Life in a Northern Town
The Dream Academy
Writer(s): Gilbert Gabriel, Nick Laird-Clowes (see lyrics here)
First Charted: March 30, 1985
Peak: 7 US, 4 CB, 4 RR, 2 AC, 7 AR, 2 CO, 15 UK, 7 CN, 4 AU, 1 DF (Click for codes to singles charts.)
Sales (in millions): --
Airplay/Streaming (in millions): 1.0 radio, 11.6 video, 21.75 streaming
Click on award for more details.
About the Song:
The Dream Academy formed in 1983 in London, England. The new-wave trio was comprised of singer and guitarist Nick Laird-Clowes, multi-instrumentalist Kate St. John, and keyboardist Gilbert Gabriel. They released three albums from 1985 to 1991. Only their 1985 self-titled debut produced any charting singles, with “Life in a Northern Town” and “The Love Parade.” In 1986, they reached #83 in the UK with a cover of the Smiths’ “Please Please Please Let Me Get What I Want” from the soundtrack of Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.
“Life in a Northern Town” is the song which the group is best remembered. It was written as an elegy to Nick Drake, a British folk musician. Laird-Clowes explained that it wasn’t specifically about Drake, but dedicated to his memory. “We had the idea…to write a folk song with an African-style chorus…When we got to the verse melody, there was something about it that reminded me of Nick Drake.” SF One of the guitars used in the song is the same one on the cover of Drake’s album Bryter Layter. SF
David Gilmour, best known as the guitarist from Pink Floyd, co-produced the song. It took a year to record. WK The song also got an assist by Paul Simon, whom Laird-Clowes had befriended. He played it for Simon, saying it was called “Morning Lasted All Day.” Simon vetoed the title and Laird-Clowes came up with “Life in a Northern Town” instead, which Simon thought was a great title. SF
In 2008, the country group Sugarland released a version of the song from their album Love on the Inside. It featured Little Big Town and Jake Owen. It was nominated for Vocal Event of the Year by the Country Music Association and Academy of Country Music. It also received a Grammy nomination for Best Country Collaboration with Vocals.
First posted 10/8/2022.