A Million Miles

1988 and I was in the Sixth form at a high school in Surrey. Over the previous year I’d started to broaden my musical horizons into the world of indie and along the way had picked up on a band from the North of England that just struck a chord, some pun intended. By now they were developing from their early roots into a band that would soon court the major labels but I had missed out on the very early days.

Thankfully a friend at school (thank you Martin Short) made a copy of George Best on cassette for me. I can’t even remember what was on the other side of that C90 tape but it wasn’t a band that became a love and obsession like TWP.

Of the songs that made up George Best, four in particular stood out and A Million Miles was one of them. If you’re reading this then you probably know why. It’s the lyrics, it’s the gorgeous melody, it’s the chiming layered guitars, it’s the overall pang of the joyous love that the whole thing evokes.

Since 1988 I have purchased about 4 copies of George Best in various formats and re-mastered editions.  I think it’s safe to say that Home Taping did NOT kill music.

Questions and Answers with David Lewis Gedge:

I’ve always preferred titles that aren’t just the main words in the chorus. I like mysterious titles and I like titles that are just hidden there in the verses. It can make those particular lines resonate even more. So for example when titling this song would you have ever thought of calling it ‘You’re Not Like Anyone I’ve Ever Met’ or was it always what it came to be?

DLG: I know what you mean and I do like those kinds of titles myself. I do often have a working title, which will be a recognisable line from the chorus or whatever, but then I’ll go back and change it when I’m putting the finishing touches to a song. However, in this case, the title was always going to be ‘A Million Miles’; I never liked the idea of calling it ‘You’re Not Like Anyone I’ve Ever Met’ because it sounded too obvious.

Do you have any memories of how this song came about? I’m guessing at this time new song ideas were pouring out so was this just one in the crowd or did it stand out at all?

DLG: There are always new song ideas pouring out… it’s a blessing and a curse, to be honest! But this one did always stand out, yes. I wanted the lyric to evoke a very real situation that is familiar to everybody. We actually talked about it being a single at one point; obviously that never happened… but when we released George Best we put out a two-track ‘radio sampler 7”’ [Catalogue Number LEEDS 1X] and this song was the A-side.

From doing surveys and speaking to fans over the years, this is certainly one of the favourite tracks from George Best and often people’s actual favourite. The lyrics are a big factor in that adoration. It was kind of opposite to The Smiths’ ‘How Soon Is Now?’ from a few years earlier in that the narrator, despite his shyness goes out to a party, chats to a girl and walks her home. To the awkward teenage boys of the world, that sounded like a wonderful dream. How were you at parties as a lad?

DLG: Ha, ha… I was completely useless at parties as a lad… and I still am, to be honest. I’ve never been comfortable at any social gatherings when the numbers are greater than about four, really! And I was truly hopeless at chatting to girls and stuff. I do hint at that kind of discomfort in the second verse of this.

Who was Charlie?

DLG: I use to have a practise of name-checking acquaintances in songs and the Charlie in this case was Charles Gant, a school-friend of Keith Gregory [bass; The Wedding Present, 1985-1993]. We used to always stay at his flat in London whenever we played down there and I don’t know how he and his house-mates put up with us for so long, to be honest. He’s now a successful writer about films.

On the George Best version it always sounded to my ears more like “sharlie” so for years I thought you were singing “Sally” despite the ‘him” reference in the next line.

DLG: Ah, no… I didn’t meet Sally until much later.

Did people used to come up to you and ask if they were the people in your songs?

DLG: They did, yes. But I rarely confirmed or denied it, to be honest. I think people liked being immortalised in song, ha, ha… even if it it’s not a particularly flattering reference.

There’s an unusual way you have the lyrics written: the song is told in the first person perspective and yet in the first verse it seems to be the narrator talking to himself (I assume) and by the end talking to another friend on the phone. But all three perspectives use “you” whereas one might expect “she” and “he” to be used instead. Would you write this differently if you doing it today? Anything else you’d change?

DLG: That’s correct… in the verses and choruses the narrator is talking to the subject directly [in either a real or imagined conversation!] but in the middle eight [well, middle fourteen, strictly speaking] the narrator is telling a friend about the meeting with the subject. Is that not obvious? I thought it’d be clear by the way the melody and instrumentation have a different feel in that section… but perhaps you’re right…

One other way this song stands out on George Best is the guitar work which is less thrashy and frenetic and more layered. The tone especially throughout the verses really adds to the overall wistful mood of the song. Did the sound come about early in rehearsals or later in the recording process?

DLG: It’s funny because when I imagine this song I always think of it as one of the slower George Best tracks but it’s still pretty pacey. I do like those layered guitar parts, though. It was all worked out before the recording… as you can tell because this is pretty much what it sounds like live. There is an acoustic guitar overdub playing over everything, however, which, although it’s not that prominent, helps smooth it all out and adds to that wistful tone, I think. That was the producer’s idea.

Do you enjoy playing it live?

DLG: Very much so… for me it’s an easy one to play and I there’s a real sing along feel to it.

