• David Bentley

Non-Nordic Sunday: Fiona Apple – The Whole of the Moon (cover/video)

I bang on perhaps a little too often about Fiona Apple but for my money she is at least one of the greatest musical talents of the last 25 years, despite the various physical and mental issues that have beset her at times. Now 43, she’s still right up there with the very best and she’s looking quite fit and happy on this video and hasn’t lost her sense of humour judging from the final seconds of it.


This is a cover of The Waterboys’ classic ‘The Whole of the Moon’ and it was made for the series finale of the U.S. drama The Affair, which concluded in November 2019. This live version has only recently come to light.


In it, Apple works with numerous musicians she knows from previous engagements, including Matt Chamberlain, who I think was her drummer prior to Charley Drayton, but with a couple of new ones coming on board, including Phoebe Bridgers on backing vocals.


They produced the Mike Scott classic in just a few hours with a chamberlin (an early mellotron-like instrument) included in the instrumental line up. The chamberlin is heavily favoured by Apple and has appeared in many of her songs, including live performances.


Speaking of which, I wonder out loud if she will start to tour again after all this is over? Famously reclusive now in Los Angeles’ Venice district she hasn’t been to Europe for at least 15 years. She has a fear of flying and among other reasons she has failed to travel in the past include being banged up in a Texas jail for alleged drug offences (the tour bus driver chose to go through the most infamous town in the whole of the U.S. for stopping vehicle traffic ‘on suspicion’) and the sickness of her dog, Janet, which prompted her to cancel an entire South American tour.


Every two years since it began I’ve written to the organisers of the Manchester International Festival to ask them to try to get her. Last time out they replied, saying they’ve also tried, every time! What about 2021? Who knows? Will it even go ahead?


What we certainly won’t get for a long time is another studio album from her. The average length of time between them is about seven years and the last one, ‘Fetch the Bolt Cutters’ was only last April. But her fans are pressing her for an album of covers and on the strength of this one alone I can see why.


The passion Apple brings to just about any song she performs is off the scale, even when the original was only a fairly tepid one like this. She lives and breathes them rather than sings them. I would pay whatever it took to see one of her mesmeric performances live, anywhere. I can cut the atmosphere with a knife just thinking about it.


The video here isn’t the greatest. The cameraman had apparently forgotten his glasses and couldn’t see the buttons. But we aren’t here for the video.

For the sake of everyone’s art, this is how it went in that final episode. Quite moving really, as you can tell from the comments.

I thought I knew a lot about Apple; I’ve followed her for 15 years this month and even thought of going on Mastermind once, with her as my special subject!


What I didn’t know until now is that she is named after Fiona MacLaren, a character in Brigadoon, the stage musical and film about a mythical Scottish village which ‘appears’ for only one day every 100 years and which is mentioned in the lyrics. Both her mother and father trod the boards on Broadway and may even have appeared in it. (‘Apple’ was her grandmother’s name, she has Melungeon ancestry [mixed European, African and Native American], from the central Appalachia region of the U.S.)


Anyway, enjoy it. And if you do, check out her performance (with Elvis Costello) of his ‘I want you’. But have a shot of something first, before you do.


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