…you could see it written in his eyes

Anyone who has moved around a bit might empathize. Sometimes you can grow so accustomed to using a term in one place that you forget that its usage may not be common (or even comprehended) elsewhere.  I haven’t resided in England for 25 years and although I no longer think in terms of “stone” (a unit of weight that equals 14 pounds) or even kilos for that I matter, I still like to rely on the word “fortnight” because occasionally one thinks along those lines and the lexicon of American English simply doesn’t provide a single-word term for the concept.

Frequently used in the UK and throughout most of the Commonwealth, a fortnight (derived from “fourteen nights”) is a unit of time that amounts to precisely two weeks.  It’s actually pretty practical, both as a means of stating something simply (always a good thing) and because it avoids the ambiguity of  “biweekly.”  That said, I can now use the term and feel completely confident that you’ll understand; so here goes…

A fortnight ago we featured Nick Drake’s Northern Sky along with a short background on Drake himself.  As noted, after his untimely death from a drug overdose in 1974 his records slowly gained word-of-mouth appreciation, especially among fellow musicians. Today’s featured group is a case in point.

In the early ‘80s three London musicians, Nick Laird-Clowes, Gilbert Gabriel and Kate St. John opted to venture away from the then-ubiquitous power-pop trend and, calling themselves The Dream Academy, adopted a sub-genre of alternative rock known as “dream pop” by mixing strings, woodwinds and percussion instruments with ethereal melodies.  Thus established it took the band nearly two years (and many failed attempts) to land a recording contract and then still another year to record a debut single.

With lyrics that specifically refer to Nick Drake (the song is meant as a tribute) and an initial title called Morning Lasted All Day (until Paul Simon, who heard it before its release, happened to suggest that they change the name) the single was a worldwide success (the band’s only one) in 1985/86, reaching Number 15 on the UK Singles chart and Number 7 on the US Billboard chart.

Although a music video filmed in West Yorkshire was made prior to the song’s release, a second version featuring both northern English and American towns was filmed (over a fortnight) after its international success and you can see via this URL.



Life in a Northern Town

 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 stoney 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


 Ah hey ma ma ma

Life in a northern town.

Ah hey ma ma ma

Life in a northern town.

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