Skip to Content Skip to Navigation

Tom Getter Slack: Blog

Song Story#4 - Should Have Known Better

Posted on March 27, 2011

Every song has a story. The 9 songs on Looking Glass are no exception. This is the fourth installment of a blog series to talk about how each of them came about.

I wrote the song Should Have Known Better in the summer of 1979 sitting in my little shithole apartment in the Seagate section of Brooklyn. (For anyone who's curious, Seagate is a gated community on the southwestern tip of Brooklyn that used to be famous in the 1800's for a casino. I only landed there because I was able to rent a studio apartment for $140/month from a slumlord who owned a house there - but it was actually a pretty nice neighborhood.)

But I digress. This song and another from that time (also on Looking Glass, which I'll write about soon) came out at a kind of peak time of loneliness in my life. I had moved up to NYC from Pittsburgh so that I could spend as much time as possible working with my pal Tim B. at Bell Sound Studios. I really didn't have many friends, and less money, so I spent an awful lot of time just wandering the streets of that huge metropolis all alone.

Should Have Known Better is essentially a breakup song. I had a quick intense affair with a girl I met right before my move to the City. She lived in DC, which was not too bad a train ride from NYC, and we tried the long distance love affair thing for awhile. I think we both knew it wasn't going to work out, and of course it didn't. So, in the solitude of my sad lonely little studio apartment, out poured this lament for lost love. Not exactly a unique perspective (how many songs have been written about this), but it did reach pretty deep for me emotionally.

So why did it take me 30 years to get around to recording it you ask? I explained part of this in a recent blog post - this song and other quieter folky songs I wrote at the time didn't seem to fit my idea of a musical identity for myself. I spent many years way too wrapped up in the belief that one had to present oneself as an "act" - something that fits in with current trends - in order to make it. Remember - these were the old days with no internet; advice from music professionals was always to follow the tried and true path that others were successful with, and hope you get lucky. My professional demos were nothing like this song - they were slickly produced new wave "dance" tracks with kick-ass guitar and socially conscious lyrics. (Got me a record contract, BTW)

I always thought Should Have Known Better was a good song, I just could not get over this dichotomy in my own mind that didn't allow me to realize that I should have written a lot more like it. And, in fact, I ended up eventually coming full circle back to writing soft, introspective songs as more of the norm. So the moral of this story is - always follow your heart with your music. It's the place that is most true to yourself.