Stranger than Fiction, Larger Than Life: the Finn Brothers song-by-song discussion thread

Discussion in 'Music Corner' started by Lance LaSalle, Jan 21, 2019.

  1. Lance LaSalle

    Lance LaSalle Prince of Swollen Sinus Thread Starter

    This is a flat-out 5 for me. I love this song, mainly the music, but the lyrics are great. Another plea for connection, I see it as a plea for sexual connection as a way to cleanse a relationship of its emotional debris and residue of pain.

    It is thematically connected both to the last song on the album and the next one: and it's the lack of connection that drives the angst of the first one.

    But it's the music that gets me. Kelter and Scheff really, really rock the house, first of all. This may be the finest drumming I've ever heard from Keltner or anybody!

    And the bass-line is just incredible to me. It's amazing how much Scheff varies the basic ideas of the bass line and what he does in the guitar solo part is nothing short of eargasmic.

    But, again it's the way the melody cuts through the chords of this that really gets me. It's Beatle-y I suppose, but so so good. The two parts sound so made for each other I can't believe that they weren't written that way originally. And I love....absolutely LOVE Neil Finn's shouty lead vocal, especially at the end.

    personal note:

    "Dont Dream It's Over" was the first single I heard from these guys, and it was a bit too adult contemporary for me at the time (I was only 16.) Both my parents loved it. I grew to love it.

    I was more interested in "Something So Strong", when that hit big. I liked that cheesy video! But one night, late on a weekend, watching Night Flight or something -- I did not have MTV....or friends, so that's what I did on weekends as a teenager -- I caught the video for "Now We're Getting Somewhere." The video didn't impress me; the music did. I loved it then as much as I do now.

    The harmonies in the song, the way the melody cuts through the chords was so beautiful for me and still is. It was this song, heard only once, that finally inspired me, back in 1987 to actually make a trip to Wal-Mart and shoplift the album.
    (I later bought the CD version twice and the deluxe version once to date, so hopefully I've made up for my youthful transgression.)
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  2. robcar

    robcar Forum Resident

    Denver, CO
    "Now We're Getting Somewhere" is another brilliant track. As we've already discussed, producer Mitchell Froom convinced Neil to combine the best parts of two different demo songs (both of which we've discussed up-thread and both of which are available as bonus tracks on the deluxe edition reissue) into a single track and this is the result. The song immediately distinguishes itself due to how it swings rhythmically. The album recording utilized the talents of one of the great rhythm sections - Jim Keltner and Jerry Scheff - after it became apparent that Paul and Nick simply weren't able to lay it down to Neil and Froom's satisfaction. As a result, the song just cooks.

    Lyrically, the song is definitely more decipherable than the first two cuts but is still a long way from making complete literal sense to me. I can figure out the general theme of the lyric at least, which is an improvement over WWYL. There are specific bits that just work for me - an example being "tell me what went wrong", sung so pleadingly by Neil. Neil, in fact, shines here as a vocalist, more so than on the first two tracks. It's a wonderful lead vocal, alternately pleading and angry and wistful. I'm not sure what that instrument is playing during the instrumental break (my liner notes aren't handy), but it lends an almost eastern European vibe to the proceedings (just as the opening harmonium or whatever that is gives it a French feel). It's a marvelously constructed song, which makes its origins all the more amazing.

    The song was released as the third single from the album overall, but only in Australia/New Zealand, Canada, and the US (it was the second single in the latter two markets). It wasn't a big hit anywhere. The previously-discussed non-LP "Recurring Dream" (the original version/mix) was the b-side, except in the US where album track "Tombstone" was used instead. I'm surprised that this cut wasn't a single in the UK or continental Europe, as it would seem to have been well-suited for those countries.

    A decent live version recorded in San Francisco on 4-9-87 was later released as a b-side on the 1988 European "Into Temptation" single and was again used as a b-side in 1991 on the UK "Fall At Your Feet" single. Nick and Paul, however, just couldn't quite match the studio recording, I'm afraid. My favorite live version (that I've heard) has unfortunately not been officially commercially released. It's from a show in Sydney on 8-25-88 and it appeared on the fan club State of Mind release. I know we're not discussing fan club releases in this thread, but I thought that this version was just too good to go unremarked upon. Thankfully, there's a video of it right here:
    Crowded House - Now We're Getting Somewhere (live in Sydney 1988)

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  3. Lance LaSalle

    Lance LaSalle Prince of Swollen Sinus Thread Starter

    I think it’s fine and helpful to discuss the fan club releases;, I just don’t want to hold them up for rating.
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  4. HitAndRun

    HitAndRun Forum Resident

    This for me is a very good song. It's not one of my personal standouts. I've always considered the lyrics to be a (refreshingly optimistic) view on ending Split Enz and starting Crowded House. Not sure how true that is given the history of the song, and on reading the lyrics the song seems to be more about a relationship than about the bands.

