Performer: Robert Plant
Songwriters: Chris Blackwell, Doug Boyle, Kevin MacMichael, Robert Plant
Original Release: Fate of Nations
Definitive Version: none
When Fate of Nations came out, I fell in love with this song immediately. The thing that really drew me in was the ethereal wordless background vocals of Maire Brennan. I was surprised and pleased to see her name on the credits. She was the lead singer of Clannad, one of my favorite nonrock bands. If you’re not familiar with them, they play what might best be described as Gaelic new age folk.
Like a lot of people in this country, I discovered Clannad through a Volkswagen commercial in 1992. I had seen the commercial for a while, but I didn’t know from whence the angelic music came until I went to Chicago to help Jin move into her solo apartment in November.
The commercial came on late at night, and I woke Jin up, calling her out to the living room to tell me who did the music. Clannad, she said, thoroughly disgusted with me (and rightfully so) before slamming the door and going back to blissful sleep.
Well, last fall, things came full circle. The weekend after Laurie and I got home from Italy, we saw Clannad at Park West. When I bought the tickets in the summer, I read that it was Clannad’s first tour of the States in 30 years, so I wanted to go even though I really hadn’t listened to them much in the past decade and a half. In fact, they pretty much had been dormant since the calendar rolled over, and I moved on to Loreena McKennitt, who more or less plays Welsh new age folk.
When we went to see Clannad, still giddy from our Italian holiday, we got there early to make sure we got a good seat. While in line, some guy asked me the scores to the Notre Dame-Brigham Young game—ND won—and the Northwestern-Nebraska game—NW lost.
Aside from my duties as a scoreboard, there was no need to get there, well, before Clannad started. A hundred people might have been at Park West—not counting waitstaff or the band—certainly no more than 200. Park West isn’t huge, but it was by far the most empty I’ve ever seen a concert venue. In fact, I was surprised the show wasn’t cancelled due to lack of sales.
But Clannad played and put their hearts into it. It was a fantastic performance: haunting and magical. Time had done nothing to their voices, and the music, also being timeless, held up well.
Laurie was stunned. She had heard of Clannad only through me and couldn’t believe how much she liked them. I already knew how much I liked them at one time, and the concert was a nice reminder of that time, a time when I had this song on my tape player a lot.
That same summer, 1993, Clannad released their first new album since I had become a fan of theirs. I found this out by accident. At MESS that year, Doug let me use the hotel room in which he and his family stayed that weekend in Traverse City to change in between softball games and going out for a drink.
Doug said he had a CD player in his room, and I could play whatever I found. Doug had brought several new CDs for the trip, and one was Banba. Hello, what’s this? A brand-new album by Clannad? That was the only thing I played as I showered and changed out of my grimy softball duds into my street clothes. It was the best part of what was otherwise a desultory weekend, but that’s a story for another time.