A group of musicians labour to produce an album and two singles. Roles are unclear, personalities clash, the music recorded fails to live up to expectations. Before long a sidelined multi-instrumentalist is (allegedly!) fired for pulling faces at the singer behind his back while the band perform. Interest waning, the group get together to record one last single, a cack-handed attempt at a pop song which they all hate. That done, they get ready to record a b-side, a last gesture before they go their seperate ways.
Then somehow it all just slots together. ‘There Was…’ is generally agreed to be the sole unqualified success of this era – the sound of a group finally working together with a single purpose. Form and theme match perfectly to capture a feeling of transitory bliss.
It’s hard to know where to start with picking apart why the song works so well. There’s a whispy, shivering ghost of a melody, propelled by an insistent motorik rhythm, building and falling each verse. Simon and Peter hypnotically strum the same chord-sequence on guitar and bass, and instead of the sound being mixed under the carpet, it’s allowed to warmly, deeply resonate around the studio. Everything about the production is intimate – Jarvis sounds like he could be whispering in your ear at times. Though the best surviving recording is from a crackly 7″, you can still make out every phoneme. Behind, Saskia adds sublime vocal harmonies, doubling up everything Jarvis sings with ‘la la la’ a couple or octaves above. The only slight misstep is when Simon’s fairgound farfisa joins in – it’s perfectly pleasant, just not quite up to the standard of the rest of the track, and Jarvis later commented that it sounded “too much like 10cc.”
This was to be the final appearance on record for most of the band. Simon would return later as a producer, but for Saskia, David and Peter this was their swansong – a fitting one, but an end all the same.