Thursday, May 3, 2012

In Appreciation of Richard Hawley

Well perhaps I should first give my appreciation to Alex Turner, singer/songwriter/guitarist with Sheffield's finest, The Arctic Monkeys. I may never have heard of Richard Hawley, if not for the kind words Alex has spoken about his fellow Sheffielder. (By the way, what is it about Sheffield? Way up there in Yorkshire, far, far from the lights of London.... yet has managed to produce Joe Cocker, Jarvis Cocker, Richard Hawley, and The Arctic Monkeys...)

The Lords of Sheffield: Jarvis, Alex, Richard (not pictured: Edward Carpenter and Sean Bean)

But I've been listening to Richard Hawley a lot lately and he is truly an incredible singer and songwriter.

His song "Tonight The Streets Are Ours" (which many know from the 2010 Banksy film Exit Through The Gift Shop) might as well be declared the Official Song of Occupy (I wanna hear it being sung on the streets of Berlin, San Francisco, Moscow, Cairo, Jakarta, Seoul, Lagos, Santiago, Sydney...)

Tonight.... The Streets Are Ours...

Do you know why you’ve got feelings in your heart?
Don't let fear of feeling fool you, what you see sets you apart
And there's nothing here to bind you, it's no way for life to start

Do you know that…
Tonight the streets are ours
Tonight the streets are ours
And these lights in our hearts, they tell no lies

Those people, they’ve got nothing in their souls
And they make our TVs blind us from our visions and our goals
Oh the trigger of time it tricks you so you have no way to grow

But do you know that
Tonight the streets are ours
Tonight the streets are ours
And these lights in our hearts, they tell no lies

And no one else can haunt me the way that you can haunt me
I need to know you want me, I couldn't be without you
And the light that shines around you
No nothing ever matters more than my darling
But tonight the streets are ours

Do you know how to kill loneliness at last?
Oh, there's so much there to heal dear
And make tears things of the past

But do you know that
Tonight the streets are ours
Tonight the streets are ours
And these lights in our street are ours
And tonight the streets are ours
And these lights in our hearts, they tell no lies…

Richard Hawley has worked with The Arctic Monkeys before. But the collaboration really bears fruit in the powerhouse single "You And I", by Arctic Monkeys (The Death Ramps), featuring Richard Hawley, which was released as the B-side of the single "Black Treacle" from Suck It And See (2011), the 4th Arctic Monkeys' album. Although Richard Hawley is quite popular in the UK, this single put him on the map for many indie rock fans in the U.S. It's a great song. Take a listen...

I was very fond of Alex Turner's side project with Miles Kane called The Last Shadow Puppets (2008).

Then, when you listen to Scott Walker (The Walker Brothers) and Richard Hawley it dawns on you - oh, that's where that sound came from...

Richard Hawley is a crooner, in the grand British tradition of Scott Walker (an American who found success in England), Johnnie Ray (wait, wasn't he also an American who found success in England?), and Roy Orbison (Richard said he doesn't see that comparison but I do...)(oh and P.S., yes, yet another American who found success in England... didn't The Beatles open up for Orbison on at least one tour?).

But it is a particular kind of music - pop with lush orchestration. Partially this is a result of BBC rules - a certain percentage of the music played had to be recorded in studio, using union musicians (which is also one of the reasons we have so many classic live in studio recordings from places like Maida Vale Studios). It seems to be the type of music that could theoretically appeal to people ranging in age from 15 to 85, and quite possible people younger and older than that broad demographic as well.

It's not for everybody. It tends to be weepy, romantic lyrics about love found or (more likely) lost.

But lose yourself for a moment in the richness of the texture of the sweeping strings and... Johnny Ray, born and buried in Oregon, was a huge teen idol in the 50's. He found London in the Swinging Sixties to be more his cup of tea, quickly becoming part of the underground gay party circuit with folks like Brian Epstein. He's perhaps best known to later generations for being name-checked in the 1982 Dexys Midnight Runners' hit "Come On Eileen": "Poor old Johnnie Ray... sounded sad upon the radio / (but) he moved a million hearts in mono..."


Scott Walker and The Walker Brothers, all Americans, found fame when they moved to the UK in the 60s. Later, Scott's solo career also took off there. He was/is a crooner extraordinaire...

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