Tag Archives: Sally Murrell

Hard, Fast And Beautiful

In 1997, The Wedding Present went on hiatus and over the next year or so David Gedge created a new project called Cinerama. A place to pour his ideas for film soundtracks and pop songs that didn’t fit in with an indie rock group. It became a creative place for him and long-term partner Sally Murrell to indulge their musical whims.

One of the earliest tracks heard by fans was ‘Hard, Fast And Beautiful’. Along with ‘Honey Rider’, this track really summed up the startling change for me. Gone were the rock guitars, in came the strings. Gone were the jeans, in came the suits. Some fans didn’t like the new sound but some brand new fans were gained. Now nearly twenty years later, this song still feels fresh. Instruments come in one by one, gently nudging up against one another. The melody on the chorus must make even the hardest heart swoon. The song rises and it falls, over and over until tailing out with that delicate piano sequence.

Lyrically, things weren’t so different from what had come before. This was a song of yearning: a lost chance at love and happiness. The despondency in the early verses gives way to angst and almost self-pity but is there a chance of peace in the end? By coming to terms with the realisation of his feelings, the narrator is maybe on the first steps to recovery. In fact, the epiphany almost creates a sound of joy especially with those gorgeous female backing vocals right at the end.

There are only a few versions of this song but there are several that stand out. The original album version is one of the highlights of that debut disc. The Spanish version is, of course, ‘hermosa’. The Live In Los Angeles cd features the classic Gladys Knight opening but my favourite has to be the Peel Night version celebrating the great man’s sixtieth birthday. This features some marvelous Simon Cleave guitar which adds a nice burning intensity to the choruses. Every version though is neither hard nor fast but they are all beautiful.

Questions and Answers with David Lewis Gedge:

The title is borrowed from the 1951 tennis/drama/romance film directed by Ida Lupino. I know you are a fan of film but are you also a tennis fan?

DLG: I like the 2004 tennis/drama/romance film ‘Wimbledon’, too! I’ve seen that one about three times, ha, ha. But yes, I do like tennis. It was one of the only sports I actually enjoyed playing at school. I always thought that Ilie Năstase was the tennis world’s answer to George Best. That being said… the song has nothing to do with tennis… I just liked the title.

This track, along with others, really stood out for me among those early Cinerama songs. Where in your learning process of this new writing style did this piece fit?

DLG: I think Cinerama tracks tend to fall into one of two types. They’re usually either attempts at creating some kind of atmospheric cinematic soundscape or just me delving into pop song writing in the ‘classic’ or ‘traditional’ sense. This song falls very much into the latter category. It’s vocal led and has proper verses, bridges and choruses. I think it’s one of the best ‘songs’ I’ve written, to be honest.

The chorus with its soaring double-tracked vocals really hits the heart strings. Were there any pop ‘gimmicks’ that were ever ‘off the table’ for you at this time or were you happy to experiment wherever it led you?

DLG: I’m always interested in exploring different techniques; double tracking the vocal like that was suggested by the producer/engineer of Va Va Voom, Dare Mason. But there are a few pop gimmicks, as you call them, that I tend to avoid, yes… guitar solos, saxophone breaks, children singing, using a dozen notes in a vocal melody when a couple will suffice…

All these early Cinerama songs are credited solely to yourself so did they arrive totally constructed when you were in the studio?

DLG: Yes. I wrote all the Va Va Voom era songs at home, on my own. During the mid-to-late 1990s using computers to assist in the making of music became much more accessible to someone like me who has no recording studio engineering knowledge or experience. By that I mean that a) they plummeted in price and b) they also became considerably more user friendly. With the aid of some basic sequencing software and an Akai sampler I was able to record demos of those early Cinerama songs onto a digital 8-track recorder synched to my computer using drum loops, a keyboard, a micophone and my guitars. But, despite all the machinery, I still wanted Cinerama to sound like ‘a band’ so I decided to use session musicians for the ‘proper’ recordings. That was the process I used for Va Va Voom and most of This Is Cinerama. The musicians would come into the studio and listen to the demo and I’d explain what I wanted them to play. That was the other benefit of the technology, actually… the software enables you to print out a score for people like the strings players, so, again… even though I can’t score music… I was able to explain, by and large, what I wanted from the musicians. So they would come into the studio, hear the song for the first time and then record their part.

