Lost my breath when I read about Caroline Crawley’s recent passing. What a voice to be silenced. It was hard enough knowing how little of her adult life was spent singing publicly. Seems fitting to finally repost what I wrote close to twenty years ago about Babacar appearing on the Songs For Summer charity record…..
When your name is Summer, you see your name everywhere. Summer vacation, summer camp, summer everything. Most importantly, you have lots of songs with your name in it. When I first met Summer, I asked her what her favorite summersong was and she replied “Summer Flies” by Shelleyan Orphan. At that point, I knew it was over.
Shelleyan Orphan was a British band whose baroque, almost classical sound is beautiful beyond description. Not your typical rock. They’re credited with influencing bands like The Sundays and The Cranberries but those bands aren’t even in the same league. Singer Caroline Crawley is one of the most talented singers to ever sing a note. You may have heard her vocals on This Mortal Coil songs but the band’s biggest claim to fame (at least in America) was that they opened for the Cure on the Disintegration tour in 1989. If I’m not mistaken, it was on this tour that Cure drummer Boris Williams met Shelleyan singer Caroline Crawley.
I saw that tour in San Diego. My friends and I dressed up goth. I looked more like Ian Astbury from the Cult with short hair. Summer tried to be goth for a few months but all she ended up doing was wearing magenta and listening to Sisters of Mercy a lot. I don’t remember much about the Cure’s show other than LOTS of smoke but I remember LOVING Shelleyan Orphan and losing my friend Jim’s father’s fake earring during their set. After the show, we saw some members of the band walking anonymously through the crowd. It almost seemed like a bet that they wouldn’t get noticed even though they’d just played in front of thousands of people. We chased after them to tell them how great we thought their set was and they seemed genuinely flattered.
I couldn’t believe it when Summer told me how much she loved “Summer Flies”. The fact that she’d even heard of the band was good enough for me. I remember writing a letter to the afforementioned Jim to tell him that I’d started dating a girl named Summer and her favorite summersong was “Summer Flies”, just to make him jealous. He responded with a tape that had one side filled with summersongs. I filled up the other side with more and gave it to her.
The band put out three great albums and then disappeared. Summer was always on the lookout for information about them but never heard anything. While we were on vacation in New York City, she excitedly ran up to me in a record store carrying a cd by a band called Babacar. It had a sticker that said it featured Caroline Crawley. Then she pointed to the best part: the name of the song featured on the British single was “Midsummer”. Too much. Not surprisingly, the song was amazing, as many people who love Songs For Summer have told me. The single had very little information about the band and we never heard anything else about them.
After Summer passed away, one of the first things I did was make a mixtape of some of her favorite songs to give to family and friends. I HAD to include “Summer Flies”. I wanted to put the song on Songs For Summer but I looked into it fairly late and the red tape was pretty thick. By chance, an e-mail I’d written fell into the hands of Brad Morrison, the man who had handled the band’s American affairs for ten years. He also released an entire Babacar album on his label, Absolute A Go Go Records. It turns out that Babacar was mainly Caroline and Boris but they enlisted the help of Jem from Shelleyan and Porl Thompson from the Cure among others. He was touched by Summer’s story and suddenly “Midsummer” was as good as on the record. He phoned Caroline and Boris in England and they instantly agreed to let us use the song.
I don’t remember how it came up but Brad told me that when he first met his wife, she mentioned the band Big Star (one of Summer’s favorite bands) and he knew she was the one for him. Great minds. Is that so wrong?
More Summer tales here.