(THE GUARDIAN) — In 1988, we were sitting in a flat in Edinburgh waiting to go up and play a gig in Aberdeen. We had an hour to kill before our lift, so I started playing some chords on the electric piano – and I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles) came straight away. I had the tune and lyrics in 45 minutes flat.
I can’t play guitar, so I played it to Charlie and he changed it to those Buddy Holly-type downstrums. It’s not a hard song to play. Right from the start we knew it was catchy, but when we started playing it live the reaction was tremendous. People make all sorts of interpretations of the lyrics – especially the supposed religious significance of 500 miles – but it’s just a love song. I stuck the Scottish word “havering” in there because that’s just what I’d say. It means talking nonsense, but in America one DJ thought we were singing about vomiting.
When we recorded it, the record company didn’t try to stop us singing in our Scottish accents, which had happened earlier in our careers. Yes, our accents are strong, but they make us more distinctive. I never set out to write a song with universal appeal, but it does mention working, drunkenness and travelling, so pretty much anyone can relate to it.
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