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Who is Andy Arthur? — Page 2

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Above: The original 45, the only extant version of the recording that is unrelated to Rabbit’s Moon.
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    Finding the identity of the song, and a copy of an official release, became my personal mission. I began referring to it as “the most obscure song in the world” and as “the greatest song no one’s ever heard.” For seven years, on and off, I searched for any clue. I ordered an album from eBay by a mid-70s British band called A Raincoat that had a member named Andy Arthurs — close enough! Alas, my song was nowhere to be heard, and the band did not even sound particularly close to the one on the soundtrack.

    I created a low-fi MP3 from the videotape and played it for trivia contest host and walking-music-encyclopedia Dawn Eden, without luck. I played it for Rosenblatt, hoping to leverage his vast Beatles and pop-music knowledge. A look of recognition briefly lit up his face — then he admitted it was a fake-out. Dreams of cornering Irwin Chusid, the high priest of music trivia, at a WFMU record fair came to naught.

    I eventually learned, via internet bulletin boards, there were others out there searching for the same song, all as perplexed as I was. We compared notes. Could it be “Bump in the Night” by an obscure ELO offshoot band, Trickster? That record proved near impossible to find but eventually I figured out that no, that wasn't it. Was it Oingo Boingo? Sparks? Crack the Sky? All possible trails led rapidly to dead ends.

    The song literally seemed to have come from nowhere — as though Kenneth Anger, desperate for the perfect soundtrack, had conjured it ex nihilo from the depths of the netherworld in some shadowy deal with Lucifer. I shuddered to think what Anger must have offered in return.

    Finally, in early 2004, as I was losing hope — a sudden surprise breakthrough. Through a string of coincidences involving an Australian woman named Anne who saw one of my early online postings, I tracked down the aforementioned Andy Arthurs. He was indeed the culprit, and identified the song as “It Came in the Night,” an extremely rare non-album track by A Raincoat. A month later I ordered the single from an Australian record dealer for a mere $10 plus shipping. At last, I scratched that seven year itch.

    Mystery man “Andy Arthur,” upon closer inspection, is revealed to be one Andrew Colin Arthurs, 53, Professor of Music at Queensland University of Technology in Brisbane, Australia. The British-born Arthurs is a musical wunderkind known primarily for his studio talents, having engineered or produced albums for such artists as Joe Jackson, Bryan Ferry, and The Chords. Arthurs, who is from Cheltonham, England, attended the University of Surrey from 1970 to 1974, from whence he received the unusual tonmeister Bachelor’s degree — “tonmeister” being a German term describing someone along the lines of record producer/engineer/sound designer.

    Arthurs also had a brief recording career himself from 1974 to 1979, recording with A Raincoat, as well as under his own name. The previously mentioned A Raincoat LP, Digalongamacs, takes its enigmatic title and eerie cover photo — Arthurs and his band mates wearing raincoats in a London cemetery — from a visual pun involving the British term for raincoats (“macs”), the cheesy British crooner Max Bygraves, and his album of sing-along standards, Singalongamax. The original album title, Macs by Graves, was nixed at the last minute by nervous label executives fearful of offending Mr. Bygraves.

    The 1975 album had two minor airplay hits in the UK with “I Love You for Your Mind (Not Your Body),” and “You Can Heavy Breathe on Me,” songs that typified the band’s quirky, inventive pop sensibility, but failed to make a major splash.

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Above: Andy Arthurs (right) with A Raincoat band mates in 1975; click to enlarge.

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Text Copyright © 2014 Michael I. Cohen

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