When researching Coney Island before my visit, there was one vague image that bubbled up from the vault of memory. I recalled a music video Supergrass did a few years ago, around the time of their Road To Rouen album, which featured archival and current footage of women dressed as mermaids and doing beautiful underwater dances.
Now, Coney Island does have an annual Mermaid Parade. Held at the height of summer, a sea of floats, vintage vehicles and costumed acolytes parade from Surf Avenue onto the Boardwalk. Each year there’s a celebrity Queen Mermaid and King Neptune – this year Lou Reed was King Neptune!
But this is the video I was thinking of, for the song “Low C”, and it’s actually from a place in Florida called Weeki Wachee Springs. It’s about all you can ask for from a music vid – almost more of a mini documentary, and it’s a gorgeous complement to the song:
Amazing, right? Apparently Weeki Wachee spring is so deep no one’s ever found the bottom. In the late 1940s an ex-Navy bloke called Newt Perry decided to set up a roadside attraction there off Highway 19, building an underwater theatre into the limestone and recruiting pretty girls to be mermaids, smiling and performing aquatic ballets, breathing oxygen sucked from hidden air hoses.
In those days, cars were few. When the girls heard a car coming, they ran to the road in their bathing suits to beckon drivers into the parking lot, just like sirens of ancient lore lured sailors to their sides. Then they jumped into the spring to perform.
Excuse me, I just need to check out flights to Florida….
Supergrass are one of those bands that never seemed to really get their due. They made some of the most memorable pop tunes of the nineties and naughties – grab a copy of their tenth birthday retrospective, Supergrass Is 10, and you’ll be suprised just how many of their songs you know and love. Sure, they kicked off their career with two of the most quintessential songs of the Britpop explosion – “Caught By The Fuzz” and “Alright”. But they went on to scale pop highs across a range of genres – glam, funk, fuzzy punk, blue-eyed soul, and more than a few nods to T-Rex and Slade. All illuminated by a sheer enthusiasm that’s especially evident in the crowd-singalong joie de vivre of “Pumping on Your Stereo”:
Life is a cigarette / You smoke til the end
The split-personality swoon and stomp of “Moving” is probably my favourite, though there’s a magnetic melancholy about their 2005 Beatlesesque reinvention on Road To Rouen. There’s a world-weariness permeating that album that probably isn’t unconnected to the band’s personal issues at the time. They released one more album, broke with their label EMI and were supposedly working on a seventh record called Release The Drones when they announced they were calling it a day in April this year. RIP, Supergrass. I’ll never forget seeing them play Brisbane’s Arena in 2004, one of the best gigs I’ve ever seen, complete with an encore cover of Neil Young’s “The Loner”.