Alone Again (Naturally)

Album: Back To Front (1972)
Charted: 3 1
Play Video
  • In a little while from now
    If I'm not feeling any less sour
    I promise myself to treat myself
    And visit a nearby tower
    And climbing to the top
    Will throw myself off
    In an effort to
    Make it clear to whoever
    Wants to know what it's like When you're shattered

    Left standing in the lurch at a church
    Were people saying, My God, that's tough
    She stood him up
    No point in us remaining
    We may as well go home
    As I did on my own
    Alone again, naturally
    To think that only yesterday

    I was cheerful, bright and gay
    Looking forward to who wouldn't do
    The role I was about to play
    But as if to knock me down
    Reality came around
    And without so much as a mere touch
    Cut me into little pieces
    Leaving me to doubt
    Talk about, God in His mercy

    Oh, if he really does exist
    Why did he desert me
    In my hour of need
    I truly am indeed
    Alone again, naturally
    It seems to me that
    There are more hearts broken in the world
    That can't be mended

    Left unattended
    What do we do
    What do we do
    Alone again, naturally
    Looking back over the years
    And whatever else that appears
    I remember I cried when my father died
    Never wishing to hide the tears

    And at sixty-five years old
    My mother, God rest her soul
    Couldn't understand why the only man
    She had ever loved had been taken
    Leaving her to start
    With a heart so badly broken
    Despite encouragement from me

    No words were ever
    And when she passed away
    I cried and cried all day
    Alone again, naturally
    Alone again, naturally Writer/s: O'SULLIVAN
    Publisher: Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC, BMG Rights Management
    Lyrics licensed and provided by LyricFind

Comments: 28

  • Mark from LondonSome amazing thoughtful comments here, as an agnostic I would love to spend an evening with some of you guys
  • Bruce from San Jose, Calif.For years, I thought this was a Beatles Song....
  • Captain O from Planet EarthWolf has it right. I have buried my entire nuclear family, four children, and a spouse. Trust me, we come into this world alone and we'll leave it that way. I listened to this in High School in my Junior and Senior year. I have seen more life and death than most men ever will. Life is hard and then you die.
  • David Youngdahl from Cleveland, Tn Throwmeapillow . ComJohn from Irvine CA
    simply blown away by the first paragraph of your comment: "... But what keeps me hanging on to hope by my fingernails is..."
  • John from Irvine, CaWolf, I appreciate and understand your analysis of life. But I wonder if there's any little part of you that is open to the possibility that there is a way out of this existential prison. My natural tendency is to view life as "a tale told by an idiot full of sound and fury signifying nothing." But what keeps me hanging on to hope by my fingernails is the very credible manuscript evidence that at least ten close friends of Yeshua Josephson went to their painful deaths insisting that the Resurrection actually happened. This led me to notice that if a group of people were trying to start a religion for self-aggrandizement, the New Testament is a ridiculously lame, extremely unappealing attempt to accomplish that goal. This led me to notice that if a group of people were trying to start a religion for self-aggrandizement, the New Testament is a ridiculously lame, extremely unappealing attempt to proselytize anyone. Who would write a book as riddled with impossible demands, contradictions and dire predictions as that and expect anyone to come on board unless ... unless it were true? Especially coming from men as rigorously logical and erudite as Paul, Peter, James and John, etc. So, as much as it insults my human intelligence, I just can't rule out the possibility that it's true.

    As far as the song - which is one of my all-time favorites – is concerned, I think it taps into a relatively mild version of something we all experience to some degree if we slow down and confront the crushing absurdity of life. Which is the desperate loneliness expressed by the New Testament's lead character as he hung on the cross. Fast forward to Easter Sunday, and to paraphrase the lady sitting next to Meg Ryan in ‘When Harry met Sally’, all I can say is “I’ll have what he’s having!”

    You could be right about everything, although I hope not. But I would encourage you to explore the New Testament hypothesis and maybe consider – just consider –the merits of placing your bets on Jesus and getting out of life alive :- )

    Damn, I love that song!

    John, Los Angeles

  • Esskayess from Dallas, TxSorry Wolf, but I still think it's a Woe-is-me-Boo-hoo-hoo song.
  • Wolf from Upside Town, PaThis is not a "Woe is me! Boo-hoo-hoo" song. It's a song about the natural state of man. Alone we come into this world, and alone we shall leave it. In between, we have small pockets of togetherness with others, but even those moments are compromises, and temporary. Eventually, we go back to who we really are, and that uniqueness is a lonely state.

    The first verse opens as an emotional lament, the suicidal threat of an emotional person who has suffered a great loss. But like most suicidal threats, it is a bluff. (A person serious about suicide doesn't warn or threaten. They just climb the tower and end it all. And what reasoning for suicide! "In an effort to, make it clear.... of what it's like when you're shattered." He's not dying to die; he's dying to prove a point, a point everyone already knows. How boring! No wonder what happens next is what happens next, presumptuous melodramatic twit!) And like all melodramatic twits, this one comes to his senses. The wedding guests leave, after losing interest in his loss and his bluff ("'My God! That's tough / She stood him up'" Hardly sympathetic words, "that's tough." The double meaning there being the somewhat more sympathetic "that's a shame" and the tough-love callousness of "oh well, life is tough; roll with it."). And the guests leave with "'We might as well go home'" (again, hardly sympathetic) and the "me" of the song follows with "As I did on my own." On his own, going home. "Home" is a theme here. It's ours. We build a house (or rent an apartment), but we live in a HOME, a place that is uniquely ours. Home is the most natural place for us to be, so when we are forced back into our natural state of alone-ness, we go home. And then... "Alone again, naturally." The adverb here is the tell-all. We are born to die alone. It's our natural state. Cry if you must, but then get up off your ass, leave the chapel, and just go home. There is probably another wedding waiting for yours to finish. We need the space, thank you very much.

