Like The Monkees, Monsoon was a band that was assembled in the studio, as opposed to organically growing in the wild. And like The Monkees, Monsoon had a huge Beatles influence.
That’s where the similarities end, though: whereas The Monkees were all about Americanizing that A Hard Day’s Night vibe, Monsoon had an concept that grew from George Harrison’s sitar experiments on Revolver & Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band: what if Western pop music, but made with Indian instrumentation?
Somehow, that idea had just been sitting out there for 15 years when a pair of Brit musicians & record producers, Steve Coe & Martin Smith found it, and — crucially — picked a perfect vocalist to run with it, keeping the project from crossing into full-blown cultural appropriation.
London-born, but Indian in descent, Sheila Chandra was only 16 when she recorded the vocals for the album that became Third Eye, but her voice felt weighted with experience, sitting expertly on top of a set of swirling, psychedelic pop songs that were equal parts lovely and dramatic, like “Ever So Lonely.”
The first single released by Monsoon, “Ever So Lonely” was a #12 hit in the U.K. in 1982, and as eventually released on the only Monsoon album, Third Eye, it epitomizes all of the strengths of the concept — the melding of dance-pop beats and tabla rhythms, hooks played on sitars, and Chandra’s chanteuse-like vocals, repeating “ever so lonely” and “be my friend” over and over and over and over.
Halfway through the song, there’s a breakdown with weird percussion noises and chanting over the tabla tableau, and what might almost be a sitar rave-up which builds back into Chandra chanting “ever so lo-lo-lo-lo-lo-lonely” until the song’s fade.
While Monsoon was a new thing under the sun, alas, it wasn’t to be a lasting thing: they had a dispute with their record company, Phonogram, and the band broke up, leaving Phonogram to release Third Eye in 1983. Somehow, though, it made its way to KFSR as an import, and became a much-loved record.
“Ever So Lonely” (extended version)
“Ever So Lonely” Top of the Pops, 1982
Sheila Chandra – “Ever So Lonely / Eyes / Ocean” live at WOMAD
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