Carolyn

When Seamonsters came out in 1991, it fitted me like a glove. It was moody and angry and sad and sullen. It had some fantastically noisy songs that you could shout to and then there within the depths came this beautifully dark track.

‘Carolyn’ has a troubling intensity to it. It broods and snarls. There’s no shouting; the loudest it gets is when David Gedge growls the final line: “No more”! In the days before the internet made things easy, the lyrics were often bewildering and this song with its vocals buried deep down in the fog, was one of the most hard to decipher and somehow that mystery made me love the song even more. The album is full of classics (apart from maybe ‘Blonde’) and therefore I find this one gets overlooked by fans but not this fan. Not one iota.

Why the name and title ‘Carolyn’? Did it just fit or was there a specific reason?

DLG: No specific reason. I just needed an appropriate three-syllable name. But it was also the name of the girlfriend of Simon Smith, our drummer at the time, so I think that was probably in my head.

I remember you saying once that you like treating the vocals like an instrument and not necessarily high in the mix. This is a perfect example of that. As a lyricist, why do you sometimes like to hide your own words?

DLG: I don’t purposely hide the words; I’m just not a fan of mixes where the vocals are considerably louder in the mix than the other instruments. In the case of the Seamonsters version of ‘Carolyn’ I think the low level suits the whispered delivery.

The live bootleg recording from 15/11/90 has Simon’s drums a lot higher in the mix than most recordings of this song and his drumming over the end section sounds so great. Made me go back and listen to the Seamonsters version and there it is, the same pattern but hidden a lot more in the mix.

DLG: That’s because many of those live recordings are made by simply taking a stereo feed from the venue mixing desk. That means you’re at the mercy of the levels set by the engineer for the concert. In a small space the room will be filled with the sound from the guitar amplifiers on the stage and so the engineer will accordingly have less of the guitars going through the P.A. [and hence the desk]. So, in cases like that, the drums will sound unusually loud in the recording.

When writing the songs for Seamonsters did you find yourself trying to write songs that were more angst-ridden to fit the album aesthetic or was it the other way around – that you were in a place where your song writing was naturally creating very emotional pieces?

DLG: Are the lyrics particularly emotional on Seamonsters? I would argue that they’re written in my usual style but that the darkness of the music possibly enhances the emotion in them.

The song sits between giant fan-favourites ‘Corduroy’ and ‘Heather’ but it’s probably my favourite song on Seamonsters. Do you feel this has led to the song being overlooked over the years?

DLG: Who’s been overlooking it?! Does the position of a track on an album affect its status? I’ve always liked this song, too. It’s moody and quite powerful sounding even though the main guitar is an acoustic. I think my distorted guitar part at the end provides a suitably melancholic final melody.

Based on live bootleg tapes from November 1990, the song had a different chorus originally: “But I won’t be back for tea / Please don’t wait up for me / I’ve got someone else’s key.” Can you remember anything about changing from that to the version we have now?

DLG: Ha… I don’t remember those lyrics at all but it looks like I stripped it down to something a little less flowery, or parochial, for the recording. The ‘final’ version sounds more heartfelt.

Official Lyrics:

Just before you go today, there’s something that I’ve got to say
Well you asked me what was wrong and I didn’t want to tell you

You believed me when I said I tried but oh, Carolyn, I lied
And its gone on far too long and I never tried to help you

But don’t wait up for me
Just don’t wait up for me

It isn’t quite the way you think
How low do you suppose I’d sink?
We can’t bear to be apart
Oh, I’m sorry that I said that

But come on now let’s not pretend
We both knew we were near the end
I don’t want to break your heart but we just can’t turn the clock back

But don’t wait up for me
Just don’t wait up for me
No more

Written and published by Gedge, whose publishing is administered outside of the UK & Eire by Fintage Publishing BV except for North America where it is administered by Superior Music.

Studio Versions:

1 – Seamonsters version released 28/05/1991 TIME: 3:40

Recorded by : David Gedge (vocals, guitar); Peter Solowka (guitar); Keith Gregory (bass) and Simon Smith (drums) Engineer: Steve Albini

2 – Hit the North radio session version (recorded in 1991) TIME: 3:25
Appears on Seamonsters deluxe re-issue released by Edsel Records in 2014 [EDSJ 9006]

Recorded by : David Gedge (vocals, guitar); Peter Solowka (guitar); Keith Gregory (bass) and Simon Smith (drums)

seamonsters-2

Live:

‘Carolyn’ first appeared during the Winter tour of 1990 so it’s likely that it debuted at the Queen’s Hall, Bradford on 03/11/1990. First definite setlist I have with it on is at Barrowland, Glasgow for the 10/11/1990. It continued being played through 1991 but was then dropped and not seen for many years.

In January 2012, the band embarked upon a 21st anniversary tour of Seamonsters where they played the album in full and so it was played in all but one of 89 gigs that year and also the first concert of 2013. At present, that gig at the Forum, Tunbridge Wells on 03/02/2013 is the last time it was played live.

Video:

No official video exists so here’s a live performance from 2012.

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One thought on “Carolyn

  1. While I don’t have access to bootlegs from November 1990, I remember it being played live a few times, and thought the lyrics were “I won’t be in at 2 / So don’t wait up for me / I’ve found someone else instead”. Which doesn’t rhyme, obviously, but I always liked the way it sounded. Have i been wrong all this time?

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