the song
title : Hello in there
written by : John Prine, arranged and ‘Scottished’ by Eddi Reader
song copyright : © 1971 Warner Chappell Music Ltd; arrangement: © 1991 MCA Music Ltd ?
source recording : the writer recorded this on his eponymous first album (Atlantic, 1971)

the performance
musicians
Eddi Reader vocal, backing vocals
Neill MacColl guitar, backing vocal
Phil Steriopulos double bass
Roy Dodds drums
with :
Calum MacColl zither
music
key : E flat major
time-signature : 4/4
tempo : MM 72
form : V V C V V C v C′ p
lyrics

provided for research and private study only (see above for copyright details):

for ease of comparison, I have put John Prine’s original alongside Eddi’s Scottish re-writing


Eddi’s version :

Hello in there

we’ve lived in this street now for fifty years
me and Billy liked to live in here
it’s been years since the kids have grown
all have lives of their own
    left us alone

John and Linda live in America
Joseph is somewhere on the road
{ooh-ah} we lost Davie in the Irish war
still don’t know what for
    doesn’t matter any more

old trees grow stronger
old rivers grow wilder every day

but old people, they just grow lonesome
waiting for someone to say
say “hello in there,” say “hello”
say “hello
, hello-o”



me and Billy we don’t talk much now{ah-ee-ah-oh}
he just sits staring at the tv screen
oh and the news it just repeats itself
like some forgotten dream
    that we’ve both seen

maybe someday I’ll phone up my old friend Madge
we worked together at the laundromat
what do I tell her when she asks “What’s new?”,
say “Nothing, what’s with you?
    Not much left to do”

old trees grow stronger
and old rivers grow wilder every day

but old people they just grow lonesome
waiting for someone to say
say “hello in there,” say “hello”
say “hello” {say hello}
say “hello-o”

– double bass solo

so if you’re walking down the street one day
and you spot some hollow ancient eyes
don’t turn around as if you didn’t care
or, worse, stop and stare
say “hello in there”
say “hello”, hi-yah
say “hello”
say “hello”
just say “hello”
just say “hello”
just say “hello”
just say “hello”

– double bass solo

John Prine’s version :

Hello in there

We had an apartment in the city,
me and Loretta liked living there.
Well, it’d been years since the kids had grown,
a life of their own,
    left us alone.

John and Linda live in Omaha,
and Joe is somewhere on the road.
We lost Davy in the Korean war,
and I still don’t know what for,
    don’t matter anymore.

Ya’ know that old trees just grow stronger,
and old rivers grow wilder every day.
Old people just grow lonesome
waiting for someone to say
“Hello in there,
    hello.”

Me and Loretta, we don’t talk much more,
she sits and stares through the back door screen.
And all the news just repeats itself
like some forgotten dream
    that we’ve both seen.

Someday I’ll go and call up Rudy,
we worked together at the factory.
But what could I say if asks “What’s new?”
“Nothing, what’s with you?
    Nothing much to do.”

Ya’ know that old trees just grow stronger,
and old rivers grow wilder every day.
Old people just grow lonesome
waiting for someone to say
“Hello in there,
    hello.”




So if you’re walking down the street sometime
and spot some hollow ancient eyes,
please don’t just pass them by and stare
as if you didn’t care, say
“Hello in there,
    hello.”

explanations
Eddi has re-interpreted this song from a Scottish and female (naturally) point of view, changing John Prine’s original names and references. I’m not going to detail these here but should point out that “the Irish war” is presumably the ‘troubles’ in Northern Ireland from 1969 onwards.

the recording
personnel
produced by : Eddi Reader and the Patron Saints of Imperfection
recorded by : Terry Medhurst at Helicon Mountain Studio, London
mixed by : Terry Medhurst? at Helicon Mountain Studio?
mastered by : ? at Townhouse?
technical
track timing : 4:51
song timing : m:ss
released on
album : Mirmama track 4

commentary
Phil Sutcliffe, reviewing Mirmama in the March 1992 issue of Q (magazine, issue Q66), claims this “sentimental John Prine song about old age” is, along with ‘Dolphins’, the “anticipated dippy hippy element” in Eddi’s first solo outing. I am not sure whether, if I can actually see/hear what he means, I can at the same time disagree with him!