David Fleming
It's All Academic   www.davidflemingsite.com   
Day 358: Francis Dunnery (I Believe I Can Change My World)

June 10, 2024

I suppose I can't get to the end of this series and not write about Francis Dunnery. Many of us will have never heard of him; I think the only reason I did is seeing him on some t.v. show, playing something off of Tall Blonde Helicopter, his 1995 release.

Even before I go too far, one of the most interesting facts about Dunnery is that he auditioned to replace Phil Collins in Genesis.1 I am tempted to jokingly ask, "did he get the gig? No one did, right?" as Genesis pretty much stopped being relevant when Collins left.

Tall Blonde Helicopter seemed a pretty apt title for a CD that was certainly quirky. Visually, it featured Dunnery's beagle, Colin, on the cover (held by Dunnery), the back (held by some East Indian mystic-looking dude), and the CD itself (four quadrants featuring Colin's face). The songs included a nod to astrology ("Too Much Saturn") that certainly suggested more than just a nice gimmick for a song ("I've got too much Saturn and not enough moon"). In fact, at his website Dunnery still heavily promotes his expertise in astrology, including opportunities to "book your astrological consultation here." Among other songs were weird little snippets to not wanting to be alternative and to a little snake that lives in Dunnery. Tucked near the end of the CD was a very straightforward, heart-felt cover of Cat Stevens' "Father And Son."

However, the songs were mostly played by him, often on an acoustic guitar, with a minimal amount of help from his friends (the most interesting of those: the E Street Band's bassist, Garry Tallent, and female quirk herself, Jill Sobule), and so I found that it all worked for me, no song more than "I Believe I Can Change My World".

One of the harder-driven songs on the CD, Dunnery frantically strumming his guitar from the outset,
"I Believe I Can Change My World," offers a tease of a song. Its tempo and intensity increase tremendously as each chorus drops back to the verse. That chorus is a rather simple one, showing that love can make us believe in anything:

And I believe in a miracle/

And I believe you can be my girl/

And I believe how much I love you/

And I believe I can change my world.

The verses, though, suggest a more researched path to Dunnery's enlightenment, as he cites no less than 18 historical figures for providing him some kind of intellectual framework for life. Granted, they all aren't equal, the final verse, which never segues back to the chorus, name checks Malcolm X, Neville Chamberlain, Abraham Lincoln, John Lennon, Cat Stevens, Michael Jordan, and Tonya Harding. Yes, you read the ending of that list correctly: (to his [her] credit) Harding is cited for "I take the blame." Since the song is essentially a list of people Dunnery has believed in, with that credit to love in the chorus, it ends up as a rather goofy, hopped-up song that is too easy to get hooked by. So much so, that when Dunnery ad-libs at the end, "killer song, eh?" you kind of have to agree.

The goofiness of this Tall Blonde Helicopter (one has to assume the title references himself) never appeared on the two other Dunnery CDs I purchased, hoping to find lightning in a bottle twice. His follow-up, Let's Go Do What Happens, seemed to have potential, especially with songs like "Give Up Your Day Job" and "Crazy Is A Pitstop," but was overproduced and may have removed the central goofy singer-songwriter too much from the forefront.

However, Dunnery's website offers both the astrology readings and the opportunity to hire him as a house band. It looks like he not only has a new album, but also may be resurrecting some work he did with a band called "It Bites," which preceded his solo days. I also note that he names his website "I Believe I Can Change My World." That's a good thing to still believe in his 60s; I'm not sure I still do in mine.

1"Francis Dunnery (Sept. 2010)." FabricationsHQ--Putting The Words To The Music. https://www.fabricationshq.com/francis-dunnery-sep-2010.html  Retrieved May 21, 2024.


Francis Dunnery. "I Believe I Can Change My World." Tall Blonde Helicopter. Atlantic, 1995. Link here.

Day 357: Tommy Tutone "Cheap Date"

Day 359: Dr. Hook & The Medicine Show "The Cover Of Rolling Stone"

See complete list here.