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Don’t Forget the Songs-365: Mach Tres: Day 47
Fri, Mar 15, 2013

“Don’t Dream It’s Over”
Crowded House

1986

“♫ But
you’ll never
see the end
of the road
while you’re
traveling with
me
♫”

It starts with that magical guitar riff, so unmistakable that it takes us back to the Fab Four days of the sixties—but no it’s not The Beatles but New Zealand’s Crowded House; Unbeknownst to Neil Finn who penned this already tender classic— “Don’t Dream It’s Over,” to my ears, is a modern day, 1980’s reimagining of John Lennon’s “A Day in the Life.” When asked about his Beatles influence Finn replied, “Not directly, although I’m sure he’s in there somewhere – he’s always in my thoughts. My songs never have clear narratives. I describe moments, work in some feelings and hope for empathy. Growing up, that was my appreciation of music. When I first heard John Lennon singing Help! I thought he sounded really happy; I didn’t know he was seriously in trouble. To me, a good song is about intent, delivery and little resonances. I’m not interested in an intellectual process.”

When talking about his craft, Neil Finn said this about songwriting, “It’s like working with clay. You’ve just got to mould the words until they fit the type of rhythm and meter of the song really well. That’s where the craft comes in.” Neil delved further inside his gift of song when he told writer Graham Reid, “I like to incorporate different events into the one thing, the formula of truth and reality and in-between is different for every song, but there’s always an element of all three. I have been uncomfortable when people assume my life is a certain way because they hear my songs. I like the feeling the songs inhabit spaces that are difficult for people to talk about, and so they gain some degree of empathy or comfort from listening to them. The songs express emotions that are the awkward ones, the ones that are betwixt and between.”

When it came to composing his most famous song, “Don’t Dream It’s Over,” Neil Finn said this to Goldmine, “I wrote that on my brother’s piano. I’m not sure if I remember what the context was, exactly, but it was just about on the one hand feeling kind of lost, and on the other hand sort of urging myself on: Don’t dream it’s over. That one actually fell out literally, without me thinking about it too much.” Finn once reminisced further about the inspiration behind his first hit single when he explained, “It was a day when I was feeling anti-social. A whole bunch of people where at the house and I didn’t feel like mixing but I went it and got a song out of it. And as with a lot of them, it came out really quickly, all in one piece, the words, and the music—everything. It’s one of those things you wonder what you did right. It’s one of those days and I can’t remember. It’s Don’t Dream It’s Over.” What did Neil Finn do right? He listened, he wrote and he created one of the most memorable pop songs that even the Beatles would be impressed with.

No surprise, Neil Finn once named John Lennon and Paul McCartney two of his favorite songwriters of all time. Finn said this about Lennon, “em>Beyond those exquisite melodies and chords he made words sound so good and revealed his innermost feelings — equal parts pain and joy.” And Neil described his feelings about Macca’s songwriting like this, “No Lennon without McCartney — he added the melancholy, the art and the wandering bass to the greatest band ever, and he gave us tunes that will live forever.”

There’s speculation that Macca actually call Neil Finn the greatest living songwriter alive. I believe it’s because Finn actually has the unique ability of creating actually Lennon/McCartney songs; the best example with it’s Macca-esque tenderness and Lennon like ironic wit making “Don’t Dream It’s Over” the best eighties song Paul & John never wrote. Paul probably hears it too. This must be why according to Paul Tingen of Performing Musician Magazine eloquently wrote, “While many write melodic rock songs in the tradition of the Beatles, very few manage to do so with the degree of inventiveness and originality that hallmarks Finn’s work. This is so obvious to anyone with ears that stories of McCartney saying he wished he could write music like Neil Finn and praising Finn as “the greatest songwriter alive” seem entirely credible, even if confirmation is impossible to find.”

Whether of not Neil Finn is the greatest living songwriting is inconsequential, the thing is it’s almost thirty years since Finn wrote and Crowded House recording their top five hit single “Don’t Dream It’s Over.” I guess the question is Finn’s classic song a poignant or uplifting song? One fan of Neil’s most famous song is none other than Megadeth’s Dave Mustaine who once said, “Well, I’m influenced by The Beatles a little bit. Same thing with a band called Crowded House. They have that song “Don’t Dream It’s Over”? I can be anywhere and be totally sad and hear that song, and my mood will brighten right up. I don’t know why, but that song just cheers me up, and there’s not a lot of songs that do that. I know Neil and know Tim and I told them that I really dug their music and they were pretty surprised. I like Crowded House and we actually became friends.” Dave Mustaine, the lead singer of Megadeth, can’t be wrong. Just press play and let Neil Finn’s eternal chord guide you back with his reimagining of A Day In The Life;” drift away within the chorus, where you really belong inside Neil Finn’s timeless “Don’t Dream It’s Over.”

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