Song of the Day #475: ‘Her First Mistake’ – Lyle Lovett

lovettA few weeks back when I featured Lyle Lovett’s music for two weeks, I mentioned in my write-up of The Road to Ensenada that I would feature its two best songs on the blog at a later date. Well, that later date has arrived for one of them.

‘Her First Mistake,’ the epic second song on Lovett’s best album, is the tale of a man who strikes out so winningly in trying to woo a lady that she eventually succumbs to his charms. It’s funny and sweet and it’s got a swinging, almost bossa nova, feel that sets it apart from the rest of Lovett’s work.

Lyrically it’s clever as hell, containing such pearls of wisdom as “the only certain thing for sure is what I do not know” and this winning final line: “I just keep on running faster, chasing the happily I am ever after.”

My favorite lyric in ‘Her First Mistake’ makes up the fourth verse, and it’s a splendid example of playing off of expectations:

I said why, yes, my dear I know exactly what you mean
Because there’s not so much I haven’t done or seen
And may I say your eyes are the loveliest
Shade of jade

Notice how the “mean” and “seen” lines set you up for him to say her eyes are the loveliest shade of green. But he twists the line at the last minute and instead rhymes “jade” with “shade,” and winks at the expected lyric by choosing a color that is in fact a shade of green. This is advanced stuff, boys and girls… well played, Mr. Lovett.

Once upon a time ago
Way up in the land of sleet and snow
How this fairy tale would go
I could not have knownI had searched around this world so mean
From Livingstone to Palestine
Trying to pursue my dream
Of love

It was then I met this girl so fine
She made me think so fast I left my thought behind
And I tried to pass for a sophisticated
Northern man

I said why yes my dear I know exactly what you mean
Because there’s not so much I haven’t done or seen
And may I say your eyes are the loveliest
Shade of jade

I said come on baby
Come on baby
Come on baby

It was then I knew I had made my first mistake
She did not even start to wait
And as she turned around to walk away
This is what she had to say

She told me man I come from way down South
I’ve got a picket fence with a picket house
And I don’t need no fast talking Northern man
Like you around

I said well come on baby
Come on baby
Come on baby

Honey I don’t know what you just heard
But Alabama is my favorite word
And Birmingham
Is a long way from here

I could see the light began to shine
She turned back around her eyes met mine
And suddenly the whole world became
A better place

Even if it was only for an instant
Because it was then I knew I had made my
Second mistake

She told me man that was a real good try
But Alabama’s not where I reside
I come from where the river is wide
And the crawfish hide

I said well come on baby
Come on baby
Come on baby

Honey I don’t know what you just heard
But Louisiana is my favorite word
And New Orleans
Is a long way from here

She just looked at me and shook her head
Your lines are pretty sad she said
You are a lonely, weak, pathetic man
If this is doing the best you can

It was then I knew I had made my third mistake
Yes three strikes right across the plate
And as I hollered honey please wait
She was gone

I said well come on baby
Come on baby
Come on baby

Honey I don’t know what you just heard
‘Bartender, set ‘em up’ are my favorite words
Because the love I need
Is a long way from here

Oh the love I need
Is a long way from here

Yes well there I sat so all alone
Like a king who sits upon his throne
And whose kingdom may have just gone home
With another kingdom

So as you can imagine much to my surprise
When the door was flung back open wide
It was a miracle
She walked inside
And pulled her chair up next to me

And that’s when she knew
She had made her
First mistake

Honey I don’t know what you just heard
But come on baby
Are my favorite words
And where we’re going
Is a long way from here

And where we’re going
Is a long way from here

So like I said before
I could not have known
How this fairy tale would finally go
Still the only certain thing for sure
Is what I do not know

So like the years and all the seasons pass
And like the sand runs through the hour glass
I just keep on running faster
Chasing the happily
I am ever after

I just keep on running faster
Chasing the happily
I am ever after

8 thoughts on “Song of the Day #475: ‘Her First Mistake’ – Lyle Lovett

  1. Dana says:

    This is, indeed, one of Lyle’s best songs, which probably places it high on a list of best songs of all time by any artist. I am a sucker for this type of bossa nova sound anyway, but when you combine that with these lyrics..wow–pure gold!

  2. Amy says:

    How dare Julia divorce him!

  3. Maddie says:

    YAY LYLE!!! ❤ i love this song…

  4. Amy says:

    I didn’t mean to be so flip yesterday; however, I do sort of think my sentiment expresses just how much I love this song. How any woman lucky enough to be married to a man capable of writing and performing a song full of such wit and charm could choose to stop being married to that man I just don’t know. Maybe he’s a monster behind the scenes 😉

    This song provides a perfect example of why I love Lyle as much as I do, and why I find his songs endlessly rewarding. No matter how many times you listen to it, you can’t help but smile as the encounter unfolds.

  5. Mark says:

    Bartender set em up are my favorite words

  6. Tom says:

    One of the things I love best about his song is that it plays out pretty much in real time – all the action takes about as long as it takes for him to sing it. And his wordplay kills me every. single. time. I scrolled up to pick out my favorite line, and it’s impossible.

    BUT! Mark is right: It’s not “But tender sentiments are my favorite words,” it’s **”Bartender, set ’em up” are my favorite words.** Which is toward the top of the list of my favorite words, because it’s such an abject admission of defeat.

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