Don’t Dream It’s Over: Crowded House; Paul Young; Sixpence None the Richer.

Hello there! This week our blog features a big pop hit by an Australian band, Don’t Dream It’s Over. We will first discuss the original version by Crowded House. Next, we will review a cover by Paul Young and we will finish with a cover by Sixpence None The Richer.

Crowded House and Don’t Dream It’s Over:

The band Crowded House was formed in Australia in 1985 by New Zealander Neil Finn, together with Australian musicians Nick Seymour on bass and Paul Hester on drums. Later, multi-instrumentalist Mark Hart was added to make a quartet. Finn wrote the songs and was lead vocalist for the band. Below is a photo of Crowded House.

The band Crowded House; Neil Finn is 2nd from right.

Neil Finn and Paul Hester had been mates in the band Split Enz. This was originally a New Zealand band led by Neil’s older brother Tim Finn. Split Enz then moved to Australia in 1975.

Crowded House issued its debut album in 1986 and in December, 1986 they released the single Don’t Dream It’s Over from that album. In that song, the vocalist assures his lover that if they stick together, they can survive whatever the world throws at them.

There is freedom within, there is freedom without
Try to catch the deluge in a paper cup
There’s a battle ahead, many battles are lost
But you’ll never see the end of the road
While you’re traveling with me

[CHORUS] Hey now, hey now
Don’t dream it’s over
Hey now, hey now
When the world comes in
They come, they come
To build a wall between us
We know they won’t win

Now I’m towing my car, there’s a hole in the roof
My possessions are causing me suspicion but there’s no proof
In the paper today tales of war and of waste
But you turn right over to the T.V. page


Don’t Dream It’s Over became a smash hit. It rose to #2 on the Billboard Hot 100 charts, reaching #1 in New Zealand and Australia. The success of this song was a big surprise to their record company Capitol Records, which had spent very little on promotion for the album.

Don’t Dream It’s Over is one of my favorite songs, and I will attempt to explain why. The melody is really lovely and seems a perfect fit for Neil Finn’s vocals. In addition, the song features a couple of haunting organ solos.

The lyrics are a bit mysterious – I think that the song has an upbeat message but I’m not 100% certain. In my opinion, this is a true gem of a pop song. All I know is that once this tune gets stuck in my head, it can remain there for weeks.

The first Australian Recording Industry Association (ARIA) Awards took place in 1987. Crowded House won awards for Best New Talent, Song of the Year and Best Video. The band also won the MTV Video Music Award for Best New Artist.

In one year, Crowded House suddenly became a hot group. The second single from their debut album, Something So Strong, also charted in the Billboard top ten.

After their first album was so successful, Neil Finn found himself under great pressure to craft another smash hit. Finn’s bandmates took to referring to the upcoming second album as “Mediocre Follow-Up.”

Sure enough, the band’s next album reached #1 in New Zealand and #2 in Australia, but made it only to #40 on the Billboard album playlist. And none of the singles from the second album dented the top 40 in the American pop charts.

In 1996, Crowded House decided to break up, and they embarked on a farewell tour.  At the end of that tour, they added a charity benefit “Farewell To The World” concert outside the Sydney Opera House on Nov. 24, 1996.

Here is Crowded House at that charity concert, in a live performance of Don’t Dream It’s Over.

This is a very emotional performance, as it is the final song in the final performance by Crowded House. Funds from this concert went to the Sydney Children’s Hospital.

From the video, it appears that drummer Paul Hester is near tears during this song. Of course, this is also an emotional experience for fans of the band. Right at the end, the audience sings the chorus. The band members hug one another and come together to acknowledge their fans.

After the Crowded House breakup in 1996, the band’s musicians went their separate ways. Neil and Tim Finn collaborated on a couple of albums, and Paul Hester and Nick Seymour joined the brothers on a couple of their concert tours. Mark Hart joined the alt-rock band Supertramp in the late 90s and also toured with Ringo Starr and his All-Starr Band.

In 2005, Paul Hester committed suicide. He had suffered from depression for some time. In 2006, the surviving members of Crowded House reunited. Neil Finn, Mark Hart and Nick Seymour joined up with drummer Matt Sherrod to form a new edition of Crowded House.

They issued a few albums and performed in some festivals. The albums tended to chart in the top 5 in Australia and New Zealand, and in the top 20 in the UK, but did not fare well in the U.S.

The Crowded House reunion continued until 2016. At that time, guitarist Lindsey Buckingham was kicked out of Fleetwood Mac, and Neil Finn and Mike Campbell (formerly with Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers) were brought in to replace Buckingham. So at the moment, Neil Finn is one of the lead vocalists for the re-constituted Fleetwood Mac, and Mike Campbell is their lead guitarist.

Crowded House had only a few hits, but for me they were memorable. Don’t Dream It’s Over is one of my favorite tunes, and I am also a big fan of their second hit, Something So Strong. I wish Neil Finn all the best in his musical journey.

