Sunday 28 February 2021

Clandestine Classic LXIV - Saudade

The sixty-fourth 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.

Well now, I haven't done one of these for a while, and with good reason: how many classics are there, that I rate but you haven't heard of? It gets harder and harder to think of them. But today's song, the closing track from Love and Rockets' debut album, is worth five minutes of anyone's time.

Let's get the facts out of the way: Love and Rockets were formed by three members of Bauhaus, once that band had split in '83. With a marginably more accessible sound, the band's first album Seventh Dream of Teenage Heaven, released in 1985, did well enough to set the tone for a further fifteen years of output before the band called time (though neither album nor the related singles charted on either side of the pond). Today's choice is the instrumental album closer, five minutes of blissful steel-strung guitar, somewhat at odds with the 6/7/8-minute opuses that make up the rest of the album. Oh, and saudade is a Portuguese word with no direct translation in English, but that can be defined as the nostalgic or profound melancholic longing for an absent something or someone that one loves, but you knew that already. Appropriate, wouldn't you say, for a trio of musicians who were moving on from what had got them where they were?

So what makes this a clandestine classic? Musically, it's lovely though hardly exceptional - the guitar part, for example, is beautiful but not complicated, simple chords, simple picking (even I can play it). And it maybe goes on a bit too long (see other similar bands of the era: I'm looking at you, The Church). But, but, but... I came by this song in my first year at university, living in halls. A hall-mate had a copy of Seventh Dream on cassette (TDK SA90, since you ask, the preferred cassette brand and type of the day) and, at the end of that halcyon first year, when she returned to her home country, she bequeathed that tape (and several others) to me, on the basis that she could record them from the vinyl again when she got home, and giving me her tapes would make her luggage lighter.

I still have all those cassettes, though I haven't played them in years - they'll be too fragile now, brittle ribbons of oxidised tape. But I cherish them for the memories they encapsulate, their hand-written, hand-decorated inlay cards in my friend's handwriting. Everything about them speaks to me of a golden time in my life, of unrepeatable experiences, of connection, of what was and what might have been, of paths not taken, of Jonbar points, of friendship that endures despite separation, of nostalgia, of wistfulness, of melancholy, of saudade. So whilst there are other songs from that clutch of cassettes that evoke the same feelings (Skyway by The Replacements, for one, Surfer Rosa and Come On Pilgrim by Pixies and anything from the first two R.E.M. albums, especially), it feels entirely fitting and appropriate that this is the song I feature to capture that set of very personal feelings. So I'm sorry if this song doesn't move you in the same way (and let's face it, that would be very unlikely) but remember, my gaff, my rules...

You can pick up Saudade on that debut album in your format of choice, right here, or it also closes their retrospective best of, Sorted, if that appeals. Me, I'm off to wallow...


  1. When I think of Love And Rockets, I think of the lovely Daniel Ash! Had quite a crush on him during his Bauhaus days. This is beautiful, and to my ears not too long - I also feel it would fit in a film soundtrack and wonder if it has ever been used or considered. As for your personal associations with it, I can totally understand how this would be so particularly evocative. Everything about it seems to sum up the unique bittersweetness of a certain kind of longing - saudade, indeed.

    1. It is beautiful, isn't it? And you're right, it has a definite filmic quality, a soundtrack in waiting.