Reviews - Week 15


Over The Rainbow Cover

Hunky Dory

Over The Rainbow - Cd Lp

(Siesta Records)

Let me tell you... Hunky Dory is a rather old-fashioned, childlike, sweet expression meaning about everything between "okay" and "just great". There are a lot of theories about how the phrase came about - one of them actually involves the 19th century, the Japanese town Yokohama, American sailors and a street called Huncho-Dori of which they were particularly fond. However my favourite theory -which seems to be the most prominent too- wants "hunky" to have come from the archaic American word "hunk". Generally, hunk meant "safe", but there was a game in which it meant "goal" or "home". Based on that and on the fact that children tend to use amusing words but also to create them -often by repeating already existing words in funny ways- linguists believe that it was playing children that turned "hunk" into "hunky" and that, into "hunky-dory".

Anyhow - in this particular case Hunky Dory are -or rather they were towards the end of the 1980's- a children's group from England. More specifically, they came from Lewes, East Sussex - a cute, characteristically English village somewhere between the South Coast and London (and yet characteristically in the middle of nowhere). It was there that someone -goodness knows who- what the idea that Matthew Prout and his friends (Heidi Stone, Marie Yeandle, Sandra Clinton and Mathew Tester) should form a band. And so it happened, with a little help from Mathew's father, Malcolm Tester, who probably wrote the songs.

And then Mike Alway discovered Hunky Dory: he signed them to El, who was to release their record within 1988... That, however, is where things started to go wrong, Cherry Red withdrew their financial support of El and the record was never released, or, rather, it wasn't released for a long, long time. During that time -and maybe through the two or three songs that ended up in Cherry Red compilations, or maybe just because the story of Hunky Dory is of the sort that tends to create myths around itself- "Over The Rainbow" ended up being regarded as El's long lost masterpiece.

During this time, though, other things happened too, and Siesta was one of them - and it seems that it's better than El at making Mike Alway's dreams come true: in the spring of 2002, Mike accidentally met Mr Malcolm Tester and this time around things happened as they should have done. A few months later "Over The Rainbow" was finally released, dressed in a pretty colourful sleeve... very colourful....

... so colourful that, when one of those cds and me came across each other (it happened at the entrance of my block of flats - the place where the postman throws the post) the cover that came out of the envelope (which I tore apart while walking to the shop) contrasted everything else around me. You see, it was a cold, grey, rainy morning -London weather- one of these days when everything looks gloomy and I walk the streets staring at the passers-by, hoping to see someone who has a special place in my heart, someone who in my eyes is surrounded by light, someone who'll put a smile on my face.

And when, soon afterwards, I walked back into the house and put the cd in the cd player, I discovered that "Over The Rainbow" does exactly that: it makes you feel like someone is holding your hand, and their presence tells you things are better than you thought they were. It's full of songs -nursery rhymes even- about life but a rather general, quite-prettied-up-but-real-all-the-same and, most of all, a sweet version of it. They're played simply but perfectly, in a way that maybe no one will ever manage to repeat and that reminds you just how much being a child has to do with your wish to make the world around you come alive, to colour it and make it shine.

Keyboards, guitars and bass, something that sounds suspiciously much like a drum machine and the children sharing the vocals; simple, but irresistibly pop melodies full of lyrics that reflect the -just as irresistibly pop- notion that with a bit of sun, a holiday, love and smiles, with you in my life, it will all be allright...

The same as yesterday, another day's began
But there are always clouds to hide away the sun
Whatever happened to the kid that had the fun?
I don't believe it
But with a little love and understanding
With a little help and a guiding hand
With a little push in the right direction
We're gonna make it go the way we planned!

...and putting your problems in cute lyrics in a perfectly good way of going about them (which in my opinion it could well be - if nothing else it's so poetic) and finally that some great things are really really simple.

It's hard to believe Hunky Dory ever existed. With smiles that seem to have popped out of Lukas Moodysson's film "Together" and a sound that sounds '60s as much as it sounds '70s and '80s and even '90s, they're what pop is all about - they're like they've fallen from the sky - the make you reconsider how magical you think the world can be.

Dimitra Daisy


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