CIRCUS Track by Track by David Bridie
(Reprise Records media information 1993)
The song leans towards a sense of strength, wonder and happiness. The strongest feeling in the song is that of family, of being in control. These snapshots of family life playing by the river, and escape from the stinking city are all reinforced by the simple piano melody, bouncy congas, big vocal chorus and the flying cello.
The music began as an instrumental on the soundtrack of the movie Proof under the title “Happy.” The lyric is war, if a bit ironic, celebrating the spark at the beginning of a new relationship, a spirit captured by producer Hugh Jones’ Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds backing vocals at the beginning of the third verse.
The Magician is an ambiguous visitor to our lives, an outsider passing comment on the drabness of our cities, our obsession with economic rationalism, our wasted opportunities. The song is almost a fairy tale, and though it was never intended to be sexual, it almost oozes it in the end. The guitars and vocals cut and thrust, reminding some people I’ve played it to of the Masters Apprentices (someone even suggested it sounded like Led Zeppelin!). The keyboards and the chorus vocals are heavenly, dreamlike. Its working title was “Jiga Jiga.”
Teteko, Aotearoa, NZ
The music is purposefully sparse and simple. The song evokes the raw, green mountains of North Island New Zealand, the extended family, the passing on of Maori ways from generation to generation, the ordinary fields, the destructiveness of alcohol and the incessant rain.
There’s a hint of anger to this one, a sense of ugliness. The drum and guitars bite over a backdrop of a relationship dissolving destructively. There is a sense of false hop as the woman runs away to find the mythical Australian inland sea. As early explorers found out, there is no such thing.
Slumber in Tumbleland
‘Tumbleland’ is our state of being, our society, a little out of control and marked by alienation. It’s a short piece, a comatose state. The wild guitar is actually a cello.
Albert Namatjira was a famous Aboriginal watercolor artist, renowned for his paintings of the rugged outback Australian landscape. He was brought up at Hermannsburg, a Lutheran mission that took Aboriginal children away from their parents and ‘assimilated’ them (as was the government policy of the time) into a European lifestyle.
Namatjira became renown throughout Australia and around the world for his paintings and was courted by high society and politicians. He was the first Aborigine to be given Australian citizenship (Aborigines didn’t get the right to vote until 1967). He was the assimilation dream.
Albert brought alcohol to his brother’s birthday party on an outback mission (it was illegal to take alcohol onto the mission). A murder was committed at the party, and Albert was charged for having brought the alcohol. The politicians and high society turned their backs on him. He was given a jail sentence. He never painted again and died shortly afterwards. At school we were told only about the paintings and not about the racism.
Sky the Towel
We wrote this song on a winter musical retreat, relying on mood and feel. We recorded it the same way, straight down to tape, no overdubs. The title is boxing slang for throwing in the towel, or giving in. the lyric comes from conversations with a rugged old fisherman his advice to a young boy: ‘Don’t let the bastards get you down.’
Penmon is a coastal town in Northern Wales. The irony is that the song had its title before we knew we would be recording in that country. The song is a mixture of acoustic percussion, sequences and samples from all over the world and features the wonderful vocals of Natasha Atlas. The images in the lyric come from difference cultures and different lifestyles Western Samoa, Wales and Papua New Guinea and from the universal need for respect.
This was the last piece we recorded for Circus, a mood instrumental allowing for an unusual interplay between rhythms and melodies. Norman Young is the old man whose conversations can be heard in the background. It’s worth repeated listenings, just to decipher Norm’s words of wisdom.
A jangly folk-pop tune, chronicling the journey of post-war migrants to the promised land called Australia, and how their cheap labor was used to build the massive hydro-electric scheme in the Snowy Mountains. The images come from Jon Berger’s book The Seventh Man.
Walk Me Home
Recorded live, slightly drunk, at 4am in the morning. Sad but romantic at the same time.