Dare was very helpful in a) sourcing some extremely talented players and b) helping me through the process because it was a completely new way of working for me. For all my previous records I’d been in a band and all the songs had been written, arranged and rehearsed a long time before we’d even set foot in the recording studio. The Va Va Voom sessions were much more liquid. Sometimes the session musicians would play it completely as I’d written it and sometimes they would say: “Well, I can see what you’re trying to do but the violin part would sound better if I did it like this.”

There was actually a funny moment during the recording of ‘Hard, Fast And Beautiful’ when we had the pianist in. I had a strong idea of how I wanted the piano part to be. I wanted it to sound like the soundtrack of a French film from the 1960s or 70s. But I can’t play the piano so I had to write the piece bit by bit on the computer… recording a few seconds of the right hand part, then a few seconds of the left… then moving on to the next section. It was a complicated process with all those overdubs but, when I was finally happy with it, I printed out the score and brought it along to the studio we were using to record piano. The pianist was a friend of Dare’s called Davey Ray Moor but what I didn’t know at the time was that he’s this hugely talented composer and multi-instrumentalist. He took one look at my score and said: “I can’t play this!” I asked why not, thinking that maybe we’d need someone with greater skills but he said: “Because they way it’s written I would need three hands!”

I know you love Terry de Castro’s backing vocals and she certainly shines on this piece. What is it about her vocals you love?

DLG: I do love Terry’s backing vocals but Va Va Voom was recorded before I met her. All the female singing on here is by Sally Murrell who hadn’t ever sung on a record before! She did a beautiful job…

I love the ‘Gladys Knight’ section on the Live In Los Angeles version – did you get that reaction often?

DLG: Ha, ha… yes, I suppose so… it’s a popular song. The difference between ‘Hard, Fast And Beautiful’ and a lot of my other songs is that the beginning is very quiet so you can clearly hear the audience reaction. On that occasion I was taken right back to hearing Gladys Knight And The Pips’ ‘The Way We Were’ on an LP my mum used to play all the time in the 1970s.

Do you have fond recollections of those days – when most of your gigs were low key and filled with hard-core, cult followers and/or new fans to Cinerama?

DLG: It was an interesting time. I was forging ahead into some kind of a new territory for me and so I was extremely appreciative of any support from those fans who came with me, while, at the same time, being excited to meet people who’d never liked The Wedding Present. The only frustration was that I didn’t have the resources to re-create the ‘full’ Cinerama sound live… I mean like we did in London a couple of years ago for the Live 2015 album. We only really used the full mini-orchestra on sessions for John Peel in those days.

Official Lyrics:

And guess what I found
It’s a letter that I started writing when you walked out

It says that I won’t miss you because I’ve met someone who’s more exciting
But that wasn’t true

So how did I lose you?
The last thing you ever wanted to do was to hurt me but I’d still accuse you

And I couldn’t know I’d never feel the same way with another
So I let you go

Yeah, I’ve got a girlfriend
She’s beautiful, considerate and, yes, I do love her
But I’m not going to pretend that she’s ever going to be the one

Because now I know that it was you all the time
How could I ever think it wasn’t true?
Now I’ve stopped trying to tell myself that I’ve grown out of being in love with you

And deep in the night I lie awake and think about you
Of course it’s not right

But what can I do?
I can’t sleep in this bed without you
If you only knew

Yeah, I’ve got a girlfriend
She’s beautiful, considerate and, yes, I do love her
But I’m not going to pretend that she’s ever going to be the one

