If You Could Only See

Album: Lemon Parade (1996)
Charted: 11


  • Tonic frontman Emerson Hart wrote this song after a tense phone call with his mother. Hart was 21 years old and planning to get married - not what his mother had in mind. She tried to talk him out of it, but you can't argue with love. Emerson told her: "If you could only see the way she loves me, then maybe you would understand," and then he hung up.

    With his fire sparked, Hart started writing the song, and it came very quickly, with him taking aim at his mother's "manipulations" and "lies" during the strident verses, then slowing it down to present his side of the story in the chorus. The song was very cathartic and helped him work out his feelings, but in the end his mother was right: it didn't work out with the girl and they never got married.
  • This was Tonic's first single, but it almost didn't make the album. The band got a deal with Polydor Records after playing clubs for a few years in the Los Angeles area. When it came time to record their debut album, Emerson Hart wasn't sure if they should use "If You Could Only See," since it was a very vulnerable song and he wasn't sure how it would be received. Polydor, however, loved it and made sure it was the debut single.

    The song was released to radio and MTV, but in the interest of album sales, was not sold as a single. This made the song ineligible for the Billboard Hot 100, but pushed sales of Lemon Parade past one million. The song made #1 on the Mainstream Rock chart and received very consistent airplay - it lasted an astonishing 63 weeks on the Airplay chart, peaking at #11 in December 1997, long after it had been released.

    Tonic had a minor hit with "Open Up Your Eyes" (#68 Airplay), but never came close to matching "If You Could Only See."
  • The music video finds Emerson Hart searching desperately for the girl who is being kept away from him. It was directed by Ramaa Mosley, whose other credits include the Creed videos for "What's This Life For" and "Higher," and the movie The Brass Teapot.

    Mosley looked to French cinema for inspiration - notably the 1960 film Breathless and 1963 movie Contempt. "I started envisioning this combination of a love story mixed with this kind of communist oppression," she said in her Songfacts interview. "I locked myself in my house and listened to the song hundreds of times and the story just kept building."

Comments: 1

  • You Know from You Know Here’s a hint, October 31, 2020.
see more comments

Editor's Picks


RamonesFact or Fiction

A band so baffling, even their names were contrived. Check your score in the Ramones version of Fact or Fiction.

Sub Pop Founder Bruce Pavitt On How To Create A Music Scene

Sub Pop Founder Bruce Pavitt On How To Create A Music SceneSong Writing

With $50 and a glue stick, Bruce Pavitt created Sub Pop, a fanzine-turned-label that gave the world Nirvana and grunge. He explains how motivated individuals can shift culture.

Lita Ford

Lita FordSongwriter Interviews

Lita talks about how they wrote songs in The Runaways, and how she feels about her biggest hit being written by somebody else.

Loudon Wainwright III

Loudon Wainwright IIISongwriter Interviews

"Dead Skunk" became a stinker for Loudon when he felt pressure to make another hit - his latest songs deal with mortality, his son Rufus, and picking up poop.

Eric Clapton

Eric ClaptonFact or Fiction

Did Eric Clapton really write "Cocaine" while on cocaine? This question and more in the Clapton edition of Fact or Fiction.

Billy Gould of Faith No More

Billy Gould of Faith No MoreSongwriter Interviews

Faith No More's bassist, Billy Gould, chats to us about his two new experimental projects, The Talking Book and House of Hayduk, and also shares some stories from the FNM days.