Deer Caught in the Headlights

Like many other fans the first time I heard ‘Deer Caught in the Headlights’ was live on the Bizarro 21st Anniversary tour in 2010. There was a bootleg circulating amongst fans of The Wedding Present concert in Zagreb  and then the Bizarro: Live in Tokyo also came out, a full year ahead of the polished studio version on Valentina. Despite this, there was no feeling of over-familiarity when the latter was released. And as with the rest of Valentina, we also gratefully a Cinerama version with the Vegas levels turned up to 10.

On the original version, well, what a sum of varying sounds: that glorious roaring start; the frantic pace of the verses mixed with the slower chorus and the plaintive quiet ‘painter’ section; the noisy outro before the vignette at the end with the mournful organ*. The lyrics tell an uncomplicated tale of pure unadulterated love. No cynicism here, just a man who can’t get over how lucky he is to have someone with him who is so dear to his heart.

*FUN FACT: This vignette was always intended for this song  –  it features the same chords, just played slightly differently.

Questions and Answers with David Gedge:

I am curious about the title as you had to slightly alter the lyric to make it. Was the imagery of the deer so strong that the title was never going to be anything else?

DLG: I don’t think there any rules saying that the title has to be extracted word-for-word from the lyric, are there?! In this case I think ‘Deer Caught In The Headlights’ works well because it’s adapted from a well-known idiom but then in the actual lyric I personalised the imagery to illustrate how the narrator actually feels and to make it flow in the song better.

How much of the song was written by Terry de Castro? Was it the main guitar riffs or more than that?

DLG: Terry thought of the main guitar riffs that Graeme Ramsay played on the original Wedding Present version of Valentina, yes… and she also came up with her own bass line and vocal parts, of course, as she usually did. I remember that when we started working with her riffs it sounded quite poppy but it changed once we’d sorted out the bass and drums. Terry says ‘Can’t You Hear Me Knocking’ by The Rolling Stones inspired her while we were working on the rhythm section parts. It’s odd, though, how what started out being quite a mellow song became one of the loudest, most intense Wedding Present tracks ever!

“Ingenuousness” is such a great word to rhyme with “dress”. I’m betting no other pop song has ever had that word in it before but have you ever used it in a real life conversation?

DLG: Probably not! Ironically, I suppose we’re much more likely to use the opposite in real life conversation, as in “you’re being very disingenuous!”

A version was released on the Bizarro: Live In Tokyo album before it came out on Valentina. Presumably you don’t have any preciousness over that sort of thing? Over having new songs out ‘there’ before they are perfectly honed in the studio?

DLG: I don’t think a song is ever really ‘finished’… but, usually, if we’re playing it at concerts we’re, by and large, happy with the existing arrangement and excited about playing it live. And that’s especially the case with this one as Graeme points out in the Valentina : The Story Of A Wedding Present Album book. “This quickly became the best Wedding Present song to play live. Without fail, any gig not going well could be redeemed from the monster instrumental section onwards.” – Graeme Ramsay [drums; The Wedding Present, 2006-2009, guitar; The Wedding Present, 2009-2011].

Do you prefer The Wedding Present or Cinerama version?

DLG: Ha, ha… how could I possibly answer that? Chalk and cheese, my friend. I love Terry’s singing on the Cinerama version, though.

Anything you’d change?

DLG: I did change something. As you can hear on the recording for the Live In Tokyo album that you mention, I used to sing: “If I was a painter, I’d just paint portraits of you” in the quiet bit. Until someone pointed out that it was grammatically incorrect!

Comments from the Valentina book [TONE 043]:

Terry de Castro: This one started as a jaunty (bordering on twee) little riff. It reminded me of ‘Holly Jolly Hollywood’, in that the chorus sounded….festive. We kept singing, “Merry-Christmastime…” in the breakdown. Oh, we had a laugh. But it turned into something altogether more aggressive and perhaps this happened in order to counteract the ‘Christmas’ in it. Or maybe it just happened naturally. It’s an aspect of the process I’ve always enjoyed, how some songs arrive fully formed and others shift around and become something that hardly resembles what they start as.

