Ghost of Pop Culture Past: Savage Garden

22 Oct

Ghost of Pop Culture Past is a new feature here at Scene Now.
We’ll take a gander back at anything pop culture-related, be it a band, music video, comic book, movie scene, TV show or commercial.

What you thought was cool at 14 usually isn’t what you still think is cool at 25. Your tastes grow, change, mature. Not mine, apparently.

At 14 I fell in love with two things: “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” and Savage Garden. “Buffy” will always be my favorite show, and Darren Hayes – the voice behind Savage Garden – will always be one of my favorite singers ever.

My love for all things “SG,” or Savage Garden, led me down a pretty unusual path: I made friends all over the world, led an Internet “crusade” and learned quite a bit about myself and what music does for me.

Savage Garden

The “I Want You” video was what drew me to Darren Hayes and Daniel Jones, better known as Aussie duo Savage Garden. In 1997, it sounded so fresh and new, but with enough props to the 80s Pop Gods to make it feel familiar.

Then, I fell in love with the band’s self-titled album, which included gems like “Break Me Shake Me,” “To the Moon and Back” and the readymade prom theme, “Truly Madly Deeply.”

This was also the days before Dateline stings, so I wasn’t the least bit scared of jumping on the Internet and finding out what I could about the band. That led me to a Savage Garden message board.

The board was a pretty full place by the time I found it, but, unfortunately, it was mostly full of flamers. They all hated the band for one reason or another and got a kick out of annoying true Savage Garden fans. The fans were growing weary of constantly defending their new favorite band, and many of them were beginning to leave.

Armed with a new pal on the board, “Savage Sheena” (cheesy I know; hey, I was 14) led what we called a crusade to get those old fans back on the board. We basically collected the old fans’ e-mails, and bombarded them one day with e-mails asking them to re-join the board. For some, it worked; for others, well, not so much. Along with my new Internet pals, we managed to chase off the flamers and maintain a fun, safe board for Savage Garden fans for about two years.

Savage Garden went on a U.S. tour when I was 15, with the closest date being in Atlanta. I’d never traveled that far for a show, but I begged my parents to let me go.
About a month before the show, we were vacationing in Florida when I saw an airbrushed (oh yeah! airbrushed!) shirt that read, “I (heart) Hanson.” You have no idea how much I begged the Airbrushing Gods to make me an “I (heart) Savage Garden” shirt – and sure enough, I got it.

The show was everything I’d hoped it would be. Remember Billie Meyers, who sang “Kiss the Rain”? She opened, and was actually pretty awesome. Savage Garden certainly didn’t disappoint. My favorite moments came when the band played some rare, only-released-in-Australia hits, and when the back-up singers sang a snippet of En Vogue’s “Free Your Mind.” When the show was over, the drummer gave me a Savage Garden drumstick – I believe because he spotted my “I (heart) Savage Garden” tee. I was in heaven.

In 1999, Savage Garden released “Affirmation,” its last album. For me, this album was an odd mix: there was everything from terrible soft rock, like the sugar-heavy “I Knew I Loved You” to some really genius moments like the stark ballad “I Don’t Know You Anymore.”

But the album came right in the middle of my first-ever heartbreak. My first boyfriend broke up with me, and when you’re in high school, that sort of thing is the end of the world. I listened to “Affirmation” constantly; its mix of love, heartbreak and bitterness was exactly what I needed.

And then, the band broke up. The end. And with it went the board. Flamers started to take back over, and all of us fans found other boards for other interests. Although the band died a rather quick death, it felt natural. The guys in the band had moved on, and so had we, the fans.

Since Savage Garden, the more silent half of the duo, Daniel Jones, retreated back to native Australia, where he has his own record label.

Darren Hayes is still singing. He released his first solo album, “Spin,” in 2002. While it kept things pretty soft rock, he moved toward a more urban sound. The best song, hands down, is his ode to everything 80s: “Crush (1980 Me).”

