Single Review: Richard Hawley – Leave Your Body Behind You

By on Friday, 13th April 2012 at 12:00 pm

Sheffield’s finest former ’50s-throwback troubadour Richard Hawley introduces his forthcoming album, ‘Standing at the Sky’s Edge’, with the release of its first single ‘Leave Your Body Behind You’. The trademark Hawley sonorous baritone remains, but overall this is something of a departure from his previous languorous style. There’s a new psychedelic presentation and a rockier sound; fair play, Hawley has been sticking to the same formula for a few albums now, and he’s due a change of direction. As if transported in a bequiffed Tardis, Hawley now finds himself at the cusp of the 1970s, just as the trippy ’60s discover the hard rock of the following decade.

Most fascinating are Hawley’s entirely apropos-of-nothing comments on the sentiment behind the song, worth repeating in full here. “So much damage has been done to this world by people who get all their knowledge from one book – be it The Bible or whatever.” He adds, “If we could just allow ourselves to be liberated by the fact that this is our only time here, we could just get on with what really matters. I really think we could have put a man on the moon 1,000 years ago if we accepted that.”

Fair enough on the first point – those who read only one book in their entire lives are bound to be a little narrow in their viewpoint, whether it be the Bible, War And Peace, or Spot the Dog. Although it’s likely, what with the Bible being a tricky read, that most people come at it with at least a vague prior familiarity with the adventures of Janet and John and the BFG. I suspect what Hawley is trying to do is express the danger of taking ancient religious texts too literally, a point on which most would agree, although this is hardly a novel idea in the post-9/11 world.

The second point is outrageous to the point of parody; Hawley clearly believes his assertion (“I really think”), and it has presumably influenced his music, thus it deserves comment here. In the 11th century, the height of European transport technology was the Viking longboat, with the English too preoccupied with defending their towns and womenfolk from pillaging and rape by the Nordics to concentrate on the development of space travel. The Medieval English Church was the fabric that held society together, as landowners developed ever more efficient ways of organising farming and horticulture, effectively preventing famine taking hold as the population grew at increasing speed. The Islamic Caliphates of the East gave structure to a society which, amongst vast swathes of scientific and mathematic enquiry, held a great interest in astronomy and optics, critiqued the inaccurate prevailing theories of the time, and developed new pieces of astronomical equipment which were used for centuries after. The USA, the country that finally put man on the moon, wouldn’t even be constituted for another 700 years. The lack of medieval liquid hydrogen and freeze-dried chicken soup was not related to a preoccupation with overbearing theology.

Whilst by definition no religion (and certainly not Scientology) has ever been rooted in the scientific method, and bearing in mind several notable events such as the Roman Inquisition when scientists and philosophers were persecuted for ideas that have subsequently been accepted as mainstream, there is little evidence that the advent of space travel was at all hindered by religious or any other philosophical belief. Indeed, the fact that both Russia and the U.S. were so close as the space race played out in the 1960s, indicates that space travel became possible at a specific point in time due to simultaneous global technological developments; if any single event contributed more than any other, it was World War II.

Despite the factual deficiencies in Hawley’s bizarre assertion, there may be a valid spiritual perspective here: that we should realise that in our limited time on the planet it’s really only the big stuff that matters. Day-to-day struggles and mundane worries are simply distractions that diminish our capability to truly make a mark on our lives and those of others. Being inspired by that which we truly love is the only way to happiness, and is the only way to justify the blessing of existence – big, important points, most eloquently expressed in Steve Jobs’ famous Stanford University commencement speech, and echoed here.

‘Leave Your Body Behind You’ can be interpreted in two ways – it is an evocation to action, to transcend the mortal, bodily realm and make a mark on history; and that mark will be more important than the skin and bones which are the physical remnants of life. Ironically, these are deeply spiritual sentiments which echo mainstream religion’s views on life and death, those which Hawley appears to have no time for. Despite all this pedantry, the song makes a fine noise, and is a marker for a change of direction for Hawley, which should excite those of an open-minded persuasion. Fans of Hawley’s peculiar brand of non-spiritual spiritualism should be snapping up tickets to No Direction Home festival in June, where he is headlining the Sunday night.


‘Leave Your Body Behind You’ is available now as a one-track digital download. A 10″ vinyl version (backed with new track ‘You Haunt Me’) will be the first single release through the Richard Hawley Singles Club, available exclusively via Independent record shops for Record Store Day (from Saturday 21 April) and from Hawley’s official Web site. The Singles Club will be a series of 10″ singles, b/w exclusive bonus tracks, to be released throughout the next 12 months. The two-track download will be available on the 7th of May.


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