Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Harriet Wheeler, Where are you?


We live in a world where pop stars come and go like the meaningless fluff they create. As with the seasons, their presence and art remain as a warm memory to anchor periods in our life, remembered during occasional flights of nostalgia. It’s rare when an artist can create a body of work significant or worthy enough to command our attention for more than a brief period of time. Even rarer is the artist or group that remains on top for twenty or thirty years, constantly recording or touring enough to garner legions of fans from two or more generations. That type of status is reserved for legendary performers that become enshrined in various halls of fame and, often live the tabloid life that we mortals feed on like hungry sheep.

Thank god for all the fabulous artists and the music they’ve created to move us in degrees both small and large. But, to me, it is for neither the one hit wonders nor the bloated legends that I pine for. For all the artists that have come, gone, or remain as super stars, none hold title to as large a portion of my soul as The Sundays do.

It was in the early 90s that I first heard the voice of Harriet Wheeler, the haunting lyrics, and the jangling melodies that defined the Sundays. While their style could be traced to predecessors like the Cocteau Twins or even the Smiths, it was the voice of Harriet Wheeler that was (and remains) unique. Were it not for college radio or some of the rare independent radio stations, many would have never heard the Sundays. While unique, their sound would never attract mass audiences. That was never what they were about. They did however attract a fan base that would be forever changed and even haunted by Harriet’s voice. While their lyrics were sometimes obscure and even panned by some critics as sophomoric, no one could ever forget the style, passion, and guts with which they were delivered. Harriet remains one of a kind. And with such a gifted voice, a legion of dedicated fans, and the world firmly within her grasp, what did she ultimately decide to do? Walk away. She and her husband David Gavurin, co-founders of the group, walked away to raise a family and live a quiet life away from touring and popular music.

What they leave in their wake is a worldwide group of loyal and adoring fans that remain just as true and passionate about their music as the first time it was heard. Just Google “The Sundays” sometime and you’ll know what I’m talking about. Better yet, listen to their music. Their record, Reading, Writing and Arithmetic has never strayed far from my player for the last 17 years. It moves me as much today as it ever did. For their complete discography, check out this site. It’s the most complete I have found.

I’ve never been one to be star struck. I’ve been around the world of music and the artists that create it for most of my life. Harriet remains the exception. I fell in love with her completely. Her voice will remain with me forever. Harriet, wherever you are, I hope you are happy and realize the impact you have made. Your voice is never far from my consciousness or my soul. These are the words I woke up with in my head this morning and inspired me with the "desire" to write this blog:


And did you know desire’s a terrible thing
The worst that I could find
And did you know desire’s a terrible thing
But I rely on mine
Did you know desire’s a terrible thing
It makes the world go blind
But if desire, desire’s a terrible thing
You know that I really don’t mind

And it’s my life
And though I can’t be sure what I want any more
It will come to me later
Well it’s my life.... and it’s my life
And though I can’t be sure if I want any more
It will come to me later... ah, yeah

Exerpted from “Can’t be Sure”
The Sundays

20 comments:

Steve said...

don't know if i can go to the degree you have gone, but i do love harriet's voice. seems like all we heard for a few years was little-girl voices without any substance in the late 90's / early 21st century. wish at least one of them could have heard harriet and gotten a bit more soul.

Dragonfly said...

Well, just so that you see how much I sympathize with you, it is during nights like this one that I dedicate some time to search for Harriet. "Harriet Wheeler 2008" were the key words I entered before finding your post. I'm glad I found it and felt, along with you, the love I also feel for her. I miss her, but don't we all that have ever heard The Sundays?

Anyway, I hope that one day she decides to come back to entertain us one more time.

Sincerely,

D'fly

Mephisto Phil said...

Thanks D'fly for your heartfelt comment and kind mention on your blog. It is indeed nice to know that there are others out there that have been touched by Harriet's voice. You wouldn't believe how many people around the world have visited my site after googling "Harriet Wheeler" or "The Sundays". There are so many fans out there and I surely hope Harriet and the band know the impact their music has had on people. Take care and keep in touch.

Peace,

Phil

raoul volfoni said...

Hi !

I'm a french guy who listened yesterday some Sundays'song coming back to home riding my bicycle and was wondering if we could hear in the future a new song or album from them, Harriet's voice
is so unique and wonderful, if she could read a day our posts please come back to the studios !... let us know about your actuality !.. ;-))
thanks a lot, and sorry for my frenchy english !..

Mephisto Phil said...

Raoul:

Thanks for your comments. I too hope Harriet knows of the countless fans that wait for her return.

Laura said...

DITTO, Mephisto Phil...

I totally agree with your sentiments... stumbled across you while I was reminiscing about the Sundays... so special... hope to hear from them again - come back, come back, come back...

-L-

Gary said...

