Song of the Day #25: ‘Seeing Other People’ – Belle & Sebastian

Any list of my favorite artists would find the Scottish septet Belle & Sebastian nestled right up top. I like these guys so much that I could scrap this format and go to a ‘Belle & Sebastian Song of the Day’ very easily (though I’d have to live without Alex’s readership).

My favorite description of the band was a back-handed compliment (or maybe an open-handed criticism?) along the lines of “They’re a seven-piece band that somehow sounds like a single guy in a room with an acoustic guitar.” Much of their music is gorgeously delicate, a blend of guitar, piano, strings and horns buttressing Stuart Murdoch’s fragile vocals. But they’ve showed a knack for rocking out as well, especially on recent albums, and a crunk vibe I wouldn’t have thought possible from a bunch of twee Scotsmen.

I have dozens of songs to choose from but I’ve gone with ‘Seeing Other People’ because, though I’ve listened to it and loved it for years, I just now realized what it’s about. I always figured it was about a boy and girl deciding to, well, see other people. But a more careful reading reveals that it’s actually about a gay relationship.

For example, I never knew the childhood myth that suggests kissing your own elbow will change your gender. So the lines “You’re kissing your elbow / You’re kissing your reflection” didn’t really register. Knowing what the song is really about, it all seems very obvious now, but I guess that’s true about most things.

Anyway, it’s nice to know that even old favorites can still surprise me.

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5 thoughts on “Song of the Day #25: ‘Seeing Other People’ – Belle & Sebastian

  1. Dana says:

    B&S is another one of those artists that, when their songs randomly pop up on my IPod, I enjoy enough to (a) not skip and (b) look to see who it is. They definitely have a sound with which I connect and I thank Clay for turning me on to them. This song is good, but I recall randomply hearing other songs I liked even better (but couldn’t now tell you what they were for the life of me).

    So are they gay, btw?

  2. Clay says:

    All seven of them? 🙂

    I think the brother of the lead singer is gay, which accounts for that topic creeping up into their songs. Maybe some of them are as well. They’re notoriously press-shy, though.

  3. Amy says:

    They may have started off as members of the Gay Men’s Chorus, then morphed into B&S? Just a thought. I, too, know that I love a song by this group, one that Clay put on one of those early mix “tapes” that I can now no longer locate 😦 As with so many of those songs, I can’t remember the name of it. Clay? Any chance you know what it was? As for this one, your analysis of the lyrics made it difficult for me to listen to it without trying to analyze it on my own. But I did notice that the person who made this video for Youtube had a very nice flower arrangement. You think those blooming flowers were meant to be symbolic? Hmmmm.

  4. Clay says:

    The song on your tape could have been ‘The Loneliness of a Middle Distance Runner.’ I know I put that on a mix CD I made for you (in fact, the title of the CD — Spend the Day in Stories — came from that song).

    Or maybe ‘Fox in the Snow,’ which I’m always spreading around because I love it so much.

  5. Craig says:

    Belle and Sebastian are THE most underrated band of all time. I LOVE their songs. I don’t give a damn if they are gay or straight or a mixture. Each to their own and all that. Seeing Other People is one of my favourite songs of all time. I love the melody and the lyrics, which being heterosexual myself I had never taken in any other context then ‘boy girl’ relationship stuff.Thanks for adding this extra dimension to my understanding of the song, but to me it will always be one song which I will play again and again for the sheer beauty of the sound, the vulnerability and emotion conveyed and the the poetry of the lyrics, which ultimately are about the joys and pitfalls of ALL human relationships.

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