Friday, May 04, 2007
Basement Songs "Distant Sun" by Crowded House
The music of Crowded House has hovered over my personal space since they flew into the world’s orbit back in the 80’s. It began during my first year at Bowling Green when my friend, Bob, made sure that I won a drawing at Finders, the record store he worked at in town. The prize was the soundtrack to “Tequila Sunrise”, Robert Towne’s underappreciated movie from that era. I was plenty excited to have my own copy of the epic power ballad, sung by Ann Wilson and Robin Zander, that plays over the end credits. After about two listens, I grew tired of the big drums and discovered another track on the LP, an obscure Crowded House song, “Recurring Dream”. I was hooked. A couple of years later, I spent the summer in L.A., just as their album “Woodface” was released. The second song, “It’s Only Natural”, became an instant favorite and showed up on one of the first mix tapes I made for Julie. The mysterious, chiming qualities of “Recurring Dream” are what first drew me in to the music, and the intricate vocal harmonies and brilliant word play of “It’s Only Natural” made me a big fan. In 1994, Crowded House released what would be their last studio album in over a decade, “Together Alone”. That year was one of the most pivotal times of my life. Recently married, a big move west, starting a career, and still trying to figure out the meaning of life, it was an exciting, emotional time, full of happiness and doubt. Thankfully, I wasn’t alone. Julie was by my side. We were figuring it out together. That year, Crowded House released their single, “Distant Sun”, one of the most brilliant, poignant, tormented love songs I have ever heard. Neil Finn’s lyrics are, at times, a bit obtuse, so I’m not a hundred percent sure it’s even love song. But what I take away from it is a feeling of hope. “Distant Sun” is embedded in my soul. Each and every time I come back to it, I fall in love with the song again, making it one of my favorite basement songs.
More than any other song from that period, “Distant Sun” speaks volumes about my time uncovering and slowly realizing who I was as an adult, a professional, and most importantly, a husband. When Julie and I moved to California in ‘94, we were just two kids in our early 20’s. I was following my dream and Julie, bless her heart, just wanted to be with me. When I really dwell on this fact, it is humbling to think that another human being was willing to change her life just to be with me. You have to understand the remarkable sacrifice she made to move out here. She left her family, her safety net, and everything she knew, to embark on a journey with me, some schmo with bad clothes, awkward hair, and ugly glasses. I’m not going to pretend it was easy. Julie HATED being here. Yet, she never said, “It’s time to go back.” To this day, she has never said, “You’ve given it a shot; time to move on.” I’ve said many times that Julie is my rock. She is the foundation to which our family finds its strength. And the groundwork for our family was laid down in those years in the mid-90’s. “Distant Sun” is one of the essential songs to the “soundtrack of our life” (I know, kind of corny).
The music itself is so lovely. I’m a sucker for the acoustic guitar, electric combo. The song begins with just Finn strumming his six string acoustic, before the rest of the band joins him. Mark Hart playing a wrenching 12 string, Nick Seymour’s understated bass playing, and the late Paul Hester’s great drumming and perfect harmonies. It’s glorious. I swear, the first few times I ever heard the song, I had to literally stop what I was doing to listen to every note, take in each word I could follow, and try to keep from tearing up. This being Los Angeles, the stop and go traffic was quite accommodating. There were days when I would sit in my car on the freeway and get to hear the song in its entirety before moving up 10 feet. Lucky me. Of all of the elements to this song, it is the bridge that fills me up with emotion. And it is the twelve words ending that bridge (leading into the guitar solo) that have made this song such a favorite.
12 words. That’s it. Each time I reach them, those same twelve words tear me in half. They come at you from out of nowhere. What was already one of the prettiest songs written becomes something new. Finn cries out, in torment, in desperation, with all of his heart, “I don’t pretend to know what you want, but I offer love.”
Ponder those words a moment. Has any phrase ever spoken so plainly explained what marriage is supposed to be? There have been many instances when I didn’t have an answer, I couldn’t fix what was hurting Julie. And believe me, I used to be one of those people who had to fix everything. But the words I had were pointless. The writer in me didn’t know what to say. The only thing I had to offer was love.
Through the tears, confusion, heartache, betrayals and anger, we learned how to act. And in 1994, we had only known each other a couple of years. We were figuring out together who Scott and Julie were. So many times, we had to go with our instincts. “I love you and nothing will change that.” And then we hugged, or cried, or made love. We connected.
“I don’t pretend to know what you want, but I offer love.”
Each time I hear Finn sing that, I can’t help but clench my fist, imagining I’m the singer, Julie is my audience, and I’m declaring with everything in me that nothing will change how much I love her and that she is the center of my universe. I look at this woman and I marvel. “Damn. I can’t imagine my life without you.”
To paraphrase the song, seven worlds collide whenever she is by my side. Our love has been a mighty force since the first time we kissed. We’ve been through so much together. I know that there is so much more to come. As I said, “Distant Sun” is embedded in my soul. Damn you, Crowded House; and bless you for this basement song I hold so dear to me. It will be with me forever, just as my love for Julie will go on forever.