    I'm fine with Neil's vocal on this. I'd prefer that it was a band song - as people say Nick and Paul certainly learned how to play this live, but having the professional musician's example to work from would have helped by giving an example toward from.

    The parts of the song, the drums, bass, guitars and keyboards all work together well. Perhaps the bass is a bit pedestrian in places. For me, there's nothing that stands out in the arrangement, despite the shuffle rhythm. It sounds like a 'normal' CH song to me, which is always good. Perhaps my impressions of this song are coloured by the music that CH released later on, e.g. songs on Together Alone. I do think that CH grew as a band and that NIGS is one of their earlier 'simpler' songs. Musically at least.

    I'm going to change my policy on what numbers I give. There are going to be too many 4/5s for CH, and I think that will get boring. So, I'm going to start using fractions.

    3.9 / 5
  5. HitAndRun

    HitAndRun Forum Resident

    Fortunately the concert on the 29th of August at The Neck of the Woods in Auckland wasn't sold out ... and we have tickets!!!

    In hindsight, I should have checked out whether they are playing myself much earlier. Your post prompted me to go and google, and as you say most concerts are sold out. But, Auckland is not. I'm probably only going because of your post, as I may have procrastinated and missed out. So: thank you very much!!!

    And, apologies to Lance for going off-topic AGAIN!
    Last edited: Aug 15, 2019
  6. Paul H

    Paul H The fool on the hill

    Nottingham, UK
    I recall seeing CH live on their Woodface tour. I'd only had that album about 3 weeks and was still learning it. The only other songs I knew were those on the DDIO and SSS UK singles. Now We're Getting Somewhere was the first of many "new" songs I heard that night and it immediately impressed me: here was a band who could produce music that you knew instantly you were going to grow to love. As the years have passed I've become less fond of NWGS: sure, it's good. But good isn't really up to par in Finn-world. It's fun, it swings but it just doesn't take off the way so many other CH songs do. I can't even tell you why. I give this a solid - possibly even harsh - 3/5.

    It was shocking to me - after all those years of thinking how great a band CH was - to learn that NWGS was ostensibly a solo recording. That said, I can accept the use of hired help for a song where the band members are struggling to play what's needed. It must have been hugely disappointing for Nick and Paul - and really undermined their positions to the point where I could understand questions being raised about the whole idea of whether or not CH was a band - but it's clear that in the long run this recording was massively beneficial to both CH and the songs the band was serving. Boy did Nick and Paul learn how to swing.
  7. StefanWq

    StefanWq Forum Resident

    Vallentuna, Sweden
    I really love "Now We're Getting Somewhere". It really builds in intensity from the start with the accordion-sounding keyboard and the acoustic guitar to a real energetic rocker with a shuffle beat. Neil sings this one with such passion, as if it is a matter of life and death that he gets these words heard, right now. When I listened to the song now, the first verse sounds a bit like a reply to "The Devil You Know" from "Conflicting Emotions". In that track, the narrator wishes he had the courage to dive into the metaphorical sea, but finds himself "stuck by the rules of fate" and thinks "better the devil you know". From what I've read the last year or so of Split Enz was full of uncertainties, creative differences, hassles with the management and the record companies (Mushroom and A&M) and perhaps also a sense that they had reached a plateau both in terms of creativity and sales figures. Here the change has happened and again on this record, Neil sounds completely liberated, relishing in his new freedom and his fresh start, and also both his singing and the music itself is so full of determination and resolve. He doesn't know what the future holds, but I imagine he got fresh energy from being in Los Angeles, working with a new record company, an emphatic producer and he and the band are getting somewhere. I suspect one thing he may have disliked about the NZ Party Boys was a (subconscious) fear that if things didn't work out with Crowded House, he could end up being a sad has-been playing covers in dingy pubs. And now, recording the first Crowded House, he knows that whatever the future holds, he is no longer "stuck by the rules of fate" or playing in a covers band, but is embarking on a new adventure.

    The lyrics of the second verse have always sounded cryptic to me: "There's money in the Bible Belt / Hugs for daddy too / Three wishes for eternity / We've got some work to do", but somehow the words have the right feeling to them along with the music.

    The guitar solo really enhances the song. Too often in rock music in general, guitar solos are only there so that the lead guitarist can show off his or her technical skills, but here it really fits the flow of the song and makes it even better.

    I don't remember now if Crowded House played this song or not when I saw them in Stockholm in September 1986, but after the tour for the first album, "Now We're Getting Somewhere" seemed to be played live only rarely. That's a shame because it is an incredible track.
  8. Lance LaSalle

    Lance LaSalle Prince of Swollen Sinus Thread Starter

    Nick’s a little sloppy on that San Fran live version but Paul has it down.
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  9. dthomas850

    dthomas850 Forum Resident

    Cleveland, Ohio
    The first 7 songs on this album are absolutely perfect to me, so....another 5/5
  10. Bryce

    Bryce I drank what?

    New York City
    I would love to see Everyone is Here get a vinyl release. Anyone know if that's in the cards?
  11. dthomas850

    dthomas850 Forum Resident

    Cleveland, Ohio
    I'd like a double vinyl with all the b-sides included, now that would be awesome!
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  12. therunner

    therunner Forum Resident

    I'm with PaulH on NWGS in that I used to like it more than I do now - I guess everything's relative, and after the band produced much better songs on later albums, this one paled a bit in comparison. I like the verse with Neil singing solo but the chorus sounds a bit karaoke when the band all join in. The swing sound is fun though. 3/5
  13. robcar

    robcar Forum Resident

    Denver, CO
    Yeah, I thought they were both better on that 1988 performance I posted the link to, especially Nick.
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  14. Have to go with a 4/5 on NWGS just because if I don't do a lot of 4s I'll be handing out 6s and 7s all willy nilly.

    I don't know that I'm buying the notion that Paul couldn't get the beat down early on - I have long thought he doesn't always get credit for being as good as he actually was; he'd been playing since an early age thanks to his mother, she was a jazz drummer, he was wicked with brushes, so it just doesn't add up. Perhaps the song wasn't gelling on tape with the lineup as it was or something like that - but I can't follow the thread that it was to do with Paul's inability to lay down a swing/shuffle pattern.
    And so, dear reader, if you take nothing else away from this entire thread, know that there was once a time when you could just casually go to a Wal-Mart and acquire (through whatever means) a Crowded House record.
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  15. factory44

    factory44 Forum Resident

    Pittsburgh, PA USA
    NWGS gets a 4/5 from me. Great song!
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  16. Lance LaSalle

    Lance LaSalle Prince of Swollen Sinus Thread Starter

    Our votes for "Now We're Getting Somewhere":

    Average: 3.99
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  17. Lance LaSalle

    Lance LaSalle Prince of Swollen Sinus Thread Starter

    Today's song is "Don't Dream It's Over", written by Neil Finn.

    Spotify: Don't Dream It's Over

    The song was obviously a huge hit and is an iconic 80s classic, going to number 1 in Canada and New Zealand, number 2 in America (after a very long and steady climb) and Top Ten in numerous countries: Australia, Norway, Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands. Numerous covers have been recorded, most notably by Paul Young, who sent his version to number 20 in the UK, where the original was not particularly successful. It's been played in many films and TV shows and is probably Neil's most successful song.

    There was also an extended 12-inch version that was released.

    A remixed version was released in 1996, with a drier less "80s" sound that brought out some elements (synth, percussion) and underplayed others (Tim Pierce's lead guitar licks.)

    Several live versions have been released, both on Crowded House singles and the Recurring Dream and Farewell to the World live albums; Neil Finn solo versions have been released on 17 Worlds Collide and also on a free Daily Mail promo CD. Perhaps @robcar can give more details on the various versions extant.

    The story behind the song breaking is quite an interesting one. It involves an FBI crackdown on "Independent Promoters", who were necessary to break a song in the USA -- they would show up and schmooze radio stations with gifts (cocaine and other things, I suppose). The cost for breaking a single by a new act could be anywhere between $100 000 to $250 000. Because of this FBI crackdown, many record companies were afraid to utilize this indie promoters. Because of that, their price went down and Crowded House's manager hired four of them for a mere $2500 apiece, using his credit card to pay. This helped break the song on a few trend-setting stations and over time, it all snowballed into the huge hit it was to become.
  18. Lance LaSalle

    Lance LaSalle Prince of Swollen Sinus Thread Starter

    Demo version.

    Spotify: Don’t Dream It’s Over - Home Demo

    When I first heard this, I found it a bit too adult contemporary for my tastes, but over the many months it was playing on the radio back in the day, I grew to love it. It is in many ways a perfect pop rock single; while it's an 80s classic and the production is somewhat 80s, it transcends that song.

