A ‘Storytellers’ article for Mess+Noise. Excerpt below.
ANDREW MCMILLEN revisits the “Storytellers” series, whose premise is simple: one song by one artist, discussed at length. This week it’s Ed Kuepper on Laughing Clowns’ 1983 classic ‘Eternally Yours’. The song will be reprised acoustically with backing from drummer Mark Dawson at a trio of shows in NSW this week. Dates below.
If you were forced to summarise Laughing Clowns in a single song, it’d be hard to pass up ‘Eternally Yours’. The Sydney-based band – formed in the wake of guitarist Ed Kuepper’s departure from The Saints in 1979 – played a distinctive style of jazz-influenced post-punk that remains peerless to this day.
‘Eternally Yours’ was recorded in late 1983, released as a single in March 1984, and appeared on the Clowns’ second LP, Law Of Nature. The band recorded a promotional video for the song, too; a rarity among their short-lived career, which came to a halt by the end of the year. (The band reformed in 2009 for the All Tomorrow’s Parties festivals, and earlier in 2010, they supported Dirty Three’s Ocean Songs tour by performing the compilation album History Of Rock ‘n’ Roll Volume One.)
Characterised by Kuepper’s waves of open chords and Jeffrey Wegener’s proud drumbeat, the focal point of ‘Eternally Yours’ is a towering, timeless saxophone melody performed by Louise Elliott. The song remains a staple of Kuepper’s live set: during last year’s spate of reformed Clowns shows, it frequently appeared as the set closer.
Late last year, I visited Kuepper’s southwest Brisbane home to discuss the song. We drank tap water and sat in the shade underneath his house, while his dog Oscar noisily dug at the rocks underfoot in an effort to reach the cool dirt underneath (“I’m finding this very distracting,” he admitted halfway through our conversation). Kuepper smoked three cigarettes over the course of our 33-minute conversation, speaking haltingly at times; long pauses, and many knowing, ironic glances. Ultimately, though, he spoke freely about a song of which he’s clearly proud.
Were you surprised when I asked to talk about this song?
No. It’s kind of a standard song for me. It’s survived in a lot of different versions over the years … It’s more interesting than talking about ‘(I’m) Stranded’. Which I’m not knocking, but that has been … covered.
To say the least.
I’ve seen you play several times in the last few years, and ‘Eternally Yours’ still crops up in the set quite frequently. I could be wrong, but you seem to get some kind of pleasure out of it. You seem to go somewhere else when you play that song.
Most of the time, yeah. When it works, it still has the capacity to [become] something new, which is more than I can say for some songs that I do. Not that I expected that at the time. For a long time I didn’t play it at all. I think when the Clowns split, I didn’t touch it again for about five years or so. It made its first reappearance in a radically different way on Today Wonder, where it was just acoustic. I think because of doing that record – going off ‘Eternally Yours’ specifically here, a little bit – doing that record basically made me reappraise a whole lot of things, and luckily, that [song] was one of them.
It says a lot about the strength of the song if it can withstand an acoustic version, as well as the full-blown band treatment.
And also, really different full-blown band treatments. I haven’t really played the Clowns version live; maybe once, on one of the Clowns tours that we did recently. Generally each version has developed. Where it goes from here, I have no idea.
For the full interview, visit Mess+Noise. The video for ‘Eternally Yours‘ is embedded below. This article was a true pleasure to pitch, interview and write up. Probably because it’s my favourite song ever.