Bob Lefsetz on ‘The Long Goodbye’

The Lefsetz Letter ( is an influential music industry blog from LA based Bob Lefsetz that goes out to around 250,000 people. This is a recent issue which I don’t think he’ll mind me sharing with you. Also my reply to him which he re-blogged.

From: “Bob Lefsetz” <>

Date: 12 November 2010 04:49:04 GMT

Subject: The Long Goodbye

This is a number one record.

“I know they say if you love somebody

You should set them free (so they say)”

So they say.  Don’t you wish it weren’t true?  Don’t you wish every cliche was wrong, that you could reinvent the wheel, that things could be different for you?

But they’re not.

Sting sang that song about setting someone you’re in love with free, but the tonality of that number gave the impression that he was the one being set loose, or he was giving the advice.  And we all know love advice is given to make you feel good.  But it doesn’t.  The more your friends talk, the more they try to cheer you up, the more isolated you feel, you believe they just don’t understand, just don’t get you.

Funny thing about love.  Even though it happens to everybody, yours is unique.  And there are some people who marry the first person who makes their heart flutter, but that’s unusual.  The rest of us, we experience heartbreak worse than the scariest thrill ride.  It’s a roller coaster that never ends, you try to hold on at first, then you just let yourself be battered, banging against the seat, trying to hold on to the end.

I had my iPod on shuffle last night in the mountains.  I wanted to be surprised, because nothing I could think of would make me feel good.  And not long into my slog I heard Paul Brady’s “Can’t Stop Wanting You”:

“Hot words on a summer night

You ‘n’ me having a fight

One drink and it all come out

Before I knew what we were fightin’ about”

Eventually they get to the makeup sex.  Where Paul claims that he can’t stop wanting her.  But back before I put down the sauce, I used to be in this situation far too often.  What started out as a good time twisted into an argument.  Something just a bit too sarcastic was said by one person, the other took offense and every slight in the relationship came to the surface and we pushed each other apart.

“Can’t Stop Wanting You” is off Paul Brady’s breakthrough album, “Trick Or Treat”.  Only it didn’t break through.  It was his one shot at stardom, produced by Gary Katz, but it flopped, despite featuring a Bonnie Raitt duet on the title track.

And that’s where I first discovered Paul Brady, hearing his covers on Bonnie’s albums, especially the title track of “Luck Of The Draw”.  A better song about Hollywood struggle has never been written.  The things we do to keep ourselves alive while we’re trying to make it.  And most people never make it.

Elated by hearing “Can’t Stop Wanting You”, I turned off shuffle and went on to play every Paul Brady track on my iPod and that’s when I discovered “The Long Goodbye”.

“And I know they say if they don’t come back again

Then it’s meant to be (so they say)

But those words don’t pull me through

Cause I’m still in love with you”

The breakup is never mutual.  Depending which side of the equation you’re on this professed mutuality is either a guilt-avoiding declaration or a face-saving statement.  Somebody always wants it more.  You might have discussed breaking up, but when someone pulls the ripcord it’s clear the other person was willing to hang in.  And embraces that position.  To no avail.

We all hear stories of people who get back together after separations.  But those are the exceptions.  People dream of a better life, they envision a superior partner and jettison their old love.  But usually they don’t tell their old partner until they’re ready to exit, after they’ve lined up a new place to live, have created a new life that only needs their presence to be three-dimensional.  Meanwhile, the one left in the dust is shocked, completely surprised, alternately pissed and yearning for what once was.

Very few people can write a hit song.  Sure, there are tracks that run up the chart, sometimes sit atop the hit parade, but even though they evidence the number one statistic, they’re not really hits.  Hits make you turn your head and take notice, you have to buy them, and continue to play them ad infinitum.

After discovering “The Long Goodbye” last night, I couldn’t turn it off, all day long it was in my brain.  I was going through the motions of life, but really I was in my own private universe with this song.

