Wednesday, November 25, 2015

the dream academy

The Dream Academy inculcated the love parade in places on the run with sophisticated symphonic psychedelic soundscapes sketching life in a northern town.  The trio came together in London with Gilbert Gabriel and Nick Laird-Clowes playing together in various groups and Kate St. John joining later after a chance meeting at a party.  

Gilbert Gabriel:     "When I first met Nick, it was after a long day of auditioning for several bands in London. I had previously read in a book called The Reader's Digest that suggested that the more people you meet the more chance you have of manifesting your dreams (pretty obvious really). So I decided to triple my efforts and work in several bands and keep checking out new options. After a long day of auditions and feeling pretty tired and hungry, I eventually met Nick rehearsing with his band The Act in a rehearsal studio in London near the torture museum! I immediately liked the melody and harmony of his band as they had three-part harmonies although I felt it lacked keyboards and should be a little bit more psychedelic. Anyway, the rest is history. We did some great gigs in London and a couple of tours in Spain but it eventually broke up and Nick and I plotted another destiny. With the help of David Gilmour, we were able to produce some "original-sounding" demos that we also used for backing tracks and started performing as a duo called Politics of Paradise in alternative clubs in London (like the Titanic and the Language Lab). Once we appeared on stage after two naked strippers came off! There were classical violinists; a guy named Tom Dixon (became a leading Ikea furniture designer) that welded furniture on stage and a band called Funkapolitan hanging around. It was like a psychedelic version of CBGB's but in London! Nick and I shared the same youthful enthusiasm for experimentalism and the love of all that was psychedelic...Nick and I shared a similar creative space and wished to explore all the different possibilities of light, sound, cinematic backdrops, etc. Whereas Nick had learned his craft by being in the thick of the music industry since the 1970s with his three-part harmony group Alfalpha and I brought to the table an artistic "wackiness" inspired by many psychedelic nights in the depths of experimental Devon as well as an informed cultural input that was influenced by more utopian ideals...Nick and I used to gig under the name of Politics of Paradise that was inspired by R.D. Laing's title of one of his psychotherapy books called The Politics of Experience and the Bird of Paradise (he was the guy that tried to cure Syd Barrett when he lost it after too many acid trips). The Dream AcademyI had read The Glass Bead Game that revolved around a special game played after many years of serious study of the arts, science etc. and also a poem called The Dream House that prompted me to write down the words "The Dream Academy". I think we had both decided Politics of Paradise didn't really feel right so I came up with another name."

Kate St. John:     "The Ravishing Beauties did a few sessions for Radio One; John Peel, who called us the Very Lynns of the Eighties, and also for John Walters. I'd also done sessions for other people on the oboe. I was sad when the Ravishing Beauties split up because by then I'd got hooked into that sort of music and didn't know how to find another band who'd want an oboe player. However, about a year later I met Nick (the singer of the Dream Academy) and it turned out he and Gilbert were looking for people who played 'weird' instruments."

Nick Laird-Clowes:   "I had met Gilbert Gabriel, he'd been in the last incarnation of The Act after the album and had come with us on tour. And on tour, he played me Erik Satie and things like that, and he said, “I think you're too focused on the Beatles.” And this isn't something he said later. He said it at this point: “You're too focused on Beatles-type things. There's another world. Listen to all of this amazing music!” And he played me Ravel and things, different types of music. So he and I started working together, and for the first time I started co-writing songs. He had bits of music, and we were really into an arty, experimental vibe where we'd try anything. And the rest of the band in The Act were horrified. They said, 'You don't need him! For fuck's sake, man, the songs are great!' But I liked what was happening with him, and that we were thinking in a different way. So we just didn't do anything for a year. We just tried to find our own voice. And along the way we met Kate St. John...First of all, she was devastatingly beautiful. And then she played in the Ravishing Beauties, and they were a band I'd read about in the NME, and…they were cool! I mean, they'd been supporting The Teardrop Explodes and things! So I said, 'Oh, yeah, I know about you. I'm working with this guy, and we want to use classical instruments. Is there any chance you could come and rehearse with us?' And she said, 'Of course! When?' I said, 'Well, we're working tomorrow.' She said, 'I'll come up with you on the train.' And it took hours and hours, and we had some of these ramshackle guys - the sitar player and the clarinetist - and she heard all that, and then we played “Life in a Northern Town” as it was, which was still called “The Morning Lasted All Day” in that incarnation. And when we left, she said, 'I know other players who are much better than those guys, and I'll introduce you to them.'  And she introduced me to Adam Peters, who went on to score Ocean Rain for Echo and the Bunnymen, and these other people she went to college with, and soon we were working with them. So that was a very happy and lucky thing, because then I started to hear what she did, and she took up piano accordion quite quickly, and I thought, 'If she sings with me, that's one thing, and if she plays piano accordion, that's another amazing thing, and then she plays the oboe…'  I started always figuring her into arrangements, vehicles that would work with her using the most possible...We found that we had this...thing. And I suddenly thought, 'Nobody is playing acoustic guitar.' You could pick up a good acoustic guitar for nothing. So I thought, 'Well, I'm going back to acoustic guitar.' And these orchestral instruments… The synths could be played to sound like strings, and then add Kate to that with her wonderful real oboe sound, and add my acoustic guitar to that, and then use drum machines for drums, and then we started adding tympani and all these other things. And at first I said, 'My God, this sounds like Phil Spector!' But then I went, 'No, this sounds like Pet Sounds!' And nobody else was doing it at that point.   It was an easy thing for us to just add the classical instrument sound. People had used classical instruments to make their psychedelic masterpieces, but we could do it because technology allowed it, and when we came out with our album, not only did we have this new sound which wasn't what was going on at all, but we also had not bothered to have our hair cut in the way that everyone had at time. [Laughs.] They all had this kind of rockabilly hair cut, even if they were doing the white boy funk. So we went with our kind of more hippie-ish look, which was almost a punk stance, because hippies were ever so out. And we didn't oAverdo it. It was just how we naturally were. And at first everyone was really negative about us, but then we started playing these nightclubs after bands who were playing funk and other bands who were around at the time. People like Mick Jones and the Bunnymen would come see us, and we suddenly realized, “Hey, we're doing it our own way!” And that was the biggest lesson for me: if you can find your own voice, it's the only way, really."

