Monday, 9 September 2019

Clandestine Classic LIX - I Believe

The fifty-ninth 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.

I had to resurrect this series, just because I couldn't believe I hadn't already featured this song! Back in the early to mid 90s, James frontman Tim Booth courted, and eventually landed, a collaboration with esteemed film composer Angelo Badalamenti. Their album from which today's classic is drawn, Booth and the Bad Angel, was the result. Bolstered by guitar work from Bernard Butler, not long free from Suede and fresh from working with David McAlmont, the album was critically well received and, thanks to this track being released as a single, sold quite well too.

I Believe is the most James-like track on the album, I think, and certainly the most accessible in terms of what would make a good single. It marries an uplifting, major-key tune with quasi-orchestral backing to a typical soaring Booth vocal and equally characteristic Butler guitar riffs. The result, musically, is magic. And then there are the positive lyrics, to wit:

They turned your story all around,
They had you free when you were bound,
They raised you up when you were down,
They raised you high...

I believe someone's watching over me.
I believe in the dreams that set you free...

And what more 90s, confident, aspirational, Cool Britannia lyric is there than Why be a song when you can be a symphony? Frankly I'm amazed that no political party tried to use this as a campaign tune, then or since. Got to be better than D-REAM, right?

I'm also amazed that this only got to number 25 in the charts. Go on, name 24 songs in the whole of 1996 that were much better than this? Anyway... there was a follow-up single eighteen months later but, other than that, this was a short-lived collaboration. Tim Booth went back to his James-based day job. Bernard Butler released a number of solo albums before hooking up with Ben Watt. And Angelo Badalamenti went back to scoring film and TV.

My CD single of this is scratched and won't play any more. Luckily, I also have it on the best of the Shine compilation series, Shine 5. By contrast, you lucky buggers need only turn to YouTube, look:

Bonus Butler-less live performance from Later..., in which James deputise as the backing band...


  1. Huge confession time: I never realised that it was Tim Booth! D'oh! I had only ever knowingly heard one track by Booth & The Bad Angel, from a compilation album some years back, the track (which I loved) was 'Dance Of The Bad Angels'. Then they just never crossed my consciousness again although, on playing the tracks you include here I realise there is a familiarity so must have heard in passing before. And it is so obviously Tim Booth. Funny how that can happen sometimes. The track 'Dance Of The Bad Angels' still sounds great to me btw.

    1. Easy to get blindsided sometimes. But once you know it's Tim, you just can't hear anyone else...