Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Top 100 Songs From the 1990s (No. 44)

44. "Spanish Horses"
Artist: Aztec Camera
Year: 1992

I'm sure you know "I Got You" by Split Enz. Although the song is revered by many, the reason it's not remembered as a timeless classic is that new wave synthesizer used during the verses. The chorus, however, is that pure pop Neil Finn patented for 30 years in Crowded House and as a solo artist. In other words, the band had a helluva half a song there. After repeated listens in the past week, that's exactly the problem plaguing the song originally meant for No. 44.

I loved Aztec Camera's "The Crying Scene" when it came out in 1990. It had been three years since the slickly produced 'Love,' and I welcomed Roddy minus all of that polish. Listeners in the UK didn't seem to share my enthusiasm for this song, and it stalled at No. 70. "The Crying Scene" did very well here in America, and I heard it played many times on WXRT Chicago. Aztec Camera on commercial radio was (and always has been) a very rare treat on this side of the pond. "The Crying Scene" peaked at No. 3 on the alternative chart... a listing that had some weight back in the day. So, why my change of heart? I'll make this short. I have grown to dislike like the hard guitar and raw vocals during the verses. Meanwhile, the chorus is like a different song. It's pretty, sweet and, well, perfect. Another great half a song. I decided that's not enough to merit my 44th favorite of the '90s.

There were a couple of avenues I could have taken to rectify the situation. I have a completed list of the first 10 out... a 101-110, if you will, that I plan on sharing after the countdown is complete. I could have chosen No. 101 to fill this vacancy, but I decided to go with my second favorite '90s song from Aztec Camera. "Spanish Horses" had almost made the cut originally anyway, and it would be much closer to a true No. 44 than a song that couldn't crack my top 100 the first time around. I hope that sits well with everyone.

I have always loved the guitar on "Spanish Horses." The sound hearkens back to Roddy's exotic plucking on songs like "Oblivious" and "Lost Outside the Tunnel." If there was ever a tune that made me want to learn the paso doble, this was it. "Spanish Horses" would appear on the 1993 album 'Dreamland,' an album I wasn't all that enamored with upon its release. It seemed a little too mature to the ears of a fella that graduated from college the same year. In time, it has really grown on me. What can I say? I'm old. These days, I pull it out more often than 'Stray.' "Spanish Horses" was produced by Ryuichi Sakamoto and mixed by Julian Mendelsohn. Big names don't guarantee big hits. The song reached the less than dizzying heights of No. 52 in the UK, and we didn't bother with the song at all over here. For those who bought the single, you were treated to three terrific live performances ("Birth Of The True," "Song For A Friend" and "Killermont Street") from June 23, 1991, at Ronnie Scott's. The entire show can be had on the bonus disc of the 2012 Edsel reissue of 'Dreamland.'


drew said...

Spanish Horses is probably my favourite Frame Song after Down The Dip or Back On Board. Anyway I kept requesting it every time I saw Frame live but to no avail and then I went to Paisley Abbey a couple of years back and he played it. I'm sure he said that he was scared to play it live in case he made a mess of the plucking, as if he would anyway it was glorious to eventually hear it live.

Brian said...

Drew, Thanks for sending that along. His fingers must have been really moving that night. Sounds like he might have even played it a little fast. Wow! I'm sure it was quite a performance. Your other picks are wonderful too. I imagine there are quite a few fans in your neck of the woods that would name Down the Dip as their favorite. I completely get it. I know Roddy is one of your biggies. Just curious... in case you come back and read this... Do you think I'm way off on The Crying Scene?

drew said...

I went back and listened to again just now it has been a while since I listened as when I reach for the 10" it's usually to play True Colours and I Threw It All Away. I have to admit I loved it especially the guitar solo. It takes me back to when I was a lot younger. I can see what you mean about it being two songs.

I have no strong recollections of hearing it live, he must have played it though especially at the Barrowlands on the Stray tour.

You can find the YouTube clip of Spanish Horses at Paisley Abbey here

Brian said...

Thank you for taking the time, Drew. Obviously, up until a few days ago I thought the Crying Scene was Roddy's best song in the '90s. So, I can't fault you for loving it. Great clip from that show on your blog. Wish I could have been there. Exhibit 1 has been accepted and taken into evidence. Skilled guitarist, indeed.

Echorich said...

I always look at Dreamland as the album I was waiting for Roddy Frame to record. I think the maturity you speak of is exactly what I was wanting. Dream Sweet Dreams is definitely my favorite track on the album. Spanish Horses is a VERY close second.

Brian said...

Echorich, Good choice. Dream Sweet Dreams has a lot of soul, and I considered that one too. Another in a long line of singles that deserved a better showing. I looked it up recently, and I believe it peaked at around 70. Oh well, we know the score. Nice to know you appreciated the album. Not too sure there are many of us over here.

Scott said...

Really glad you chose Spanish Horses Brian. The guitar work on it is some of The Boy Wonder's best, and that's saying something. I recall it being released on 2 CD singles with live versions of Spanish Horses, Stray, The Bugle Sounds Again and a great cover of Tim Buckley's Dolphins on the other one.

friend of rachel worth said...

Same as everyone else , my fav RF song outside the first lp. I always thought dreamland was under appreciated . It is my 2nd fav lp again after the debut. Top songs and subtleties that slowly reveal themselves above the dinner party smoothness. A bit like eg and Alice's 24 yrs of hunger

Brian said...

Hey Scott. I went to discogs and looked up that 'Spanish Horses Live' CD single you mentioned. I have the Ronnie Scott show now, but I would have loved to have had this version of the single back then. I'm quite sure I have never seen it in a shop before. Otherwise, I would have snagged it.

FORW, It's always nice to know you'll chime in when Roddy is mentioned. This is a small sample, but I had no idea this song was so revered by die-hard fans. Since he doesn't seem to perform it much, I wonder if Roddy knows. Like you, I put Dreamland quite high in the discography. If you come back and see this, quick question... When you rank this album No. 2, is that including the solo albums or just the ones as Aztec Camera? Would you put any solo albums near the top?

drew said...

I got the 2nd cd single of Spanish Horses on my first trip to the Dordogne found it in a market in Bergerac a long long time ago.

Ranking Roddy Frame and Aztec Camera, FORW, you're a much braver man than me, nigh on impossible but I fear the last solo album would be bottom of the pile. The North Star, now there is a criminally underrated album. Have you got a couple of hours to discuss?