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“Save It for Later”

Posted by purplemary54 on August 11, 2014

I wonder what the story behind this song is.  There’s got to be more to “Save It for Later” than a catchy chorus and infectious beat.

If you’re looking for some kind of meaning in this song, the lyrics are pretty cryptic.  Did the lover “run away and let me down,” or was that plea preemptive?  Just what was the decision the singer had to come to?  Keep the wayward lover?  Let him/her go?  Pull the plug on grandma?  There’s a crisis of some sort happening in the lead character’s life, but it’s never really made clear.  What mistakes have been made?  Why are there “Two dozen other stupid reasons why we should suffer for this”?

Part of me has always felt like this was from a female perspective, and she was debating whether or not to get an abortion.  I don’t have any evidence other than the song to back this up.  The explanation Dave Wakeling gives here (fifth paragraph) is plausible, but this feels more substantial than a generic “coming of age” thing.  The feeling of crisis is what gives this song its urgency, what propels it even more than the ska rhythm.  It’s a dark tune, moodier than the cheerful music would let you believe.

Of course, I’m free to read anything into it I want.  That’s the nature of art.  When you put something out there, it doesn’t just belong to you anymore; it belongs to everyone who loves it.  Or hates it.  Or experiences it in some way.  Most artists are pretty comfortable with that.  Even when it’s something intensely personal, it takes on new and different meanings when an audience consumes it.  So whatever Dave Wakeling and the rest of the English Beat meant when they wrote and recorded “Save It for Later” is one thing.  What listeners hear is another . . . a multitude of others, really.

Pete Townshend adds a whole other dimension to the song with his version (and I love that he seems just as confused about the meaning as I am).  His performance gives it some bite, as well as some additional sadness.  The emotions range more wildly in Townshend’s version, but I like it just as much as the original.

Ultimately, I think the ambiguity is what makes this song great.  There has to be room for the listeners in good music, room for their lives and loves, room for a whole world of meaning.  The story doesn’t have to be clear, it just has to make you pay attention.


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