Note: I will be doing some tinkering and updating of the jukebox in the next few weeks. I need to make it easier to navigate the old posts and spruce it up a bit. So you might notice things popping up every so often. Check it out if you’re interested. The updates might mean I take a few days off; I don’t anticipate doing this right away, but it could happen. Just sayin’.
Karl Wallinger quit The Waterboys to form World Party in 1986. That means very little to most people, unless they happen to be fans of either group. I didn’t even know who The Waterboys were until a couple of years later when the put out the brilliant Fisherman’s Blues (I probably ought to do a post on that album. . . if I haven’t already; even I can’t keep track anymore). Wallinger missed out on being part of that album, and The Waterboys missed out on this song.
That’s not a bad thing, of course. The work would’ve been fundamentally changed if they’d still been together. The first World Party album had a sort of anarchic quality to it. “Way Down Now” is possibly the best example of that mood. Over the fade out, Wallinger keeps repeating, “Something new, something true.” He’s rebelling, but it’s unclear what he’s rebelling against. He’s like Marlon Brando in The Wild One.
Okay, if you’re gonna let facts get in the way, the split with Mike Scott and The Waterboys was an acrimonious one, so he was probably reacting at least in part to his new-found musical freedom. And there’s probably some important analogy to consumerism and wastefulness involved, what with the video being set in a trash dump. But there’s something else there, something I’ve never been able to quite pin down.
It’s a sociopolitical rant. Or it’s a break-up song. Or it’s a celebration of being alive. “Way Down Now” is all this and none of it. Anarchy. Really happy and joyful anarchy. Because this song always makes me smile. I feel like I’ve joined a really fun party, even if it might be the party on the eve of the Apocalypse. “The clocks will all run backwards, all the sheep will have two heads, and Thursday night and Friday will be on Tuesday night instead. And all the times will keep on changing, and the movement will increase. And there’s something about the living, babe, that sends me off my feet.”
Going to hell in a handbasket never sounded like so much fun.