince of Swollen Sinus Thread Starter

    The understated rhythm section really draws me in: David Campbell would be gone by their debut album Tigermilk, but there's something about the groove he works up with Stuart D that works for me. Mick Cooke's trumpet solo lends the song a lovely and exotic flavor -- the slightly Mexican melody of the solo should be out of place, but there is some magic is that it works perfectly with the rest of the hushed performance, perhaps suggesting to me the fertile imagination of the soong’s protagonist.

    Really, though, this is all about Murdoch's exquisite melody and emotional lyric, which manages to create a quite clear portrait of a sensitivity and wonder, and a matter-of-fact pain tempered with the slightly humorous image of the dog on wheels.

    What does the dog on wheels symbolize? To me it symbolizes the secret part of the shy, heartbroken boy that he nourishes with the things he observes and his feelings about them: the part of him that will eventually blossom into a potent artist.

    Murdoch's fragile voice sells the song perfectly. This song gives me the proverbial chills. Murdoch of course had been writing songs for years by now (he was probably in his late twenties when it was recorded); it is clear that by the time he had already developed his unique style and sound.

    Last edited: May 22, 2020
  11. LivingForever

    LivingForever Always one more tomorrow...

    Stuart David’s book “in the All-Night Café” is an absolute must for anyone interested in the early history of the band.
    Gave me a whole new appreciation for this really early stuff :)
  12. Lance LaSalle

    Lance LaSalle Prince of Swollen Sinus Thread Starter

    That’s cool. I look forward to seeing your contributions!
    WilliamWes likes this.
  13. Sammy Waslow

    Sammy Waslow Just watching the show

    A fantastic book!
  14. Lance LaSalle

    Lance LaSalle Prince of Swollen Sinus Thread Starter

    Some more general notes on the EP:

    • it seems to have been recorded and mixed in one day;
    • and despite the bandcredit, Stuart Murdoch seems to have been in full control.
    • He recorded his acoustic guitar first, and then overdubbed other bits to that, reasoning that the singer should set the pace for the tempo; and thus the drummer had to listen and slow down and speed up as Murdoch himself did, which the drummer did not like.
    • Murdoch wrote the melody of the solos himself; with other instruments he simply said what he didn't want, where he wanted the pieces to be and let the band members create their own arrangements.
    • The session was engineered by a fellow student, Steve MacKenzie, who seems to have be an almost complete amateur; but he regularly engineered sessions by his fellow students at the Beatbox school at this time. It was this inexperience perhaps that allowed Stuart-as-producer to have his head: a more experienced producer might have imposed certain rules on the recording, added reverb and compression and other effects or recorded with a click track; all of which was vehemently opposed by Murdoch.
    • The songs released two years later on the Dog On Wheels EP were completely untouched.
    Last edited: May 22, 2020
  15. croquetlawns

    croquetlawns Forum Resident

    It's one of their best!
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  16. Sammy Waslow

    Sammy Waslow Just watching the show

    Straight out of the traps, Dog On Wheels is like a template for the early EPs and the first two albums in particular. Intimate lyrics with a fragile delivery and DIY instrumentation. I can't remember the order in which I acquired everything, but I had the Dog On Wheels EP fairly early on. I thought it was great.
  17. Sammy Waslow

    Sammy Waslow Just watching the show

    I got my copy signed. :)

  18. pwhytey

    pwhytey Forum Resident

    Big fan here and really happy to see this thread happening. The moment I first heard Belle and Sebastian, I felt a stab of nostalgia, like I'd always had their music in my collection. Their sound reminds me of Donovan's album tracks from his 60s psychedelic peak — ethereal, a little bit fey, and unashamedly appealing to a niche audience.

    The Dog on Wheels EP is a great debut and this song is very strong. I love the vocal and trumpet and the Spanish/Mexican percussion.

  19. Tim 2


    Alberta Canada
    Good start to a good thread. :righton:
    Dog on Wheels is in my top ten fav Belle and Sebastian songs. 5/5
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  20. popscene

    popscene Forum Resident

    San Marcos, CA
    Belle & Sebastian looms very large in my personal history. Although my wife and I met in 1997 over a mutual love of Blur and Britpop, Belle & Sebastian was the first band we “discovered” and obsessed over together.

    I know we got the 3...6...9 Seconds 7” first, but Dog On Wheels followed very closely. They could do no wrong in those days. And, long before we could see them live (and we now have on many, many occasions) or read/saw interviews, they just seemed so enigmatic. They were the best band for young intellectual introverts since The Smiths. We mail ordered everything we could from Jeepster - the “Study At Stow” t-shirt, the little books written by Stuart David, the playing cards...we found an illicit connection to hook us up with a cassette dub of Tigermilk. We were hooked.

    When I would describe this new band to friends, the closest approximation I could think of was “They’re like Love fronted by Donovan.” That was probably off-base in general, but pretty close based on “Dog On Wheels.”

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  21. lemonade kid

    lemonade kid Forever Changing

    All's well here, WW. Keeping safe...hope you and yours and all well.
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  22. lemonade kid

    lemonade kid Forever Changing

    The comparison to LoVE is compelling for me, of course. The rhythm guitar and horns evoke a very Forever Changes vibe....I can't think of a higher compliment.

    Great start to the B & S thread!
  23. ACAB

    ACAB Forum Resident

    Herndon, VA
    This thread ought to bring out lurkers from the old Bowlie and Sinister messageboards.
    popscene and Lance LaSalle like this.
  24. marigoldilemma

    marigoldilemma Forum Resident

    Good idea for a thread. Love everything they did up through DCW. I still generally buy their albums, but it's not quite the same. My favorite is actually the often maligned "Fold your hands child..." LP. The early EPs are fantastic.

    Dog on Wheels
    Four and three eighths.
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  25. Lance LaSalle

    Lance LaSalle Prince of Swollen Sinus Thread Starter

    Are there any current forums for B&S fans? (outside of Facebook groups.) There is not tons of biographical material on the band and those forums can often be good for learning little details.
    hello people likes this.

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