Oct 07

TERRY JACKS – “Seasons In The Sun”

FT + Popular66 comments • 6,223 views

#347, 6th April 1974

“Seasons In The Sun” is one of those records that was never not going to be enormous. The weird dolour of its intro chords, Terry Jacks’ tear-choked vocals, Brel’s terrace-ready chorus and the sheer oddness of the song….even if you think it’s awful or kitsch you can’t be surprised at its success. Sometimes I do think those things, but the elements mockers tend to point to are also keys to “Seasons”‘ effectiveness. Those final chord shifts, for example – outrageous manipulation yes, but also the desperate last grabs at life by the dying singer.

I’ve not heard Brel’s “Le Moribund” though I know that a hefty subtext went missing in the transition from Jacques to Jacks – the dying man may be a suicide, driven to it by his wife’s infidelity. It seems to me though that removing that story, that explanation, must improve the song, or at least make it much stranger. “Seasons” is now about the awful blank randomness of death, rather than the bitter punchline to life as a bad joke.



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  1. 51
    doofuus2003 on 26 Oct 2007 #

    For sure Next was a big part of the SAHB live show; saw them several times at the big outdoor kind of event, always 4th or 5th on the bill, but with a theatrical style suited to the big crowd in the days when there were no huge screen close ups.

  2. 52
    Caledonianne on 2 Nov 2007 #


    Aaaah! Tiger Tim Stevens. I remember bopping at his Sunday afternoon gig in Shuffles in Sauchiehall Street…

  3. 53
    wichita lineman on 19 Jun 2008 #

    Re 37. Terry got his revenge on swingin’ Susan by ensuring he owned the rights to her solo records and the Poppy Family, which explains why they so rarely crop up on cd. Unlike this dilly of a death disc.

    Got to agree with Marcello, the Poppy Family were a FABULOUS group – Susan Jacks’ voice is one of the purest and saddest in all of pop. Which Way You Goin’ Billy is ok, but their 2 lps feature far better stuff. Check out Free From The City on one of Finders Keepers’ semi-legit compilations (possibly Folk Is Not A Four Letter Word).

  4. 54
    Billy Smart on 13 Feb 2009 #

    NMEWatch: 9 March 1974. A thumbs-up from guest reviewer Kenny Everett;

    “Very nice production, very clean, very jolly, very bouncy. Lots of tune – should be played on the radio. Sounds like he hasn’t had a shit in years.”

    No Single of the week. Also released;

    Portsmouth Sinfonia – William Tell Overture
    Diana Ross & Marvin Gaye – You Are Everything
    Doobie Brothers – Listen To The Music
    Bubblerock – Get Off My Cloud

  5. 55
    Ken Shinn on 31 Jul 2012 #

    “Rod McKuen’s out right now
    Oh wouldn’t you just know it?
    Because I am an artistic man
    In fact a bit of a poet.

    I’m a man of Nature too
    The land, the sea, and the sky.
    So why don’t you just hang up now
    And have another try.”

    (c) Pretentious Productions Inc

  6. 56
    Shayne on 14 Sep 2012 #

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  7. 57
    wichita lineman on 14 Sep 2012 #

    The intro is gorgeously dark and liquid, the best bit of the song. I don’t really hear Link Wray who played WAY more aggressively.

    As for Tom’s view that it was an obvious no.1, I dunno. The Fortunes had recorded it a few years earlier (’69 or ’70) and flopped, and the T Jacks production is weirdly chirpy given the subject matter.

    As a kid it scared the hell out of me though – my mum told it was about someone injecting themselves (wha?) with “drugs” and dying (HUH?). Why would they do that? “I don’t know,” she said. “I just don’t know.”

  8. 58
    swanstep on 15 Sep 2012 #

    Aside from the chorus, this one is new to me. I find SITS’s overall effect quite disagreeable but, like others here, I enjoy both the grunty guitar bits (which I think both Nirvana and Hole nicked on occasion) and the angelic backing vox in the verses (which Blur may have nicked for To The End, but more likely there’s an in common Euro-source).

