Skin, voice / co-writer
Weak was written about an experience he had had a few years earlier. I was dating a guy I shouldn’t have dated in the first place – he was older, he wanted to get married and all that stuff, but he didn’t ask me, he just decided. Back then, I was so meek and gentle. My friends said, “Your boyfriend is so controlling. You have to defend yourself. “
I wanted to participate in a dance competition, but my boyfriend said, “You are not going.” I said, “I can do whatever I want.” So he took me to a desolate parking lot and punched me in the face. Then he did it again. I was so shocked and angry that I didn’t even feel the pain. I went into survival mode. Driving home, I jumped at a stoplight and ran. But I was standing at a bus stop when it stopped and dragged me into the car. No one said or did anything.
Once we got to her house, she started crying and said, “I’ll never do it again.” I could see my whole life in front of me, as a housewife with five million children. And then be a battered wife too? No damn way. The relationship, from that second, ended. I remember feeling scared but also quite strong, because I knew I would never put myself in a position like that again.
One night years later, during pre-production on our debut album Paranoid & Sunburnt, I was practicing chords on the acoustic guitar that I had bought with the money from my record deal. Just playing E minor, D and C, over and over. Then I started singing: “Lost in time, I can’t count the words.” Weak is a song about being vulnerable but strong and brave at the same time. The chorus – “Weak as I am, no tears for you” – is like I’m crying, but not for him. He was basically saying, “I’ll never get hit by anyone again.”
The whole song is those three chords, with a fourth in the chorus. When I brought it to the band, I said, “I have this B-side.” But we all worked on that, and we put in the middle eight, and that’s how the song was born. The boys gave Weak their rhythm, sensuality and power. So it was a vulnerable moment that turned into a moment of strength.
There were some amazing bands in the early years of Britpop, but when everything swelled up, like a breathless fish on the beach, Skunk Anansie became a good antidote. I will always remember singing Weak when we headlined Glastonbury in 1999. That horrible situation, I actually turned it into a positive. I got a good song out of that hit.
Cass Lewis, bass / co-writer
I always know where Skin’s head and heart are by listening to the songs he’s writing. When I heard Weak’s lyrics, I thought it was amazing. It is very human. She accepts her own weaknesses, but then says, “You’re not going to get the best of me.” I think it is a beautiful place to come. It’s like: weak as I am, I am stronger than you.
He knew that Weak was coming from a vile experience. There was another time, when Skin was followed home by some random guy, and she was so scared. But then he turned around and started yelling at the boy. After that, whenever he freaked out, he attacked. So she found her voice in a song like Weak and got to the place where no one can screw her up.
We recorded it at Great Linford Manor in Milton Keynes with Sylvia Massy as producer. She had the right energy for us. When we were filming it, we made a kind of “battle zone” in the studio for Skin, with all these posters and banners all over the place. He wore war paint when he sang. Maybe I take her voice for granted, because I’ve been with her for so long. But in Weak, he would sing a line and his voice would build up, and it suddenly overwhelms you.
Weak was not Britpop – Skin called our genre ‘clit rock’ – but it received a lot of praise and made it into the UK Top 20. Rod Stewart even covered it. But recently I realized how great that song really was. Last year, we played before three-quarters of a million people in Poland. When you hear so many people singing your song to you, you can almost stop playing.
Skin’s autobiography, It Takes Blood and Guts, came out in paperback on September 16, published by Simon & Schuster.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism