Unauthorised item in the bagging area

Wednesday 24 August 2022

Wise Men Say Only Fools Rush In

We went to the cinema last week, the first time we'd been since pre- Covid. There's nothing quite like sitting in the dark and seeing a film on the big screen for that full immersive experience. The film we chose was Baz Luhrman's Elvis, a brash, hyperactive, high camp, historically inaccurate take on the life of Elvis Presley. It was great fun of course if an hour too long. Elvis' musical life splits into three stages for me- the raw, untamed brilliance of the Sun years followed by a succession of increasingly tame songs made to promote films he was starring in followed by a kind of renaissance- the '68 comeback special (the first heritage rock show?) and then the Vegas years (a mixture of sublime inspiration and utter schmaltz). Elvis released Can't Help Falling In Love in 1961 to accompany the film Blue Hawaii, a song which has a life of it's own- Elvis crooning with his heavenly backing choir, some emotional button pushing lines but some genuine beauty too. It was covered by UB40 and the supporters of several English football teams have made it their own too- hearing massed ranks of Sunderland fans singing it at Old Trafford once was quite a moment.

Can't Help Falling In Love

In 1997 Jason Spaceman was going through the recording of Spiritualized's then latest album, what would become Ladies And Gentlemen We Are Floating In Space. He wrote and recorded the title track, a weightless, wracked and wasted piece of space pop/ rock, introduced by a deadpan Kate Radley, blending his own song with the melodies and words from Can't Help Falling In Love. Obviously, by the time the album was ready to be released, Spritualized's finest album, the Presley estate were not happy and the Elvis parts had to be removed. Bootlegs exist of course. As a song, it is almost too much.

Ladies And Gentlemen We Are Floating In Space/ Can't Help Falling In Love 

Last summer Jesse Fahnestock was having his own blues and revisiting Ladies And Gentlemen... and in search of a musical outlet for this found himself playing the song everyday, focusing on the line 'getting strong today/ a giant step each day'. I'll let Jesse describe the next steps...

'A lot of my music is about touching the hem of Spiritualized/Spacemen's cloak anyway, so I decided I’d pick up the baton. I spent a couple of weeks at the piano writing my own melancholy folk song in the round, keeping the “fools rush in” and adding some hopeful sentimentality to try to pull myself out of my funk, some words about daring to be happy, taking a chance on love and life. I called it “A Giant Step”, but that title didn’t stick.
In parallel I’d been toying with the idea of sampling some archival footage of the West’s last great philosopher (and personal hero), Bertrand Russell. I didn’t have a song for what I’d found, so when I started producing “Giant Step” on the computer, I stuck Russell on the intro, just as a whim. And then suddenly I heard what Russell was saying in that clip … it was about acting “vigorously” in spite of one’s doubt, about how modern philosophy was there to help you dare to live, even without the certainty of religion.
Making music is full of serendipitous moments, but this was the best one I’ve had yet. The song is more appropriately called “The First Step” '

10:40's The First Step has now been released as one of the songs on Higher Love Vol. 2, a compilation on Brighton's Higher Love label. You can get it here. It's a slow burning, sombre and emotive piece of music, the voice of Bertrand Russell surrounded by the laid back groove and the spectral female voices that join whispering, 'fools rush in'. It's a different take again from the feelings Elvis provokes and from the ones summoned by Spiritualized, a new feeling, and it shows how music can transform itself, shift its shape over time, one person taking a song somewhere else. 

The rest of Higher Love Vol. 2 is uniformly superb too, from the skittering sunset vibes of Perry Granville to the blissed out twinkling of Joe Morris, the heady brew of Secret Soul Society and enormous symphonic, spinning, giddying sound of Mass Density Human, and plenty more besides- if you need a soundtrack for the dog days of August, you'll find one inside Higher Love Vol 2


thewalker said...

Isn't that Spiritualized just damned glorious.
So much going on, but every element somehow crisp & intertwined.
That song lifts me up no end.

jesseblack said...

I think one of the things Jason Pierce is best at was identifying big, obvious, even cliched things and taking them head on, waking them up from their cultural slumber, giving them power again. I'm not sure why he's able to do it. Maybe it's because he seems so detached and broken already, we can see these things through his eyes, recognize them for what they are, emotional bouys in the stormy oceans of our lives, asking us to grab on to them and stay afloat. My life is not stormy at all, but I have an affinity for grand sentiment, and it gives me such joy when Jason is able to inspire people with things like this.

Swiss Adam said...

It's difficult to put your finger on exactly what Jason does that makes it so good and how he gets away with it. So much of what he deals with is well trodden, as you say Jesse, cliched even, but he manages to pull it off time and time again.

Rol said...

I can't believe I've never heard the I Can't Help Falling In Love version of Ladies & Gentlemen... before. Thank you.

The Swede said...

The Spiritualized version is jaw-droppingly great.

Khayem said...

I had heard it before, but the Spiritualized version again managed to provoke a strong emotional reaction when I listened to it again this morning. Occasionally, my family come into a room to find me, headphones on, tears running down my face. How do you explain the power of music in that moment?

I've buying Higher Love Vol. 2 next week after payday. I loved Vol. 1 and Jesse/10:40 was a highlight of that one; I think he's only gone and done it again. I love the backstory to the song title.