    I wonder about the claim that this was an ‘obvious number one’ too. I’m actually surprised that it could be any sort of hit in 1974 since it sounds so 1969/1970 to my ears, back with Peter Sarstedt’s hit (which I like more than most do) perhaps. Mike Atkinson says above that he grouped SITS with, e.g., The Air That I Breathe and You Are Everything at the time, but both of those feel a lot more modern (and of course just pleasurable) than SITS to me.

    SITS spent 3 weeks at #1 in NZ (following the Hollies’ six week run at the top with Air that I Breathe).

  9. 59
    Mark G on 15 Sep 2012 #

    Nice spot re: Blur, there.

  10. 60
    mapman132 on 17 Mar 2014 #

    Count me among those who wonders why this song is despised by so many. I mean it’s not for everyone, but it’s not THAT bad. 6/10 is probably what I’d give it too. Also #1 for three weeks in the US. 1974’s batch of US number ones seems to have a special place for derision by music fans, and there was certainly far worse that year than this.

    PS: Didn’t realize this was a translation of a French song, which I’m listening to as I write. It’s interesting have very different the versions sound, and not just because of the language change. The French version somehow sounds more upbeat, but also angrier – they barely sound like the same song.

  11. 61
    hectorthebat on 29 Jun 2014 #

    Critic watch:

    1001 Songs You Must Hear Before You Die, and 10,001 You Must Download (2010)
    Bob Merserau (Canada) – The Top 100 Canadian Singles of All Time (2010) 50
    Chartattack (Canada) – The 100 Best Canadian Singles of All Time (1996) 36
    The Guardian (UK) – 1000 Songs Everyone Must Hear (2009)
    Panorama (Norway) – The 30 Best Singles of the Year 1970-98 (1999) 15
    Giannis Petridis (Greece) – 2004 of the Best Songs of the Century (2003)

  12. 62
    Erithian on 30 Jan 2015 #

    So farewell then Rod McKuen. Mixed reception on this thread mind you.

  13. 63
    Mark M on 9 Jul 2015 #

    Phil’s been talking about this on the Never Had A Dream… thread, but I’m going to try to move it back here. Having listened to Le Moribond properly for the first time yesterday, I’d say there’s only a hint, the barest skeleton, of the chorus melody deployed in Seasons In The Sun to be found in Brel’s barking. It’s not just lyrically that its very loose cover – I don’t like Seasons In The Sun, but I guess I’m saying that the English language version has evolved into a substantially different song – the very interesting link being (as I think has been mentioned above) the Kingston Trio’s take, in which you can hear back to Brel and forward to Jacks. (The wife has still cheated on him in this and, for that matter, The Beach Boys’ version).

  14. 64
    Phil on 9 Jul 2015 #

    Rosie @37 seems to have eerily anticipated everything I had to say about the relationship between this & its original. As it goes, I’m old enough to remember this & vaguely hated it at the time – syrupy, sentimental, obviously aimed at GURLS hem hem. Hate it even more now, clearly, although the arrangement isn’t entirely stupid – those ominous chords are a good touch. Thanks, Mark M – fascinating to learn that the lyrical vandalism was Terry Jacks’s own as well as (on top of) McKuen’s, and to hear that those guitar chords were already there on the Beach Boys’ version (produced & perhaps arranged by Jacks).

  15. 65
    BT on 10 Jul 2015 #

    Was Brel’s Le Moribund the inspiration for The Last Will and Testament of Jake Thackray? If so, it’s a far finer tribute than SITS.

  16. 66
    Phil on 10 Jul 2015 #

    #65 – it’s a nice idea, but the answer’s almost certainly No. Jake Thackray was a huge fan of Georges Brassens, whose (few) admirers over here tended to think he’d got a bit of a raw deal by comparison with Brel. JT translated/adapted some of Brassens’ songs and borrowed from others. In this case Brassens’ “Le Testament” looks like it was the inspiration – and the source for a couple of lines, although much more of the song is in Thackray’s own voice.

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