What Did Your Last Servant Die Of?

It’s 30 years since I first heard George Best.  The whole thing was a blur. Both the album which rushed by in less than 39 minutes and the 30 years of my life since.  A bruising and occasionally joyous mish-mash of love, life and everything in-between. That’s the album and my life since.

There are times in your life when you stop and wonder where you are going and where you’ve been. When you wonder whether anything was ever worth it, whether your life has any real meaning. When you look back and count how many years of your life you’ve spent in a job or doing things for someone else’s benefit and for what? What did you get out of it?  Everything requires effort and all of us have to work you know. But sometimes you have to move on. Change is healthy, change is good. Time to make a new start.

Questions and Answers with David Lewis Gedge:

I know you don’t like to talk about specifics but does this song represent a real relationship and time that you can talk about?

DLG:  I think it’s well known that much of the subject matter on George Best is drawn from the period when I broke up with my first ‘serious’ girlfriend but I guess this lyric also touches on how I get annoyed with people who I think are being lazy! I think my parents are responsible for instilling some kind of ridiculously obsessive work ethic in me. The song’s title is actually a phrase my mum used to use when me, or my brother, would ask her to do stuff for us. When Graeme Ramsay was in the band he used to joke that ‘Of What Did You Last Servant Die?’ would’ve been a more grammatically correct title and I can never get that out of my mind, now!

“Well some of us have to work you know” – between University and being in bands, did you have any ‘real’ jobs? If you’d not become a musician, is there a job that you’d have liked to have done as a career?

DLG: I had a temporary job mailing out catalogues for a mail-order electronic components firm for a few weeks in order not have my unemployment benefit cut but I’ve never had an actual ‘real’ job, as my parents would call it, no. If The Wedding Present hadn’t’ve been successful I would’ve liked to have been a radio DJ, I think.

“Of course you’ve got things to wear!” – clearly you find sexual politics interesting, are you a believer in the ‘Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus’ school of psychology that thinks the sexes are very different in how they approach situations and solve differences?

DLG: Yeah… I’m fascinated by the differences between the genders and the efforts to determine how much of it is nature and how much of it is nurture. I suppose the mathematician in me appreciates seeing behaviour defined by sets of rules but when I’m investigating relationships during lyric writing that rule book is often thrown out of the window. Whatever the reasons for it, I do feel that men and women are generally quite different, yes.

You’ve mentioned how George Best is just one theme/speed/dimension but some live performances change the dynamic and make this track almost sound mellow in comparison to the others. How changeable is this in a live environment?

DLG: Well, we wouldn’t change it consciously to play it live… unless there was a specific reason to do so. I can see why this one might appear laid back compared to some of the other, more frenzied, George Best tracks but it’s actually quite a strenuous one to play live, for me, because, for much of the song, I’m singing and playing a very fast strummy rhythm guitar at the same time. So mellow is the last word I’d use to describe it! Good job it’s only two and a half minutes long, then…

On the album, the song fades up and is placed between two upbeat/frantic songs in ‘Everyone Thinks He Looks Daft’ and ‘Don’t Be So Hard’. What was the thought behind such production and sequencing decisions?

DLG: Sequencing an album can be difficult. You need opening and closing tracks and then you aim to create a flow and momentum between them. And it doesn’t always make sense to increase variety by having a fast one followed by a slow one or a mellow one after a frantic one because that can sometimes sound disjointed. There’s a real skill to it, I think, and I remember having endless conversations about the sequencing of George Best during the album mix.

On the Swedish radio session version from 1988 included on the Edsel Records version (disc two), what is you say at the end of the track? Is it in Swedish?

DLG: Yes, it is… but I can’t remember what I was saying and I can’t translate it because I don’t speak Swedish!

Did you enjoy re-recording this and the other tracks on George Best 30 with Steve Albini?

DLG: I wouldn’t say ‘enjoy’ in as much as I don’t really do any of this for fun, ha, ha… but it was certainly interesting to re-interpret the songs with a group of musicians who were different from the people who originally recorded it. There was a definite attempt at re-invention coupled with a desire to honour the original album. We actually played it a lot quicker than the original, which is hard to believe. It’s also interesting that George Best 30 features the band playing completely live in the studio and being recorded onto tape… whereas the original involved drum programming, sequencing and sampling! So, weirdly, the recording techniques used on the new version actually predate those on the 1987 one!