Pink Floyd's David Gilmour produced the sessions for their eponymous debut  with  Gilbert Gabriel on keyboards and vocals;   Nick Laird-Clowes on guitars, harmonica, and vocals;  Kate St. John and piano, tenor sax, oboe, cor anglais, accordion, and piano-accordion;     with    Gary Barnacle on tenor saxophone;   Dave DeFries on trumpet;   Peter Buck on guitars;   David Gilmour on guitars for "Bound to Be" & "The Party";   Greg Dechert on Hammond organ;   Mickey Feat, Pino Palladino, and Guy Pratt on bass;   Chucho Merchan on double bass;   Tony Beard, Bosco DeOliveira, Luis Jardim, Ben Hoffnung, Jake LeMesurier, and Dave Mattacks on drums and percussion.  When the album was complete, Alan Tarney was brought in to rework the demo of "The Love Parade".  

'The Dream Academy' matriculated to number fifty-eight in the UK and and twenty in the US.

"Life in a Northern Town" reached number fifteen in the UK, nine in Ireland, seven on the US pop and mainstream rock charts, and number two on the US adult contemporary chart. Gabriel: "I remember this song emerging gradually from the ether in autumn when I was living in Southgate in a shared house with other students. I was endlessly experimenting with different guitar chord shapes higher up the guitar fretboard on a guitar with only five strings. Eventually, I found two chords that seemed to achieve a sense of consonance that seemed to mesmerize me. Nick then learned it and came up with a lower inversion that I embellished with a colorful chord progression played on the Solina synthesizer. Nick and I would then sing various chants over these chords inspired by a library tape of some African children I asked my girlfriend to borrow from her college library. The idea was to "re-conjure" the 60s and more idealistic times through the visual imagery of the verses that were fused with a chant that sounded universal. Hence the reference to The Beatles and JFK that became the axiom that we would build it around as well as the massive chant. We consciously wanted to create a song that had a wide demographic appeal but communicated something honest, beautiful and universal – a song that could appeal to children, adults and grandparents. I think we achieved this."

A Salvation Army band played
And the children drank lemonade
And the morning lasted all day, all day
And through an open window came
Like Sinatra in a younger day
Pushing the town away, ah

Ah hey, ma ma ma
Life in a northern town

They sat on the stony ground
And he took a cigarette out
And everyone else came down to listen
He said, "In winter 1963
It felt like the world would freeze
With John F. Kennedy and the Beatles"

Ah hey, ma ma ma
Life in a northern town
Ah hey, ma ma ma
All the work shut down

The evening had turned to rain
Watch the water roll down the drain
As we followed him down to the station
And though he never would wave goodbye
You could see it written in his eyes
As the train rolled out of sight, bye-bye

Ah hey, ma ma ma
Life in a northern town
Ah hey, ma ma ma
Life in a northern town

"The Love Parade"  

"This World"

"The Edge of Forever" was featured in the John Hughes film 'Ferris Bueller's Day Off' 

'The Dream Academy'
full album:

1. "Life in a Northern Town"   Laird-Clowes, Gabriel 4:19
2. "The Edge of Forever"   Laird-Clowes, Gabriel 4:23
3. "(Johnny) New Light"   Laird-Clowes, Gabriel 4:23
4. "In Places on the Run"   Laird-Clowes, Gabriel 4:27
5. "This World"   Laird-Clowes, Gabriel Gilmour, Laird-Clowes, Nicholson 5:07
6. "Bound to Be"   Laird-Clowes, Gabriel 3:08
7. "Moving On"   Laird-Clowes, Gabriel 5:14
8. "The Love Parade"   Laird-Clowes, Gabriel 3:47
9. "The Party"   Laird-Clowes 5:07
10. "One Dream"   Laird-Clowes 2:32

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