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Don’t Forget the Songs-365: Mach Tres: Day 014
Wed, Jan 30, 2013

“Sometimes”
James

1993

“♫ He
says listen/
takes my head
and puts my
ear to his/ and
I swear I can
hear the
sea
♫”

When asked, why Manchester’s often overlooked lyrical heroes James has survived all of these years lead singer and lyricist Tim Booth responds with two words—and his name is Brian Eno. Booth explained his reasoning when he said, “When you’ve got Brian Eno you’re not going to give up. Everywhere I went, Michael Stipe would say ‘How did you get to work with Brian Eno, I’ve been trying to work with him for years’. Flea would say ‘How did you get to work with Brian Eno for five albums?’ We had that. Brian God bless him says we were his favorite band. We had an amazing time with him. He’s definitely the fifth Beatle. And we miss him!

Why Brian Eno and James? Eno was the one who famously said about his beloved fascination with Lou Reed and VU, “The first Velvet Underground album only sold 10,000 copies, but everyone who bought it formed a band.” The reason Eno agreed to record James was because he thought “Sometimes” was a post modern revival spirit of his favorite Velvet Underground song “What Goes On.” To Eno, James was an English version of his favorite New York band. Eno could never record with The Velvet Underground, so, he helped create the myth of James; Eno turned James and specifically Tim Booth into conduits of eternal longing within the brilliance of their improvised songs.

Most of James best work, like “Sometimes” on Laid was captured improvisational by Brian Eno. Booth explained how “Sometimes” came to life in the studio with Eno when he recently told NME, “We jammed it in our rehearsal room at Beehive Mill in Manchester. We knew it would be a big song, so we sent the demo to Brian Eno. Everyone wanted to work with Eno, and they still do! He rang me up at 9 o’clock in the morning and said he’d record with us. ‘Sometimes’ was the main song he talked about. I hadn’t got the lyrics for it at the time. I had the bit about the boy who wanted to be struck by lightning but no chorus. In the studio I had to keep telling him I wasn’t ready to record it yet, because I hadn’t finished the lyrics.”

We had this layout where we’re in a circle around him with the recording console is in the middle of the room. Eventually we say: “Okay Brian, we’re ready to record ‘Sometimes’.” I’d got the chorus ready and I hadn’t told them. He’s prowling around the floor while we were playing the start of the song, just waiting to see what I’d got. I sang the chorus and he kind of went white and sat down while we were playing. I thought: ‘Oh shit, he doesn’t like it’. When we finished he didn’t say anything. He had his head in his hands on the desk and we all crowded round him and eventually he looked up and he said: “I’ve just experienced one of the highlights of my musical life.” We went: “Woah!” We were completely blown away. That someone we held in such high esteem could have such a physical, tangible reaction to that song. His reaction was one of our highlights of our musical life!”

Go back and re-experience “Sometimes,” one of the most transcendent songs in modern British Pop history. A song so timeless, recalling the greatness of Lou Reed and The Velvet Underground, that it spurred the great Brian Eno to produce James. Who’s ready for the thunder? Dive back inside the mystical wonder of James’ “Sometimes.”

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