Neil Hannon aka The Divine Comedy

Hello again, and welcome to another edition of 羽曳野古市英会話の英国音楽!

The Man behind The Divine Comedy and The Duckworth Lewis Method…

The Divine Comedy’s Neil Hannon is an original. The son of a Church of Ireland clergyman, he was born in Northern Ireland and grew up uneventfully in a smalltown called Enniskillen. In his early twenties, he spent countless nights in his attic writing his first two breakthrough albums Liberation and Promenade, reading all the classics, and watching French films. It is no surprise then that he appealed to the French audience almost instantlyーBritain was a little slower on the uptake. But even in France, the followers remain a “Happy Few.” As Neil puts it in a phone interview he gave to the BBC last August, “That is the one slight bugbear of my professional career, is [sic] never having had a number one. But you mustn’t be greedy.”

“National Express”

I am divided on the subject of greed. I don’t believe one should ever keep the good stuffーculture, knowledge, nourishmentーexclusively to oneself. And I do wish my artistic heroes a degree of success… but they must never become cultural, social phenomena. It’s a snobbish reflexーI was acquainted with The Divine Comedy before the official release of Liberation… Neil Hannon should then never be allowed a megahit. At the same time, with all the exquisite gems he has crafted and interpreted over the years (humorous, impeccably literary, catchy baroque pop/rock, and classical pieces), he should be known well beyond that “foolish pop” song “National Express”, his “greatest” hit…

“Absent Friends”

There were an awful lot of little masterpieces by Neil to choose from. This one seemed appropriate for this blog, which after all features mainly departed artists so farーIan Curtis, Nick Drake, David Bowie, Leonard Cohen

Here’s to Neil Hannon. May your songs never go extinct.

“Absent Friends,” the opening title of The Divine Comedy’s 2004 album.


Listen and fill in the gaps:

“Absent friends, here’s to them
And happy days, we thought that they would never end
Here’s to absent friends

Little Jean Seberg seemed
So full of life, but in those eyes such troubled ______
Poor little Jean

Woodbine Willie couldn’t rest until he’d
Given every bloke a final smoke before the killing
Old Woodbine Willie

Steve McQueen jumped the first one clean
But the great escape he’d tried to make was not to be
Maybe next ____, Steve

Laika flew through inky blue
‘Til Laika neared the atmosphere and Laika knew
Laika’s life was through

Oscar Wilde was a lonely child
He fought and won acceptance from the world
They smiled, they laughed, they praised
They drove poor Oscar to his _____

Absent friends, here’s to them
And happy days, we thought that they would never end
But they always end
Raise your glasses then to absent friends”

A 英会話羽曳野古市 + 英会話大阪天王寺 Project

This post is dedicated to my dad (1945-2016).


“Qu’elle est courte, hélas, cette vie dégueulasse”ーBenjamin Biolay

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