Because now I know that it was you all the time
How could I ever think it wasn’t true?
So now I’ve stopped trying to tell myself that I’ve grown out of being in love with you

Because now I know that it was you all the time
How could I ever think it wasn’t true?
So now I’ve stopped trying to tell myself that I’ve grown out of being in love with you

[Written by Gedge and published by Cooking Vinyl Publishing]

Studio Versions:

1 – Va Va Voom album track [Cooking Vinyl COOK CD 150] – released 27/07/1998, recorded Spring 1998; TIME: 4:59

Recorded by : David Gedge (vocals, guitar, producer); Sally Murrell (backing vocals); Davey Ray Moor (piano); Anthony Coote (bass); Che Albrighton (drums); Abigail Trundle (cello); Rachel Davies (violin); Dare Mason (guitar, producer)

2 – Spanish version released as ‘Dura, Rapida Y Hermosa’ on the Superman 7″ [Scopitones TONE 007] released 23/04/2001; and later included on Cinerama Holiday  [Scopitones TONE CD013] released 23/09/2002; TIME: 4:27

Recorded by : David Gedge (vocals, guitar, producer); Sally Murrell (backing vocals, keyboards); Simon Cleave (guitar); Terry de Castro (bass); Kari Paavola (drums); Steve Albini (engineer); Dare Mason (mixer/overdubs) [translation by Anne Foley]

Live Versions:

1 – John Peel’s 60th Birthday version; TIME: 5:09

Recorded by : David Gedge (vocals, guitar); Sally Murrell (backing vocals, keyboards); Simon Cleave (guitar); Terry de Castro (bass); Bryan McLellan (drums); Philip Robinson (keyboards, backing vocals)
Recorded at the BBC Maida Vale Studios, London, UK on 31/08/1999, first broadcast on 02/09/1999
Released on John Peel Sessions  [Scopitones TONE CD 006] 02/04/2001 and later as part of Cinerama – The Complete Peel Sessions

2 – Los Angeles 2000 version; TIME: 5:00

Recorded by : David Gedge (vocals, guitar); Simon Cleave (guitar); Terry de Castro (bass); Kari Paavola (drums)
Recorded at The Knitting Factory, Los Angeles, USA on 05/11/2000
Released on Live In Los Angeles [Scopitones TONE CD 009]  06/05/2002

Live:

Hard, Fast And Beautiful was part of Cinerama’s first set on 22/07/1998 at the Camden Falcon, London, UK and stayed in until 2001. It reappeared briefly on the setlist in 2003. Then with the return of The Wedding Present, it didn’t appear again until around 2011 when Cinerama started playing as a support group at the Edge of the Sea and Peaks festivals. It was played as part of a set with a full orchestra at some shows in the Summer of 2015.

Video:

Va Va Voom version:

A nice live video from ATEOTS 2011 featuring Charlie on bass guitar:

The aforementioned version with full orchestra in 2015:

 

Wow

Cinerama had been around for a couple of years by the time that ‘Wow’ arrived. Just as some fans couldn’t take to the new band, Va Va Voom brought others that were new to the delights of David Gedge’s songs. Releases were coming thick and fast: four singles with fantastic b-sides, one album and a compilation of earlier singles and b-sides all came out in 2000.

‘Wow’ was a surprise to some of us at that time as it seemed like a return to the sound of previous years. Mixed in with the slinky orchestration of Cinerama, it was a heady mix. There was a new drummer in Simon Pearson whilst ex-The Wedding Present guitarist, Simon Cleave had been back in the fold for about a year and along with Terry DeCastro’s ever-excellent musicianship this was a band making some beautiful music.

‘Wow’ is kind of a perfect Gedge formula in many ways: Lust + Couplets + Roaring Guitars + Long Melodic Outro = Pop Genius. It’s been performed in many ways over the years from stripped down acoustic to full rock band to augmented orchestra and it never ever gets old. You want it to last forever. You compel it to stay. You are sure. OK?

