The band played only four gigs and as the lyrics admit, did too much bar-hopping, but salvaged their efforts by recording Home for a Rest upon their hung-over return to Canada. Co-composer Geoffrey Kelly said recently, “It is to me still very strange that Canada has really latched on to the song, because the song is really about being in the U.K…. We had no plans for it to be a single or even a video… despite all of that, it’s powered through, and it’s by far our most loved song.”
Spirit of the West recorded Home for a Rest in 1989 on their album “Save This House” (WEA CD-70971), with producer Danny Greenspoon, and the song helped the album reach gold sales in 1993, and then platinum. Despite not being released as a single at that time, Home for a Rest became widely recognized, especially as the song that the band closed their concerts with. In the early 1990s the band released the song again on an EP, but it wasn’t until almost 25 years later that Warner Music Canada issued it as a single (with Save This House on the B side.)
Listeners quickly adopted Home for a Rest as a drinking song, although the lyrics feature a singer worn out from over-imbibing: “You’ll have to excuse me; I’m not at my best/ I’ve been gone for a month; I’ve been drunk since I left/ These so-called vacations will soon be my death/ I’m so sick from the drink, I need home for a rest.”
Home for a Rest combines Celtic elements with alternative-rock and pop stylings, bringing a fresh, unbridled kitchen-party sound to the 1990s’ Celtic wave. Its slow introduction draws a picture of the fatigued and hung-over singer, followed by a contrasting fast-tempo verse in the style of an Irish reel. More Irish flavour is provided by fragments of traditional reel melodies, and by Irish instrumentation: acoustic guitar, Irish bouzouki (a stringed instrument), wooden side-blown Irish flute, and accordion.
The much-loved song is performed in pubs anywhere Celtic music is celebrated, and has been recorded by the Newfoundland band Signal Hill. Nova Scotian fiddler Ashley MacIsaac has performed the song with Spirit of the West, as has the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra, and it appears in the film “Spirit Unforgettable,” made during a Massey Hall concert. Home for a Rest has appeared on many “best songs” lists; for example, it was selected as one of the top songs of the 1990s by Neilson Music Canada and Billboard.
The band included Home for a Rest on their 1999 album “Spirit of the West: Hit Parade,” and on their 25th anniversary album “Spirituality.” And when co-composer John Mann was diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s disease, Jim Cuddy, Alan Doyle, Sarah McLachlan and others recorded a tribute cover at a 2017 benefit concert.
The song is also found on compilation albums of beer-drinking and party music.
Mann said on the band’s thirtieth anniversary, “What most people think of when you say Spirit of the West – they say, Home for a Rest….I still think it’s a great song and fun to play.”
Spirit of the West was formed in 1983 by Geoffrey Kelly, J. Knutson, and John Mann. Their other hits include The Crawl and Save This House. The band earned four Juno nominations, a SOCAN National Achievement Award, and a star on Vancouver’s Starwalk, and was inducted into the Western Canadian Music Association hall of fame. The band made its farewell tour in 2016.
John Mann, singer and film, stage and television actor, was born in Winnipeg.
Multi-instrumentalist Geoffrey Kelly was born in Scotland. He has toured as a member of the Irish Rovers.