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45 at 33: The Sunday’s Here’s Where The Story Ends 

The Sundays were a bookish band of Bristolians formed in the late 1980s, who released three albums throughout the 1990s. Often misidentified as being a West Country Primitives, another UK based alternative rock band from Coventry, as their vocalists had similar sounding voices. Though Tracy Cattell and co never had an effervescent evergreen like Here’s Where The Story Ends. And it was only the beginning…

Released right at the start of the 1990s, The Sundays’ debut album Reading, Writing And Arithmetic is a sweet collection of shimmery alternative pop loaded with strong melodies and genuine heart. 

The set’s second single was the band’s breakthrough hit, and had more than one leg stuck in the eighties. Set to a gentle, jangly guitar-pop backdrop, it’s an irresistible ode to moping around in your bedroom, borne aloft and into the stars on David Gavurin’s silk-slipper acoustic-guitar textures and vocalist Harriet Wheeler’s brisk, crystalline delivery. 

The song’s feel is wistful and evocative of a breezy, moderately cool yet still lovely autumn afternoon. Its Morrissey-esque miserabilism inevitably recalled fellow Rough Trade signees The Smiths, yet the precise meaning is hard to pin down. It seems that Wheeler’s character regrets a love lost as she drifts through a world of hand-holding couples beaming with purpose. They remind her of what was and what could have been. 

The lyrics read like a poem, and the song speaks to different listeners in different ways. Perhaps that’s the point. It’s just impressions of thoughts and memories that Wheeler doesn’t want to spell out too precisely, maybe to enhance the song’s inherent air of mystery and wonder, maybe because it’s too personal.

Surely she doesn’t always feel this way, but at this moment she insists, “But the only thing I ever really wanted to say was wrong / was wrong / was wrong.” A pang of regret that will fade, and return, and then fade again, as all of our emotions are in a constant state of flux. This song is simply a beautifully rendered snapshot. Perhaps the next day she’ll remember that it wasn’t she alone who accounted for that “terrible year”. 

Maybe the story ends with putting those regrets to bed for good, and moving forward. At the same time, Here’s Where The Story Ends has such a titanically strong and crisp melodic hook — conveying a bittersweet tale of nostalgic longing that has withstood covers by artists as diverse as sugary house merchants Tin Tin Out and American Idol runner-up Crystal Bowersox — that it feels untethered to anything as prosaic as the calendar year. 

Either way, the end result is beguiling. American ‘Alternative’ radio couldn’t get enough of the song and neither could fans, who sent Here’s Where the Story Ends soaring to the top spot on the Billboard Modern Rock Chart in May 1990. Inexplicably, in Blighty the song wasn’t even released as a 45 owing to he collapse of Rough Trade.

No matter. The track still influenced the gentler side of Britpop and it will resonate for as long as young people feel sorry for themselves—which is to say, probably forever.

Steve Pafford

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