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.
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
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