Friday, August 9, 2013

Favorite Song Friday: Here's Where the Story Ends

Somehow I missed it. I wasn't listening to a lot of new music in 1990, which is odd and disappointing, given that I was still a college student, the last time a lot of people are exposed to a lot of new music. But I was too busy with my first senior year and a new girlfriend and living in a house with four other guys and trying to score Bruce Springsteen bootlegs on CD and, what's more, I didn't have a TV, so no MTV for me.

All of which is to say that somehow this pop gem passed me right by. So when I heard it for the first time, just a few years ago, I was blown away and felt like I'd discovered a rare treasure. The song feels light as a feather, but without any of the negative connotations such a description would normally carry. Rather, the combination of David Gavurin's multi-tracked guitars and Harriet Wheeler's intoxicatingly sweet vocals, over a pristine, perfect Smiths-like rhythm section groove are like watching flower petals carried into the distance on a gentle spring breeze. 

Until you listen to the words.

People I know places I go
Make me feel tongue tied
I can see how people look down
They're on the inside
Sad. And all too relatable for many of us.
Here's where the story ends 
Intriguing. Nice phrase. Really nice.
People I see, weary of me
Showing my good side
Are they wearying of her showing her good side, or are they simply weary of her and she refuses to give up? It's unclear, but either works just fine.
I can see how people look down
I'm on the outside 
Hm. Is she a touch paranoid or is she really an outcast? Again, either is entirely possible.
Here's where the story ends
Ooh here's where the story ends
So far what we have is a perfect pop song: lovely music, engaging vocals and a compelling, recognizable lyric. 
It's that little souvenir of a terrible year
Which makes my eyes feel sore 
A souvenir? Interesting. What could that be?

Oh I never should have said the books that you read
Were all I loved you for 

That does seem like the kind of thing that could cut a guy (admittedly, a pretty geeky guy) to the quick.

It's that little souvenir of a terrible year
Which makes me wonder why 

Wonder why...what, exactly?

It's the memories of the shed that make me turn red
Surprise surprise surprise

Uh-oh. And suddenly things take a much darker turn. They'd already been gray, a bit cloudy, but suddenly there's a storm upon us before we even saw it coming. What...what happened in the shed? I mean, I think we know, more or less, what happened...but there's still more than a few variables, and the devil's in the details, as they say. The main thing, of course, is the question: how willing a participant was she? 
Crazy I know, places I go 
I don't think the narrator is meaning to say she's well acquainted with insanity—I suspect she's merely being colloquial...but it's impossible to say for sure.

Make me feel so tired
I can see how people look down
I'm on the outside
If we take her at her word, that would seem to indicate she hasn't been paranoid about any of this, and that whatever happened in the shed, the rough outline is a matter of more than a little gossip around town.

Oh here's where the story ends
Ooh here's where the story ends

It's that little souvenir of a terrible year
Which makes my eyes feel sore
And whoever would've thought the books that you brought
Were all I loved
Oh the devil in me said go down to the shed 

And here she seems to be taking at least some responsibility for whatever happened in the shed. Which is to say, she's claiming she initiated the journey, with a pretty good idea of what was going to happen. Even here, however, she's distancing herself from the action, claiming it was the devil inside her, meaning she knows she shouldn't even as she's doing it...and yet doing it anyway.
I know where I belong 
On the other hand, this would seem to indicate a certain measure of self-loathing. Perhaps she was already an outcast before the events with the books and shed?

But the only thing I ever really wanted to say
Was wrong, was wrong, was wrong

More ambiguity. Is she saying that the only thing she ever wanted to say was incorrect? Or that all she wanted to do was tell him that what was happening was wrong, wrong, wrong?
It's that little souvenir of a colorful year
Which makes me smile inside 
And this is where, I think, we get a surprise turn away from the darkness and into an unexpected bright side. What could the souvenir possibly be? There are really only a few options that leap to mind: her permanently tarnished reputation, an STD...or a baby. And which of those three are most likely to make her smile, even if only on the inside?

So I cynically, cynically say the world is that way
Surprise, surprise, surprise, surprise, surprise

And here I picture her smiling down at her little bundle of joy, crooning this softly, just the two of them, alone, the only characters that matter. She's older, she's (sadly) wiser, perhaps a bit bitter but maybe not quite as much as she thinks because, after all, she's the one that came out of that terrible, albeit colorful, year with something of value—the most valuable prize of all, in fact.
Here's where the story ends
Why? Because her story is over and her child's is just beginning? Or because that's all in the past, a closed book, and from here on the two of them will be starting over, writing a new story: their own.
Ooh here's where the story ends
And that's all she wrote. 


  1. Love this interpretation, thank you! This was one of my favorite songs and I have always wondered what it meant exactly... totally agree about the baby. Always wondered about the books, as in, maybe it was her father and her in the shed. Incest. Don't know, thanks!

  2. I think your interpretation hits it on the head but i am not sure she had the baby - here's where the story ends... The darkness is quite heavy - a person who has really suffered can just feel so much listening to this song. I note that the lead singer and guitarist put their career on hold for awhile to take care of their kids.

  3. Man...y'all do got some heavy interpretations. Great takes on a great song—thanks for sharing!

  4. The "little souvenir" is a bullet. End of story.

  5. Found this opinion online, I agree with it 100%, and coincidentally, it's EXACTLY why this song fills me with more melancholy than I had ever experienced before I heard it...

    "I see it as meaning the following;

    A girl is in a relationship with a boy, but ends it thinking there was nothing strong between them. She looks back on the year they had, and realises that it's only after she's ended the relationship she's realised just how much she loved being part of it. Little things around her make her remember what happened (souvenirs), things reminding her of the 'time in the shed' (a private event between them, perhaps the first time they kissed or had sex) and the time spent with him, things she took with her without realising how much they would remind her of him.

    Now as she walks down the street she sees people together, people with purpose all seeming to look down on her, and she feels as though she has no real connection, as though they are part of an exclusive club of which she is not a part. But when she remembers the time spent with the boy, it was their own little exclusive club, and she smiles, and realises she ended it to try and find some relationship more akin to what she sees in the people around her, and yet because she ended it feels more alone and distant than she ever did. And now all she is left with is a cynical view of the world, and the time she spent with him is over, and that's where the story ends, and reality returns.

    Just how I see it :) It's a beautiful song that captures moments between friends and lovers perfectly, those memories you don't see as golden until you lose what it was that made you the way you were, and look back and smile, yet realise it's lost..."

    1. I agree with this interpretation. I have been listening to the Sundays since they released their first album. Saw that tour in Cleveland and even got to talk to some of the members after the show. They seemed to be a great group of folks. If you watch the video, it's upbeat, and Hariett Wheeler is actually dancing a bit. I see that it's her reminiscing on love lost.

    2. I completely agree with your interpretation. "But the only thing I ever wanted to say was wrong" followed later by "So I cynically cynically say world is that way" given the context of the other lyrics support your interpretation. I also do not think that any of the meanings of their songs would be as a direct as her getting pregnant in a shed.

  6. "The "little souvenir" is a bullet. End of story."

    End of story?
    So explain how she is singing the song at all if it was a bullet?

    Doesn't work, and is way too pessimistic for my tastes...the 'little souvenir' is the melancholy feeling she took with her after the experiences in question...was for me, anyway...;)

  7. Hauntingly beautiful ,Vauge and bittersweet
    We are left with something that’s rather personal and open to interpretation.
    curious if she ever commented on content

  8. I think it is a physical reminder...a little souvenir, that makes my eyes sore.