Ah Hey Oh Ma Ma Ma…

January 16, 2009

I’ve mentioned how lately I have discovered that I possess a previously unknown interest in the music of Bob Seger. And in the last few days, I’ve rediscovered a band which I had loved and forgotten (despite owning all three of their albums).

That band would be The Dream Academy; few bands are more aptly named. Paisley as could be, pictures of the classically-schooled trio on the album sleeve for Remembrance Days make me think of the early ‘70s television series The Mod Squad (barely walking in tadpole pajamas, I vaguely remember being somewhat transfixed by Peggy Lipton).

And if the name The Dream Academy is unfamiliar…if you were listening to radio in the autumn of 1985, you likely know their song Life In A Northern Town (see here for a very cool performance by them on Saturday Night Live).

That song was pretty much all that most listeners ever heard from The Dream Academy which is unfortunate. I’ve always considered them to be a sadly overlooked act of the ‘80s and felt that, under different circumstances, they could have been much bigger (what those circumstances might be, I don’t know).

The group split after releasing their third album, A Different Kind Of Weather, in 1991 and for years their catalog was unavailable aside from pricey Japanese imports (of course, all Japanese imports tend to be pricey). I believe there is a compilation that has been issued domestically.

Curious about what lead singer Nick Laird-Clowes had been up to during the past decade and a half, I did a bit of research. He has been doing music, but another detail caused me to take notice. Supposedly, he had fallen into serious drug addiction and, to become sober, he had sequestered himself in a monastery in the Himalayas.

Whether it is true or not, I have no idea. I do know that given their music and their style, if one band would have a member that would seek respite from drug addiction with Tibetan monks, it would certainly have been The Dream Academy.

It was just their vibe.

The Dream Academy – Life In A Northern Town
I remember hearing this song on 97X amidst Talking Heads, Peter Gabriel, and The Suburbs. It was so striking, I immediately took notice. By the time they chanted the first ah-hey-oh, ma-ma-ma….I was hooked. The song heavily references the late Nick Drake and, twenty years later, I never tire of it.

The Dream Academy – The Edge Of Forever
Aside from Life In A Northern Town, The Dream Academy has a measure of immortality for this song as it plays during the kiss between Ferris and Sloan at the end of Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. The do upbeat rather well.

The Dream Academy – This World
This World is a song as dark as it is pretty (it is very pretty). Lost innocence is a recurring theme in much of The Dream Academy’s lyrics and the music captures it well.

The Dream Academy – Here
As the members were classically trained musicians, there are a lot of flutes and things accenting much of their music. Here is simple and lush, building to a crescendo.

The Dream Academy – Love
There are some folks who might consider covering John Lennon to be sacrilege, but his music has made for some inspired covers over the years (Marianne Faithfull’s take on Working Class Hero springs to mind). The Dream Academy do a well more than admirable version of Love, making it a joyous, trip-hop tinged, chant-filled romp.