Can't Hardly Wait
by Paul Westerberg

A comparison of lyrics

One of the best versions I've ever heard of this song was the one on Saturday Night Live back around 1993 or so, when Paul Westerberg was the musical guest, and Charlton Heston was the host. Instead of playing his semi-hit "World Class Fad," Paulie gets the SNL band to back him on those Memphis horns and damn if he didn't start laughing at the break right before the bridge. This is possibly my happiest moment watching a band on tv--its sheer unexpectedness blew me away, and I've still got it on tape.

I've always loved this song, since the first time I heard it, thirteen and lonely and struggling with pop aspirations. I heard this and I damn near wept. I bought the tape in August, right before I started high school; yet for some reason, I always associate it with December, with someone trying to get home because of the snow. Maybe it's that "I'll be home when I'm sleeping," reminding me of "I'll Be Home for Christmas, if only in my dreams." I couldn't tell ya. But every time I hear that song, it makes my head buzz with excitement, loneliness, hopefulness, and a weird form of joy from the sound of the music alone--three or four guitars, a horn section, and right at the end, a harmonica wheezing along like a freight train. This song ranks up there with the Mats' "Unsatisfied," "Answering Machine," and "Within Your Reach," each indie classics in their own right.

There's an earlier version of this song--it was originally written back around Hootenanny or Let It Be--around 1983, 1984. The lyrics are definitely different, as can be found on the compilation disk All for Nothing/Nothing for All (1997). This early version can also be found on the hard-to-find live tape The Shit Hits the Fans (1985).


Can't Hardly Wait Version One: The Shit Hits the Fans Version (1984)

This is the earliest version known, dating from the band's live show in October 1984; it had become a staple by then. The lyrics--what can be deciphered--are quite different from the 1987 Pleased to Meet Me version, as given above by Templeton.

I can('t) wait for hours
And I can('t) wait for you
Standing by the water tower
The tower (something unintelligible)

I'll be sad in heaven
You won't care for me

Unintelligible lyric where the Jesus verse goes

I can't wait for ever
I'm too old for that

(break--wicked solo by Bob)

I'll be sad and lonely
Do you understand?
This ain't a time to be cryin' alone
I can't hardly wait!

I can't wait...till it's over...


Can't Hardly Wait Version Two: The Tim Version (1985)

This is the only officially recorded version featuring Bob Stinson on guitar. There was once talk that this would be a single, backed with "Nowhere is My Home," another lost Mats classic.

I'll be there in an hour
Take half an month there on foot
Watering-hole scummy water tower
Sitting on the porch if I could

I'll be sad in heaven
you won't follow me there

Jesus rides beside me
Never buys any smokes
Hurry up, hurry up
I've had enough of that stuff
Ashtray floors, dirty clothes, filthy jokes

Lights flash in the evening
I guess we'll follow him there.

(break)

I'll be sad in heaven
If I don't find a hole in the gate
Clime on the top of this crummy water tower screaming
I can't hardly wait.

I can't wait...till it's over...


Can't Hardly Wait Version Three: The Airshaft Version (1987)

This is the "lost" version (supposedly thrown into the Mississippi River) produced by Alex Chilton in an elevator shaft at Blackberry Way Studios, Minneapolis; it is only found as a bootleg.

I'll be there in an hour
Take at least two weeks on foot
...(mumble mumble)...crummy water tower
Climb to the top and scream all over if I could

I'll be sad in heaven
You won't visit me there

Jesus rides beside me
Never buys any smokes
Hurry up, hurry up
I've had enough of that stuff
Ashtray floors, dirty clothes, filthy jokes

A lightning flash in the evening
Guess we'll follow him there.

I'll be there in an hour
If there's a hole in the gate
Climb to the top of this crummy water tower screamin'
I can't hardly wait

I can't wait I can't wait I can't wait, wait..."


As for the changes in lyrics: it's thought that as "The Ledge" (which itself is a rewrite of "Willpower") already deals with someone leaping to their death, Paul decided to change the lyrics to something about being away from home, not about suicide.

It's also thought that the reference to Jesus may be a cut on either Peter Jesperson--the band's manager--or Chris Mars' holier-than-thou attitude. Of course, it could also be because Paul went to Catholic school, and so it's natural to end up mentioning Jesus at some point in his career.

Log in or registerto write something here or to contact authors.