Song of the Day #716: ‘I’m Waking Up to Us’ – Belle & Sebastian

I’ve read that the new Barenaked Ladies album (the first without Steven Page) contains several songs with references to Page’s departure… usually bitter references trashing him for letting down the band. That makes them the latest in a long line of band members who have used their music to take shots at each other.

John Lennon and Paul McCartney famously ripped each other in their first solo albums after The Beatles broke up (John’s ‘How Do You Sleep?’ was particularly brutal, including the lines “those freaks was right when they said you was dead… the sound you make is muzak to my ears, you must have learned something in all those years”).

On the one hand, it seems like petty inside baseball to write and record a song about a freaking work dispute. But when you consider the amount of time band members spend together and the surreal experiences they share — particularly if they achieve any level of fame — it makes sense that these relationships are probably as meaningful if not more meaningful than familial and romantic attachments.

Today’s song, ‘I’m Waking Up to Us,’ was purportedly written by Belle & Sebastian’s Stuart Murdoch about former band member Isobel Campbell, who officially left the band shortly after its release. I don’t know that I would have pieced that together if I hadn’t read it, which makes this an interesting addition to that list of meta songs. The only line that overtly suggests that reading is this one: “She grew up and she left the rest of us.”

The second verse is on its face about a baby the singer helped raise who is now being cared for by another man. As a metaphor for Campbell leaving Murdoch’s wing and embarking on a solo career, that’s pretty biting.

Campbell returned fire with a song called ‘Monologue for an Old True Love’ in which she chides him for “talking so self-righteously ’bout everything you showed me, boy.” But she invites a reconciliation: “And still your spirit comes to me, you were the one for life, You brightened up the sun for me, even through all the fights… this is not ’bout gaining points but loving one another.”

Campbell never rejoined the band, but I hope those crazy kids worked everything out.

I need someone to take some joy in something I do
You need a man who’s either rich or losing a screw
You know I love you, here’s the irony
You’re going to walk away intact
I think you never liked me anyway
You like yourself and you like
Men to kiss your arse
Expensive clothes
Please stop me there
I think I’m waking up to us
We’re a disaster
You don’t want to know me
‘Cause you move in circles of the brave
Where art defines their lives

She was the one love of my life, and I let her go
And if I look like death today
Then please let her know
I never wanted to do harm to her
I only wanted her to see
The beauty of the world surrounding her
But when she opened up her eyes
It’s much too late
Our chance has gone
She’s with a guy
Who takes the prize for everything I ever showed her
Digging all the fun
Because she’s older
I fed her with a spoon
I made her mother smile
I helped the kid survive

She was the one love of my life,
she showed me the road
I loved her dog, her steady gaze, the chapter is closed
I always wanted all the best for her
The best thing was to stay away
She grew up and she left the rest of us
And now the understanding’s gone
I haven’t changed, how could I?
I’m pretty much the same person
I cannot keep the anger hidden anymore
But lucky for you, you are not around
My anger turns to pity and to love
The season has arrived

3 thoughts on “Song of the Day #716: ‘I’m Waking Up to Us’ – Belle & Sebastian

  1. Dana says:

    First, with regard to Barenaked Ladies, I have heard their single a few times on the radio and find it to be just awful. A pale form of what they once were. So, in that case, I have to conclude that the person who left took the creativity with him.

    In the case of B&S, this song seems fairly consistent with others I have heard from them, so perhaps the group will survive with the departure of one if its members.

    As for band breakup songs, I appreciate any artist who writes honestly about what they are going through, whether it is a love relationship breakup or a band breakup. So I have no problem with the content, as long as the music is good.

  2. Clay says:

    Campbell left the group several years ago and she never had much of a role in the band’s songwriting, so her departure didn’t make a ripple (on the surface, anyway… who knows about the dynamics of the band).

  3. Amy says:

    This post reminds me of the Taylor Swift song “Hey Stephen.” In it, Taylor reminds Stephen that, while other girls might be pretty, “would they write a song for you?” Her subsequent giggle speaks volumes. The chance to be immortalized in a song is double-edged, of course. As Swift makes very clear in her concert, if boys don’t want her to write songs about them behaving badly then “they shouldn’t do bad things.”
    The 2:40 mark starts the verse Maddie and I particularly enjoy.

    Taylor’s song speaks to how a songwriter will invariably write about the relationships in her (or his) life; whether those relationships be romantic, platonic, or professional matters very little. I agree that the lyrics to today’s SOTD could just as easily be about a romantic relationship (is there a chance they were a couple, as well?) untll the lyric you quote (that she’s left a group rather than just an individual).

    Part of the fun of songs such as these is trying to figure out the drama behind them. “You’re So Vain” is a great song, but how much more success did it achieve because Carly Simon insisted on being coy regarding who inspired it.

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