MUSIC IN THE SNOW, SNOW IN THE MUSIC

Regular subscribers to The Blackpool Sentinel – one of the advantages of digital media means that we have identified someone in West Cork  and possibly another in Eastern Europe – will need no introduction to the magnificent Scottish band, Trashcan Sinatras, and their seductive, smart and soothing pop songs. They are in part the patron saints of under-achievement and the brothers of perpetual succour who, over the course of a near flawless thirty-year career – during which time they’ve dropped six wonderful studio albums – have covered a huge amount of ground.

The Trashcans are one of a number of bands – Prefab Sprout and The  Go-Betweens are others – to whom I default in times of major events like births, deaths, anniversaries, personal anxiety and general  uncertainty. Like all of the truly great artists and writers, they consistently bring calm and serenity to every occasion, no matter how difficult.

Neither will our regulars need any introduction to snow, in either the literal sense – and certainly not our regular in Eastern Europe – nor in the more metaphorical one. Snow, familiar slang for cocaine, has long been a buzz-word in every sense within the entertainment industry, and particularly inside music circles. Many is the coked-up flunkey we’ve all encountered around the circuit over the years: toot has been the peccadillo of choice for an entire sweep since when our Lord determined there would be music.

It was the late comedian and actor Robin Williams who determined that ‘cocaine is God’s way of telling you  you are making too much money’. Which might come as a surprise to many of those chemical enthusiasts working across all aspects of the music scene and who tend to be perennially penniless.

It was the inveterate drug addict, Eric Clapton – who also found time to play guitar and make a series of unfortunate records as an addled solo artist – who immortalised the phrase ‘no snow, no show’ back in 1978 as he was transitioning from one dependency to the next. And his is one of the most celebrated but certainly nowhere near the worst example of a career that was spectacularly derailed by dust.

Indeed there are numerous lists of albums made by paranoid, agitated and utterly uncoordinated artists while under the very obvious influence of bump, most of which are impenetrable and inconsistent affairs. The Band, The Eagles, Miles Davis, David Bowie, Oasis, Sly And The Family Stone and Blur are just some of the bigger and better known artists who’ve ignored the Status Orange warnings and suffered the inevitable collateral damage that tends to follow extreme snow-storms.

Just, indeed, as there are lists of essential records too that were made and produced in a blizzard of blow, Fleetwood Mac’s ‘Rumours’ easily one of the best of them. And an album whose enormous international sales numbers directly mirrors the mountain of cocaine consumed as it was being conceived and recorded.

Elsewhere, the producer Gary Katz oversaw the recording of an entire Steely Dan album in Los Angeles that neither Donald Fagen or the late Walter Becker – the creative core of the band – can recall being present at. The sessions for David Bowie’s ‘Station To Station’ and the third Oasis album, ‘Be Here Now’, are just as celebrated and for similar reasons.

As Ireland prepares for the arrival of what the Portuguese Meteorological Office have named ‘Storm Emma’, and what looks like an unprecedented and havoc-wrecking weather event, its worth noting that the last time so much snow damage was forecast for Ireland was after Oasis were confirmed as headliners at Slane Castle back in 2009.

But snow – in the literal, meteorological sense – has long been a useful metaphor too and practically every writer and performer of note has dropped a lyrical reference to it at some point. One of the more obtuse – and, naturally enough, one of my own personal favourites – is the The Cocteau Twins’ ‘Snow’ special Christmas E.P. from 1993, on which they covered, as only they might, both ‘Winter Wonderland’ and ‘Frosty  The Snowman’. But everyone’s done snow at some point :- from Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen to The Go-Betweens, it is literally all around us.

And yet no one’s done it as beautifully as our old friends, Trashcan Sinatras and, given the serious weather event incoming, it’s only right  and proper that they’ll be soundtracking the snowfall across Ireland for as long as it endures. In my own house, at any rate.

‘Snow’, written by Randy Newman and first recorded by Harry Nilsson, the American singer-songwriter, for an album called ‘Nilsson Sings Newman’, released in 1970, presents in the spirit of The Beatles’ ‘Dear Prudence’ [or perhaps The Smiths’ ‘Death Of A Disco Dancer’ ?] and is another of those soft, tender and dangerously loaded love songs in which they specialise. ‘Its all over and you’re gone’, Frank Reader sings over a slow, rumbling air.

‘But the memory lives on, although our dreams lie buried in the snow’. And apart altogether from the quality of the writing – ‘Snow’ is easily as gorgeous  as anything they’ve committed to tape themselves and man, have they consistently shot the lights out in that respect– they’ve also managed a rare sensory feat.  If snowfall had a sound to accompany it, this would be it.

‘Snow’ doesn’t feature on any of the band’s studio albums :- they’ve  used it twice over the years instead as a bridging piece between elpees. It first saw the light of day in 1999, post ‘A Happy Pocket’ and five years before their fourth album, ‘Weightlifting’. ‘Snow’ was re-issued in 2006 between the release of that same ‘Weightlighting’ album in 2004 and ‘In The Music’ five years later, even if the record itself remains difficult to find.

The weather, the outdoors, natural history and geography have long been strong themes across much of The Trashcans’ material. Snow features as a backdrop on their magnificent ‘Wild Mountainside’ [‘snow  is falling all over, out of clear blue sky] while, as far back as the band’s  second album, ‘I’ve Seen Everything’, the curious ninety second shuffle, ‘Iceberg’ remarked how ‘through thaw and freeze, my life’s a breeze’.

In light of the current weather cycle, The National Emergency Co-Ordination Group has recommended that all Irish citizens, where possible, remain indoors for the bulk of the next couple of days.

Their advice – and it’s sound – is to be careful of the snow. And especially what lurks underneath it.

Appendix

Following a back and forth on the best song about Snow on Twitter we have put together a list of the possible contenders that have been suggested… thanks all. (We will keep adding as we get more suggestions)

Suggested by @mosstinpowers

Suggested by @ccferrie

Suggested by @Lyricfeature

Suggested by @boamorteband 

Another one Suggested by @boamorteband 

@aslinndubh suggests another 

Suggested by @Tconlononthecouch

suggested by @westcorkpaul (& @Boamorteband – really pulling out the stops guys.

Suggested by @kevsul47

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