SONG: One of Our Submarines (a penitential Thomas Dolby cover)


“One of Our Submarines” [Download]
(penitential cover)

ARTIST: grant.

SOURCE: This has no scientific source; it’s a penitential cover for being late for the June song. It’s originally by Thomas Dolby.

ABSTRACT: I just can’t escape the 1980s, I guess.

I never liked dance music, as a kid, except when I liked dance music. By which I mean I didn’t really like songs that were meant to be danced to for the fact of their danciness – dance and clubs and jollity were basically anathema. But certain songs that were inescapably dance songs nonetheless wedged themselves deeply into my consciousness.

This is one of those songs for which I can remember the very first time I heard it. It was before Dolby’s huge hit “She Blinded Me With Science” was out. That one was kind of… too much. This, though, was eerie and haunting and doom-laden despite obviously having a groove. And, in that New Wave, hopelessly, wistfully human despite being so darn synthetic. Which is I guess kind of a guiding aesthetic for me, with the acoustic guitars and things that go beep.

I always had trouble figuring out Thomas Dolby songs, even the ones that weren’t all based around “freaky jazz chords.” This one seems to have a fair number of not-right covers and guitar chords out there, mostly I think based around trying to hear what the actual guitar is playing (like funk melodic accents here and there) rather than the main, keyboard-driven chord progression. But there was a guy on YouTube who got it in yer basic open-mic style, and gosh it was simple once I saw it. After that, I stripped it down to a four-note riff (essentially a bass figure played on a guitar) and then added little sine-wave beeps and mellotron pings and sonar sound effects until it was, you know, penitentially right. This was recorded basically all in one night and then with midi stuff added and mixed and remixed and re-jigged over many days and in many hotel rooms and borrowed houses and noisy car backseats during a long road trip.

Is this a song about the end of the world? Some people used to think it was. But everything in the 1980s seemed like it was about our imminent nuclear destruction.

Here, I did a video for this one. Graphics by the US Geological Survey: