May 152010

Last night my wife and I tottered down to our local hotel. To see a band that I have waited 18 years to see: The Chills, one of New Zealand’s finest exports and central to the Flying Nun story of the 1980s and ’90s.

The Chills have an incredible catalogue of songs to select from, although you could probably never say hand on heart that they had a bona fide ‘hit’. But what has always hit the spot, and did again last night is this thunderous, floor-shaking anthem “I Love My Leather Jacket.”


The song is a dedication to Martyn Bull, a drummer in The Chills, who died aged 22. The question Townsmen my wife wondered out loud is this. Is there a better song in memory of a departed friend than this one from The Chills?


  9 Responses to “Wish You Were Here”

  1. Your question will take more thought. I never knew “Leather Jacket” was a tribute and it’s a good one.

    And I love the Chills foremost among those Flying Nun bands. Brave Words is great pop, Submarine Bells has a great, unified sound (one of the few albums I like better start-to-finish) and Soft Bomb is 1/2 genius (and 1/2 crap, nobody’s perfect). Thanks for the post.

  2. Mr. Moderator

    I’ve been out all day, mikeydread. I’ll have to catch up on this song and see what else is out there. I regret never having warmed up to the Chills. I bought Submarine Bells and had high expectations, but it was a little “too much” in terms of keyboards and reverb, if memory serves. Unfortunatley I gave up on the album too soon and sold it. It wasn’t an album I disliked, but I was bummed that it didn’t blow my mind, as I somehow expected it to do. It’s funny the record-buying experiences that come back to me sometimes.

  3. BigSteve

    I’m not a big Elton John fan, but I always thought his song about John Lennon called Empty Garden was very moving. Paul Simon’s lesser known The Late Great Johnny Ace is good too.

    Mark Eitzel has written a lot of songs indirectly referencing his late friend Kathleen, but I especially like Another Morning:

    Is there no joy in you?
    Well come on, don’t keep me waiting
    Your broken heart might bring you heaven
    but it will not bring you another morning,
    another morning with Kathleen

  4. Mr. Moderator

    That’s a cool song, worth my time revisiting The Chills album I dumped so long ago.

    Last night I thought you were asking for a song about a departed band member friend, over which I’d been scratching my head at the degree of difficulty. I couldn’t recall, for instance, the name the Stones’ tender send-off to Brian Jones, and none of the surviving Beatles’ odes to Lennon bring the lone teardrop to my eye that I’d expect them to bring. Now that I understand the question, however, the first, best song to a departed friend that I think of is The Clash’s “Stay Free,” which I believe is about one of Mick Jones’ childhood friends who got in trouble with the law. I can’t confirm, though, how departed this guy was when Jones wrote the song. Does anyone know if the guy had died when the song was written? If so, I may go with that one.

  5. hrrundivbakshi

    The only one I can (sort of) recall right now is one I can’t stand — the one about Johnny Thunders or whetever, sung by the New York Dolls. Bathos!

  6. Speaking of tributes, I was at this past weekend’s Alex Chilton/Big Star tribute show in Memphis.

    I had bought the tickets for the show before Alex died and wasn’t sure about it afterwards. I didn’t know what to expect, but I was hoping for a celebration instead of a mourning. It was. Mike Mills, Brendan Benson, Sondra Lerche, John Davis (of Superdrag), and several others were on hand to pay tribute along with Jon Auer, Ken Stringfellow, and Jody Stephens.

    I’m working on a blog entry containing my complete thoughts on the event, but I’m glad that I went.


  7. plasticsun

    To answer the question about Stay Free – no, the song is about Robin Banks, who is still alive.

  8. Mr. Moderator

    Thanks for clearing that up, plasticsun. That’s good to hear, even if it means I was not able to “top” mikeydread’s number:)

  9. Anyone still keeping up with Steve Forbert may have heard a new(er) tune called “House of Cards” about Elvis Presley,…a remarkable tune…

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