Three albums and six years was all it took for Scotland’s The Big Dish to create a few ripples and take its final bow. Centered around Steven Lindsay’s lovely melodies and gorgeous,velvety voice, the group should have fared better, but for some reason never built up enough of an audience to convince their label, Virgin Records, to think long-term. The label released the incredible Swimmer in 1986 and Creeping Up on Jesus two years later. A third album, Satellites, helmed by Deacon Blue’s producer Warne Livesey, showed up in 1990 on Warner-Elektra-Atlantic’s EastWest imprint. And then…poof.
Which is a shame, because exceptional, catchy songs like Swimmer’s “Prospect Street” and “Christina’s World” and Satellites’ “Miss America” and “25 Years” don’t come along at every turn around the pass. Neither do songs like “Waiting for the Parade” or the miraculous pop song’s pop song, “European Rain,” both from Creeping Up on Jesus.
“European Rain” is the kind of song a writer wishes for and hopes desperately to bring into the world–a song that, without question, will make his career. It’s the kind of song that seems borne perfectly formed, a golden creation whose melody is almost God-like, whose construction is without a single shred of excess. A perfect specimen, if you will–a lucky strike for a writer adept at the best, most lasting kind of song craft.
This is the kind of song that invites–no, demands repeat listens. Ushered in with a quick, commanding mash of snare drum, the enchanting verse melody leads naturally into the quick, hooky chorus. Come to think of it, the verses are as hooky as the chorus, the second instance of which is followed by a lovely horn part that slides into a tasteful electric guitar reiteration of the main melody. And so it goes–more verse, more chorus, and more instance of the hook. The pizzicato guitar notes that ever-so-gently play atop the hook near the end of the song add another layer of mesmerizing charm. If it’s true that great songs sometimes fall from out of the sky into the laps of waiting artists, this is more than ample proof. It’s another example of the perfect pop song.
People whose lives are pretty much defined by music hear all manner of great song. It’s hard, over so many years and so many spins, to latch on to a number that rises above all others, a song that the memory can call up with just a whiff of a trigger. But when such a song comes about–a song such as “European Rain”–it’s easy to let the memory take you to another place. The best songs–the greatest songs–do that.