April Fools

Album: Rufus Wainwright (1998)

Songfacts®:

  • For many, April Fools' Day is a more appropriate holiday than Valentine's Day when it comes to love. In this song, Rufus Wainwright is struck by Cupid's arrow on February 14, only to be struck down six weeks later.

    In a Songfacts interview with Wainwright, he talked about the song's meaning and how it came to him. "I remember when that chorus came into my mind," he said. "I was in the bath, kind of humming along to myself and not really thinking about it, and 'you will believe in love, and all it's supposed to be' just kind of shot into my brain. I remember standing up naked in the bathtub and singing it out, then writing the song afterwards. Hopefully, I dried off a bit!

    It's about this concept almost like Murphy's Law: If something's going to go wrong, it will. I felt like in my early years, everything was always thwarted for me. Whether it was love, school, or friendship, there was always this sort of negative slant that would occur. Little did I know that years later, I would learn that life is just full of different types of experiences, and sadness and failure is just one of them. And everybody goes through it occasionally."
  • Rufus was in the sweet spot in terms of musical pedigree. His parents, the singer-songwriters Kate McGarrigle and Loudon Wainwright III, passed on their genetic gifts without saddling him with the expectations of a Lennon or Dylan. Loudon also passed along his demo tape, which got Rufus signed to DreamWorks, a new label with deep pockets founded by David Geffen, Steven Spielberg and Jeffrey Katzenberg. "April Fools" is one of the most popular tracks on his self-titled debut album, which wasn't a huge seller but earned lots of critical acclaim and set the stage for his adventurous music career. After recording the album in Los Angeles, he moved to New York City, where he recorded his second album, Poses, released in 2001.
  • Rufus' sister, Martha Wainwright, is the female backing vocalist on this track. Rufus played piano on several other songs from the album, but on this one he played acoustic guitar and left the piano to Benmont Tench of Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. Session legend Jim Keltner played drums and producer Jon Brion handled the other instruments, where are listed as electric guitar, baritone acoustic guitar, Hammond S-6 organ, and percussion.
  • In a 2010 interview with The Daily Telegraph, Wainwright discussed his writing process. He revealed that though he reads and writes music, he tends to transfer a tune in his head straight on to the keyboard, rather than onto a sheet of paper. Said Wainwright: "Then I go back with my assistant and work out the proper value of the notes and the time signatures. 'April Fools' came to me when I was in the bath. I stood up naked and sang it. Songs come to me at odd times. The only thing they have in common is that, when they do come, the moment has to be theatrical."
  • Directed by Sophie Muller, the music video follows Wainwright's fruitless attempts to prevent the suicides of well-known operatic characters, like Madame Butterfly. Gwen Stefani, who worked with Muller on several No Doubt videos, makes a cameo appearance in the clip, which was partly shot at Stefani's house. Hole bassist Melissa Auf der Maur, a friend of Wainwright's, also appears.

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