#994: ‘Adelaide’ – Ben Folds

There is a common joke about people from Adelaide, South Australia. Namely, “How do you know someone is from Adelaide?” “Don’t worry, they’ll tell you.” If I was to say there is no truth to this joke, I’d be lying, because it’s completely true. But, to be fair, most Adelaideans are proud of their hometown. While a lot of people from Australia’s other states might say “Why would you?”, Adelaide has long been underrated, looked over, and written off by many domestic and international visitors. It features an Australian capital city which still holds the vibe of a small town, and its music scene is something special. But all in all, Adelaide will always hold a special place in my heart due to the fact that its where I was born and raised.

In May 1999, Ben Folds, singer and pianist for the US alternative rock group and confusingly-titled trio, Ben Folds Five, married an Australia woman named Frally Hynes. Folds then moved to Adelaide, where he started a family, and managed to see Adelaide overcome with joy at the fact we had a popular musician living in our midsts. Ben lived there until halfway through the ’00s,  and recorded his first solo album there as well.

In 2004, one year after he had teamed up with Ben Kweller and Ben Lee as part of indie-rock supergroup The Bens, Folds released the EP Super D. It contained five songs, a cover of The Darkness’ ‘Get Your Hands Off My Woman‘, a cover of Ray Charles ‘Them That Got‘, and three originals, including the track ‘Adelaide’.

‘Adelaide’ was recorded as a loving ode to his adopted city, and managed to even see quite a lot of love from Australians of other cities as well. While they may not have quite understood Folds’ fascination with the city, it is something completely understood by the majority of the South Australian population.

From his memories of seeing “bogans at the motor race”, to noting Adelaide’s isolation from the rest of the world, Folds mixes in a nice attempt at humour as he goes along. Going on to mention his friendship with Adelaide-born film-maker Charlie Hill-Smith (and an intriguing experience with poisoned rice at the aforementioned’s 40th birthday), to mentioning the most notable fixture of Adelaide’s Rundle Mall, the Mall’s Balls (also known by its official title of Spheres), near which Folds was often seen, the track truly encapsulates the relatively brief love affair that Folds held with the city.

When I managed to see Folds play live in Adelaide with the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra in late 2014, he managed to neglect bringing with him the required music needed to teach the orchestra the song. Realising this, he chose not to play the song, rather, he performed a cover of Adelaide-born Paul Kelly’s ‘Adelaide‘, which isn’t quite as positive towards the city as Folds’ song is.

Regardless, Folds’ time in Adelaide was enjoyed by both him and his fans, and I’m sure he will remain as an honorary Adelaidean for years to come. Even without him still in the city, Adelaide does hold the distinction of being the place in which Folds recorded some of his greatest solo tracks, including ‘Rockin’ The Suburbs‘, ‘Zak And Sara‘, and ‘Still Fighting It‘, the latter of which has a video filmed in a couple of South Australian locations.

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