Saturday, March 30, 1985

The Dream Academy “Life in a Northern Town” charted

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.

Saturday, March 9, 1985

REO Speedwagon “Can’t Fight This Feeling” hit #1

Can’t Fight This Feeling

REO Speedwagon

Writer(s): Kevin Cronin (see lyrics here)

Released: December 31, 1984

First Charted: January 18, 1985

Peak: 13 US, 12 CB, 13 GR, 14 RR, 3 AC, 5 AR, 16 UK, 11 CN, 2 AU, 5 DF (Click for codes to charts.)

Sales (in millions): 1.0 US, 0.4 UK, 1.45 world (includes US + UK)

Airplay/Streaming (in millions): -- radio, 204.1 video, 297.02 streaming


Click on award for more details.

About the Song:

REO Speedwagon had slogged their way across American venues for a decade before hitting big with 1981’s “lighters-up power ballad” SG “Keep on Loving You,” a #1 song from Hi Infidelity, which became the best-selling album in America that year. SG They also landed top-10 hits with “Take It on the Run” and “Keep the Fire Burnin’,” the latter from their 1982 Good Trouble album.

While MTV threatened to derail “the old arena-rock battleships” SG REO rode the storm out and, when “the excitement over British art-school synthpop was starting to fade” SG they were right there again with more “pure prom-slow-dance grandeur” SG – “Can’t Fight This Feeling,” from their 1984 Wheels Are Turnin’ album.

Lead singer Kevin Cronin started writing the song a decade earlier, even recording a demo when he left the band for a bit in the early ‘70s. WK While on vacation in Hawaii during a break from recording Wheels Are Turnin’, he thought of the song again and added a chorus and title. He explained how he had become attracted to a woman who was in his friend group, but he couldn’t say anything because she was dating one of the other friends. WK He finally finished the song when he realized he “couldn’t figh the feeling anymore and made the move to kind of go for it.” WK They ended up having a relationship and although it didn’t last, they stayed friends. WK

He explained that the song is about “that moment in time where…it gets to be too painful to be where you are and you know you have to change…but change is hard…and you overcome that fear of change.” FB More specifically, it “is a song about giving in and admitting that you actually care about someone.” SG

He said it was tough to express himself emotionally growing up, so when he does so in the song “he does it in the biggest possible way: Massed harmonies, screaming guitars, pounding drama-nerd pianos, overwrought metaphors about ships and candles and whirlwinds. He turns surrender into something ecstatic.” SG It is “adult-contemporary gloop. It’s dramatic and self-serious and massively catchy, with tremendous drunken-singalong potential.” SG


  • FB Fred Bronson (2007). The Billboard Book of Number One Hits (4th edition). Billboard Books: New York, NY. Page 603.
  • SG Stereogum (9/23/2020). “The Number Ones” by Tom Breihan
  • WK Wikipedia

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First posted 12/25/2022; last updated 12/26/2022.