His second solo disc, “The Tension and the Spark,” released in 2004, is the best thing he’s done to date. The album is full of dark lyrics, with a much darker, more electronica, less-radio friendly sound. His record label refused to release the album in America; it was only released on iTunes earlier this year.

Hayes released his latest album, “This Delicate Thing We’ve Made,” in late 2007. The double-album is a clear look at who Hayes is now as a man and as a performer.

He’s also set to release “This Delicate Film We’ve Made,” a film that mixes 13 tracks off “This Delicate Thing…” with specially created animated videos to go with them. It’s touted as “an album experience in four dimensions.”

I admit – when “Spin” came out, I didn’t rush to buy it (in fact, I think I bought it used). I liked some of the tracks I heard off “The Tension…” but obviously couldn’t get it. By then, I was really separated from my old love with Hayes and the band.

I happened to get a little curious about Hayes back the summer of 2007 when I read about “This Delicate Thing…” After hearing it, I went back and bought anything else of his I could. When I listen to Hayes’ music now, it feels like I’m coming home to an old friend – one who, even though I might have outgrown some of his earlier silliness, I still love who he is at heart. I have no idea why or what power he holds over me, but I love Hayes’ voice. I love tracks like “I Like the Way,” “Step into the Light” and “Me Myself and (I).” Even when Hayes missteps, I can understand it why he did it. I feel like I know him, somehow, especially after following his career for 11 years.

Admittedly, I don’t listen to much Savage Garden these days. I’ve got exactly three SG songs on my iPod: “I Want You,” “Gunning Down Romance” (a big song for me during the break-up) and “I Don’t Know You Anymore.” Say what you want about the band’s music, but there’s no denying the crazy fun that is “I Want You.” It’s a juicy little pop gem that stands the test of time.

Through my obsession with Savage Garden, I learned what it meant to be a fan of music. I turned to it when I needed it most, and it was there for me. Savage Garden made me dance, made me cry – and above all else, made me feel.

But the best thing to come out of my love for Savage Garden is that I found a best friend for life: my bff Carmen. We met online at the Savage Garden board when we were 14; 11 years later, I still consider her one of my best friends. We’ve never met and only talked on the phone maybe two or three times. But we’ve helped each other through everything that happens in those too-important years between 14 and 25: growing pains, boy troubles, graduations, life lessons. Together we’ve mourned, celebrated and basically stuck by each other through everything life’s given us. I don’t know where I’d be without her.

Share your SG memories!

Here are two videos for ya, too:

Savage Garden’s “I Want You” (geez, i can’t help but smile all goofy-like when I watch this:))

And here’s the video for “Unlovable” by Darren Hayes:

3 Responses to “Ghost of Pop Culture Past: Savage Garden”

  1. Carmelita October 22, 2008 at 8:11 pm #

    Reading your article brought back so many memories, and reminded me of the love we both had for this band that virtually was a one hit wonder in ways, but just had a hold on us! You like what you like I suppose. Oddly enough I still get giddy when I see their picture! I remember the excitement I felt when they announced the tour dates and my mother agreed to drive to Colorado so that we could see them. That experience was wonderful and I shared it with my mom, an experience that wouldn’t of happened without the band. Oh- the air brushed shirts! I had one of those made, black and white airbrush. It was my favorite shirt for a long time, then I didn’t wear it as much, then it became a night shirt, then got thrown away. How sad. Even though the band is no longer an important and irreplaceable freindship was formed that lasted longer than the band itself!How great is that. 🙂 Gonna watch the videos now..yay! Thanks for bringing back good memories! 😀

  2. sheenabarnett October 23, 2008 at 9:31 pm #

    yay carm! 🙂
    i’m glad you still get giddy too!! heehee! 🙂

  3. ezradaisy October 24, 2008 at 10:31 pm #

    ooo i love them
    i don’t know if i want to
    but oo i always will

    they have always been one of those bands that i had to defend why i liked them. i bring out my cassette tape every so often and remember the great times surrounded by those songs. speaking of which. off to go find it now.

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