First Steps

Album: Single Release Only (2012)

Songfacts®:

  • This song was commissioned by the BBC for their coverage of the 2012 Olympics. Elbow were asked after their "One Day Like This" track was featured in the BBC's coverage of the 2008 Beijing Olympics. The full song lasts six and a half minutes, but it was written in such a way so that it could be divided into different minute or two long elements for use over both winning and losing footages.
  • Frontman Guy Garvey told The Independent how the lyrics were inspired by seeing Elbow's bassist, Pete Turner, capturing his baby daughter's first steps on video. The singer explained: "He's holding the camera, but he's also got his arms outstretched and little Martha staggers from her mum Ruth over to him. Just as she reaches Pete, she goes 'Dada!' loud and clear. You can see Ruth's face behind her, and she says 'I don't believe it!'
    That was very touching for me to watch. I love all three of them so much, and I realised that all of the elements I was looking for were there in that piece of film. The song's about putting your hopes in someone, the physical aspect of human endeavour and pushing yourself to do something you couldn't do before."
  • Garvey doesn't sing on this song, instead Elbow got an especially assembled gospel choir to provide the vocals. He told The Independent: "I knew I wanted to get my ego out of the way, so I told them that I wasn't going to sing on it. It's not an Elbow song; it's an Olympics theme song and it has to sound like it belongs to everybody. I think having the gospel choir on there helps give it that "everyman" feel. The choir was specially assembled for us, and we recorded them at Abbey Road in Studio 2. That's The Beatles' old studio, which was great."
  • The orchestration is provided by the BBC Philharmonic and was recorded at the Media City in Manchester. Garvey told The Independent: "Nick Ingman, who we'd worked with before, helped us with the arrangement. I'd sing him a violin line down the phone, or mark out a part on the piano with tape and play it to him about seven times slower than it needed to be."

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