A few random thoughts.
I think Neil Finn is a class “A” songwriter, but I think his most effective lyricism was with Crowded House. I’m not sure why that is. But whether it’s Split Enz, his work with Tim as The Finn Brothers, or Neil’s solo stuff–none of that hits me the same as any random Crowded House tune.
If you have any doubt that pop music has dumbed down considerably since the ‘80s, write the words to “Don’t Dream It’s Over” on a piece of paper (or save yourself the time and Google them). Then look at any random song in the pop top 10. I’ll never shit on pop music, but if you don’t agree that lyricism (to say nothing of melody) has taken a few huge steps back in the last couple of decades, you’ve got blinders on.
The line “there are battles ahead/many battles are lost/but you’ll never see the end of the road while you’re traveling with me” turns me into a gooey mess every time I hear it. That single lyric has been a massive comfort to me in dark times. If I ever meet Neil Finn, he gets a hug just for writing that couplet, never mind the whole damn song.
“Don’t Dream It’s Over” is one of those songs I fell in love with immediately, but didn’t have access to for a while. That is a strange thing to think of in 2018, huh? I heard it a couple of times as a kid, most likely on American Top 40 or America’s Top Ten since my access to top 40 pop radio was limited at the time. The next time I heard it regularly was in the fall of ‘92 because it was used by Fox to advertise the upcoming season of 90210 (it was their senior year, y’all…actually, it was my senior year, too!) “Don’t Dream It’s Over” has a poignance to it that made it ideal to express the imminent change that comes with an event like high school graduation.
That commercial must have been pretty fresh when I befriended Ben in November or December 1992. I was (and still am) pretty oblivious when it comes to people being interested in me, and at the time I was also deep deep deep in the closet. Ben and I started talking and became fast friends. Our first phone conversation lasted for hours (and I hated talking on the phone then almost as much as I hate it now, which is a LOT.) Our common bond was music, and I remember mentioning how much I loved “Don’t Dream It’s Over”. One random day at school, Ben handed me a cassette. He’d made a mix tape for me containing all of Shai’s “…If I Ever Fall In Love” along with a random assortment of songs, including one he marked as a surprise. Of course, it was “Don’t Dream It’s Over”. I may have been oblivious to his romantic interest at the time, but I wasn’t dumb enough to actually be surprised that he’d uncovered one of my favorite songs and put it on a mixtape. I feigned shock, but was sincerely appreciative. I also wore the fuck out of that tape. I hung on to it for years. Ben and I’s “courtship” only lasted a couple of months after that mixtape exchange. I sort of had a freak out once his intentions became obvious and…kinda treated him like shit. What can I say, I was 16! But we reconnected a decade or so later, and I’d like to think that it was all water under the bridge.
As luck would have it, I wound up working peripherally with Crowded House when they reformed in the mid ‘00s. They performed a show at a Masonic Temple in New York, and it was as magical an experience as I thought it would be. The second the guitar chords that announced “Don’t Dream It’s Over” were played, I turned into a sobbing mess. Did I care that there were co-workers milling about (including one in particular, who was standing next to me at the beginning of the song and swiftly moved away to allow me to have my moment)? Not at all.
Speaking of live performances, the “Farewell To The World” version of “Don’t Dream It’s Over” (featuring an incredibly emotional Paul Hester…to say nothing of the audience members) is essential.