Questions and Answers with David Gedge:

I guess the big question about this song is, it came kind of in the middle of the Cinerama era but was the first clear sign that the Wedding Present ‘sound’ was ‘returning’. It was noisier and rockier than anything in the Va Va Voom era. What was it that made you write (or record) a song that sounded so much like your (then) former band?

DLG: I didn’t go out to create something that sounded like The Wedding Present; I think it was just the way it came together. I’d written and arranged Va Va Voom totally on my own and had consciously tried to write songs around other instruments, rather than concentrating on the guitar as we’d done in The Wedding Present. But, after the release of Va Va Voom, Cinerama became more of a band and so, even though I still wrote this song at home on my own using the computer, we started arranging songs more as a band, too. And I think that’s where the similarities to The Wedding Present started to creep in, especially since the Wedding Present guitarist was now the Cinerama guitarist!

The songs recorded as part of the Disco Volante sessions are pretty varied. At what stage in the recording process was ‘Wow’ and how much of the result was influenced by Steve Albini?

DLG:  ‘Wow’ was one of the first songs to be written for what would be the follow up to Va Va Voom. I think the variety comes from the fact that I was still in the poppy post – Va Va Voom stage but, at the same time, also immersing myself in those rockier Cinerama band surroundings. Albini never really influences recordings, to be honest. He sees himself more of a documenter.

I’m assuming the single/album versions were cut from the same recording sessions? Was ‘Wow’ always going to be a single or did you only realise after recording and so have to create an edited version?

DLG: It was always going to be a single, yes. I’d earmarked it as ‘the herald’ for the next album quite early on and doing the two versions was always part of that strategy. It was just one of those songs that sounded like a statement of intent!

We tracked the six and a half minute version in Chicago with Albini but the only additional instrument we recorded at that time was the flute part. It was mixed, along with ‘Gigolo’, there and then by Albini and we faded it out over the outro to make the length a more radio-friendly four minutes. The third track on the ‘Wow’ CD single, ’10 Denier’, was left over from a previous recording session. When the single came out in the summer of 2000 we were still working on Disco Volante here in England with Dare Mason. For the album version of ‘Wow’ we added strings and french horn and, obviously, didn’t fade it out this time!

The Extended version includes some chitter-chatter at the start, the gorgeous instrumental outro and some distortion at the end. Any thoughts on the extra elements?

DLG: I surreptitiously recorded the chitter-chatter in a London restaurant on my portable mini-disc but then we recorded the ‘wine pouring’ in the studio. It was Dare’s idea to have one glass panned in one speaker and one in the other… ‘some for you, some for me’.

You’ve written quite a few songs that have long outros, with ‘Take Me!’ being perhaps the most famous example. What makes you think a song should have an end like that? And what makes you decide when enough is enough? I could listen to the end of ‘Wow’ for ten minutes and never get bored. Why stop where you did?

DLG:  I love a long outro, ha, ha… and some songs just call out for it. It just needs a pattern and tempo that can withstand repetition, I guess. But on ‘Wow’ the point is that the whole thing gradually builds and builds… the drums and guitars increasingly get more intense, additional guitar layers enter, then the solo french horn joins in… and I think that you ultimately reach a point where it feels that the arrangement is busy enough. At the end of the outro the higher strings play a counter melody and I sometimes think that maybe I went too far with that!

The lyrics are pretty unambiguous and in fact the stark reality that lust can overtake all rational and moral thought maybe strikes a chord with fans. Do you think this ‘weakness’  is something that most people succumb to at some point in their lives?

DLG: You would have to conduct a survey to answer that!

I know people that have had secret rendezvous at Wedding Present/Cinerama concerts. Do you think your fans are drawn to your lyrics because they already live lives that replicate your words or do they act out in ways that they wouldn’t normally because they are fans?

DLG: I think people are drawn to my lyrics because they’re meaningful and unambiguous and are rarely cloaked in ridiculous imagery. I just try to discuss the kinds of things that happen to us all.

Cinerama singles and albums had great sleeves. Is that Gina Lollobrigida on the single release and who designed the cover?

DLG: The earlier sleeves, including this one, were usually designed by Andrew Swain at Cactus following my brief that I wanted a modern feel applied to retro photographic imagery. I think Andrew went with more of a lighter ‘pop culture’ approach than Egelnick & Webb who did the later Cinerama sleeves. But it’s not Gina Lollobrigida, no.

You’ve played the song live as Cinerama in the old days; with the Wedding Present; with a couple of brass musicians and with a full orchestra. How much difference does this make to you live how many musicians are on stage? Do you prefer the full orchestra version over the others?

DLG: Ultimately, if a song is good enough it’ll stand being played by one person on an acoustic guitar… and I think this song is good enough. That being said, it does sound ‘huge’ when the band is complemented by a string section and the brass and flute and I’m really glad we were able to record a version in that format for the Live 2015 album/DVD.

Official Lyrics:

You’ve avoided questions that could’ve easily spoilt the mood
Like ‘where does my girlfriend work?’, ‘what’s her favourite food?’
I think I know someone who could give me an alibi
So, yes, I think I’ve just proved that I’m prepared to lie

But there is nothing quite like a secret rendezvous
I think I know already what I’m going to do
Outside the air is cold and your arm slips into mine
When you invite me in, you know I won’t decline

But I don’t want to stay forever
Oh, I don’t want to leave my girlfriend but, wow, this isn’t happening the way I’d planned
I’m not going to say never but I don’t want to fall in love right now
Well, just as long as we both understand

As you lead me up the stairs, I’m leering at your thighs
You’re revealing parts of me I just don’t recognise
You leave behind a scent that lingers in the air
It draws me up the steps but I should not be there

But I don’t want to stay forever
Oh, I don’t want to leave my girlfriend but, wow, this isn’t happening the way I’d planned
Oh, I’m not going to say never but I don’t want to fall in love right now
Well, just as long as we both understand

You’re telling me, almost compelling me, to stay
But don’t close the door because I’m still not sure
OK

Written and published by Gedge, whose publishing is administered outside of the UK & Eire by Fintage Publishing BV.

Studio Version:

1 – Single version released 12/06/2000 [Scopitones, TONE CD 002]TIME: 3:59

Recorded by : David Gedge (vocals, guitar); Sally Murrell (vocals, keyboards); Simon Cleave (guitar); Terry de Castro (bass and backing vocals); Simon Pearson (drums); Paul Martens (flute); Steve Albini (engineer); Dare Mason (mixer)

2 – Disco Volante version released 18/09/2000 [Scopitones, TONE CD 004] TIME: 6:44

Recorded by : David Gedge (vocals, guitar); Sally Murrell (vocals, keyboards); Simon Cleave (guitar); Terry de Castro (bass and backing vocals); Simon Pearson (drums); Paul Martens (flute); Abigail Trundle (cello); Rachel Davis (violin); Andrew Blick (trumpet); Jon Boswell (french horn); Steve Albini (engineer); Dare Mason (mixer)

(Recorded in Electrical Audio, Chicago and Oaklands Groove, London in the Summer of 2000)

Live Version:

1 –  Live in Los Angeles version released 2002 (Scopitones, TONE CD 009) TIME: 7:05

Recorded by : David Gedge (vocals, guitar); Sally Murrell (vocals, keyboards); Simon Cleave (guitar); Terry de Castro (bass and backing vocals); Kari Paavola (drums); Ethan Kairer (live sound mixer)

(Recorded at The Knitting Factory, Los Angeles, USA on 05/11/2000 [Cinerama: Winter Tour])

2 – Live in Belfast version released 06/10/2003 [Scopitones, TONE CD 015] TIME: 6:05

