Life in a Northern Town

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"Life in a Northern Town"
Single by The Dream Academy
from the album The Dream Academy
Released March 1985 (UK and World)
November 1985 (USA)
Format Vinyl record (7" and 12"), cassette tape and CD
Recorded 1984
Genre Dream pop
Length 4:19
Label Warner Bros. / Blanco y Negro
Writer(s) Gilbert Gabriel
Nick Laird-Clowes
Producer(s) David Gilmour, Nick Laird-Clowes, Alan Tarney
The Dream Academy singles chronology
"Life in a Northern Town"
(1985)
"The Edge Of Forever"
(1985)
Music sample

"Life in a Northern Town" is a pop song by The Dream Academy, an English dream pop group. The song is the first single from their 1985 self-titled debut, The Dream Academy. Reaching #7 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 chart in February 1986, it is also their highest-peaking chart single in the United States. A cover version, recorded by the country music duo Sugarland with guest vocals from Little Big Town and Jake Owen, was a Top 40 country hit in 2008.

Original version[edit]

The Dream Academy released the original version in 1985 as the first single from their self-titled album. It was a Top Ten pop hit for them, peaking at number 7 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100.

Content[edit]

The lyrics include references to English singer-songwriter Nick Drake,[1] who suffered from depression and insomnia throughout his life and often reflected those topics in his lyrics. Gilbert Gabriel, a member of The Dream Academy and co-writer of the song, has also said that the inspiration for the tune came from his experience at Dartington College of Arts.[2] Nick Drake died of an antidepressant overdose in 1974 at the age of 26, but his music has influenced songwriters and guitarists well after his death.[3] He was best known for sombre pieces composed on his favourite instrument, the guitar, and The Dream Academy intended the song as a tribute to Drake.[1]

The song, which took a year to record, also includes elements of classical music, an "African-esque" chant (which was later sampled by dance duo Dario G for their track "Sunchyme"), and hints of psychedelia.[2] It is in the key of E major with a main chord pattern of E-Amaj7-E and a vocal range from B3 to E5.[4] There is no specific reference to any particular northern town or city, though Drake lived in the village of Tanworth-in-Arden near Solihull in the English Midlands, around 100 miles north of the band's London base.

Music video[edit]

There were two different versions of the music video. The first one was made in 1984 and was filmed in Hebden Bridge in West Yorkshire, England. It was directed by Tim Pope.[5] The second version was filmed in 1985 and was directed by Leslie Libman and Larry Williams.[6] It was filmed in and around Newcastle upon Tyne with some scenes filmed in Manchester in the UK and in Aliquippa, Pennsylvania, USA, using footage of the now closed LTV Steel and Duquesne Light facilities. The video featured footage from one of their first TV appearances, on The Tube.

Track listing[edit]

7" Single

  1. "Life in a Northern Town" - 4:17
  2. "Test Tape No. 3" - 5:01

12" Single

  1. "Life in a Northern Town" (Extended) - 5:19
  2. "Test Tape No. 3" - 5:03
  3. "Life in a Northern Town" (7" Mix) - 4:14
  4. "Poised on the Edge of Forever" - 3:32

Chart positions[edit]

Chart (1985–1986) Peak
position
Australia (ARIA)[7] 4
Canada (RPM)[8] 7
Ireland (IRMA)[9] 9
United Kingdom (The Official Chart Company) 15
U.S. Billboard Hot 100 7
U.S. Billboard Hot Mainstream Rock Tracks 7
U.S. Billboard Hot Adult Contemporary Tracks 2[10]

Sugarland cover version[edit]

"Life in a Northern Town"
Song by Sugarland featuring Little Big Town and Jake Owen from the album Love on the Inside
Released 2008
Recorded 2007
Genre Country
Length 4:14
Label Mercury Nashville
Writer Gilbert Gabriel
Nick Laird-Clowes
Producer Byron Gallimore
Sugarland

The song was covered in 2007 by the country music duo Sugarland, along with Little Big Town and Jake Owen, on the Sugarland Change for Change Tour. A live performance from 2007 was made into a music video by Becky Fluke for the network Country Music Television.[11] Although not officially released as a single, this rendition received airplay on country radio, debuting at 57 on the Billboard Hot Country Songs chart dated for 5 April 2008 and reaching a peak of 28. It also peaked at 43 on the Billboard Hot 100 based on downloads.

This performance was included on the Deluxe Fan Edition of Sugarland's 2008 album Love on the Inside[11] and on Capitol Records' late 2008 re-release of Little Big Town's 2007 album A Place to Land. In addition, it was nominated for Vocal Event of the Year at the Country Music Association awards,[12] Best Country Collaboration with Vocals at the 51st Grammy Awards,[13] and Vocal Event of the Year at the 44th Annual Academy of Country Music awards.[14]

Chart positions[edit]

Chart (2008) Peak
position
Canada (Canadian Hot 100)[15] 53
US Hot Country Songs (Billboard)[16] 28
US Billboard Hot 100[17] 43

Other Versions[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b James McNair (26 March 1999). "Apprentice to the stars". London: The Independent. Retrieved 2010-02-26. 
  2. ^ a b Randolph Michaels (2005). Flashbacks to Happiness: Eighties Music Revisited. iUniverse, Inc. p. 56. ISBN 978-0-595-37007-8. 
  3. ^ MacDonald, Ian. "Exiled from Heaven". Mojo Magazine, January 2000.
  4. ^ "'Life in a Northern Town' sheet music". MusicNotes.com. Retrieved 24 February 2013. 
  5. ^ http://www.mvdbase.com/video.php?id=9075
  6. ^ http://www.mvdbase.com/video.php?id=9076
  7. ^ [1]
  8. ^ Canada peak
  9. ^ Search for Irish peaks
  10. ^ Whitburn, Joel (2002). Top Adult Contemporary: 1961-2001. Record Research. p. 82. 
  11. ^ a b "Sugarland Adds "Life in a Northern Town" to New CD". CMT. 4 June 2008. Retrieved 2008-11-25. 
  12. ^ "Stars Shining Over CMAs". Great American Country. 11 September 2008. Retrieved 2008-11-25. 
  13. ^ "Alison Krauss, Robert Plant Score at Grammys". Great American Country. 4 December 2008. Retrieved 2008-12-14. 
  14. ^ "Academy of Country Music nominees". Academy of Country Music. 11 February 2009. Retrieved 2009-03-09. 
  15. ^ "Sugarland Album & Song Chart History" Canadian Hot 100 for Sugarland.
  16. ^ "Sugarland Album & Song Chart History" Billboard Hot Country Songs for Sugarland.
  17. ^ "Sugarland Album & Song Chart History" Billboard Hot 100 for Sugarland.
  18. ^ https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/444321026/here-comes-the-reign-again-the-second-british-inva

External links[edit]