The Divine Comedy released two versions of Your Daddy’s Car: one on 1993’s Liberation, the other a Mark Radcliffe session recording that was released as a B-side. The album version is a pleasant, dainty number with harpsichord, pizzicato strings, and Neil Hannon singing in a ho-hum kind of way. It’s ok. Not a bad way to spend 3 minutes. But the session version blows it out of the water. The plinky-plonky strings are replaced with a powerful Hammond organ. Drums drive the song forward. Most importantly of all, Hannon sings it louder, tapping into his inner Jacques Brel and imbuing the song with meaning, tragedy, and nostalgia. The live version sweeps you up, carries you along; it feels like you’re actually in the car with wind blowing through your hair.
The way the Hammond organ kicks in at the start is vaguely reminiscent of the sloppy but majestic chords that kick off Like a Rolling Stone. This Dylan reference feels appropriate. When Hannon belts out the refrain one last time, “Can you feel the madness in our hearts?”, it echoes Dylan’s “How does it feel?” via Springsteen’s Born to Run. The Divine Comedy were sometimes mocked in the music press for being too knowing, too ironic, Hannon’s eyebrow perpetually arched. Poor guy had a lot written about that eyebrow. But Hannon is a performer who can carry a serious tune, even if it is right after singing about the pollen count or national coach servies.
A short word about compilation tapes
I was introduced to Your Daddy’s Car via a now-legendary compilation tape made by a friend of mine in 2000 or thereabouts. The tape featured songs by Spiritualized, the Zombies and the Flaming Lips. There wasn’t a dud track on it. I don’t remember who owned the tape itself, but it always seemed to be playing in the car whenever a bunch of us went anywhere.
Compilation tapes were still a big deal back then, though homemade CDs were starting to supplant them. Part of me hated those CDs. They didn’t take any effort. You dragged a bunch of files into a folder and clicked “Burn”. With tapes, you had to sit there and listen to all of the songs as they got transferred onto the cassette tape. When you gave someone a tape, you were saying that they were worth the time it took to do that.
Nick Hornby has already written about this. He was right though. I miss tapes.