    Of course the message about the overwhelming negativity of the world, with it's wars, waste, and mindless entertainment as a response to the numbing information coming in and building "a wall between us" is timeless, as is the optimistic chorus in the midst of the gloomy verses; and it's the third song in a row in which Neil seems to be pleading for human connection.

    The song was written at a friends house in the middle of a party or get-together after Neil had had a falling out or argument with "someone very close to him". He closed himself in a room and came up with this song.

    The home he was in may well have been Tim's house in Melbourne (where Paul Hester was living while Tim was in London): at least Nick's comment (in @Jaffaman's interview on the deluxe CD liner notes) the "World Where You Live" piano demo kind of seems to imply that it was written on Tim's piano. The song is another one of those very mature relationship songs that manages to capture a very complex set of emotions using emotionally evocative, impressionistic lyrics.

    I give this a 5/5, it is a perfect ballad in some ways. I do feel that this song, while such a boon to Neil Finn's life, does get Crowded House and Neil a bit unfairly pegged in the eyes of the casual fans or non-fans who feel that the soft rock touchy-feely ballad is what he's all about. And in my opinion, it's very success and iconic status and the image it projects is partially to blame for Crowded House's future lack of success in the States, which is such a big part of their story.
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  19. robcar

    robcar Forum Resident

    Denver, CO
    So we've arrived at the most famous song by either Finn brother. It was deservedly a huge hit, but does it deserve to be the most famous song in Neil Finn's catalog? My personal opinion is nope, not by a long shot. I realize that this is probably not the most popular viewpoint, but the truth is that I have never really fully warmed up to "Don't Dream It's Over". I liked it when I first heard it on the radio and MTV back in early 1987, but I never loved it, and it didn't make me want to go out and buy Crowded House. I liked the follow-up single a whole lot more, to be honest. The song was a breath of fresh air at the time, but it still didn't stand out to me all that much from the likes of Cutting Crew and Richard Marx, with whom it battled for American chart supremacy.

    Over the years, I've come to appreciate the brilliance of its melody and arrangement, but I have never been able to come to terms with its lyrics. In the end, I simply do not know what this song is supposed to be about. I know I'm becoming a broken record here, but I quite honestly have a difficult time with most of Neil's lyrics on the first Crowded House album (with a couple of notable exceptions on "Side 2"). It's the chief reason I view the album as, by far, the weakest of the Crowded House (both Mk. I and Mk. II) albums. I still love the album, but nowhere near as much as I do the other five. Is "Don't Dream It's Over" a love song? I don't think so. Is it making some statement about mass media? If so, it's pretty garbled. The best I can do is figure that Neil was writing about the futility of letting others tell you what is good in the world or worth holding on to. That's a valuable message, but, if that's what the song is saying, it sure doesn't do it very directly. It all sounds good, but I'm left feeling as if the song ought to have a far better and more coherent, less abstract lyric than it does.

    My favorite three parts of the song are actually the opening guitar notes, which have a sad, elegiac minor key feel; the Hammond B-3 solo (brilliantly conceived and played by Mitchell Froom on one of my favorite rock instruments); and the closing section with the cascading melody just before the fade out. In other words, the parts that rely the least (if at all) on the lyrics or the singing. I acknowledge that millions of people are moved by this song and view it as one of the classics of popular music; I guess I just have to wonder what they get out of the song that I've never gotten. Perhaps the discussion here will illuminate something for me that I've missed all these years.

    If I'm ranking Neil Finn's greatest compositions, this one doesn't make my top 20.


    It was released as the fourth overall single from the album (albeit the third or just the second in most countries), with album track "That's What I Call Love" on the b-side (mistakenly given the incorrect running time of 4:22; no such version exists - it's the same as the 3:38 album version). A 12" single was released in Europe and Brazil, which added an extended 6:10 version of "Don't Dream It's Over". It's not very good at all as it draws out the opening section before the lyrics start in a needless and tedious manner. The rest of the song is oddly mixed as well. It can be heard here: Neil Finn - The Kitchen Sink III — Neil Finn

    The song became a huge hit in the US (reaching #2 on the singles chart) and then in many other countries around the world as well (it hit #1 in both NZ and Canada). Curiously, it only barely made the Australian Top 10 and it only just cracked the UK Top 30, which I've always found puzzling.