“Well, at least not yet” – the final lines take this song up another level from being just another love song but there’s conjecture about what it means. Is it just realism, sarcasm or something else entirely?

DLG: Definitely realism. I like to make all my lyrics and the subjects behind them as authentic as possible and in this case I’m just saying “Let’s not get too carried away here…”

Official Lyrics:

I must have walked past this doorway thirty times, just trying to catch your eye
You made it all worthwhile when you returned my smile
It all became worthwhile
Don’t you feel a little cold stood by the door?
You know I’d really like to talk some more
Oh don’t be worried about your friend; I think she left some time round ten
What was her name, again?

You’re not like anyone I’ve ever met
You’re not like anyone I’ve ever met

Do you see much of Charlie over here?
Oh I’ve known him off and on for years
He’s never mentioned you before
Oh that didn’t come out right at all and now I feel this small
That seems to be it
Don’t get me wrong but how’re you going to get back home?
Oh, I’d be willing to walk that way
There’s something I’ve just got to say
I could walk a million miles today

You’re not like anyone I’ve ever met
You’re not like anyone I’ve ever met

I kept bursting out with laughter all the way home
I had to tell somebody, and you happened to phone
I can’t think of anything else, no matter how I try
But you know I can’t even remember the colour of her eyes and that’s right

You’re not like anyone I’ve ever met
You’re not like anyone I’ve ever met
Well, at least not yet…

Studio Versions:

1 – George Best version  released 12/10/1987 TIME: 3:33

Recorded by : David Gedge (vocals, guitar); Peter Solowka (guitar); Keith Gregory(bass); Shaun Charman (drums);  Chris Allison (producer) and Alan Jakoby/Mick Williams/Steve Lyon (engineers)

2 – Peel Sessions version recorded 03/03/1987 TIME: 3:20

Recorded by : David Gedge (vocals, guitar); Peter Solowka (guitar); Keith Gregory(bass); Shaun Charman (drums);  Dale Griffin (producer) and Mike Robinson/Martin Colley (engineers)

3 – Swedish Radio Session version  27/03/1988 TIME: 3:37

(Recorded at BBC Broadcasting House; commissioned by Sveriges Radio and broadcast on Bowmen programme)
Recorded by : David Gedge (vocals, guitar); Peter Solowka (guitar); Keith Gregory(bass); Simon Smith (drums)

Live Versions:

1 – Live 1987 (Disc One) – TIME: 3:31

Recorded 05/05/1987 at Leicester Polytechnic
Recorded by : David Gedge (vocals, guitar); Peter Solowka (guitar); Keith Gregory(bass); Shaun Charman (drums); Mike Stout (live sound mix)

2 – Live 1987 (Disc Two) – TIME: 3:51

Recorded 22/11/1987 at Munchen Alabama-Halle
Recorded by : David Gedge (vocals, guitar); Peter Solowka (guitar); Keith Gregory(bass); Shaun Charman (drums); Mike Stout (live sound mix)

3 – Live 1988 (Disc One) – TIME: 3:40

Recorded 30/03/1988 at Rotterdam
Recorded by : David Gedge (vocals, guitar); Peter Solowka (guitar); Keith Gregory(bass); Simon Smith (drums); Mike Stout (live sound mix)

4 – Shepherds Bush Welcomes – TIME: 3:55

Recorded 20/11/2005 at London, Shepherd’s Bush Empire
Recorded by : David Gedge (vocals, guitar); Simon Cleave (guitar); Terry de Castro(bass); Simon Pearson (drums); Roger Lomas (live recording); Chris McConville(live sound mix)

Video Version:

1 – An Evening With The Wedding Present  released 2008
Live version – same details as Shepherds Bush Welcomes cd as above

George Best
George Best
Live 1987
Live 1987
Live 1988
Live 1988
Complete Peel Sessions
Complete Peel Sessions
Shepherd's Bush Welcomes
Shepherd’s Bush Welcomes

Live:

A Million Miles was a strong live favourite from its first appearances around 1987 through to 1988. It reappeared in 2005 during the reformation tour and of course again during the George Best +20 tour of 2007.

Video:

Here’s the video from the Evening with the Wedding Present dvd:

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3 thoughts on “A Million Miles

  1. I’ve never been sure about the last line ‘You’re not like anyone I’ve ever met, well at least not yet’. Does it mean he might meet someone like her in the future or that he thinks she might change over time and become just the same as everyone else. Is that line purposely vague? I have probably spent more time thinking about that line than any sane person should!

    1. Like you, I have thought of that line often. My take is “A Million Miles” is as close as we’ll ever get to a “happy” love song from David. He almost was able to do it BUT at the last moment David couldn’t help himself… and he had to make sure that the love he was singing about could not be “perfect” – like the imperfect love in all of his songs.

  2. @Judey – Listening to this in my late teens when it came out, I always took it as the hint of realism described in the interview. Sort of “I’m head over heels in love, a love that will rival that of Romeo and Juliet. Probably not though, eh?”

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