Album: All the Rage (1984)
Charted: 27


  • Dave Wakeling, who sang and played guitar in General Public, told Songfacts about writing this song: "I used to like traveling with the trucks that carried the gear. I'd always been a big fan of that TV show Cannonball when I was a kid, and thought that the idea of American trucks was very romantic. So when we came on tour, I used to love to drive overnight with the truck drivers and talk rubbish on the CB in there. And so it was as if the trucks were driving in what's called 'the endless gray river.' And the notion was that you were driving around in there in America searching for the tenderness, whereas, of course, it's in your heart all the time. So it's like you're looking in the outside world for something that can only be discovered in yourself, because love is a verb, not a noun. That was the notion of it."
  • General Public was formed by Wakeling and Ranking Roger, who were members of The English Beat, along with Mickey Billingham and Stoker from Dexys Midnight Runners and Horace Panter from The Specials. This started as an English Beat song, but never made it. Says Wakeling: "We tried to get rehearsals set, and it was one of the reasons that we knew that The Beat had really come to its end: where I was before, everything had gone very smoothly and magically without even trying. It was now almost nigh impossible to get rehearsals together. Somebody would have something to do in the morning, so they couldn't be there until 2, and somebody else has go tot leave at 2:30 because they've got a meeting to go at 3, and they couldn't do Thursday, what about next week? And on and on and on. And it was hard for us to get anything done. I think we managed two rehearsals, perhaps, for that third album."
  • Wakeling talks about the lyrics, "Whistling in the graveyard": "It was a phrase of my father's when I would disagree with him and try to stand up to him as I was growing old. He'd be like, 'You're just whistling in the graveyard.' So it was like he was accusing me of a false sense of courage, like I was trying to act more bravely. I think the phrase was actually whistling past the graveyard. He said it to me as, 'Oh, you're just whistling in the graveyard.' I actually stick quite a lot of my dad's little phrases and witticisms in songs. And I suppose in Birmingham they had a sort of colloquial history that most people's dads would have said to them. But it was trying to build up a false sense of courage and call up your girlfriend, knowing whatever it was that she was going to catch you at because you weren't telling the truth."
  • Dave Wakeling writes very heartfelt lyrics, and this is a great example. He explains: "In writing a song, it's like you're searching for some answers. And you've got maybe this first rhyming couplet that's come up, and that's fired up your imagination. And it sparks off a series of questions about your own life, so you start pondering it. And so there's a lot of sort of self-analysis that goes on: What do you think about this, then? What do other people think about it? By the time you get to the end of the song, sometimes you've figured out that rigor, at least in your own mind, and then you play it to people and find out if it connects. My notion of it was that you have to find something really personal, and you have to try and find a way to express it that is as universal as possible. I also have the notion that where we connect the most is in our confessed weaknesses, not in our comparative strengths. So the songs will have a bit of a nod and a wink in them: anybody ever mess up like this? And you feel it come back from the crowd, 'Oh, my God, I've done that.' So I suppose the basic elements of our humanity is our own sense of foibles."
  • Wakeling told Songfacts: "There was a darker side to the song, because it came out in that period of AIDS, fear of AIDS. Nobody really knew much about it, and everybody was all of a sudden terrified to touch a door handle. Being a terrific hypochondriac, and everybody was always having colds on the road on tour, it's like any time anybody sneezed, I was like, could that be AIDS? So it was to do with that, but in sort of non-obvious way."
  • This was featured in Clueless (1995) during the bouquet-catching scene at the end of the movie. It was also used in the John Hughes movies Sixteen Candles (1984) and Weird Science (1985).

Comments: 6

  • Barry from Sauquoit, NyOn January 12th, 1985, General Public performed "Tenderness" on the ABC-TV program 'American Bandstand'...
    Two months earlier on November 11th, 1984 it entered Billboard' Top 100 chart at position #89; and on February 10th, 1985 it peaked at #27 (for 1 week) and spent 12 weeks on the Top 100...
    It reached #11 on the Canadian RPM Top singles chart...
    On the same Sullivan show they performed their release, "Never You Done That", it peaked at #13 on Billboard's Hot Dance Club Songs chart.
  • Esskayess from Dallas, TxBrainy, quirky little song, always fun to hear.
  • Luke from Auckland, New ZealandProbably my favourite, from a band I followed for a short while in it's early days. I was a fan of The Beat (known as The English Beat in the States) which originated just prior to the Ska-influenced '2 Tone' musical explosion in Britain during 1979-1981.
    I remember it's featuring at the end of another 80's classic teen-flick, 'Clueless'.
  • Keith from Philadelphia, PaJust great!
  • Susan from Airdrie, -This is one of the GREAT, unappreciated songs of the 80s. Love it!
  • Scott from Baton Rouge, LaThis song is also featured in the 80's John Hughes' classic "Weird Science".
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