Lyrics:

Is that a letter you’re hiding from me?
Well I think I’m being used again
Let me open it and see
That’s not what I wanted to hear
There’s a time and place for everything and that time is coming near

Do you have to spend so much time on your hair?
Well couldn’t you started earlier?
Of course you’ve got things to wear!
I didn’t pick up your coat on the way
Well some of us have to work you know
Have you been sitting there all day?

All that I’ve done for you
After all that I have done for you

All that I’ve done for you
After all that I have done for you

Written and published by Gedge [whose publishing is administered outside of the UK & Eire by Kobalt Music except for North America where it is administered by Superior Music]

Studio Versions:

1 – George Best version [Reception LEEDS1] TIME: 2:44
Recorded by : David Gedge (vocals, guitar); Peter Solowka (guitar); Keith Gregory (bass); Shaun Charman (drums); Chris Allison (producer)
Released 12/10/1987

2 – Swedish Radio Session version TIME: 2:39
Recorded by : David Gedge (vocals, guitar); Peter Solowka (guitar); Keith Gregory (bass); Shaun Charman (drums)
Recorded at BBC Broadcasting House; commisioned by Sveriges Radio and broadcast on Bommen programme on 27/03/1988

Versions 1 and 2 were included on George Best Deluxe Edition [Edsel EDSJ 9004].

George Best
George Best

3 – George Best 30 version [Scopitones TONE 74] TIME: 2:19
Recorded by : David Gedge (vocals, guitar); Christopher McConville (guitar); Terry de Castro (bass); Graeme Ramsay (drums); Steve Albini (producer)
Recorded at Electrical Audio, Chicago in 2008. Released in June 2017.

Live Versions:

1 – Munich 1987 version TIME: 2:53
Recorded by : David Gedge (vocals, guitar); Peter Solowka (guitar); Keith Gregory (bass); Shaun Charman (drums); Mike Stout (engineer)
Recorded at the Alabama-Halle, Munich, Germany on 22/11/1987
Originally released on Live Tape No. 2 cassette, now available on Live 1987 [Scopitones TONE CD 025]

2 – Rotterdam 1988 version TIME: 2:47
Recorded by : David Gedge (vocals, guitar); Peter Solowka (guitar); Keith Gregory (bass); Simon Smith (drums); Mike Stout (engineer)
Recorded live at VPRO’s Party Doctrine, Rotterdam, The Netherlands on 30/03/1988
Originally released on Live Tape No. 3 cassette, now available on George Best Deluxe Edition and Live 1988 [Scopitones TONE CD 033]

3 – London Town and Country Club 1988 version TIME: 2:15
Recorded by : David Gedge (vocals, guitar); Peter Solowka (guitar); Keith Gregory (bass); Simon Smith (drums)
Recorded live at the Town and Country Club, London, UK for BBC Radio 1 on 11/10/1988
Available on George Best Deluxe Edition

4 – Valencia version TIME: 2:19
Recorded by : David Gedge (vocals, guitar); Peter Solowka (guitar); Keith Gregory (bass); Simon Smith (drums); Joe Hickey (engineer)
Recorded at The Arena, Valencia, Spain on 18/11/1988
Available on Live 1988

5 – Dublin 2007 version TIME: 2:11
Recorded by : David Gedge (vocals, guitar); Christopher McConville (guitar); Terry de Castro (bass); Graeme Ramsay (drums)
Recorded at the Village, Dublin, Ireland on 23/11/2007
Available on Live 2007 [Scopitones TONE 30]

Live 1987
Live 1988

Video:

The above mentioned Live 2007 is both a CD and DVD of the Dublin concert so there’s a live performance on there.
Here’s a nice fan-made video though with footage of George Best and the (misspelled) lyrics:

And here’s a nice acoustic performance of the track from 2007:

Live: 

The song first appeared in the October of 1987 during the tour to launch George Best. and was a staple of the set through to the end of 1988. It then disappeared along with most of that album until the 20th anniversary tours in 2007. Other than some short runs in the set in both 2010 and 2013, it didn’t fully return again until 2017 for the GB30 tour.

[Thanks to Ben Cleverley for the suggestion]

1 thought on “What Did Your Last Servant Die Of?

  1. In the end of the Swedish radio session vesion, David Gedge says “Det här är en gammal sång… den heter “Everyone thinks he looks daft””, which means “this is an old song… It’s called “Eveyone thinks he looks daft””. Greetings from Sweden!

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