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Sunday, April 15, 2012

Soothing the Savage Garden

Today is day two of the all-request weekend, and I’m interested in knowing...would you like me to designate a week in the blog solely for requests?  It’s hard to do requests for the Tuesday Timeline and Thursday Confession, but for the other five theme weeks, if you have an idea for a topic that hasn’t been done yet, and would like me to talk about it, please let me know!  You can either join the Pop Culture Addict’s Guide To Life fan page on Facebook to post ideas there, or you can just post a comment at the bottom of this post.  If I get enough ideas for topics, I’ll designate an all-request week sometime next month.  The only stipulation I have is that I want to try and keep this blog as clean as possible, so nothing X-rated, thank you.

Now that this is out of the way, we can begin today’s Sunday Jukebox spotlight.  And the story behind this suggestion dates back a couple of months.  Some time ago, one of my friends suggested that I do a blog entry on a particular Australian band that made it big right around the time I was in high school.  Admittedly, I had put the idea on the table to use on a future date, because I was a fan of this band myself.  But, for some reason I had completely forgotten about it two months later...

...that is, until my friend sent me a message asking if I had written the blog entry on this particular band yet.  This was sent to me about a week ago.

The problem was that last week was a theme week, and I really couldn’t squeeze it in.  The song that I wanted to spotlight didn’t make any sense with the theme of the week, so I had to postpone it once more.

So, after two months, I’d like to finally do this entry that was suggested to me earlier in the year by Bailey C., of Ontario, Canada. 

And the song I want to feature is the one that put this group on the map.  Although the song wasn’t released until February 1997 here in North America, in the band’s native Australia, the song had a much earlier debut.

ARTIST: Savage Garden
SONG:  I Want You
ALBUM:  Savage Garden
DATE RELEASED:  June 30, 1996

The name of the band is Savage Garden, comprised of Darren Hayes and Daniel Jones.  The duo met in Logan, Queensland, Australia in 1993 after Jones had placed an ad inside a Brisbane newspaper looking for a vocalist for a band he had already set up named “Red Edge”. 

Darren Hayes was immediately given the job by Jones himself.  Mind you, Hayes was the only person who responded to the classified ad, but I assume that he had to audition just the same to earn the job!

Hayes quickly formed a fast friendship with Jones as Red Edge toured all over the Gold Coast of Australia playing gigs.  During these tours, they began to write original material in addition to the cover songs they were playing as a band.  This continued until the summer of 1994, when Darren Hayes and Daniel Jones opted to leave Red Edge in hopes of making it big on their own.

Here’s a little bit of trivia for you though.  Did you know that “Savage Garden” wasn’t the duo’s first choice for a band name?  They initially had chosen the name “Crush” when they first began recording demo tapes, but eventually changed their name to Savage Garden, inspired by a phrase from “The Vampire Chronicles” by Anne Rice.

Throughout 1994 and 1995, the duo recorded several songs together, and they eventually had enough to put together a demo tape to send out to various record labels in Australia, hoping one of them would like the tape enough to sign them.  Hayes and Jones were very ambitious in promoting themselves, making at least one hundred and fifty copies of their demo tape to send out.  Yet, only one person seemed to respond to the demo positively.  That person was John Woodruff, who became the band’s manager.  With Woodruff’s help, the band negotiated a contract with Roadshow Music, and with music producer Charles Fisher (who also produced for Air Supply and Moving Pictures), Savage Garden began recording their self-titled debut in late 1995.

The band’s first single, “I Want You” was released in Australia at the end of June, 1996.  The song managed to peak at #4 on the ARIA (Australian Recording Industry Association) charts.  Just three months later, in September 1996, the band was nominated for their first ARIA award for Breakthrough Artist – Single for “I Want You”.

As the band released their second single “To the Moon and Back” that November, American record labels were starting to hear about Savage Garden’s massive success in Australia.  Though several recording labels issued interest in the duo, it was Columbia Records who signed the band in America in January 1997. 

As “To the Moon and Back” became Savage Garden’s first #1 hit in Australia, American artists were getting their first taste of the band, as “I Want You” climbed rapidly up the charts.  The band’s debut was just as successful in North America as it had been in Australia.  The song hit #4 on Billboard, #1 on the Mainstream Airplay charts, and #1 in Canada.

For a debut single, this was a phenomenal success for “Savage Garden”.  And they weren’t done yet.