I’d like to tell you a movie can soothe you when you’re down in the dumps, when you’re in heartbreak hotel.  But only a song will do in these circumstances.  And that will never change.  And these songs will not be about kicking ho’s to the curb, they’ll have a feel of isolation and loneliness, like you’re listening to them alone in your spacesuit.  And it’s these songs that resonate, that we never forget.  Like “The Long Goodbye”.

“Come on, baby, it’s over…  Let’s face it

All that’s happening here is a long goodbye”

That’s the killer, that’s the truth you can hear in a song that you won’t tolerate from a friend.

Paul Brady “The Long Goodbye”:

P.S. In the mountains I envisioned a diva singing “The Long Goodbye”, someone like Mariah Carey, who insists on writing her own half-baked material but had arguably her biggest hit with her cover of Badfinger’s “Without You”, which was also a hit when sung by Nilsson decades before.  A great song is evergreen, it can be a hit for every generation.  All you’ve got to do is lift Paul Brady’s arrangement, the hypnotic piano notes in the intro, the strings…it’s a perfect blueprint.  Which it turns out Brooks & Dunn employed in 2001 to have a number one country hit.  See, I told you this was a number one record!  But even I wasn’t aware of this cover until I started researching…  Top Forty wouldn’t play “The Long Goodbye” but it could live on the Hot AC chart for half a year, that’s how powerful a number it is.  You see heartbreak is something Justin Bieber and Willow Smith might not comprehend, but the rest of us know it too well, and nothing helps you get through like a great song, and that’s Paul Brady’s “The Long Goodbye”.

Brooks & Dunn “The Long Goodbye”:

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Hi Bob,
Thanks for the Long Goodbye rave. Strange its passage through the record/ radio biz. It was the fourth or fifth single off the Brooks ‘n’  Dunn record as I recall. The record company just didn’t want to release it. But it kept getting played from the album and when they finally released it, it took around 19 weeks to get to No 1. Equally with the Ronan Keating version (Ronan was co-writer) in the UK. They didn’t want to even put it on the record at first. Then they didn’t want to send it to radio. Again it was the fourth single off his album… but still eventually went top five there and charted well throughout Europe. My own version came out first (in 2000) and was 5 weeks on the BBC Radio 2 A-list. So, a song that the public developed a relationship with and wanted to hear in spite of the various A&R depts inability to deal with it.

I was amazed at the various reactions from fans ..apart from the obvious ‘it’s a break-up’ read. While my version was on the radio a woman wrote to me from UK to say that she and her husband’s new-born baby had a terminal illness and that over the three or four weeks till the little child passed they kept hearing it and it meant so much to them and gave them such comfort. Another man thought it was about someone drifting away with Alzheimer’s. That’s what I love about songs. You write it and think you know what it means…but it’s only passing through you.

Re my record Trick or Treat… a flop?! Ouch!! ………More like a non-runner, I’d say. I remember producer Gary Katz and myself going for dinner after what I thought was a pretty good showcase gig I did in a club in Soho, NYC in the presence of Alain Levy and various other Polygram grandees the week of its release in US. I wittered on at dinner for a while fantasizing through the adrenalin till Gary raised his hand and, in his world weary Brooklyn way said..”Let me tell you something, Paulie. Right now those people are wondering whether or not to even put you in for the race.” Ho, ho! How right he was. A week or two later my supporter Mercury boss Mike Bone was ‘let go’ and as every artist knows, that’s the kiss of death for a record.

But that was a long time ago. Life is real good now. As I write I’m in San Remo, Italy to be presented tomorrow with the Premio Tenco award for songwriting at the 36th annual ‘Rassegna della canzone d’autore’ , the Italian Grammy for songwriters. Aren’t songs amazing? Nearly 11 years after It was written, you discover it and fall under its spell. I feel blessed to have been gifted with it in the first place.

Best wishes,

Paul Brady



  1. Danny says

    Great reply Paul. I read Lefsetz avidly, and while I admire his analyses, he can often get his facts wrong. I always love to read the artists chime in though.

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