The Horses (R Lee Jones/W Becker) – Daryl Braithwaite 1991
In 1991 Daryl Braithwaite, former front-man for Sherbert had just revived his solo career with the album Edge (#1 In ’88) and the singles As the Days Go By (#9 in ’88), One Summer (#6 in ’89) and was looking to continue his comeback with his next record.
The new album was to be called Rise and Braithwaite was looking for another anthemic hit just like One Summer, the production of the album was almost complete, but it seemed to lack a killer lead single. Braithwaite went home and pulled out his copy of Ricki Lee Jones 1989 album Flying Cowboys, the first song he played was The Horses – Jones version was piano-based with a rambling, jazzy, intimate sound for which she had become justly famous – Chuck E’s in Love had been her biggest single success, and had become her signature song.
But Braithwaite was impressed and insisted on the song being included in the album, albeit a shorter, punchier, more accessible version that was adapted from the original and became a duet between Braithwaite and Kiwi-expat Margaret Urlich.
Ricki Lee Jones had originally written the song in 1988 for her daughter Charlotte, and at the suggestion of Walter Becker (Steely Dan) had changed some of the chords in the chorus, so he got a writing credit as well.
The Australian version of the song by Braithwaite has assumed an anthemic status, the production by Simon Hussey (Australian Crawl, James Reyne, Craig McLachlan) is pop perfect, the opening is restrained and subtle, Scott Griffiths piano and keyboards glide over a sinuous bassline by Jeremy Alsop, rising to the chorus as Alex Pertout’s drums and tuned percussion effects (shaker, vibraslap, tambourine, bells) merge with the guitars of Jeff Scott and Tommy Emmanuel, swelling behind Braithwaite’s falsetto vocals which caress and cajole the lyrics to embrace the killer chorus “That’s the way it’s gonna be little darlin’/ We’ll go riding on the horses yeah, yeah/ Way up in the sky little darlin’/ And if you fall, I’ll pick you up, pick you up.”
Margaret Urlich provided sexy, keening duet vocals, but she was not available to perform in the promo video, so model Gillian Mather mimed her singing in the video, set on a sun-drenched Australian beach. The song took three weeks to hit #1 locally and spent 30 weeks in the Top 100, the album Rise hit #2 in December 1990, and the Hawthorn AFL club (Melb) adopted the song as their unofficial anthem after particularly meritorious wins in Grand Finals, they had a few between 2013-15.
The Horses was the ARIA Song of the Year and confirmed the reinvention of Braithwaite as a more mature adult-oriented performer and the Edge reinforced that status when it sold over 300,000 copies internationally.
In 2017 “Dazza Brazza” was admitted to the ARIA Hall of Fame and was joined on stage by Guy Sebastian and Vera Blue in an emotional rendition of The Horses.