Tuesday, August 28, 2012

1982: I think I'll lie here and think of you

 I'm almost getting to the stop-me-if-you've-heard-this-one-before stage with this blog, but I realise there is one song I've never blogged about, and it just happens to be my favourite song of all time.

It's The The's Uncertain Smile. No, not the album version with Jools Holland's ghastly honky-tonking all over it which totally ruins it - in fact it totally ruins any song, but the original 7" version released late in 1982.

It was one of those songs I read about endlessly as it was meant to be so amazing, and saw it week after week in Our Price and wondered if I should give it a go. You could do that in those days. There was no sampling, and you'd be hard pressed to ever hear something like this on daytime radio. So I took the plunge.

What I found was a song that even to this day sends a little chill down my spine. It meant a lot to me then and it means a lot to me now.

It's dark in tone, his low voice like rain against the window, the perfect soundtrack to a moment where things were not going well at boarding school. You know how kids are at falling out with each other, but these things cut very deep when you're that age. I don't think I'd ever felt so alone, and I'd been through some pretty lonely times the past.

Let's have a look at the lyrics. When the second verse kicks in with the howling wind bit and there's that key change - that's the bit that always gets me. That's the way I felt. Alone in my room tacked onto the side of the house, not even in the main body of the house, the lamplight coming through the window as the rain fell and wondering how I was going to get through this... 

Peeling the skin back from my eyes, I felt surprised
that the time on the clock was the time 

I usually retired to the place where I cleared my head of you;
but just for today, i think I'll lie here and dream of you.

I've got you under my skin where the rain can't get in,
but if the sweat pours out, just shout I'll try to swim and pull you out.

A howling wind blows the litter as the rain flows,

As street lamps pour orange-coloured shapes through your window,
a broken soul stares from a pair of watering eyes,
uncertain emotions force in an uncertain smile...

I've got you under my skin where the rain can't get in,

but if the sweat pours out, just shout I'll try to swim and pull you out.

Of course it all turned out alright in the end, but there's nothing as self-indulgently satsifying as wallowing in your own misery is there? I used to make lots of sad song tapes to play when things weren't going my way, and thoroughly enjoyed pushing myself into a dark place. But one grows up.

Still, at the time, after only having been a boarder for a couple of months and finding that human relationships of any kind at such close quarters were a minefield and that I may  not, after all, be everyone's immediate beverage of choice, this song came along just at the right time. It never bothered the charts though, despite rereleases. It's a classic now. I even heard it every day in Vegas. I had a wry smile.

Love the album Soul Mining too, and a line from the song This Is The Day is one that sticks with me when I hark back to times like these:

You've been reading some old letters
You smile and think how much you've changed
All the money in the world
Couldn't buy back those days


  1. It's a perfectly formed pop delight. I heard the new Hugh Cornwell album over the weekend, which has got touches of Soul Mining about it..

  2. We may fall out over this. I love the song, but what I love most about it is the Jools Holland piano solo - one of the loveliest things ever committed to tape, IMHO. I can forgive him all the ghastly rhythm'n'blues orchestra stuff, not to mention the cringing Later... interviews, for those three minutes of perfection.

  3. This one has a place in so many 40-something hearts, my own included. But I also have to admit to finding the normally unbearable 'Jools piano solo' an incredibly uplifting counterpoint to the melancholy of the song. So there.

  4. I'd also like to give credit to his equally talented brother for the sleeve artwork!

  5. Be gone with you all!

    We clearly have nothing in common.

    I think the song is ruined by Jools. I much prefer this version.