Recorded by : David Gedge (vocals, guitar); (Simon Cleave (guitar); Terry de Castro (bass and backing vocals); Kari Paavola (drums); Richard Jackson (live sound mixer)

(Recorded at The Empire, Belfast, Northern Ireland on 05/09/2002 [Cinerama: 2002 Tour])

3 – Live 2015 version released 09/11/2015 [Scoptiones, TONE 062] TIME: 6:25

Recorded by : David Gedge (vocals, guitar); Samuel Beer-Pearce (guitar); Katherine Wallinger (bass); Charles Layton (drums); Danielle Wadey (keyboards, glockenspiel, backing vocals); Melanie Howard (keyboards, backing vocals); Pedro Vigil (guitar); Rebecca Doe (violin); Michael Simmonds (violin); Robert Spriggs (viola); Anna Beryl (cello); Andrew Blick (trumpet); Elizabeth Palmer (flute); Sebastian Falcone (live recording/mixer)

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Live:

Debuting in 2000 to rapturous reception, ‘Wow’ continued in the set until the seeming demise of Cinerama around 2004 but as soon as 2006, it was already back in the Wedding Present’s repertoire.

Videos:

 

King’s Cross

By 1999, fans of The Wedding Present knew that this Cinerama project was here to stay. Following on from debut album Va Va Voom came a slew of singles and one of them was a double-a side release of Pacific and King’s Cross. The latter was a clear signpost to how the band’s sound would change over the next few years. A cross between the easy listening, relaxed style of the first album and the passion and energy of later releases, King’s Cross was a yearning, anguished track that sounded like a big hug was required.

The chorus is sumptuous and, as Mr Gedge mentions below, eminently hummable.  The lyrics involve an affair and a train station – very Gedgian!

I understand that some people who visit this blog may not be as unfamiliar with the Cinerama tracks but I recommend this as a perfect gateway drug just as it was all those years ago.

Questions and Answers with David Gedge:

This was a double A-side single with ‘Pacific’. Any thoughts on that? You were firing songs out on a very regular basis around this time.

DLG: Both those songs were written in 1998, the year that Cinerama’s debut album Va Va Voom was released. I think, by then, that I was feeling much more confident about arranging music in the ‘Cinerama style’… I’d learnt a great deal during the recording of Va Va Voom… so I guess I just wanted to crack on and write more songs. In particular, I wanted to create a song that had the beautiful sound of a mellotron choir running all the way through it. And ‘Pacific’ heavily features mellotron strings, too…

How was this song written? Were you still writing solo at this point or did others collaborate?

DLG: No, I was still writing on my own, in the same way as I’d done on Va Va Voom and would do for much of Disco Volante, the second Cinerama album. All at my desk with a guitar, keyboard, computer, sampler and digital 8-track recorder.

It came out on a pink vinyl 7” on Elefant Records – why was that?

DLG: I was familiar with Elefant Records… it’s a very cool label from Spain… so when Luis Calvo, the founder, approached me to see if I’d be interested in having them release a Cinerama single, of course I said ‘Yes, please!’. The sleeve design and pink vinyl was the idea of their artist but it was totally in keeping with the mood of Cinerama sleeves.

Lyrically it sounds like the narrator is meeting up with a friend from a previous time who liked them more and they were back in town again and asking to stay. Is the narrator now doubting their previous decision or are they using that person?

DLG: Not really, ha, ha! It partly deals with the narrator feeling guilty that they have been ‘leading someone on’ and partly wondering if they have made the right decision in not developing what appears to be an illicit affair into a more serious relationship.

Can you explain the title? King’s Cross is the London station portal for up north (Leeds, etc.). Always find myself humming it when I’m there.

DLG: Well, it’s a hummable tune! The narrator has obviously fled from the relationship and railway stations are a powerful and romantic setting for tearful goodbyes! I lived in Leeds from the late seventies until 2003… and, as a musician, you do find yourself needing to visit London frequently… so I knew that particular station better than any!

