...we've got the means to make amends. I am lost, I'm no guide, but I'm by your side. (Pearl Jam, Leash)

Thursday, March 22, 2007

And now, a cover that is vastly better than the original

I'd go on a limb and say that on most days my favorite David Gray song is "Say Hello Wave Goodbye," the beautiful, winding, 9-minute behemoth from White Ladder. It's not catchy, no chorus that sticks in your head; it reminds me more of a confessional poem of a complicated relationship. I have a hard time articulating exactly why I love it so much, but from those opening notes (do it, click the blue arrow) it just seems to encapsulate some ephemeral longing and an intangible sadness.

Say Hello Wave Goodbye - David Gray

The nine minutes give the lyrics time to unfold and breathe --it is long enough to tell an intricate, sad story with the brutal refrain of "Take your hands off me, hey. I don't belong to you, you say. Take a look at my face for the last time. I never knew you, you never knew me. Say hello, goodbye . . ."

To me, it's about a mismatched pair that nonetheless feels that inexorable pull: "We tried to make it work, you in a cocktail skirt and me in a suit, but it just wasn't me. You're used to wearing less, and now you're life's a mess, so insecure you see." And perhaps I like the line about how he claims to want "a nice little housewife who'll give me the steady life, and not keep going off the rails" -- but the subtext of the song tells me that he really wants her and not that at all.

My jaw dropped to the floor when I learned that this is originally a Soft Cell song (yes, they of the Tainted Love fame), and it is horrific, clunky, and synthy. In retrospect, perhaps I should have known, though -- do songs get any more '80s than one that starts with the lyric, "Standing in the door of the Pink Flamingo crying in the rain"?

I had that recent post about cover songs that are awful, this is one cover that actually redeems the original.

Say Hello Wave Goodbye - Soft Cell

Gray also adds his own outro to the original lyrics, and it always gets to me:

We were born before the wind, who are we to understand?

We were born before the wind . . .
Say goodbye
Through the rain, hail, sleet and snow
Say goodbye
Get on the train, the train, the train and
Say goodbye
Say goodbye
Say goodbye

In the wind and the rain my darling . . .
Say goodbye

In the wind and the rain my darling . . .

And with that, as you listen you can almost picture the train start moving on the tracks and pulling away from the station. It's cinematic.

And just since the mood kind of fits, here is one other interesting cover, from Embrace's Ashes CD single (the b-side):

How Come - Embrace

How Come - D12 and Eminem
(the original - ha!)

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At March 22, 2007 2:22 PM, Anonymous dave said...

This reminds me of a great post on Some Velvet Blog a while back. 20 Covers That Are Better Than The Originals

At March 22, 2007 2:32 PM, Anonymous Eric said...

I couldn't agree more. A friend bought me "White Ladder" as a birthday gift when it came out. It's a great album, but that was the song that most grabbed me. I also couldn't believe it was a Soft Cell tune, and I really don't care for the original. Gray's cover reminds me of some of Van Morrison's long, poetic "rambles" (and I mean that in a complimentary fashion), like his "Sweet Thing". I saw David Gray open for Shawn Colvin many years ago (like, 10) and I was duly impressed. Great stuff.

At March 22, 2007 2:34 PM, Anonymous Eric said...

Oh, and also, the "...we were born before the wind..." vamp is pulled from Van's "Into The Mystic". An incredible song, if you're not familiar with it. Thanks again Heather.

At March 22, 2007 2:42 PM, Blogger heather said...

We were born before the wind
Also younger than the sun...

Yes, indeed.

At March 22, 2007 3:18 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was running errands today & in one of the stores they were playing "Caroline". I hadn't thought about David Gray in a long time. So I come home, check your blog and it's on David Gray as well. Good stuff!

- Neil

At March 22, 2007 4:57 PM, Blogger Yon said...

Apropos great covers, I thought of pointing you to M Ward's cover of 'Let My Love Open The Door'... and of course I found you posted it already (the same time you Posted another great Gray song, 'Tidal Wave')

Searching for other covers from that album I found you once posted 'Tonight You Belong To Me' - Eddie Vedder and Janet Weiss (of Quasi) Any chance that little morsel could be posted again?

I can point you towards the Josh Ritter version if you don't have it.

At March 22, 2007 8:39 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Say Hello IS Gray's song no doubt. It always sounded familiar I almost knew the chorus but I could never place it for years until I pulled out my Soft Cell Singles disc and my mind blew. This is like when Cash covered Rusty Cage or Hurt...Chris and Trent said it's HIS song. On the inside of the CD Sleeve it says "Quotations at the end of Say Hello.." are taken from "Into the Mystic and "Madam George" written by Van Morrison and are used with permission. It's belongs to David though!


At March 22, 2007 9:38 PM, Anonymous moof said...

Oh Heather (and friends)

Thanks for making me feel like an old geezer.

Of course it's Marc Almond/Soft Cell...has it really been 25 years since this hit the airwaves?

If you dare, take a peek at entropy4139's writing on the lyrics at the bottom of this page


Some of you may never listen to this song the same way again <g> (sorry)

At March 23, 2007 2:23 PM, Blogger Yon said...

Maybe one more request for re-up's... A while back you posted M. Ward's Scene From #12 EP. That would be great to hear again.

Another great cover from Ward, was 'Let's Dance' on Transfiguration Of Vincent

At March 24, 2007 4:53 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I beg to differ - David Gray is one of a nurdling legion of 'bedwetters -'( Liam Gallagher's sensitively chosen appellation- I believe) -Coldplay,Dido,Snow Patrol,James Blunt et al - and his version of Say?/Hello is close to unlistenable - he whines and babbles on and on.......I also do not understand why these people are popular.....

The Soft Cell original is glorious because of its clunkiness......

At March 24, 2007 5:21 AM, Blogger The Jacket said...

"horrific, clunky, and synthy." a touch harsh I feel. Clunky? yes; synthy? goes with the territory; horrific? no, never horrific. Maybe it just hasn't aged too well.

At March 25, 2007 11:43 PM, Blogger F.J. Delgado said...

This post made me listen to some David Gray tunes for the first time in a while.... thanks!

And as for the Soft Cell original, I'm going to spare my ears the pain and suffering and pretend it doesn't exist.

At September 21, 2007 6:32 AM, Anonymous Loaf said...

A good point, well made. If only Jack Johnson would give the same treatment to some Pet Shop Boys ballads, songs which could be good but for the fact that they too are from the 1980s and use synths and are therefore horrible.


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