Song for the day

Song for the day 03/07/21: Kula Shaker, “Hey Dude”

It’s a Saturday in the bonkers summer of ’21! So catch the sun (if you can find it) and wig out to this Kula Shaker classic.

Picture this. It’s late 1996, and you’re an avowed fan of the glitter-trash-pop-freak end of the music spectrum occupied by bands like Suede, the Manics and (very soon) Mansun. You’ve recently decided that the best new music in Britain belongs to the the Romo stylings of Orlando – the very antithesis of the retro-rawkin’ authenticity of the Kula Shaker ethic.

And yet, here come Kula Shaker, who really don’t care about all that bollocks. They just want to make amazing tunes in a 60s psychedelic rock style infused with Indian mysticism. They are everything you should hate, right? And yet they are so bloody FANTASTIC.

In the ‘Delicious List’ section of my 1996 website Syllable Have No Discipline, where I warbled on about all the new tunes I was enjoying, I posted a little bit of a rant about Kula Shaker. It was slightly edited from a rant in my diary that I reproduced in my post about the first Kula Shaker gig I would eventually go to in 1999, and basically meanders on the theme of ‘how dare Kula Shaker be so bloody brilliant’?

‘Name any objection to Kula Shaker and I’m sure to agree. That CRAP Hammond, the 2000th-hand pseudo-eastern quasi-philosophy, the obvious influence of some of the most overrated bands in history (Led Zeppelin, the Doors, Jimi Hendrix), the cringingly flimsy and adolescent lyrics, the childish technophobia, that whole “is it 1970 yet?” aura. Ah yes, that’d be the best new band on the planet then. But my god they are so ENTERTAINING!’

I went on to resentfully describe the genius of many recent singles and b-sides before coming to this subject of today’s post.

“Hey Dude” is another matter entirely. The title alone is almost unforgivable. I’m not sure if Crisp’s shriek of “you treat me like a WOMAN!! But I feel like a maaaan” is utterly offensive or just brilliant. But when you find yourself wandering the streets of your nowhere town warbling “smell the rose, the sweet sweet rose that grows on castle walls in HEAVEN!!” and feeling utterly cheered by the stellar arrogance and cosmos-surfing pop lunacy of it all, you’ll be prepared to forgive them anything. Because the best new band on the planet may come in strange disguises…’

Said stellar arrogance and cosmos-surfing pop lunacy has made this tune one of my favourites over the years for when I need an immediate pick me up. The sheer bombastic confidence of this track – part 60s psychedelia, part “Suffragette City” – means that you can do nothing else but leap around the room hollering along to its lyrics about honey, tombstones and gender perplexity when you hear it. This song has been my ticket out of the doldrums many times, but one incident sticks in my memory. In April 2002, still recovering from a wearying round of treatment for endometriosis, I had this flash of inspiration when watching, of all things, Mr Bean:

‘One of the episodes was called “Ray of Sunshine” and suddenly a voice possessed of lunatic groovitude crept into my consciousness hollering “catch the sun!!!!” and so I had to pull out my Kula Shaker CDs and oh yeah!!! those two rawktastic gigs of early ’99 came screeching back into my mind in vivid euphoravision.’

It may be grey and cloudy outside, but when the escalating, chaotic euphoravision of this song is on the airwaves, you will always be catching the sun. So dive into that lunatic groovitude – don’t wait for the moment to come.

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