Alan Ferguson Presents: Crowded House
By Alan Ferguson
What are the ingredients of a classic song? It has to have the elements that make for a GOOD song to start with: any combination of seamless melody, interesting chord progression, compelling lyrics, or perhaps just a catchy little riff. A CLASSIC song (and recording) has to go one step further though: it likely combines all of these elements, but more importantly, captures something universally relevant.
With the 1987 hit ‘Don’t Dream It’s Over’, Australia-based Crowded House created a classic song, combining a simple but effective guitar hook, a soaring melody, a catchy refrain (hey now, hey now), and most importantly, an inspired message of hope that cut through the cynicism and excess of the era. Reference the movie Wall Street if you want to know what I mean…it was released the same year. The song holds an unabashed candle to the idealism of the Sixties with its nod to The Beatles’ song-craft and Procol Harum-inspired organ solo.
Vocalist, guitarist, and principal songwriter Neil Finn, a native of New Zealand, had already been exposed to chart success and popular acclaim, penning some of the biggest hits for his older brother Tim’s band, Split Enz, known perhaps as much for their manic theatricality as their recordings.
Moving on, Neil hooked up with bassist Nick Seymour, and ex-Split Enz drummer Paul Hester to form Crowded House, embracing a musical concept that placed emphasis on less-is-more. ‘Don’t Dream It’s Over’ became one of the biggest hits ever for an Australasian band, and made the top ten in many countries. The band went on to produce a number of albums that can still make even celebrated songwriters cringe with envy.
Crowded House went out with a bang in 1996, playing a farewell concert to an audience estimated at between 150,000 and 250,000 on the steps of the Sydney Opera House.
The band reformed in 2006, and have recently released their sixth album Intriguer.
At the time, the chart success of Don’t Dream It’s Over hinted to me that the Eighties still had a soft spot for both an inspired song rendered simply, and the idealistic Dream of the Sixties. The fact that I still hear it on the radio informs me that we’ve always needed good reminders of why we should remain hopeful. In the accelerated, saturated world we live in now, a sense of hope is vital.