Song of the Week – Down by the Sea, Strawbs

Ignored             Obscured              Restored

The band Strawbs, founded by Dave Cousins, began as a folk-rock band the Strawberry Hill Boys, in 1963.  Early on, Sandy Denny was in the band for about 6 months in 1967.  By 1970, keyboardist Rick Wakeman joined them for about a year and a half, before rising to fame with Yes.

By 1972, Richard Hudson and John Ford has joined the band and they transitioned to more of a progressive rock band.  In this configuration, they released the albums that are at the core of their discography – Grave New World (1972), Bursting at the Seams (1973), and Hero and Heroine (1974).

Bursting at the Seams included a couple of minor “hits” in “Part of the Union” (written by Hudson and Ford) and “Lay Down”.  While I enjoy both, my favorite track on the album – and today’s SotW – is “Down by the Sea”.

“Down by the Sea” is big.  It opens with an epic, arpeggiated riff, moves into a folky verse, and then takes a surprising turn into a hard rock section.  From there the arrangement veers back into a sweetly sung soft section and ends with a heavy, foreboding, symphonic reprise of the original theme.

Last night I lay in bed
And held myself
Trying to remember
How it once was with you
How your hands were softer.

Yesterday I found myself
Staring into space
Rather like the sailor
In my own home surroundings
I’m not sure I know me.

Cousins has said ‘The song was very much tied up with my crumbling marriage, but it was actually written walking along the sea wall with this mountainous sea in Dover.’

As a side note, there is a story that  Alice Cooper was recording Billion Dollar Babies in the same studio as Strawbs during the Bursting at the Seams sessions.  He and his producer, Bob Ezrin, would pop in to listen to the Strawbs recordings and loved what they heard.  I’m right there with them!

Enjoy… until next week.

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