Number Ones: #137


  • ROBBIE ROBERTSON Somewhere Down The Crazy River (Geffen)
  • Week Ending 23rd July 1988
  • 1 Week At #1

“Ah, I can see it now….” The height of summer 1988 saw the spooky standout from the previous autumn’s eponymous solo debut by The Band’s guitarist and chief songwriter become a single, and an unlikely UK Top 15 hit. (I had no idea who The Band were at this juncture, but it hardly mattered).

Somewhere Down The Crazy River had been a key track through my dark winter, its ghostly ambience conjured up by Daniel Lanois’ signature production and Robertson’s baritone monologue ruminating on all that “voodoo stuff”. I’d often have the Robbie Robertson CD on rotation with David Sylvian’s Secret Of The Beehive, U2’s The Joshua Tree, Peter Gabriel’s So and Solitude Standing by Suzanne Vega.

Indeed, Gabriel and U2 both appear on the album, the former on its affecting opener Fallen Angel (which was subsequently issued as the follow-up single but got nowhere) and the latter rock up for Sweet Fire Of Love which basically invents Rattle & Hum.

This was another of my discoveries through the joint efforts of Q magazine and Saturday afternoons with Johnny Walker on Radio 1, a 5-Star review and a lengthy feature on the album sealing the deal.

I found it a very intoxicating proposition, the wonderful Lanois soundscapes applied to an artist that was “new” to me, taking the feel of The Joshua Tree but shot through with a more, dare I use the word, authentic perspective and vision. The likes of Showdown At Big Sky, American Roulette and Testimony took the Lanois approach into deeper, darker territories, and surely paved the way for his work on Dylan’s Oh Mercy a year or so later.

Despite the UK chart exploits of Somewhere Down The Crazy River, it’s more likely that these days the best-known song from the Robbie Robertson album would be Broken Arrow, the yearning ballad that was first covered by Rod Stewart in 1991 and then appeared on several of his singles (and Best Of compilations) over the next decade or so.


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