From Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Story Behind the Song

Ed Robertson

Written by Ed Robertson and Steven Page
Recorded by Barenaked Ladies

In the spring of 2005, there was a lot of pressure for us to write the first single of the album we were working on for our group, Barenaked Ladies. First, Steven Page and I wrote at his house and then, after the summer, we wrote another 13-15 songs in my cottage outside Toronto. All in all, the group wrote over 30 songs for this album that we had to choose from.

There were many incarnations of this song; I was happy with it lyrically but the bridge caused a lot of grief. I couldn’t figure out how to approach it — so I tried it TEN different ways. I was in the studio complaining to our manager about the difficulties we were having, and he made some comment like, “The song needs a U2 sentiment.” So we said, “Why don’t you ask Bono?” He said that we should give him an mp3 of the song and he would.

Unbelievably, without him knowing it would happen, a friend of his was seeing Bono that night and our manager was able to have him listen to our song and give his opinion. The next day he actually had comments from him — and he was exactly right! What he suggested was similar to what we did on the very first pass, that is, a double vocal and a lower octave.

Lyrically, the song is about the complexity of relationships and how “easy” it is to make a big mistake. However, it’s so hard to play on guitar that I should have called it “very hard.” I came up with a contraption to put on the guitar to help me play it.

Before it was decided that it would be the first single, they wanted me to change the word “obfuscate” in this verse:

Call it self-defense

You can obfuscate

And manipulate

But it’s only at your own expense.

They were concerned it sounded too much like a dictionary word, but I didn’t want to change it just because some people might not get it. It is the perfect word for the scenario.

It’s an amalgamation of several people — myself, friends and a mish mash of different experiences. It gets its emotional center from my own sentiments, with examples from some dear friends I won’t name. The settings are changed to protect the guilty.

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