(Baby I’ve Got You) On My Mind (B Fanning) and Love Your Way (B Fanning/D Middleton/I Haug/J Coghill/J Collins) – Powderfinger 2003
The band were riding the crest of a wave of success, their previous album Odyssey Number 5 would sell half a million copies locally and occupy the charts for 68 weeks, its predecessor Internationalist was also a #1 and had charted for 86 weeks, clocking up sales of 300,000 copies. Powderfinger’s sold-out national tour to promote Odyssey generated ticket sales of 40,000, the band then supported Coldplay on their US tour in LA, San Francisco, Chicago, Seattle and Portland, the band’s fifth album was eagerly awaited.
However disunity amongst band members was becoming evident, the rhythm section of Coghill and Collins came to blows during the Coldplay tour in the US, drugs and alcohol were being more frequently consumed, Fanning was showing signs of tiring of the endless touring and demands on him to write songs and be the public face of the band, and Odyssey had flopped in the US, selling only 50,000 copies.
At home Powderfinger could do no wrong, following successful Splendour in the Grass appearances and a short tour of NZ, they scooped the pool at the ARIA Awards again and performed at Fuji Rock in Japan, where they met their idol Neil Young.
Their next album, Vulture Street was to be Powderfinger’s re-invention of rock and roll; where the Odyssey album had been inspired in-part by U2’s Achtung Baby, this one would reflect the influences of Led Zeppelin, the Stooges, Queen, the Stones, Bowie, and the grief that Bernard Fanning would bring to the sessions following the premature death of his older brother John, who had died of cancer at the age of 42.
Vulture Street would take a year to write and record, Nick DiDia was again entrusted with production of the record at Studio 301 (Syd), the album title is an homage to the famous Brisbane street that borders the Woolloongabba Cricket Ground, affectionally known as the “Gabba”, or when England plays there during Ashes series, the “Gabbattoir”, all the band members were cricket tragics, and took the opportunity to practice during recording sessions, wherever they were located.
On My Mind had its origins in an escalating riff that John Collins brought to the session which was gradually augmented via collaboration so typical of Powderfinger’s creative process, the intro took hundreds of takes to perfect and finished up being an homage to Bowie, Darren added several power chords, DiDia suggested that it didn’t need a traditional chorus, all agreed and proceeded to the final mix, it became the band’s highest charting single at #8 and for the next seven years was the song that closed their live performances.
The second single lifted from the album was the guitar rock of Love Your Way, in many ways it typified the raucous yet cleverly contrived rock for which Vulture Street was justly famous, the song was originally called City Hum and featured a Hendrix-style guitar solo by Middleton and a chorus in a different time signature from that which became the ultimate version.
Bernard Fanning played a sensitive acoustic guitar intro, Middleton’s lead guitar pyrotechnics and power chords soon take over, Coghill delivered four-on-the -floor drums and Nick Didia produced a curated wall of sound, complete with a little guitar feedback coda at the outro, it charted #28 and deserved to do better.
Bernard Fanning’s tribute to his late brother John reflected in two tracks on Vulture Street, the anguished rocker with a bite, Since You’ve Been Gone, which has an intro that is reminiscent of Sam Cooke’s Bring It on Home to Me and better for it, after that it was pure Powderfinger and a fitting musical eulogy to a brother departed.
Sunsets draws the metaphorical link between the end of a day and a life taken too early, John Coghill acknowledged that the lazy backbeat, wide bass sound and a jangling acoustic guitar was the group channeling Led Zeppelin… ” and not for the first time”, it emulated the chart success of On My Mind and climbed to #8 nationally, Vulture Street hit #1 in July for the band’s third successive top-selling album.