Paul Young and Don’t Dream It’s Over:

Paul Young was born in Luton, Bedfordshire, England in January 1956. As a youth, he divided his time between semi-pro soccer and music. He joined a couple of bands as a bass player and vocalist, and they built up a following in England.

In 1980 Young was the lead singer with a group called the Q Tips. They specialized in covers of R&B songs, performing a “blue-eyed soul” routine similar to that of the great American duo Hall and Oates. The Q Tips never quite managed to break through commercially, so in 1982 they disbanded and Young signed a solo contract with Columbia Records.  Below is a photo of Paul Young.

British pop star Paul Young.

In 1983 Young’s cover of the Marvin Gaye song Wherever I Lay My Hat reached #1 on the UK pop charts. Young became a superstar in Britain and had considerable success in Europe.

Then in 1985, Young’s cover of the Hall & Oates tune Every Time You Go Away became a smash international hit, reaching #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 playlists. At this point Young’s international career really took off.

Here is Paul Young in a live performance of Don’t Dream It’s Over.

I really enjoy Paul Young’s vocals. Of course, the Crowded House version of Don’t Dream It’s Over provides the definitive arrangement for the song, so Paul Young copies the original in rather straightforward fashion (we will see a similar arrangement from Sixpence None The Richer in the next section).

This performance is from the British pop show Top Of The Pops (TOTP) in October 1991. That show was a key factor in the rise of rock ‘n roll in Britain – it began in 1964 and ran until 2006. In the 90s, TOTP licensed itself in many other countries. Eventually, there were as many as 100 versions of TOTP playing around the world.

Don’t Dream It’s Over has become one of Paul Young’s signature tunes. He sang it at the 1988 Nelson Mandela 70th Birthday Tribute in London’s Wembley Stadium. Young also sang Radio Ga Ga with the surviving members of Queen at the 1992 Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert.

In 1992, Paul Young formed the Tex-Mex band Los Pacaminos. The group initially began playing in clubs and small venues; but as they established a fan base, they issued a couple of albums and did some touring.

Paul Young continues to tour today. He has a lovely voice and we wish him much success.

Sixpence None The Richer and Don’t Dream It’s Over:

Sixpence None The Richer is an alternative Christian band. Although the band formed in Texas in the early 90s, after a short period of time they moved to Nashville.

The band’s name was taken from a story told by C.S. Lewis in his book Mere Christianity. A man gives his son a sixpence, which the boy uses to purchase a Christmas gift for his father. The father is appreciative of the gift even though it was purchased with his own money. The moral of the story is that we should be grateful for the gifts God has bestowed upon us, and should credit God for whatever we have.

The group’s big breakthrough came in 1998 when their song Kiss Me was nominated for a Grammy, and their self-titled album was also Grammy-nominated for Best Rock Gospel Album (I didn’t know there was such a category!).  Below is a photo of Sixpence None The Richer.

Alternative Christian rock band Sixpence None The Richer.

Shortly afterwards, the band appeared on late-night shows such as The Late Show with David Letterman and The Tonight Show with Jay Leno. They also were featured on many syndicated morning TV shows. The band headlined a number of tours with alt-rock or Christian rock groups. For a few years Sixpence None The Richer were rather successful.

Here is Sixpence None The Richer in a live performance of Don’t Dream It’s Over.

I quite enjoy the tender and vulnerable vocals of lead singer Leigh Nash. In particular, for this song her vocal style is just perfect. However, both the audio and video in this clip is sub-par, for which I apologize. The song Don’t Dream It’s Over was from the band’s 2002 album Divine Discontent.

In 2004, Sixpence None The Richer disbanded and its musicians went their separate ways. However, at the end of 2007 the band reunited. They released a couple more albums, including a Christmas album (it would seem a natural for a Christian band to have a Christmas album).

They have appeared in a few festivals in the past few years. Don’t Dream It’s Over is one of the band’s signature tunes. We wish all the best to the group’s founding members Leigh Nash and lead guitarist Matt Slocum.

Source Material:

Wikipedia, Don’t Dream It’s Over
Wikipedia, Crowded House
Wikipedia, Paul Young
Wikipedia, Sixpence None The Richer

About Tim Londergan

Tim Londergan is professor emeritus of theoretical physics at Indiana University-Bloomington. He studies the properties of the quarks and gluons that form the internal structure of protons and neutrons. He also writes a blog "Tim's Cover Story" that compares covers of important songs in rock music history. From 2002 to 2018, he and his wife shared their college-town experiences with two delightful cats, siblings Lewis and Clark, who enormously enriched their lives. Together with his colleague Steven Vigdor, Tim is co-author of a blog "Debunking Denial," that discusses the difference between skepticism and denial as manifested in various current issues. He is also co-founder of "Concerned Scientists of Indiana University," a group that supports evidence-based science, funding for science research, and policies based on the best available scientific information. His hobbies include tennis and ornithology, and he is a life-long fan of the St. Louis Cardinals baseball team.
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