Ghost Tracks: VIEW FROM A HILL
FEATURE – Ghost Tracks is BACK! Series 2 of our 10-part special returns where we take a fun look back at some of the forgotten and rarely ever mentioned Roxette songs from their incredible 30 year history.
Song: View From a Hill
Album: Look Sharp!
Well we all knew it was coming – public enemy #1 for some fans. But personally, I really don’t understand it… the negative reaction that is – not this innocent little pop song.
Can we all just calm down, people? It’s really not THAT bad! Do we all feel comfortable kicking this song because it’s one of the few that wasn’t produced by Mr. Öfwerman? The way some people carry on about this track, you’d think it was Death Metal or Gangsta Rap.
So why all the hatred? It’s the saxophone, isn’t it? Yes, it’s annoying but “Thai with a Twist” has a sax in it too, but I didn’t hear as many complaints… or did I?
It’s the fact that it’s very produced, right? Well have you listened to “Paint”? It’s just as produced, OK, well maybe not as over-produced but the whole Look Sharp! album screams “eighties”. Look, “View From A Hill” is not a phenomenal track by any stretch, but that’s more of a compliment to the incredibly strong songs on the Look Sharp! album. “View from a Hill” stands out so much because songs like “Dressed For Success”, “The Look”, “Dance Away” and “Listen To Your Heart” are all so amazing that it makes “View From A Hill” feel like filler.
Yes, the production is busy and there’s that damn saxophone – the demo is probably stronger than the final product, but don’t let the “busy” production detract from what is a rather pleasant little track.
Hey, I’m gonna go out on a limb here and make a very controversial comment! I actually really like the lyrics. Yes, saying you love the lyrics to a bubblegum Roxette song is like saying you eat McDonald’s for a fine dining experience – but I miss the way Per used to construct his lyrics, they weren’t as literal and you need to listen out for the words he doesn’t use just as much as those he chooses to retain. Don’t write off Gessle lyrics, there’s a method to the bubblegum madness!
“Raging waves sweep this heavy heart, cold’s the color of the dark” – One line and so much meaning. Per paints us a picture. It’s foreboding. It’s foreshadowing of what’s about to come. It’s a collection of distressing thoughts. Rather than a story about a guy called “Jefferson” being hit by a westbound truck (hmmm) or two sisters who stole a small town car, this song isn’t a tale, these are random and often, dark feelings squeezed into a dream like sequence.
Dark has a color and that color is cold. Yes, cold is not a color, we all know that but it makes a lot of sense. It’s not enough that this person’s bedroom is dark, or that their thoughts and world is now dark, black isn’t dark enough to convey the distress; Per combines the sense of feeling cold to the visual. It’s a great technique and this dark space now has raging waves sweeping a heavy heart. Not just a few little ripples, but raging waves. A metaphorical storm has engulfed this person’s thoughts, from the outset, Per has set us up with a very particular mood, all in a couple of words. Shallow lyricist? Not quite.
There’s a sense of poetry and imagery in the lyrics. Per has used the old classic device of Pathetic Fallacy; where the use of weather is used as a metaphor to help explain a mood. Great poets and writers have used this device for centuries “it was a dark and stormy night”, obviously this doesn’t set the reader up for a romantic, love story. And to this day, filmmakers still use the same old trick. Go watch any horror movie and more than likely it will be set at night, with heavy rain and throw in a storm for good measure right before those creepy floorboards start to creek and the main character goes missing in the old house. It’s a popular device but it works!
The use of bleak weather pops up in this track again when we hear Marie sing “watch the thunder cast a spell“. It’s only by verse two do we stumble upon the more traditional “standard” lines that appear in pop songs “leave me stranded, alone tonight“.
As I have written several times before, Team Roxette love their devices and this track employs the very same device as used in “Dressed For Success”. “…What did you gain from love? Don’t ask me…” Could easily appear as “…whatcha gonna tell your brother? Oh oh oh“.
And in this song, when Per’s vocals are asking “what did you gain from love?”, it’s used as the main character’s conscience. We’ve all tried blocking out that little voice in our head that tries to guide us or question us. And this device, aside from making it catchy, also gives it a dramatic feel. We’re hearing the voices in the characters head out loud! The conscience says “all for the cheapest thrill” – the conscience is confirming to the protagonist to not play with love right now, after all, what did she gain from it? “Don’t ask me!” screams the main character! It’s all very dramatic for an eighties pop song with a saxophone… ugh, that blasted sax!
Overall, is this one of the better tracks on Look Sharp!? No, it’s not. We all know it. But does it deserve the mob mentality, pitch-fork toting, burn witch burn, hatred that it gets? No. No, it does not… there’s a few others I could stick on that list… but let’s leave the hate mail for another time.
So there you have it! “View From a Hill” – not a personal favorite, but hopefully I’ve helped give it a bit of a spit and polish and now maybe people won’t see it as such an evil pariah lurking in the Roxette back catalog that they once did before … let’s reserve that for a different song that truly deserves such vitriol… did I hear someone nominate “Happy Together”? (…please no hate mail…)
“…and I cry for the dreams that you kill…”
Thoughts from The Daily Roxette crew:
Paul: Lyrics: Thumbs up. Production: Thumbs down. The saxophone doesn’t bother me. It’s all the other instruments that do, there is a LOT going on here that it just gets a bit too much.
Thomas: I’m with Paul. Sort of. I don’t like anything about this song. The lyrics are nice, but then on the other hand, I like the lyrics of “The Look” just as much. I’m not a lyrics person, as you probably know by now. Oh and Stevo, I’m sensing you’re not a fan of “Happy Together”?