Perfect Blue

2005 saw the rebirth of The Wedding Present. For some, including, it seemed, the band itself, there was little difference in the semantics. As Shakespeare wrote “A rose by any other name would smell as sweet” but there was something special, something primal and tribalistic that was awoken when that change happened. The band from my younger years were back – even though they’d never really gone away.

On that return tour that would last 16 months, the band decided to end their set with the song that was ending the new album, Take Fountain. It was a beautiful song – a love song without any irony or bitter sweet taste. Just a song of innocent, wide-eyed devotion, pure and simple.  The lyrics include touches of lump-in-the-throat deprecation (“I’m not sure just what I did to deserve you”) and deadpan humourless conviction (“Because, when I’m away from you, it’s like something’s missing/That sounds drippy but I swear it’s true”). David Gedge even drops his voice to speak that middle phrase – just to emphasise how much she, and therefore the song, mean to him. As alluded to below, this song is real, it was not written for the sake of a needing a ballad to close an album, it’s from the heart. And as anyone who has ever been in love (or maybe still is) knows, when you feel this way, you don’t care who knows about it and you don’t care how it might look.

The song begins quietly with just guitar and vocal, with an aching silence after the “you’re staring” line. On the album, it gently builds picking up instruments along the way until by the halfway point, strings and horns are joining in. It ends in a gorgeous crescendo of noise that stays with you even after the needle lifts from the groove. Live, the song took on another life. Occasionally the band would attempt to mimic the orchestral feel of the original but most of the time, they set aside those thoughts and just filled the gap with guitars. Lots of noisy guitars. So, for many of the gigs in that period (and I went to a lot of them), the sets ended with several minutes of heart-surgingly powerful guitars. Gedge and co would take the song up several ratchets in their attempts to burst our eardrums and twang at our heart-strings. At the end of each gig, the fans were left exhausted but with massive smiles on their faces. Perfect.

Questions and Answers with David Gedge:

This debuted live as a Cinerama song in 2003. Did it go through any changes between when it was written and when it appeared on Take Fountain?

DLG: No, because, as you know, when we started Take Fountain we all thought we were making the fourth Cinerama album and so that’s how it was recorded. I think we decided it was actually going to be a Wedding Present album during the mixing.

I think most people assume this song was written about your now-wife Jessica. Can you break your usual wall and say if that’s so? If yes, what does she think about having such a beautiful love song written about her?

DLG: I will just say that Take Fountain is one of the two most ‘personal’ albums I’ve written… the other being George Best. Take Fountain essentially tells the story of the end of one relationship and the start of another and Perfect Blue, along with its ‘sister’ song, Queen Anne are the optimistic closing tracks at the end of what is otherwise quite a melancholy journey.

The lyrics (especially the last verse), as are often the case, suggest a lot of self-deprecation. Is that really how you are as I find people have very differing opinions on your real personality?

DLG: Ha, ha… maybe I’m just a complex kinda guy. Talking of the lyrics… when we were sound checking this song at The Leadmill in Sheffield once the monitor engineer came over to me after I’d done the spoken “it’s like something’s missing” line in the second verse and put his head close to my monitor speakers as we continued to play. He thought I’d paused during the singing to complain about the mix he’d given me.

Halfway through, the song changes into a long instrumental for around two and a half minutes. On the record it goes from guitars into an orchestral coda. Live, of course, it was usually just performed with guitars. Both versions are magnificent but I know that a lot of fans loved the live version as it allowed them to dance wildly in the same way songs like Kennedy and Flying Saucer did with their noisy outros. I think the album version sounds more romantic and the live version more frenetic and exciting. Which do you prefer? How much do you love playing it live especially the last minute with the extra roaring guitar? Can you try and get a live version onto a nicely recorded official release please?

DLG: It’s difficult to say which I prefer. In the studio you have the luxury of being able to add extra instrumentation, correct mistakes, fine-tune the production… and all that appeals to me because I’m a perfectionist! But then there’s nothing quite like playing a song live to ramp up the intensity and the excitement in the arrangement. What we’ve always tried to do in The Wedding Present, of course, is capture that live power in the studio. With a song like Perfect Blue we wanted to create a huge dynamic shift from the beginning, where it’s just guitar and singing, to the end, where all the guns are blazing but there’s still room for a solo french horn to cut through with the final melody.