Charles Layton: I remember we weren’t too keen on this song until we arrived in America for the Bizarro Tour rehearsals. Then we looked at it again and decided on the verse pattern with the bass and drums. When it locked in, it changed the whole feel of the song. Then, as we began to play it live, it really came together and started going down really well with the crowds. The noisy part at the end was originally a third shorter, but it sounded so good we thought we could extend it so that David and Graeme could kick in with another pedal to go “one louder”!

Andrew Scheps: This is definitely one of my favourites. I wouldn’t mind if it was twice as long. I loved it from the first time I heard it on rehearsals; it got me really excited to mix the record.

David Gedge: The clattering sound in the quiet end section reprise thing is me, falling over one of those standing ashtray things, as I was trying to film Graeme playing the organ outside in the studio courtyard.

Official Lyrics:

You won’t give it a thought and that’s neither wrong nor right
But I’m the deer that’s caught in your headlight
And how can it be that just one glance is enough to petrify me?
How do you do that stuff?

Because as soon as you look my way, that’s when I totally freeze
And it’s at moments like these that I can’t think of a single thing to say
Except for, well, maybe: “You’re just too pretty for me”

You wear a stunning dress and then say: “What, this old thing?!”
And the ingenuousness is just so captivating

And as soon as you look my way, that’s when I totally freeze
And it’s at moments like these that I can’t think of a single thing to say
Except for, well, maybe: “You’re just too pretty for me”

And if I were a painter I’d just paint portraits of you
You’d be in everything I do

Song written by David Gedge and Terry de Castro. All publishing administered by Fintage Music International outside of the United Kingdom and Eire.

Studio Version:

1 – Valentina (by The Wedding Present) version released 19/03/2012 (Scopitones [TONE 037]) TIME: 5:25

Recorded by : David Gedge (vocals, guitar); Graeme Ramsay (guitar); Pepe Le Moko (bass and backing vocals); Charles Layton (drums and percussion); Andrew Scheps etc (producer)

(Recorded in the Summer and Autumn of 2011 at Black Box Studios, France; vocals recorded at The Laundry Room, California, USA)

2 – Valentina (by Cinerama) version released 18/05/2015 (Scopitones [TONE 052]) TIME: 3:50

Recorded by : David Gedge (vocals); Alvaro Escudero (electric guitar); David Casillas (bass); Terry De Castro (backing vocals); Fernando Arias (drums); Jose Ramon Feito (piano and other keys); Miguel Herrero (trumpet); Antonio Gomez (trombone); Tino Cuesta (saxophone); Elena Miro (cello); Ricardo Fernandez (viola); Jorge Diaz & Elisa Martinez (violins); Pedro Vigil (producer)

(Group recorded in July 2013 and July 2014 in Acme Studios and Teisco Studios in Asturias, Spain; vocals recorded January 2014 in Laundry Room Studios, California, USA; mixed in Andalucia, Spain in July 2014 )

Live Version:

1 –  Bizarro – Live in Tokyo 2010 released 16/02/2011 (& Records of Tokyo [YOUTH 114]) TIME: 5:23

Recorded by : David Gedge (vocals, guitar); Graeme Ramsay (guitar); Terry de Castro (bass and backing vocals); Charles Layton (drums); Migi (live mix)

(Recorded on 07/05/2010 at O-West, Tokyo, Japan)

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Live:

‘Deer…’ was first played live on 01/04/2010 at the Casbah, San Diego, USA. It was played throughout the American tour and festival season until September that year. It returned to the set for a while in 2011 before becoming a mainstay of the set in 2012/3 where it sometimes ended the set. After an absence during 2014, it was back in 2015.  As of July 2016 it has been played  151 times with the last time being 21/05/2016 in Wolverhampton.

Videos:

[Special thanks to Tracy Hopkinson]

 

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