– 30 Days of Nowhere: Catherine Wheel

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Catherine Wheel
Wednesday is story day – click to hear the music…


And here’s the story behind the song:
In 1993, I was a cub reporter for a magazine called Guitar Player. No prizes for guessing what the mag was about. In many ways, it was a dream job – I got paid to work in an office full of musicians, listen to crusty old backstage war stories from older writers during long, not-fully-sober lunches, and meet the occasional shredder who wandered into our thoroughly un-rock’n’roll cube farm of an office.
About 3 months after I started working there, I talked the editors into running an interview of Neil Finn. Conducted by, omg, me! I was very excited, especially when Neil’s Capitol Records publicist and I hatched a plan for Neil to call me (me!) direct from his house (him!) in the middle of the night, PST, from his house in New Zealand.
When the appointed hour arrived, I was keyed up like a ritalin-addled wolverine, determined to get my first-ever interview off to a good start. I am afraid I did indeed begin by saying how huge a fan I was, and then let slip that I had listened to the new album 37 times (all true). Neil said “whoa”. Ecstasy.
The rest of the interview is lost to history, though I do have a clear memory of Mr. Finn’s answer to my question regarding the source of his inspiration (“Drugs, mostly.”)
Anyway, this is all an extremely long-winded way of explaining that Catherine Wheels – plural – is a great song from the Crowded House album I was interviewing him about, and it inspired me to hit the dictionary (no Internet back then, boyz’n’girlz) to find out what Catherine Wheels were, viz:
Catherine Wheel: a spiked wheel symbolizing the instrument of torture involved in the martyrdom of Saint Catherine of Alexandria (died ad 1307).
Zow! What a great band name! (Taken.)
Okay, song title then!
Ten years later, at an Arroyo Seco campfire during a solo roadtrip to Mission San Antonio, the other shoe finally dropped. I was aimlessly strumming chords while trying to guess the species belonging to the eyes in the bushes beyond the fire when the words “my world turns on Catherine Wheels / whenever you’re around” came out of my mouth (with a melody utterly unrelated to the one that finally made the record).
Two days later, safely ensconced within Radio Nowhere HQ, I played around with the song for seven hours or so on the guitar, getting nowhere. So I burned it.
Then I switched to Rhodes electric piano, played for about 5 minutes…and the entire riff, melody and arrangement for the chorus came out. Funny how often it works that way.

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