Official Lyrics:

And when you asked me to stay, I made some excuse
When deep down I knew that all hell was breaking loose
So why was I there in the first place?
I’m not sure
I think I wanted to spend the night with you and, though you wanted more
I thought that you and me were never meant to be
Now why would I think that?

When I called home to tell her that I’d be late, you stood outside the ‘phone box
When some wouldn’t have bothered to wait
And how can I ever say sorry for leading you on?
I came into your life without asking and then suddenly I was gone

Because I thought that you and me were never meant to be
Now why would I think that?
You and me, yeah, now of course I see

And I could ponder this forever but I can’t explain
What it was that made me ever get on that train

Well I thought that you and me were never meant to be
Now why would I think that?
You and me, well, now of course I see

Written by Gedge and published by Cooking Vinyl Publishing.

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Studio Versions:

1 – Double-A side single version with Pacific [ELEFANT ER-210] recorded 1998, released 05/08/1999, and collected on compilation This Is Cinerama  [COOKING VINYL COOK CD 180] released 2000 TIME: 3:14

Recorded by David Gedge (singing. electric and acoustic guitars, keyboards, tambourine), Sally Murrell (backing vocals), Terry de Castro (bass), Richard Marcangelo (drums), Abigail Trundle (cello) and Susan Bowran (violin)

2 – Seven Wonders of the World acoustic version [SCOPITONES TONE CD 051] recorded 2009 for a KRTU – San Antonia USA radio session released 08/09/2014 TIME: 2:58

Recorded by David Gedge (guitar and singing), Terry de Castro (guitar, bass and backing vocals)

Live:

The Wedding Present played this song during their Autumn tour of 2007.

Oddity:

I couldn’t find a decent video of the song so for now here’s this:

Get Smart

The first Cinerama song for this blog to tackle and it’s a largely forgotten album track from the otherwise remarkable Torino. It was premiered a year earlier in a John Peel Session that was first broadcast on the 24th May 2001 alongside three other songs that went on to be singles. Likewise on Torino it’s track 12, sandwiched between the magnificent Get Up And Go  and Health and Efficiency. So it’s understandable if not many fans talk about it much, added to the fact that it’s rarely been played live so it’s not really built up much of a following. The title doesn’t appear in the lyrics although it is obliquely referencing the theme of the song. The title was probably influenced by the American TV show of the same name from the late sixties (see below, I was right!). It was a spoof spy series created by Mel Brooks and starring Don Adams. Certainly not the only Gedge song to have a spy-influenced title.

The song is told from a rather weird angle as the narrator is talking to his partner telling them that if they want to keep having an affair, that’s fine, just be more discreet. The slightly confusing thing about all this is that he doesn’t seem all that angry or upset by the conversation. After all, he tells them not to “flip”. Is he just so in love with this person that he will put with anything as long as it isn’t made obvious? It’s not an argument that seems rational by any means but I guess love can do funny things to people. My favourite lyric in the piece comes in the form of the wonderful couplet: “This hanging up without him saying a word / Was maybe fine just once but it’s becoming absurd”. Accurate, funny and a joy to hear. Vocally, Gedge set his sights (and his vocal chords) high here with some falsetto notes in places. Not sure it works to be honest but I love his bravery in trying.

Gedge co-wrote this song with Simon Cleave and his distinctive playing dominates the instrumental sections with some lovely Spanish guitar twanging. There are some beautiful strings that swing us along and Kari Paavola added his flare to the percussion. Please note: there are also bongos! A really nice addition to the Torino  version were the haunting backing vocals that Terry de Castro does in the final chorus before the flute kicks in to take us to the end.

Questions and Answers with David Gedge:

Why is the song called ‘Get Smart’? 

DLG: It’s my little nod to the classic 1960s American TV comedy series of the same name. It was a James Bond spoof, created by Mel Brooks, which I adored as kid.

The Torino version changes a fair bit from the earlier Peel Session.

