From postpunk, the hobbit rock thread can be traced onward to later in the same decade. A mellow strain of alternative rock began to emerge in the mid-1980s, or so it seemed to some of us in America. I suspect that in Britain, funnily enough, much British music seemed mainstream. And this example, courtesy of Lloyd Cole and the Commotions, fits the jangly guitar sound that was more and more common then.
I like this song, and the banter at the end is amusing, but I’ve got another reason to like this video. I can’t quite remember, yet I’m convinced that I owned Lloyd’s shirt in junior high school.
Bonus video: Back in 1968, Leonard Nimoy graced the world with this lighthearted ode to a hobbit. This is not postpunk or alt rock, but it is quite literally hobbit rock.
Another year, and blogging has been too infrequent around here. There will clearly be much more Hobbit Rock work to be done in 2022. In the meantime, here is an easy one.
As my previous Hobbit Rock post showed, all the Joy Division influence in northern England could not extinguish the Hobbit Rock flame. Like a stubborn Viking invader, it merely moved north to Scotland and never left the island. And here’s a further ‘80s Scottish example of Hobbit Rock to follow up “All About You” by Scars. This is one that everyone knows, but here in a fantastic live performance:
While seeming like a staple of 70s prog that made its way into 80s hard rock, Hobbit Rock was pervasive enough in its quiet little way to live through punk rock and become part of the unique little pocket of time when there was something called postpunk. Only punk in sharing the DIY ethos, this was a sonic world of flanged and chorused guitars, heavy keyboard atmospherics and abstract and sometimes unsettled lyrics.
Scotland made an impressive contribution to postpunk, exemplified by the career of Simple Minds. Their first album an above average blend of Bowie/Roxy influences, they moved into moodier and more unique territory on a second album nourished by the postpunk currents then starting to flow. While Simple Minds would go on to a more streamlined sound and mass success, Scottish postpunk is also well-represented by the lesser known and short-lived band Scars.
And does Scottish postpunk relate to Hobbit Rock? Yes, indeed, it does, as this Scars song and video demonstrate. Four guys running together, a veritable fellowship, leaving their town and heading to a tower where some sort of evil awaits, while the song fluctuates between the brighter and more melancholy edges of longing.
When I took a Renaissance lit class in the early 1990s, our instructor scoffed at least once at Renaissance Fairs. And while “Ren Fests” have experienced their share of derision, my teacher’s issue was more specific than any perceived dorkiness. For the festivals don’t always much distinguish between the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, mixing elements of them together in a historically inaccurate mish-mash of time periods, some of it medieval.
But I’ll defend Ren Fests a bit. First, I’ve been to one years ago, and found it very enjoyable. Second, my favorite part of that lit class (besides writing a sonnet about Robot Monster) was learning that Sir Thomas Mallory’s Le Morte d’Arthur was a little early for Renaissance, more like the very end of the Middle Ages. So if that ambiguity of historical eras is good enough for the Arthurian legend and John Boorman’s Excalibur, why, Ren Fests should get a little more respect.
What does this have to do with Hobbit Rock? Our next song is by a band called Renaissance. There is some folk here, some classical, woodwinds mixed with guitars, it’s the seventies, sort of a prog group, but this song is a very good pop song. Here is a longing-for-home sentimentality, very much in line with hobbits and their love of home, and there seemed to be more songs like this back then. What does this have to do with the Renaissance? I don’t know, but it’s a great song and a great performance.
Bonus video: This is Nightwish’s cover version of Gary Moore’s “Over the Hills and Far Away,” featured in the previous installment of Hobbit Rock.
The music of Rush is supposed to be a love-it-or-hate-it thing, but somehow I managed to fall in the middle. Long-term, devoted fans don’t always love their early ‘80s material but I think the Permanent Waves-Moving Pictures-Signals era was magnificent. Alex Lifeson’s guitar had a lovely chorus pedal sound which meshed with the synthesizers that the band was experimenting with, and brought out the best in some of their best songs.
It’s thanks to Neil Peart that I learned something about music. A couple of high school jazz band friends had whatever the current Rush concert video was at the time, and could not say enough about Peart’s drumming. One of these guys was a drummer, and the other a serious Rush fan, and I realized that some folks like music not for any song by that artist, but because of the sheer musicianship.
And I hope Geddy Lee and Alex Lifeson keep going in some form.