Certain Songs #1537: Peter Case – “Satellite Beach”

Album: Peter Case
Year: 1986

. . .

Peter Case’s solo debut was actually recorded in 1985, but because it was seemingly a million miles away from what Geffen had signed him for in the first place, they sat on the record for nearly nine months. Which is insane, give the fact it had several brilliant songs on it, things like the bluesy “Icewater,” the chilling “Walk in the Woods,” and the closer: his gorgeous cover of future Certain Song “A Pair of Brown Eyes.”

On his website, Case writes that Elvis Costello sang the song to him at a party in T-Bone Burnett’s hotel room — T-Bone produced Peter Case and then turned around to produce King of America — and got permission from Shane MacGowan to record it before The Pogues Rum, Sodomy and the Lash had even been released.

We’ll get to the awesomeness of “A Pair of Brown Eyes” in a couple of months, was actually kind of cool for Case to recognize a future standard within months after it had been written and even more cool to get ringers like T-Bone, Jim Keltner and even Roger McGuinn to play on it.

Another ringer on album was guitarslinger Mike Campbell, who is all over the album’s penultimate track, “Satellite Beach,” a co-write with Burnett, drummer Jerry Marotta and Case’s then girlfriend Victoria Williams. A tru-ish story about driving across the country in order to see a launch of the Challenger, “Satellite Beach” climaxes with Case & Williams at the edge of the Atlantic, not quite sure what to do next.

So we landed at Cape Canaveral
And we crashed at Satellite Beach
We got there on an off night
It lasted for a week
The casinos and the junkyards
The neon and the crime
We saw the wilds from coast to coast
Now we’re watching all the time

When we get a liftoff
There won’t be a speech
There’s no room at the inn
At Satellite Beach

That’s followed by some amazing guitar squeals from Campbell, who never met a song that he couldn’t make better, and you get a glimpse of the more rock ‘n’ roll record that Geffen probably wanted. Which, if every song sounded like “Satellite Beach,” probably wouldn’t have been nearly as good, as “Satellite Beach” worked best being slotted in between the dark acoustic blues of “Icewater” and “A Pair of Brown Eyes”

Peter Case played the Wild Blue at some point in 1986, and I have a memory of him doing a set in the KFSR studio, as well. Either way, there was a tape of one of those performances that I used to have, which naturally featured him doing songs from Peter Case, as well as Plimsouls songs and a couple of covers. One of those tunes was a the folk standard “Purple Heather” — or, as done by The Byrds, “Wild Mountain Thyme” — and it was absolutely gorgeous.

I wish I still had my copy of that tape, but like so many things from the mid-1980s, it got lost in the chaos of my life.

“Satellite Beach”

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