20/9/17 – The Verlaines – Death And The Maiden – 1983

Video Of The Day

Song Of The Day

Life & Death

From Aldous Harding to Neil Finn, New Zealand, like Iceland, brings forth more crucial artists than their population might expect. The Verlaines, led since their formation in 1981 by singer songwriter and guitarist Graeme Downes, first appeared as part of the Flying Nun label’s early Double Dunedin EP release that also featured The Chills, Sneaky Feelings and The Stones on two 12 inch 45RPM EP’s.

Named (like Television’s Tom Verlaine) after 19th century French decadent poet Paul Verlaine, in the song, the band reference Verlaine’s shooting of friend/lover and French poet Arthur Rimbaud and Austrian artist, Egon Schiele’s painting Death And The Maiden.

Beyond this lyrically alluring single, Downes’ literate vision saw him continue to make records in stops and starts into the 21st century whilst holding down a position as Professor of Music at a New Zealand University.

Although Death And The Maiden’s only vinyl release was this 7 inch single, you can find the track on two Flying Nun collections – Juvenilia, released in 1987, collected all their early EP’s and singles and You’re Just Too Obscure For Me was a collection of their greatest hits, released in 2003.

If you wish to further investigate the historical meaning of ‘Death And The Maiden’, prepare yourself for a fascinating, philosophical and time-consuming journey into film, art, theatre, music and the medieval concept of the ‘Dance Of Death’. This from wikipedia:

“Dance of Death, also called Danse Macabre (from the French language), is an artistic genre of late-medieval allegory on the universality of death: no matter one’s station in life, the Dance of Death unites all.

In the meantime beyond its cult status, this largely unknown debut single by one of New Zealand’s Indie legends will have you wonder at literate writing and arrangement from the early eighties, spacious New Zealand homes, bunnies and the Dunedin Sound.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Verlaines

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Death_and_the_Maiden_(The_Verlaines_song)

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flying_Nun_Records

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paul_Verlaine

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Death_and_the_Maiden

You’re just too, too obscure for me
Oh, you don’t really get through to me
And there’s no need for you to talk that way
Is there any less pessimistic things to say?

Do you like Paul Verlaine?
Is it gonna rain today?
Shall we have our photo taken?
We’ll look like Death and The Maiden

Verlaine, Verlaine, Verlaine, Verlaine, Verlaine, Verlaine, Verlaine, Verlaine, Verlaine
Verlaine, Verlaine, Verlaine, Verlaine, Verlaine, Verlaine, Verlaine, Verlaine, Verlaine

I still choose to lose the way I like
Fool around, split my lungs out of spite
But I won’t reject so long as you make sense
But I’m through with the rooms and vague intentions

You shouldn’t talk to me
Find better company
There’s better people to know
You’ll only end up like Rimbaud
Get shot by

Verlaine, Verlaine, Verlaine, Verlaine, Verlaine, Verlaine, Verlaine, Verlaine, Verlaine
Verlaine, Verlaine, Verlaine, Verlaine, Verlaine, Verlaine, Verlaine, Verlaine, Verlaine

The way you think is oh-so-bloody stale
Your sanity looks pretty frail
You have to clutch at every tiny straw
And I can’t stomach that at all

Do you like Paul Verlaine?
Is it gonna rain today?
Shall we have our photo taken?
We’ll look like Death and The Maiden

Verlaine, Verlaine, Verlaine, Verlaine, Verlaine, Verlaine, Verlaine, Verlaine, Verlaine
Verlaine, Verlaine, Verlaine, Verlaine, Verlaine, Verlaine, Verlaine, Verlaine, Verlaine

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2 Responses to “20/9/17 – The Verlaines – Death And The Maiden – 1983”

  1. Ricky September 20, 2017 at 7:04 pm #

    A real fave! Glad to see you writing about this! Their final 20th Century album “Over The Moon” is a stunning masterpiece and is my personal favorite. I’d love to read your review of that! I had the pleasure of being Graeme and Jo’s house guest in Dunedin for a week or so back in early 2008 (thanks to Shayne Carter) A true eccentric and an absolute musical genius. There is a reason he has been the Dr. Of Music at Otago University for the last 20 years or so. An unsung hero who has the unanimous respect of the entire NZ music scene. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XKd5y1lLfzA

  2. Jed Bonniwell September 20, 2017 at 7:21 pm #

    Always loved this song…great to hear it again and see the video for the first time!

    Here’s a recent interview with Graeme:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yBTTn7IXHRg

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