Stumbled across your blog while doing my own "search" for Harriet. I was an avid Sundays fan in the early 90's during college in Boston where the indie music scene was rampant...but I loved Harriet more than all of them. She had a beautiful voice, and to a young guy, i must admit, she was smoking hot. I'm sure she still is. Was always jealous of Gavurin. And i should add, he was 50% of their succes. Next to Marr, there was no one better who defined that indie rock college sound...thanks for writing this pal. i'm right there with you. I miss her.

Alyssa said...

Hello! Her voice is truly amazing. I can only hope to see and hear her one day in real life...she is one of the top talents that come to mind, and I am a huge fan of all kinds of music. I think its really interesting that some people compare the sundays to the smiths! Love them both.

Please come back harriet!!!!!!

William said...

Seems that especially that first album (R,W,A) was an amazingly finely crafted statement of lyrics, emotion and guitar work that was so totally original and engaging, frankly I don't think it could ever be surpassed, even by the same group. This group seems to have had an early super spark of creativity that transcends all subsequent work and defines their sound. It is so moving, evocative, emotional and makes one always think of an earlier time... place... person... relationship, etc... Being a trained career classical musician, I rarely speak about pop music in these terms. This music is something unique and special.

Mephisto Phil said...

Well said my friend. Very few pieces of work stand the test of time as well as this one.

Kev said...

you got it just right. the world needs harriet and her haunting voice. can't anyone persuade them to reform? i'd buy a ticket tomorrow and further more, i refuse to believe that reading writing and arithmetic is 12 years old. no, no, no... it was only a few months ago that i bought it...

Sam said...

This is so funny to find other people searching for her voice. I got on a Sundays kick today and decided to start searching. I ditto everyone's comments on her work. She and Hope Sandoval are sitting in a cafe somewhere laughing at us...

Emily said...

I must say The Sundays have had a big impact on my life. I am now officialy on my third copy of Blind, if that says anything. Today I was searching for tour information only to find this webpage. I really hope one day they will decide to get back to playing the music we all love so much.

Newser said...

Phil, everyone: Me too. Every few months I get on another kick and fall in love with Harriet yet again. If only she missed us like we miss her.

Bryan said...

Great write-up. I couldn't have said it any better myself. I'm 34 years old and have been listening to the Sundays since the first time I heard them. At this point, I really can't even say exactly when I first heard them or who introduced me, but I know I have been listening to them for at least 15 years now. When I met my wife, she had never heard of the Sundays. And now, as we go to sleep at night, the Sundays are on the zune at least a quarter of the time. Other great artists that inspire similar amounts of wonder for me: Piers Faccini, Ben Harper, Death Cab for Cutie. But none of them (obviously) have the voice that is absolutely, 100% inadequately described by the word "angelic." It simply doesn't do her justice.

RacerX said...

So I'm bored at work today staring at the computer. For some reason I grabbed a Sundays CD from the pile and I'm floating along on Harriet's ethereal voice. On a whim I do a quick google to see what's out there, and I'll be damned there are other people that feel the same way I do.

I heard them first with 'summertime', and then picked up S&S - it blew me away! Strangely enough I have always been a metal/hardcore fan, but have since strayed into alternative (whatever that is). However, this was beyond anything I had heard and it really touched something. I immediately picked up the other two discs but I still am partial to S&S - every song is a joy to listen to. I have a -huge- music collection but this would definitely be in the top 10 desert island discs.

I was in England a couple of years ago and wondered what they were doing these days.... Sorry for running on but I'm glad there are others out there that appreciate and treasure them like I do.

Kate Shannon said...

As many have commented, I found your blog by Googling Harriet. I have just returned from a car trip with my sons, we listened to the Sundays. This was my teenage son's first exposure to this important band. He prefers "scream-o", I was delighted to see him read over the CD enclosure. I have looked for the Sunday's before and found nothing. Thank you for this opportunity to share my appreciation for this beautiful music!

Rachael said...

High school. 1990. Backstage getting ready before a play. Someone put Reading, Writing, & Arithmetic on the jam box. I have never been the same since. I own all three of their albums of course, but my collection seems far inadequate. I always want more of The Sundays. It goes far beyond Harriet's perfect voice for me. The guitars and drums are both absolutely incredible sounding. Because of the continuous freshness of that first album, the absolute bliss and emotion it finds in me, they remain who I name as my all-time favorite band.

Glenn said...

I'm with you on what you say. I was knocked over the first time I heard The Sundays. I never did get over the OMG feeling I got. I do wish they could release more, but I'm afraid those days are over. Harriet is pushing 50, and there is no more studio or contract. But, they must have run their course, and decided on what they feel was most important...their family. To me, that's noble and gutsy like their music. I excepted that and keep their music just as close as I ever did. I respect them for that and leave it at that. But, I wish them a peaceful life, and an easy death.

Wayne said...

Also a huge Sundays fan and something that comes close is the band "The Innocence Mission". Voice similar to Harriet's.