[Decades hence, I will be celebrated posthumously as one of the great songwriters of the last quarter of the 20th century, and of the first quarter of the 21st. But I see no reason why we shouldn’t begin a detailed consideration of my oeuvre right now, while I’m still around and able to comment.]
As with virtually all my songs, I composed the music for Me at My Worst before the lyrics. In devising the arrangement, I will now admit that I was inspired by Ms. Britney Spears’ Hit Me Baby One More Time, which achieved remarkable propulsiveness in spite of its sedate tempo. That which I worked hardest on were the false-alarm endings of the first three verses. I aspired to make the listener feel each time as though the big chorus were imminent, only to make him wait through another verse, and then another. Coitus interruptus! The greatest pop records, and I always think of Neil Diamond’s Sweet Caroline in this context, land on the verse-ending five-seventh chord in a way that makes the arrival of the chorus almost a physical necessity. It was my hope that when my chorus — It turned out that an iron fist… — finally arrived, the listener would experience huge relief, and that it would feel exactly like exhilaration.
Up until the gorgeously evocative Drive, I always detested The Cars, whom I regarded in many key ways as a lame rehash of Roxy Music. And yet you will notice that the second line of the chorus begins with an uh-oh of the sort Mr. Ric Ocasek deployed so implacably. The attentive listener will detect that it’s there simply to provide the additional beat required to make that second line match the first and third metrically. I don't often sink so low!
There are entirely too few good rhymes for love in English.
As for the lyrical subject matter, I had begun corresponding with the thoughtful Englishwoman who would later become my second wife around the time I composed this song. The lyrics were inspired by her account of her 44th birthday celebration at a restaurant in Hampstead, north London. She’d invited the first great love of her adulthood, whom she'd eventually left, with the utmost regret, because of his alcoholism decades before. Although she knew very well that she shouldn’t, she’d been mightily miffed by his bringing along to her party a too-attractive date. Recounting how she’d reacted petulantly to Too-Attractive's being gracious on top of too attractive, she noted, “I used the olive branch to spear the dove,” which I thought far, far too good not to use in a song.
This is from my self-produced 2002 album Sex With Twins, the first I recorded with modern music software, in this case Logic, which enabled me to do the instrumental backing track on my own. My daughter Brigitte, who hadn’t yet stopped speaking to me, found the idea repulsive, so I changed twins to twinge.