Permission to Land (Bonus Track)

Permission to Land (Bonus Track)

Two decades after the release of their star-making debut, The Darkness lead singer Justin Hawkins hasn’t forgotten the band’s unlikely beginnings. Why four musicians from Lowestoft, England, wrote a walloping glam-rock record about 15 to 30 years too late—they masterfully combined both the ’70s and ’80s versions of the form—is anyone’s guess. But desperation might’ve had something to do with it. “When we were writing these songs in 2001, 2002, we had nothing,” Hawkins tells Apple Music. “And we knew that what we were doing was hopelessly unfashionable. But I think the idea was just to make some music that was reminiscent of the stuff that we enjoyed when we were learning our instruments and growing up—and the stuff that our dads showed us. And I think the only objective, really, was to not give up.” The result was Permission to Land, a high-pitched, riff-roaring, triumphant flash-metal extravaganza that caught the rock world by surprise. Anyone who heard the infectious singles even once can probably still hum them from memory: “Get Your Hands Off My Woman,” “Growing on Me,” “I Believe in a Thing Called Love,” “Love is Only a Feeling.” Stuffed with hooks and double entendres, it made instant stars out of Hawkins, his younger brother Dan (guitar), bassist Frankie Poullain, and drummer Ed Graham. “To be able to do this chat with you after 20 years was part of the goal, really, because we wanted to build something that was bulletproof,” Hawkins says, “something that would let us have a musical existence, regardless of anything else. We'd all been in bands before, so when we were doing The Darkness, it was like, ‘OK, this is the one. This is the thing. It doesn't matter what happens. We're fucking sticking with this, and we're going to make it work, one way or another. Even if we just end up being a pub band.’” Below, he details each track from the original album. “Black Shuck” “Every county in England has a hellhound, a Black Shuck. It's like a spooky black dog. It’s big and terrifying. When I was a kid, I had some drawings exhibited in Blythburgh Church, and they showed us where the hellhound attacked the church. I found some documentation of that fateful night, and it said there was a big fire in the church, and a man and a boy were killed stark dead in the graveyard. I don't know why they chose the word ‘stark.’ I sort of imagine that they were both naked, and then it raises a whole load of other questions. But it’s East Anglia, so what do you expect?” “Get Your Hands Off My Woman” “It’s a frustrated song about what it feels like when you’re in a relationship with somebody you're not supposed to be in a relationship with. I wrote a couple of songs like that—when you’re not allowed to show any affection to this person and do the things that you would normally territorially do, to sort of ward off unwanted gazes and so on. When it’s an illicit affair, you can't do that. So you’ve got to watch all these people circling, literally waiting for permission to land, which is why the album’s called that. I always thought the melody was a bit Kate Bush-y.” “Growing On Me” “We did a video for this song, and we just called in all our favors—somebody who had access to a stately home, somebody who had access to a helicopter, et cetera. So, for 11 grand or something like that, we made this ridiculous video that looked like at least 12 grand. It was a remarkable feat, but the song had to do well because we exhausted all of our favors. I think it’s about two people who are stuck together, but they make it work. And also sexually transmitted diseases.” “I Believe in a Thing Called Love” “The day I went to the studio to record this vocal, there were all these people huddled around the TV who hardly acknowledged me when I walked in. I was like, ‘OK, I’ll just get on with it.’ The producer and I went in to track it, and when we came out, it was the 9/11 attacks. On the day I did that vocal, the world changed forever. It’s kind of mad, really. I should add that there are two versions of this song. The one on the album is a bit slower than the single version because we redid it to make it more potent for radio. The album version is really flabby and sort of saucy.” “Love Is Only a Feeling” “I think the main thing I wanted to achieve with the lyric on this one was to use the word ‘scudded,’ because I feel like that's a word you can only use to describe the way a cloud moves. So it’s like cloud poetry, but with loads of guitar solos in it. But that’s poetry in itself, isn’t it? There’s something like a hundred acoustic guitars on this one because we multi-tracked so many, to give it that lush kind of Greek-chorus vibe. And we deliberately put it halfway through the album because our understanding of vinyl is that it’s not always advisable to put something uptempo and powerful there because the needle might jump out.” “Givin’ Up” “We started off side one with a real sort of AC/DC-ish riff, and I think we wanted the same thing to happen on the second half. If you listen to the riff of ‘Givin’ Up,’ you could be forgiven for thinking it was inspired by ‘Rock ’n’ Roll Damnation,’ the opening track from Powerage. Of course, that isn't the case at all, but we just pulled it out of our arses like we always do. The words are obviously to do with an illicit substance—which I’ve never touched, by the way. If any of the authorities are reading this, none of those things have ever passed my veins. But I wanted to write a song about it that wasn’t judgmental.” “Stuck in a Rut” “This is about living in a small town but leaving to adventure elsewhere in a van. There’s two roads out of Lowestoft, the town where we grew up. One of them is called Barnby Bends, and, as you’d imagine, a lot of people wipe out. The other is completely straight, but then people try to overtake agricultural vehicles coming out of the field and get wiped out by that. So getting out of that town in a hurry is actually pretty difficult to do with your life and body intact. It’s a bit like ‘Hotel California,’ really. Perhaps I shouldn’t mention that because we’ll all get sued.” “Friday Night” “It's one of those songs where I was thinking it was a bit lighter and a bit poppier than most of the record. And one of the things I wanted to try was a list, because I think pop songs often have lists in. Like, ‘Monday, did this, Tuesday, did that,’ or counting numbers, and I was keen to explore those kinds of devices. So I thought about all the stuff that I used to do when I was at school, and I tried to make it into a love song as well. But it’s an unrequited love song. There's a bloke chasing a girl around, doing everything she does, but all of his efforts fall on deaf eyes. That's it: deaf eyes.” “Love On the Rocks With No Ice” “I remember I wrote the melody and the lyric when I was in America for the first time. It must've been about 2000. My brother sent me the backing track and I thought, ‘I can do something with this.’ I was hanging out with this guy in America, and whenever he ordered a drink, he'd always say, ‘On the rocks, please, no ice.’ He was just a brilliant idiot, and I wanted to put that in a song. But it’s about a strained relationship where there’s not enough passion to actually make the break, so you’re just putting up with a lame-arse relationship that you’re basically bored with. And then a massive riff. Yay!” “Holding My Own” “I’m trying to remember why we chose that chord sequence, but I know I wanted to just have a big Slash solo at the beginning. It was of the utmost importance. I would roar in and just have this ludicrously loud guitar solo at the top of it. But it’s basically another ballad. I think it’s about keeping your chin up when it all has just fallen apart, and you’re on your own. And then you’re essentially spending quality time with yourself, learning to love yourself, because you can’t expect anybody else to love you if you can’t do that. Which is why masturbation is so important.”

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