Damnit. The lyric was always: “Your words come quiet, single file. / On one long roll of paper (in) Kerouac style.” That’s what it was meant to be, what I originally wrote and what was taped on the demo version.
But somehow in the album recording sessions, on this particular vocal take I randomly sang: “On one long roll of paper and Kerouac smiles,” and then somehow in my brain, that slipped into place like a big-arsed cuckoo and became what the lyric was. When we mixed, that was clearly the best vocal take and I pushed aside a nagging feeling something was odd about the words. Already by then I’d got too close – forgotten meanings and lost perspective – and I didn’t think about it again, even once I started singing the song live. I was singing the replacement lyric instead of the original one.
I only realised my mistake last week, during one of the final few shows of my UK tour, when something clicked back into place and I found myself acutely aware that all this time I’d been clinging to the wrong words. It was a particular shock because, for me anyway, they were drastically weaker words.
It’s a subtle difference and almost certainly you don’t give a fuck either way, especially since the sentence doesn’t remotely affect the underlying premise of the song. But for me the previous version was much, much better. “Kerouac smiles” conjures the dead poet looking down, in some way approving of the work – which is patently ridiculous and nothing like I’d want to say. It’s a bogus phrase too, slushy and romantic, at a point in the song where I’m trying to keep descriptively cool. “In Kerouac style” is simpler, sticks to the point and focuses on that image of a long roll of paper, which is what I wanted to get across.
So how did I get it wrong, and for so long? I have no fucking idea. What do I do about it now? Nothing – it’s too late. Sometimes, writing songs, that’s just how it goes. I’ll sing the correct version of ‘Nintendo’ from now on and, like a typo gone to press, hopefully nobody will notice.