The band’s debut album hit store shelves in March 1997 in the United States, and immediately the disc sold eighteen million copies worldwide.  In Australia alone, the band’s debut topped the album sales charts in that country for almost five months!

The album also had an unprecedented eight singles charting all over the world.  Some singles (such as “Tears of Pearls”) were only released in Europe, but four singles saw airplay in North America.  “I Want You”, “To the Moon and Back”, “Break Me, Shake Me”, and this song...perhaps the band’s most recognizable.

“Truly, Madly, Deeply” was a romantic ballad released in March 1997 in Australia, and saw an American release just eight months later.  By the end of 1997, the song became the most played song on American radio, and the song ended Elton John's 14-week stay at the top of the charts with "Candle in the Wind 1997".  The song also managed to stay in the Top 30 of the Billboard 100 for one whole year.  Not too many songs released can boast that fact.

After the success of their debut album, Savage Garden went to work on their next album, “Affirmation”.  Fans of the band would get a taste of what the new album had to offer when the film “The Other Sister” was released.  The soundtrack for the film was released in February 1999, and one of the songs from the soundtrack was “The Animal Song”, recorded by Savage Garden.  The song managed to become the band’s third Canadian #1, and peaked at #3 in Australia, but scored a disappointing #19 in the United States. 

But then the duo released the song “I Knew I Loved You”, which became the band’s second single from “Affirmation”.  The song reached #1 on the Billboard charts in January 2000.  One month later, the third single “Crash and Burn” began charting as “Truly, Madly, Deeply” dropped off the Billboard Adult Contemporary Charts after an impressive 123-week stay on the charts!

By the end of 2000, Savage Garden was well on their way to joining The Bee Gees, AC/DC and INXS as being one of the most successful Australian bands to corner the American market.  With two #1 hits on the Billboard Charts (both charting for well over one hundred consecutive weeks), the future seemed bright for Savage Garden, and it was likely that we’d see them on the charts for years to come.

So when the band announced that they had broken up in 2001, I was just as shocked as everyone else was!

It was widely reported that Savage Garden had taken a hiatus following the release of “Crash and Burn” (which looking back on it seems ironically appropriate for the duo’s final single together).  Apparently, both members were going off on solo projects that seemed to be in different directions.  Jones wanted to start up his own record label, while Hayes expressed interest in continuing a solo singing career.  Many fans were lead to believe that the hiatus was only temporary, and they assumed that the band would come back with a new album sometime in 2002.  But, in October of 2001, Hayes made the announcement that the band had broken up for good. 

Hayes and Jones agreed that they would honour any tour commitments that they had previously made, and shortly after Hayes’ announcement, the following message was posted on the band’s official website.

“We are extremely grateful to our fans all around the world for their incredible support over the years.  The success of Savage Garden and our time together has been an amazing that we will never forget.  We just hope that you all understand our individual needs to continue growing.”

Hayes would later admit in an interview with musicMAX network that Jones was uneasy about the sudden stardom that they were getting following the release of their debut album, and suggested that it was the reason why the band decided to split.  As far as I know, Jones has never really commented on Hayes’ claims, so I can’t say for certain as to what the real story was behind the split.

I can tell you that both Jones and Hayes have found that there was life after Savage Garden.  Jones founded Meridien Musik, and built a recording studio called Level 7 Studios, where he has signed several young Australian artists.

And Hayes has recorded several solo albums that have charted in the United Kingdom and Australia.  Although Darren Hayes' solo career hasn’t been well-received in North America (despite most of his solo songs being fantastic), he did end up having a minor hit in 2002 with the song “Insatiable”.

It’s been a little over a decade since Savage Garden has been on the charts, and it seems that plans for a reunion are out of the question, according to Darren Hayes.  Hayes even admitted in a 2007 interview that a Savage Garden reunion would not be happening, saying that “he’d only do it if it cured cancer.”

A bold statement, no?

However, it should be noted that other bands have said the same thing at some point.  Nobody expected The Beatles to get back together again after their 1970 break-up, and yet the three surviving members at the time managed to have a hit in 1995 with “Free As A Bird”.  Nobody expected Blondie to get back together after they broke up in the early 1980s, and yet they released the song “Maria” after a seventeen year hiatus from the charts.

So, I guess as far as Savage Garden is concerned, they too may very well bite the bullet and record some new songs together after all.

For now, we always have the memories of this unique Australian duo, whose songs contributed to my high school soundtrack.  They’re probably some of the only pleasant memories from that time period, truthfully speaking.

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