Day 5: How could something like that be love

I wonder how many people have actually heard How Could Something Like That Be Love, the second B-side of Swimmer One’s second single? One or two people still like it, evidently, since somebody has gone to the trouble of putting the demo version on YouTube.

I actually prefer the demo version, even though the single version had some lovely backing vocals by Cora Bissett (now an award-winning theatre director, back then the former lead singer in Darlingheart); I would embed that version here too but I can’t actually find it online, although if you’re curious you can still download it from Amazon. The version on this page is from an unreleased (at the time) EP called No Running, No Smoking, No Bombing: an Introduction to Swimmer One.

I really dislike the phrase ‘demo version’, and am only using it here because it’s a convenient, widely understood shorthand for a rough, unfinished recording. I dislike it because it implies an auditioning process, suggesting that you need to demonstrate your talent to somebody with power over you, someone from a record company probably. Hamish and I never had much patience with that – we just make music for ourselves, after all – and I often wish there was a better shorthand for a rough, unpolished recording, since I often prefer these to things that sound more ‘finished’. I’m a big fan of Babybird’s five home-recorded albums (especially I Was Born A Man), the incredibily prolific Momus, and Red House Painters’ rough early recordings.

When I first heard I Was Born A Man, around 1995, I was at university in Stirling, and decided I should found a new record label called Bedroom Records, which would release compilation albums featuring eccentric, maverick songwriters who made quirky, inspired music in their bedrooms, according to their own rules (people like me, as I saw it). I recruited a couple of friends to the cause and we put an advert in the NME calling for submissions. Hundreds of cassettes arrived in the post. Most of them were absolutely terrible, with only three or four, to my great disappointment, being interesting enough for the album we’d hoped to release. So we abandoned the idea – a blessing, I suspect, since the internet would probably have made Bedroom Records redundant within three or four years anyway. We threw all the cassettes in the bin or taped over them. If you’re one of the people who sent us one, I’m really sorry.

I’ve gone off on a tangent here. How Could Something Like That Be Love is a song about an ex pop star who has retreated into the countryside after some sort of a scandal, written from the perspective of their loyal partner, who has had to nurse them through some sort of unspecified illness. In this version the pop star seems to have since died, in the final version the lyric is slightly different and they seem to be still alive. It’s strange listening to this song now. I’m not sure why I wanted to tell this particular story, although it’s perhaps quite telling that we’re only on our second single and I’m already writing about a failed pop star fading from view. I quite like the lyric though, especially the bit about the nosy neighbour who “thought he recognised you from some cheesy one off pop hit, ironically the wrong one”. Ah yes, the fleeting nature of fame.

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