So, at the risk of being tossed out of the Middle-Aged Former Hipsters Club, I’m just going to admit straight up that I never really much liked Galaxie 500, which should surprise no one who hasn’t heard me say the exact same thing for the past 25 years.
This suspicion carried over toward Dean Wareham’s later band, Luna, right up until they released Penthouse and made me an instant fan, but it all stemmed from the near-universal (relative) hype that surrounded Galaxie 500’s second album, On Fire, which caused me to run out and buy it back in 1989.
And it did nothing for me.
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I don’t think I was the only person who noticed that. In the 1995 SPIN Alternative Record Guide, Rob Sheffield joked:
… Galaxie 500’s rhythm section split off to record as Damon & Naomi and as Magic Hour; I think I speak for the entire American people section when I say, “Galaxie 500 had a rhythm section?”
However, in one of the all-time great rock ‘n’roll examples of leveraging detriments into strengths, Galaxie 500’s eternal lack of momentum actually helped them pull off an amazing cover of what even then was turning into one of my all-time favorite songs: New Order’s seemingly unmatchable “Ceremony.”
By stretching “Ceremony” out almost an extra two minutes, Wareham has time to burrow deep into the song’s core, extracting every shimmering riff, every glorious hook, every single beautiful note, and holds them out into the light for all of the world to see.
Back in March 1981, when Bernard Summer got the climatic “watching, forever” part, his pain and grief at singing the words his mate had written was utterly palpable, like it was the first time he realized that Ian Curtis was truly gone forever. As was, maybe, his band.
Nearly a decade later, with that original recording having been revealed to just the beginning of one of truly remarkable second acts in all of popular culture, when Dean Wareham gets to the same spot in the song, it’s a cry of triumph, like he realizes that he’s been able to shake off all of the history behind the song and reveal it as nothing more than a great great song. But nothing less, either.
Then he celebrates that reveal in the only way he knows how: a long guitar solo, forever putting his stamp on his version.
“Ceremony” performed live at Club Lingerie, Los Angeles, 1990
Fan-made video for “Ceremony”
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