Friday, 12 November 2010

Clandestine Classic X - The Ground Below

The single was released at McCulloch's solo career's lowest ebbThe tenth post in an occasional series that is intended to highlight songs that you might not have heard that I think are excellent - clandestine classics, if you will. Maybe they'll be by bands you've never heard of. Maybe they'll be by more familiar artists, but tracks that were squirelled away on b-sides, unpopular albums, radio sessions or music magazine cover-mounted CDs. Time will, undoubtedly, tell.

Today's offering is a B-side from Ian McCulloch's solo years. After he'd called time on Echo And The Bunnymen first time around, McCulloch set off on a solo career to mixed reviews. Most people seemed to want his old band back. By the time he released his second solo album, Mysterio, in 1992 things were not going so well - it limped to number 46 in the UK chart. It did, however, yield an interesting single in the form of a Leonard Cohen cover, Lover, Lover, Lover. Again, UK success was hardly staggering - it dragged itself to 47 in the charts. Conversely, it did give McCulloch one of his biggest US hits though, reaching number 9. Being in the UK, I picked it up for 99p in the bargain bin of a sadly now defunct record store - I'd never been a fan, and The Bunnymen had come along a bit too early for me, but I liked the artwork and the promised Cohen cover, so I chanced my quid. A good choice, as it turned out.

Today's clandestine classic was the last of four tracks on that CD single, The Ground Below. It's a wonderfully stripped down affair, just vocals, acoustic guitars (two, I think) and some very sparse percussion. A deceptively simple track... but beguiling nonetheless. There are some beautiful lyrics in there too, notably the (sometimes annoyingly) catchy refrain:
Let me into your dreams
where all the darkest jewels glow.
You be the sky I've never seen,
I'll be the ground below.
I'd love to say that this song, or at least the CD from whence it came, turned me into a McCulloch fan, but it didn't. Sure, I bought Nothing Lasts Forever when Electrafixion gave way to a full and inevitable Bunnymen reunion. That's a good single too, but these remain the only two McCulloch offerings in my record collection. No, I prefer just to treasure my copy of Lover, Lover, Lover - all four songs on it are excellent, by the way, but for me The Ground Below is the pick of the crop. And at 2 minutes 45 seconds it was great for filling short gaps at the end of a side when making compilation tapes, back in the day...

You can find The Ground Below on the remastered and expanded double-CD of McCulloch's first two solo albums, Candleland and Mysterio, if you're so inclined. I couldn't find a dubious download of today's clandestine classic to offer you, but there's always YouTube. Enjoy.

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