A popular and exceptionally moving piece of music, written by Rowland S. Howard and thrust into the spotlight by The Screaming Jets.


Biography

As much as I'd love to dive right in, describe the song and show you the lyric, a little background information is necessary - otherwise you'll have no clue what I'm talking about when I compare the major versions.

Shivers was composed by Rowland S. Howard, and recorded by The Boys Next Door after he joined them in 1978. The song was a favourite at the band's live gigs, and enjoyed moderate success on a single (Shivers / Dive Position) and the Boys' first album Door, Door. This incarnation of Shivers was typically played with Rowland singing and Nick Cave on guitar.

Boys Next Door renamed itself to The Birthday Party in 1980, and made no further recordings of Shivers - although they may have continued to play it live. The song faded into memory for some years, until being being given a facelift by The Screaming Jets.

The Jets' rendition of Shivers, released on their 1993 album Tear of Thought, was extremely successful, and along with Helping Hand from the same album, put the band on the charts for a good while.

There is also a little-known, but quite effective, cover by Paul McDermott of Doug Anthony Allstars and Good News Week fame.

Description

Shivers is a mournful, introspective ballad which simultaneously soothes and wounds you. While the original lyrical content provides the basis for the song's potency, in my opinion the Boys Next Door's sound did not quite have the maturity to fully exploit it. The cohesion and polished quality of the Jets' cover, in particular Dave Gleeson's heart-wrenching vocals, realises Shivers' true potential.

Reminiscent of a drunk and maudlin mood, and conjuring images of a gloomy man in a lonely pub knocking back some scotch, this song's overall tone is one of depression. But at the same time, the dry wit of the words and the rhythmic determination of the music lends a persuasive sense of acceptance and purpose to what would otherwise be, frankly, a boring whinge. It's the kind of song you can easily find yourself identifying and commiserating with, and while it can be unhealthy to dwell too long on these feelings, the occasional cartharsis does have its place.

The Words

Depending on who's singing it, the words change - sometimes quite substantially. I have noded the most common variation, and pipelinked the alternatives as they occur.

I've been contemplating suicide ...
but it really doesn't suit my style.
So I think I'll just act bored instead,
and contain the blood I could've shed.

She makes me feel so weary.
My heart is really on its knees.
But I keep the poker face so well
that even mother couldn't tell

That my baby's so vain
she is almost a mirror
and the sound of her name
sends a ... permanent shiver
down my spi-yiyi-yiyi-iyi-yi-yine.
Down my spi-yiyi-yiyi-iyi-yi-yine.

I keep her photograph against my heart,
'cause in my life she plays a starring part.
Our love can hold on cigarettes.
There is no room for cheap regrets.

She makes me feel so weary.
My heart is really on its knees.
But I keep the poker face so well
that even mother couldn't tell.

But my baby's so vain
she is almost a mirror
and the sound of her name
sends a ... permanent shiver
down my spi-yiyi-yiyi-iyi-yi-yine.
Down my spi-yiyi-yiyi-iyi-yi-yine.

GUITAR SOLO

My baby's so vain that
she is almost a mirror
and the sound of her name
sends a permanent shiver
down my spi-yiyi-yiyi-iyi-yi-yine.
Down my spi-yiyi-yiyi-iyi-yi-yine.

Sends a permanent shiver ... down ... my ... spine.


"Shivers" written by Rowland S. Howard (Mute Song/Mushroom Music Publishing)

Copyright Compliance: I have obtained permission to reproduce the lyrics in this context from Mushroom Music.

Sources:

  • http://www.howlspace.com.au/en/boysnextdoor/boysnextdoor.htm
  • http://www.nick-cave.com
  • http://www.geocities.com/goreripper/s/screaming_jets.htm
  • http://home.iae.nl/users/maes/cave/index.html
  • http://www.stoptheworld.20m.com

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