DLG:  Well, of course, we used Peel Sessions as a way of recording ‘works in progress’ [as Peel himself used to call them] so I was bound to use the opportunity to improve the arrangement in between the BBC and our own sessions. I remember that we hadn’t thought about adding backing vocals to this when we were at Maida Vale, but the main thing I wanted to add, when we recorded the Scopitones version, was a feeling of 1960s ‘grooviness’, if there’s such a word! So we brought in Mat Pharaoh to play bongos and Duncan Bridgeman to add a killer flute solo over the end section. Both were colleagues of one of Cinerama’s go-to recording engineers, Dare Mason, but Duncan’s actually a renowned record producer in his own right. Neither Simon Cleave [or John Peel!] shared my affection for a good flute part but I think it really transforms the end section.

Any general thoughts on the song?

DLG: I’m fond of the little details in the lyric… like the hair in the bed and the credit card receipt… which lead you to believe that the narrator is slightly obsessive… as well as being a bit pitiable!

Is there anything you would change about the song now?

DLG: I think I could have been slightly more sparing with the amount of falsetto singing I use.

The song comes from a very unusual viewpoint of a man wanting his partner to keep her affair hidden better. Do you know anyone that’s ever actually acted like this?

DLG:  I never discuss lyric sources but I do think this to be a thought-provoking scenario… purposely turning a blind eye, so to speak. And I think we’ve all turned a blind eye!

Official Lyrics

I heard exactly what you said but I know that he slept in our bed
You should really take more care because all it took was a single hair

How would you, how could you not think that I’d realise?!
You must know you’re just so terrible at telling lies

And did you really think I might not find out where you were last night?
Believe me, darling, it wasn’t hard, when you paid for the meal on your credit card!

No, don’t flip, here’s a tip: all it needs is a little thought
This will surprise you but I don’t want you to get caught

That’s a price that I’ll pay to stop you going away
Keep telling your lies
I won’t criticise if it means you will stay

And you should probably tell him not to ’phone unless you’re sure that you are going to be alone
This hanging up without him saying a word was maybe fine just once, but it’s becoming absurd

No, don’t flip, here’s a tip: all it needs is a little thought
This will surprise you but I don’t want you to get caught

That’s a price that I’ll pay to stop you going away
Keep telling your lies
I won’t criticise if it means you will stay

That’s a price that I’ll pay to stop you going away
Keep telling your lies
I won’t criticise if it means you will stay

That’s a price that I’ll pay to stop you going away
Keep telling your lies
I won’t criticise if it means you will stay

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

Studio Versions:

1 – Peel Sessions: Season 2 [SCOPITONES TONE CD 014] recorded 13/05/2001, broadcast 24/05/2001 TIME: 3:27

Recorded by David Gedge (guitar and singing), Sally Murrell (keyboards and backing vocals), Simon Cleave (guitar), Terry de Castro (bass and backing vocals), Kari Paavola (drums), Philip Robinson (flute), Andrew Black (trumpet), Abigail Trundle (cello), William Davis (violin), Mike Engles (producer), Jamie Hart (engineer)

Peel Sessions Season 2
Peel Sessions Season 2

2 – Torino version released 01/07/2002 [Scopitones TONE CD 11] TIME: 3:31

Recorded by David Gedge (guitar, singing, producer & string arrangement), Sally Murrell (keyboards and backing vocals), Simon Cleave (guitar & producer), Terry de Castro (bass and backing vocals), Kari Paavola (drums), Allen Samuel (violin and viola), Rachel Davis (violin), Theresa Whipple (viola), Abigail Trundle (cello), Rachel Didcock (cello), Ian Williams (trumpet), Christopher Hortin (french horn), Duncan Bridgeman (flute), Mat Pharaoh (bongos), Steve Albini (producer), Dare Mason (mixer)

Torino
Torino

Live:

As mentioned above, it hasn’t been played live very much although it has made the occasional appearance as seen below.

Video:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=f4ETzPRq4w8