    The deluxe edition reissue of Crowded House includes, as a bonus track, the original home demo of "Don't Dream It's Over", which shows that the song was pretty much fully realized from the start with the exception of the organ solo. Several live or acoustic versions have been officially released over the years - some by Crowded House and some by Neil Finn solo or with various collaborators. I figure those can be discussed when we cover each of those years farther down this thread. I already mentioned the excellent live 1987 version from the Roxy in L.A. that first appeared on the US promo single re-release of "World Where You Live" and then later on some other singles. However, I do think that the 1996 Spike Stent remix ought to also be mentioned here. It was only released in the UK and Netherlands as a two-part single to promote the Recurring Dream: The Very Best of Crowded House compilation. However, the version on that compilation album was the same original version we've all known and (mostly) loved. The single version was a complete remix that, to my ears, is significantly superior to the 1986 album version. Unfortunately, I can't find a link to the '96 Version online and it hasn't ever been released again other than on the 1996 single (that I know of). There's a lot less reverb and consequently more depth to the soundstage on the remix. The organ parts are also more prominent throughout; in general, it's crisper and clearer and it's the version of the song I prefer to listen to. It made me wonder how the entire Crowded House album might sound if it were remixed in a similar manner. The '96 Version actually charted a few spots higher in the UK than the original 1986 single had done. There were a total of six live b-sides also included on this single, but I'll wait to run those down until we get up to 1996 here.

    I'm sure that DDIO is a 5 for most people, but I can only go with 4.5 for the original version (3.6 for the extended 12" version and 4.6 for the '96 Version).
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  20. Lance LaSalle

    Lance LaSalle Prince of Swollen Sinus Thread Starter

    Extended version:

    The extended version is interesting, mainly for study of the synth arrangement as it has some parts brought out; but it's obviously nothing special; but of all the versions I know (and I think I have seven) the original album mix is probably my favorite, though the 96 remix is more or less equal to me, and certainly less dated.
    Last edited: Aug 16, 2019
  21. I'm a little late on Now We're Getting Somewhere. I give it a 5/5. Those vocals are so urgent and pleading and filled with despair that the swing pulls you through it all with him.
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  22. Don't Dream It's Over is just fantastic on so many levels. 5/5
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  23. Lance LaSalle

    Lance LaSalle Prince of Swollen Sinus Thread Starter

    Mine too, but I can see why it is.
  24. robcar

    robcar Forum Resident

    Denver, CO
    Excluding live fan club or "instant live" concert CDs, the versions I have in my library (which is probably just about all of them aside from those included on Various Artists radio station CDs and the like) are:
    • Original 1986 Crowded House album/single version
    • Home Demo (bonus track on 2016 deluxe edition reissue of Crowded House)
    • Extended Version from 1986 UK/European/Brazilian 12" single
    • '96 Remix from 1996 non-LP UK/Dutch single
    • Live Sydney 1996 from Farewell to the World
    • Live London Fleadh 1994 from In Concert UK promo CD
    • Live Denver 2010 from Intriguer Live: Start to Finish
    • Live London 2007 from iTunes Festival: London - Crowded House (Live) EP
    • Live Dallas 2010 from North America Travelogue 2010
    • Live Cambridge 1992 from Recurring Dream: The Very Best of Crowded House bonus live disc
    • Live Winnipeg 2007 from Time On Earth tour edition bonus live disc
    • Live London 1991 from US "Weather With You" single and also the European "Four Seasons in One Day" single
    • Live Los Angeles 1987 from US promo "World Where You Live" single and later also the UK 12" "Something So Strong" single, the "Better Be Home Soon" 12" single and UK single, and the "Nails In My Feet" single (also on a 1-track Japanese promo single)
    • Live Dutch Radio VARA 1987 from Various Artists 2 Meter Sessies Vol. 2 CD
    • Solo acoustic Neil Finn version from Various Artists Diana, Princess of Wales: Tribute album (1997)
    • Solo live Los Angeles 2014 Neil Finn version released as 1-track digital single "Live from the US Dizzy Heights Tour"
    • Solo live London 2001 Neil Finn version released on Songs From Neil Finn UK promo EP (with The Independent newspaper)
    • Live Auckland 2001 Neil Finn & Friends version released on 7 Worlds Collide: Live At The St. James
    • Live Sydney 2013 Neil Finn & Paul Kelly version released on their collaborative Goin' Your Way live album
    Last edited: Aug 16, 2019
  25. I love the version placed on the Concert for Diana record. Is that the same as the 96 version?

    Also, I can't put my hands on it right now but there is a YouTube of Tim Pierce going over his guitar parts that is interesting overall on how the original release was recorded.

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