Quasimodo’s Dream (D Mason) – The Reels 1981
The Reels were a pop/new wave band from Dubbo (NSW), who had charted with Love Will Find A Way at #39 in 1979 which was a jerky, jaunty organ-based dance song which shared the same name as a song by the American group Pablo Cruise, but they were two vastly different songs.
When the band recorded Quasimodo’s Dream they had eschewed guitars for synthesizers and the classic synth Reels lineup was Dave Mason (vocals), Paul Abrahams (bass synth), Colin “Polly” Newman (synth guitar/sax), Karen Ansell (synth keyboards), John Bliss (drums) and Craig Hooper (synth guitar)
The enigmatic Mason and the Reels recorded their second album at Albert Studios (Syd) in 1981 and the title track was the first single lifted from it.
Quasimodo’s Dream is a beguiling, melancholic, synthesizer-laden track with cryptic and elusive lyrics, a great bassline and intriguing quirky hooks that create a reverberation of loneliness and solemnity. The lyrics are despairing and seemingly bristling with self-loathing “Just when you say no more/ A hand asks for a key/ Oh I neverwanted to be/ In Quasimodo’s dream/Shall I beg the ringmaster please/ Find another me.”
Despite the titular references to the doomed hunchback Quasimodo, and his unrequited love for Gazelda, as told in the Victor Hugo classic, Mason had been forced by the record company, to change the song title, from Quasimoto to Quasimodo, he has also said that in his opinion the song didn’t make sense and he didn’t like it very much.
The fans didn’t like it either and it failed to chart. This eerily uncluttered, hypnotic ballad which favoured twinkling synths over guitars, was a far cry from the pub rock that dominated the local scene, but the punters weren’t ready for a song where Burt Bacharach met Kraftwerk.
The promo video was similarly an eerie and unfathomable montage of Pilgrim families, sepia-toned grottos, rivers and bayous perhaps carrying Quaker settlers to the promised land, but not Dave, he was cast adrift and banished in a small sail boat as the song ended. There is that sense of alienation and knowing cynicism about the song and the film clip, so typical of Dave Mason, he and his band always existed on the periphery of the mainstream of Australian popular music, orbiting around inside their surrealistic sideshow, hammering out the odd intriguing quirky jerkie of a song.
Nevertheless Quasimodo’s Dream’s vast quiet urgency, and eerily vague purpose and ghostly persona, has endeared it to generations, Gotye recently covered the song in tribute to Dave Mason’s classic, and it was ultimately paid the high honor of being ranked the 10th best song written in the modern era in Australian 1926-2001 by APRA.