Monday, August 01, 2005

No 5. Throw Your Arms Around Me - Hunters and Collectors

The song that compelled a generation of antipodean males to show their sentimental side, clapping their mates around the shoulders and letting a tear fall in their beer as they sang along with the chorus.

But you don't need to be a solid Aussie or Kiwi bloke to have fallen in love with this gentle, hummable three-chord ballad, which stretches the word "throw" into seven syllables covering four musical notes (in an interesting twist, it turns out to be the third song in this list with similar vocal feats).

Without quite the same musical versatility and songwriting strength of contemporaries like Midnight Oil and Crowded House, Hunters & Collectors could probably be fairly tarred with that backhanded compliment, "hard-working". But even a fairly ordinary band can summon up an extraordinary song. And it's perhaps in the very simplicity of "Throw Your Arms Around Me" that it's enduring appeal lies.

There's a gruff intensity, awkwardness even, in the opening verse, where songwriter Mark Seymour promises:

I will come to you at night time / And I will raise you from your sleep
I will kiss you in four places / As I go running along your street

He sounds like he'd really rather be whacking in a pallet-load of fenceposts in the back paddock than confessing his love for his girlfriend, and therein may lie the secret to the song's sincerity.

"Throw Your Arms Around Me" was definitely never a pop hit and I'm not sure it was even released as a single. The fact that it's generally beloved across Australia and New Zealand shows that, even in this contrived world of pre-release marketing campaigns and "latest sensations", there is (or was) still such a thing as the modern folk song--one that becomes popular by word of mouth simply because people dig it.

While some songs in this list are indelibly linked to a particular recording or performance, most people would struggle to name their definitive version of"Throw Your Arms Around Me". The slowed-down, slightly bombastic take on the Hunters & Collectors best-of, Collected Works? Probably not. Crowded House used to play it live a lot, and there's a few of their versions floating around, but the ones I've heard tend to be a bit loose or jokey; they wouldn't define the song for you. The original H&C recording? Who even *has* a copy of that these days? I haven't heard it for a while, and from memory it doesn't quite do the song justice.

The time Ben got out the guitar at Mike's party and everyone sang along? No, man, you're thinking of *Rachael's* party...

In reality, everyone probably has their own personal mental recording of "Throw Your Arms Around Me" which is a composite of numerous cover versions and impromptu singalongs, spiced with dim memories of smoky bars and backpackers hostel courtyards.

Somewhere out there is the Platonic Form of "Throw Your Arms Around Me". But even if you can only catch the flickering shadows from the campfire, it'll do nicely.

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Anonymous said...

I love this one too - so simple but so appealing across a wide variety of tastes. Great to see one with a NZ connection in the list- not that you are aiming for representing of all styles and countries I know. I first heard this as an acoustic version with Neil Finn and others singing somewhere in the US and then later bought a Hunters & Collectors CD (which incidentally I didn't like much at all - only this song)

sophia said...

Yes, I was happy to see this on. I think one of the things that marks out a great song is that you can sing it badly with minimal backing and it still sounds good (I have put this song to that test many times!)