This song is very much open to interpretation, and depending on they way you process the words, it could can be a warning against overindulgence, a look at surviving life on the edge, or a commentary on how you can always turn your life around. James vocalist Tim Booth, who wrote the lyrics, has explained that the character Daniel in the song saves a woman named Grace from drowning, and adds, "He doesn't realize that in saving her he's really saving himself."
James is known in America mostly for their song "Laid
," but they've had far greater success in their native England. "Getting Away with It (All Messed Up)" was the only single released on their ninth studio album, Pleased to Meet You
, which came out on Mercury Records. It hit #22 on the UK charts and helped the LP go to #11 on the UK Album charts. The band's publicist hyped it in a press release this way: "The single is the perfect introduction to the sound of the album. Honed into shape live and perfected in the studio, the song builds and builds into another timeless classic James single."
James splits the writing credits on most of their songs, which is the case with this one, as it's credited to David Baynton-Power (Drums), Tim Booth (Vocals), Saul Davies (Guitar/Violin), Jim Glennie (Bass), and Mark Hunter (Keyboard). The album was produced by the music legend Brian Eno, who was a member of band Roxy Music. Eno, as a producer, has worked with such influential artists as David Bowie, Depeche Mode, Genesis, Coldplay, and U2.
The band recorded this song early in the sessions for Pleased to Meet You, and despite efforts to improve on their first take, they could never capture the feel of the first time they played it, and that first attempt was the one they used. It's a bit out of tune and imperfect, but the chaotic vibe fit the song perfectly, and it was chosen as the single.
Shortly after the release of Pleased to Meet You, lead singer Tim Booth announced that he was leaving the band. "Getting Away with It (All Messed Up)" became the unofficial theme of the band's 2001 tour. The final show with Booth was later released on DVD under the title Getting Away with It Live. After a six year separation, Booth rejoined the band in 2007 for a reunion tour and to begin recording new material. The band put out their tenth album, Hey Ma, on April 7, 2008, their first new effort since the reunion.
"Getting Away with It (All Messed Up)" was featured on the soundtrack of the 2005 film, The Big White. The black comedy, set in the middle of Alaska, starred Robin Williams, Giovanni Ribisi, Holly Hunter, and Woody Harrelson as the players in a mafia murder mystery and insurance fraud scheme. The film was released in November 2005 to frigid critical reviews and little return on its estimated $18 million budget.