Desert Island Singles: “Did I Say” by Teenage Fanclub (2003)

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“I’ve always said that Teenage Fanclub is what the Beach Boys would be if they grew up today and didn’t surf.” – Eugene

“’Did I Say’ is shockingly good, two and a half wondrous minutes of the best Badfinger imitation that you’ll ever hear, proof that the band still has what has made them great for so long.” – Adrien Begrand

I can’t say enough about Teenage Fanclub. One of the best, most creative bands I’ve ever heard. In 2003 they released a compilation disc entitled “Four Thousand Seven Hundred And Sixty-Six Seconds – A Short Cut To Teenage Fanclub.” The two-disc set was a collection of tracks through that point of their career. But Norman Blake, Gerard Love, and Raymond McGinley each contributed a new track.

“Did I Say” was Blake’s contribution. The Fannies put it out as a very limited-release vinyl 45 (no more than a thousand copies, if I remember right). Which is a shame, because it’s an amazingly inventive song. When I first heard it I had trouble tapping my toe to it, then realized that once past the first few lines of introduction it shifted into a 5/4 meter with a couple diversions into 4/4 and a couple more into 3/4. And the vocal and percussion don’t give you any clue to that, because they sing and play “drag triplets” throughout. All this complexity in a two-and-a-half-minute song.

The song begins with Blake at the piano, then explodes with McGinley’s jangly guitar line, Love’s harmony vocal, those disorienting (in a good way) drum fills, and strings. It’s like entering a dream; it puts me in mind of John Lennon’s “Tomorrow Never Knows.” And it’s a dream of love fulfillment: of being there for someone else, of helping them reclaim a happier time, and in so doing becoming complete yourself. Robin Murray from calls it a song about tender longing and a desire to reclaim the past:

“The appeal of Teenage Fanclub has always lain in their classicism. While this has sometimes allowed critics to peg them as retro, the group come into their own as stylists. The West Coast harmonies of ‘Did I Say’ are perfectly placed for a song of such tender longing, echoing the song’s attempt to reclaim the past. Sure, it’s nothing groundbreaking but the use of a classic song format is like a pillow to rest your head on, a support when the ground is falling away… Opening with the wish to ‘go home’ the track is a continual quest for a sense of identity. The world is a dark place, say Teenage Fanclub, while you and me are the only certainties we have. So far, so clichéd, but in their hands the message becomes truly transcendent.”

Other interpretations are possible, of course, even in Murray’s article. But that’s the one that works for me. To come up with something as memorable and inventive as this, an add-on for a greatest-hits album when a quick throwaway would have worked just as well, is really quite remarkable.

Hey, did I say I don’t mind if you want to go home
Take me there, no, you don’t have to travel alone
Through the night, ‘cross the sea, going back in time
Here for you now, were you waiting for me

Hey, did I say that I smiled when I first heard your name
Fell in love and I still feel the same way now, fall
Through the night, watch the light fall away from you
Here for you now, were you waiting for me

Hey, did I say I don’t mind if you want to go back
To the lake where you learned how to swim with the sun
Beating down on your back in the morning of dawn
For you girl, are you waiting for me

Beating down on your back in the morning of dawn
For you girl, are you waiting for me

One Comment on “Desert Island Singles: “Did I Say” by Teenage Fanclub (2003)”

  1. […] “Did I Say” by Teenage Fanclub (2003) 5/14/14: “This Beat Goes On/Switchin’ To Glide” by The Kings (1980) 3/9/14: […]

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