Tuesday, April 10, 2012

The Church - "Under the Milky Way"

Under the Milky Way - Starfish

(Debuted April 9, 1988, Peaked #24, 15 Weeks on the Chart)

Released during the hail of dance-mix hits, non-offensive AOR-friendly singles and synth-pop tunes that were common during 1988, "Under the Milky Way" might have come across as a refreshing change of pace. The Church had been a major act in Australia and was helped by a rising interest in rock bands from Down Under around that time (Midnight Oil, INXS, Icehouse). Signed to Arista, they went to Los Angeles to record their LP Starfish.

By all accounts, the band hated their experience in California. They were ill-suited to deal with the L.A. studio heads and producer Waddy Wachtel. They felt homesick, and the sights and sounds of the unfamiliar country really grated on them. Ironically, the result was the band's best-known LP in the U.S. and their only Top 40 hit. While much of the album's material was either a response or reaction to their "fish out of water" experience making the record, "Under the Milky Way" wasn't one of them. Inspired by a place in Amsterdam, Holland, the song was written by group leader Steve Kilbey and his then-girlfriend Karin Jansson.

Many of the group's songs are known for their obtuse lyrics; in the case of "Under the Milky Way," the message was clearer. It made for a decent shot at a hit, even if it really wasn't an example of what the group's other material sounded like. The "hook" in the tune was caused by using a device called an EBow on a guitar, which made the notes resemble the sound of bagpipes.

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