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Galaxie 500
Way Up High

I'm not sure, but I think it was back in 1989 (or was it 1990?) I had this strange TV-experience, of seeing Galaxie 500 perform live from the MTV studios. It was nice, of course, to get some glimpses of this fabulous group, since I never had the opportunity to get to see them live for real. But strange, indeed, when Galaxie 500 all in a sudden appeared on the TV-screen in MTV-surroundings. MTV, with its fashion and glamour, the middle of mainstream, the slick funk and the kool rap, designer-poseurs in hip clothing.

Last year the World got enriched by the entire recordings of Galaxie 500, as a 4-cd box, simply entitled Galaxie 500 (on Rykodisc). The magic threesome existed only for some four years. From their forming in 1987, till their last show in March 1991. During the four years of performing and recording they managed to release three albums.

The birth of Galaxie 500 took place in New York during the summer of 1987. The three of them were friends from their shool days in Boston, and Dean and Damon had formed a band when at college. They also had experiences from being in other bands when they decided to play together again that summer. After failing to find a bass player to fit in, Naomi suddenly told that she could do it. And with her bass-debut, the vehicle was running. After rehearsing, recording a demo tape, and doing their first gig and so on, they were given the chance to release a single on the label Aurora. They found Kramer and his Noise New York studio, and in the spring of 1988 the single Tugboat was a fact. Some months later they went back to Wiz-man Kramer, the "King of the One-take" and master of delicatly effected guitars, to record an EP. Which resulted in the debut-album, the charming and discreetly beautiful Today (on Aurora, later on Rough Trade). Nine songs, and every one of them can easily be choosen as personal favourites. Temprature's Rising, to name one.

So why all this fuss about magic and excellence? Simply because they were a sparkling fountain of brilliant music, and their music is still alive. I guess everyone with a slight addiction to the world of music know the feeling of when music get to grab you by heart and soul, and just won't let go. You're caught and it's so good that you hope it'll last forever. Galaxie 500 are one of those bands. An inner love affair. Spellbinding. Everlasting. Yes! And the music - how can it be described easily for others to understand? Well, we're talking simple guitar-pop-rock, a few chords but lots of feelings. Most of it in a slow tempo, guitars droning, quiet, raw in the sense of nakedness and vulnerability. Except from the first demo tape, Galaxie 500 did all their recordings at Kramer's studio. And together they developed and refined their very own personal sound. It's low-voiced, and melancholic, and both the music and lyrics radiate some strange happy-sadness.

The strenght of Galaxie 500 lays in the genius songwriting talent of headman Dean Wareham, guitarist, vocalist, but I'll quickly add that the music couldn't have been made without the other two members. Damon Krukowski on drums and percussion and Naomi Yang on bass and additional vocals. The three of them created and constructed the music all together, and therefore all their songs were credited the group. It's hard to describe the music of Galaxie 500 without mentioning The Velvet Underground, as a major influence and a source of inspiration. You can sense it from the structure and the atmosphere of the songs. I'm not saying that they sound just like the V.U., it's more a sort of familiarity on a metaphysical level, intimacy in the way of thinking and doing things. And, speaking of Velvet Underground, Galaxie 500 actually recorded a cover-version of the song Here She Comes Now. Other artists of which Galaxie 500 picked songs from include The Beatles, The Rutles(!), Red Krayola, Joy Division, Jonathan Richman, Young Marble Giants and Yoko Ono.

In 1989 they went on several tours, in the USA and, later, overseas Europe. They recorded and released their second album, On Fire (Rough Trade), at the end of the year. The next year they went back to UK and Europe, before recording album number three that summer. This Is Our Music (Rough Trade) was released in the fall of 1990, with the majestic song Fourth of July as the opening-track. During the winter the group toured USA again, and Europe once more, before they in 1991 went on what was to be their last tour. In March Galaxie 500 played their final concert. The magic engine faded, and stopped. Tired, overheating. Being old firends sometimes ain't enough to keep on. The box-set is their testament. This was their music. Go get it!

To quote Kramer: Come ride the fiery breeze of Galaxie 500!

PS! Galaxie 500 Alive; a live album is on its way (from Rykodisc), with their last ever European show, recorded by Danish National Radio. Post-G500: Dean formed Luna. Damon & Naomi became a duo of that name, and later Magic Hour. But that'll be some other bowl of soup.

Copyright © 1997 Håvard Oppøyen e-mail address

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