#533 ‘Sweet Jane’ by the Cowboy Junkies (1 Nov)

Album: The Trinity Sessions, 1988

Justification: This has been on my mind a lot since Sunday’s tragic news, since this is the song that made me fall in love with the music of Lou Reed.

"I don't know, could you make the photo a little harder to distinguish?"

“I don’t know, could you make the photo a little harder to distinguish?”

Discovering music wasn’t easy back in 1988, especially if you were a school kid in Adelaide. It’s one of the huge advantages of the modern age – a 15 year old curious about this Velvet Underground band they’ve heard so much about can be listening to them for free in seconds, but at this point in history you either needed to know someone with the record you could tape it from, or plonk down full retail price for a disc and hope you were wise to do so.

The other interesting thing that happened because of this, by the way, was that the music you had was a lot more important to you because you had either made an effort or spent quite a bit of money.

The bands that I loved at this time – the Cure, the Smiths, Echo & the Bunnymen, Models, the Jesus & Mary Chain, They Might Be Giants – were more than just the stuff I listened to, they were part of my DNA. I remember walking past a guy in a Public Image Limited t-shirt in Marion Shopping Centre and thinking “I’ll never be cool enough to listen to PiL”, so much was my sense of identity wrapped up in music. If you were going to wear the t-shirt, you had to have the records; and getting the records required a commitment that you couldn’t  give to just any old band.

And I’d heard Lou Reed before – I knew ‘Walk on the Wild Side’ and ‘Rock ‘n’ Roll’ and ‘Satellite of Love’ and didn’t especially care for any of them, I knew the Velvets were massively influential but at that point in time I hadn’t heard any of their stuff, at least not knowingly, although I had a very clear idea in my head what they sounded like (which turned out to be largely wrong, though that’s another story).

But then a Canadian indie-blues band recorded an album using a single microphone in a Toronto church, which changed everything.

This was the song that made the Junkies’ career. The Trinity Session was a spooky, late-night record and their cover of the Velvets ‘Sweet Jane’ was about the only cover of which Reed spoke approvingly. It helps that Margot Timmins’ voice sounds like honey, which brings out the melancholia in Reeds’ lyrics, although they do kind of stuff up the bridge – but even so, I bought this on 7″ and spun it obsessively, and it was this that made me want to explore what else its songwriter had to offer.

It also made me explore what the Cowboy Junkies had to offer, which was a good deal less – although I did interview Margot once circa Lay it Down in 1996, and she was very nice. She also said something about how she never went for the big, showy vocals on record so she’d have somewhere extra to take the songs live, which I thought was a very interesting perspective that would, surely, lead to more boring records. Like, say, Lay it Down.

This song was used to great effect in Natural Born Killers and several other films where whoever’s doing the music licensing has gone “OK, we can’t afford Mazzy Star’s ‘Fade Into You’, what other options do we have?”

SONG YOU SHOULD HAVE REDISCOVERED THIS TIME IN 2010: Let’s be clear, there are few songs more affecting than ‘Maps’ by the Yeah Yeah Yeahs.

SONG YOU SHOULD HAVE REDISCOVERED THIS TIME IN 2011: Enjoy one of the world’s poppiest masturbation metaphors: ‘Flagpole Sitta’ by Harvey Danger.


528. Black: Wonderful Life (16 Apr)

529. Bruce Springbean and the S-Street Band: Born to Add (17 May)

530. The Lightning Seeds: Ready or Not (11 July)

531. The Shangri-Las: Give Him A Great Big Kiss (23 Aug)

532. Guided by Voices: Teenage FBI (27 Aug)


One thought on “#533 ‘Sweet Jane’ by the Cowboy Junkies (1 Nov)

  1. Pingback: #538 ‘Goodnight Moon’ by Shivaree (15 August) | Songs You Should Rediscover Today Because They Are Awesome

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