On the Radio (Flashback): Skydiver!

Way back in the halcyon days of the Ford LTD stationwagon and the suspiciously convenient birth of an alt-rock radio format in my home state, there were certain songs that were in heavy rotation that didn’t quite make it to the pantheon of alt-rock hits. Every once in a while, while trolling around on the internet, or wandering in a reverie, I think of them.

See, for better or worse, songs get reborn in my bind like Athena sprouting full-armored from Zeus’ noggin. Before I can focus on anything else, I need to hear the song, to confirm that it is real, to get drawn back into the memory and to travel through time, even if in a non-corporeal way.

(My wife knows that I can get obsessive if a song gets in my head and that, bidden or not, I will start to sing almost any song. To cause me great discomfort, she needs only to utter the phrase “Turn Around”. Even as I type this, I am humming “Total Eclipse of My Heart”, a song I love to hate and hate that I love.)

So, the other day I saw the word ‘skydiver’ printed on the page of some article. See, some guy (Felix Baumgartner) took a dive from 24 miles up and set a new world record for insanity. And, of course, his accomplishment only made me think of a song.

Now, I am sure I have seen the word or some variation a thousand times over the past decade and for some reason the synapses fired in just the right way to make me remember the song “Skydiver” by Schtum:

Don’t remember the song or the band? Don’t feel bad. Here’s how obscure this tune and band is now: there isn’t even a Wikipedia page to tell me about it.

I gotta make room, gotta make room
I gotta make room, gotta make room
Or I’ll jump right off the face of it
I think I’m gonna jump right off the face of it
Jump right off the face of it
Like some SKYDIVER!

The music is something like a pre-Prodigy or Chemical Brothers rock/industrial blend (crafted around a conventional pop song structure, with vocals that are somewhere awkwardly between House of Pain and Rage Against the Machine with a prescient dash of something like Chumbawumba). Because it sounds like real instruments are being used, I hear some Sonic Youth in the guitars. Maybe even some Dinosaur Jr. fuzzy thrash.

Even in retrospect, I like the rhythm and feel of the song. Oh, and I love the guitar riff and sound (that might just be my age). The contrast between the frantic cadence of the chorus and the wide open vowels of the word “skydiver” (built up by the mumbled syllables of an Irish accent in verse) makes the title-line even more memorable.

I am not going to try to interpret the song; but I can bear witness to its popularity among my friends and acquaintances. In those years when we were all driving around for the first time

Apparently the band looks (looked) like this

and our radio seemed as new and different from years before as we thought our ideas and very lives were, this song was nearly anthemic. We sang and shouted along with it. We drove listing to the side as we tried to navigate and thrash at the same time.

And, as only the young can do, we never asked where it came from or what it meant. The band was from Derry, North Ireland. They put out one album and broke up. They don’t even have a Wikipedia page.

But I remember.

Anyone else?

(Oh, and Mr. Baumgartner, I think you are really, truly insane. But, if you were listening to this song, well, that’s another story…)

5 comments on “On the Radio (Flashback): Skydiver!

  1. theyoungerj says:

    You literally read my mind brother. The local alt station plays this in the regular and I was planning to write this on Sunday but I drank too much watching our favorite team lose and lost the time. Everyone was talking about the guy breaking the sound barrier and all I could think of was this song. Great Minds think alike….and you beat me to it, bastard.

    • theelderj says:

      Well, I did beat you to life by seven years…so I usually do most things first!

      I love this damn song. I need to get the album.

  2. professormortis says:

    Wow. Being a guy who didn’t bother to follow alt-radio, but having plenty of friends that played stuff from it, I forgot this song entirely. I get to the chorus and BAM I remember it, but I think I always thought it was someone else…the people you mentioned, maybe even Primus, though the lack of focus on bass should have been a clue.

    • theelderj says:

      I kept forgetting about this song too. But every time I listen to it, I remember how much I enjoyed listening to it.

      It really does sound almost derivative, but then when you look at the date and see everything it preceded, they really anticipated later sounds (or, at the least, represent a coalescence of some of thos sounds earlier)

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