I’ve recorded two songs called Whatever You Do, Don’t Go In The Basement. The first was a pretty rough home recording from 1997, one of hundreds that I made between the ages of 14 and 23 with a Yamaha keyboard, a four track tape machine and a very basic mixing desk (can you tell? Yes you can). It’s possible that I should have spent more of this time making friends instead of alone in my bedroom experimenting with tape loops, but there we are. What’s done is done.
The second was for Swimmer One’s first album The Regional Variations – the music for that one was mainly written by Hamish, although I wrote the lyrics (which are completely different to the words in the original, I just revived the title because I liked it). I remember being especially pleased with this song title. I always was when I thought I’d come up with the kind of title that the Pet Shop Boys or Sparks might use. The Pet Shop Boys, in particular, have always been fans of the gratuitously long song title (This Must Be The Place I Waited Years To Leave, You Only Tell Me You Love Me When You’re Drunk etc).
Basements, obviously, are where terrible things frequently happen in horror movies, and occasionally in real life too. Alongside attics, they’re great metaphors for dark secrets and ugly, destructive truths. The Swimmer One song is about an unwanted confession that drives two people apart. The earlier song’s narrator is less weary and more idealistic, perhaps – I think you can tell that they’re a bit younger – and more willing to venture into an unknown, underground place with the person they’re addressing, ‘as you long as you will hold my hand’.
The Swimmer One lyric is one of my best, I think – it gives you just enough information to draw your own conclusions, but is ambiguous enough to be open to lots of interpretations. It’s also restrained – a lot of meaning packed into just a few words. I wish I’d done that more often.
There are lots more of these teenage home recordings here if you’re interested, including a really terrible one I made when I was about 14. In my head it sounded like the Human League. In reality it sounded like a weird boy shouting into a tape recorder.