As music lovers, a lot of songs get intrinsically linked with our own real life events and of course that is why we hold them so dear and feel quite protective over our love for them. Do you ever feel protective over songs, for example ones which may hold particular personal significance? Playing Devil’s Advocate here – would you let Adele cover Perfect Blue?

DLG: It’s an odd thing… I feel very protective of the songs while they’re being written but once we start performing them or recording them I do feel like I’m letting them go in some way. It’s as if by that point I’ve done all I can to prepare them… now they have to fend for themselves in the outside world! And I’m always interested to hear other people’s interpretations of my work, yes.

Official Lyrics:

And when I turn round to glance at you, you’re staring
And your eyes are such a perfect blue that I can’t look away
Did I get shy?
Maybe I didn’t make it clear, but, darling, I think I’ll always want you near

Because, when I’m away from you, it’s like something’s missing
That sounds drippy but I swear it’s true
You just appeared and, no, it wasn’t rehearsed, there really was no warning
Now you’re the first thing in my head each morning

And the more I have, the more I want you
The more you smile, the more I know that I’ll never make you sad
But I should warn you that I just might never let you out of my sight

I’m not sure just what I did to deserve you
I’m not complaining, God forbid, I just don’t understand!
Tell me why haven’t you had enough of me?
How have I managed to you make you love me?

The more I have, the more I want you
The more you smile, the more I know that I’ll never make you sad
But I should warn you that I just might never let you out of my sight

Written by Gedge / Cleave and published by Gedge [whose publishing is administered outside of the UK & Eire by Fintage Publishing BV] / Complete Music.

Studio Version:

1 – Take Fountain version released 14/02/2005 TIME: 5:31

Recorded by : David Gedge (vocals, guitar); Simon Cleave (guitar); Terry De Castro (bass and backing vocals); Kari Paavola (drums and percussion); Jen Kozel (violin); Stephen Cressswell (viola); Lori Goldstone (cello); Don Crevie (french horn); Jeff McGrath (trumpet);  Producer/Engineer/Mixer/(other instruments): Steve Fisk
(Recorded in the USA in the Summer of 2004)

Live Version:

1 – Live in New York by Cinerama released 18/01/2010 (Scopitones, download-only) TIME: 6:30

Recorded by : David Gedge (vocals, guitar); Simon Cleave (guitar); Terry De Castro (bass and backing vocals); Kari Paavola (drums and percussion)
(Recorded on 28/06/2003)

Take Fountain51UCbkBBLHL._SL500_AA280_

Live:

As mentioned above, the song started off as a Cinerama song in their 2003 gigs and by the time 2005 arrived and the band had changed name back to The Wedding Present and embarked on a long tour, the song had become a firm live favourite. It reappeared in setlists in 2007, 2011-12 and 2014.

Videos:

No official video for this song although in 2011 MVDvisual released Drive [MVD5208D], a documentary and live video collection of 2005’s North American tour so there is a version of Perfect Blue on there which isn’t on youtube. Instead, here are a few versions. First up is the album version with a straightforward non-video.

Perfect Blue – album version

Next is an example of the noisier, more guitar-driven live version despite a guitar change halfway through the coda by Chris McConville.

Perfect Blue – live, Hamburg 2007

Lastly, an acoustic recording of the song which has had a video created for it.

Perfect Blue – acoustic by Gedge/Cleave, Amsterdam 2004

[Special thanks to Tracy Hopkinson & Hick Hallworth]

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One thought on “Perfect Blue

  1. I know it’s a ridiculous task (for all TWP fans) but if I had to pick one favorite song, it might be this. The tremendous build up from soft to sonic, the French horn (!), Terry’s amazing backing vocals and the genius rhyming of “smile” and “I’ll” – this song has everything. Perfect Blue is Perfect.

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