    Now, the second verse.... "To think that only yesterday / I was cheerful, bright, and gay..." The key here is ONLY. It has that old double meaning we love so much. One is straight-forward, as in "Just yesterday I was happy! And now look at me! It all goes away so fast!" But the other, subtler meaning is in the brevity of pleasure. "Only yesterday" means here that the pleasure lasts about that long, a day's worth and no more. Life before yesterday sucked. Life was great yesterday. Today, life is bulls--t again. Just like those who ask, "Why worry about the afterlife, when you weren't here for the first 13 billion years, and you didn't seem to mind all that much." We'r alive for a brief instant of cosmic time; the rest is blackness. Love and happiness, the same. Life is mostly about dealing with alone-ness.

    "Looking forward to / -- who wouldn't do? -- / The role I was about to play" .... Here the caution is against looking beyond tomorrow. The togetherness does not last.

    Now, some real smooth touches. "But as if to knock me down / reality came around / and without so much, as a mere touch / cut me into little pieces." That "as if" is loaded. It reveals the ILLUSION of reality knocking you down. Reality doesn't knock you down, because WE ARE NEVER UP! "As if to knock me down" sounds its own warning against thinking you're being dragged down. You're not. Reality is that we live in the black hole. You're not being "knocked down;" you're being reminded that we don't get to play in the fields of the cheerful for very long. It's almost a "Where do you think you're going?" gesture. And the "mere touch" that's missing is the absence of any warning. Life doesn't warn, because reality never really does change. We just choose to fool ourselves into believing we have some silly level of control over circumstances.

    The whole "if God exists / why did he desert me?" nonsense is just that, the nonsensical bluster of the fooled. You can't be deserted when you were all alone in the first place.

    And then the brief bridge lyric, about unattended hearts never mending. "What do we do?" is followed not by an answer, but by a repeat of the question, because there is no answer. There is nothing to be done. Heartbreak never mends. We just move on and put make-up over the scars. But the make-up wears off from time to time, and we see the marks. They remain. Forever.

    And I want to say something about the acoustic bridge here. It is almost cheerful. O'Sullivan is Irish by birth, and the Irish have a way of embracing their misfortunes. I think the almost lilting little bridge here is too cheerful to allow the song to be as sad as people want to make it out to be. It's almost an invitation to sway and hum and feel better. It's catchy, in a way. And don;t forget, it ends with the title line, "Alone again, naturally." It's as if the writer is saying, "Here that little ditty of a tune? Cheer up! It's cool, we're alone.. again.. NATURALLY! :-)

    Now the final verse. "Never wishing to hide the tears" at his father's premature death is in keeping with the whole theme of the song. Why hide it? Why pretend anything is otherwise? Life sucks! People die, sometimes way too f--king young. Accept it, as he accepts his loss and cries over it, unashamed to let be, what be.

    And then, when he tries to console his mother, "encourage" even, she shuts down and dies silently of a broken heart. His encouragement, to embrace the life you have left, was rejected. And wen you reject the natural states of man -- life is lonely, and life is for the living -- you spend to much time desperately chasing bad love or die. It's that simple.

    And, by the end, he is alone again, naturally, as we all are. He accepts it, and puts off all idiotic talk of suicide, realizing that to be alone is natural. Uncomfortable, perhaps, but not as sad as we humans make it out to be.
  • Colin from Glen Rock, NjThis song is simply heart-breaking. I think the somewhat upbeat melody of the song only adds to the sadness.
  • Esskayess from Dallas, TxSad song, but it lays the "pity me" bit on a little too much. I kept picturing him sitting and crying at the altar after being stood up and a dog happening by and peeing on him.
  • Camille from Toronto, OhPopular when I was about 14 and could feel all the sadness in the song. I was growing up in a dysfunctional family; parents dealing with alcoholism and mental illness at a time when these things were not discussed. So I felt alone, even in a family of nine people. The song hit a chord with the words "Alone again, naturally". And who of us haven't felt 'alone' like that. It's the word 'naturally' that lifts this song to a place where the masses can relate to it, because sometimes you just feel like, oh, I'm not surprised, here I am again by myself. I agree with Von from the UK, the lyrics are searingly honest. The Irish accent of Gilbert O'Sullivan adds an innocent quality to the song that adds to the heartbreak of the wods.
  • Steve from Whittier, CaIt does sound like the Beatles's McCarney..the song was used in Ally McBeal and the latest installment of Ice Age with that silly squirell Scrat.
  • Tony from Vienna, WvI think this song speaks volumes to those that have lost and do not understand. Many of us are alone, for whatever reason and we don't know what we have done to bring that on and what we need to do to fix the problem. So many songs are just words, this one is meaning....
  • Barry from Sauquoit, NyAs already stated this song hit #1 then dropped out but came back to regain the top spot. On July 29th, 1972 it reached #1 & stayed there for 4 weeks. Then "Brandy (You're a Fine Girl)" by Looking Glass bumped it for one week but it retook #1 for two more weeks!!!
  • Michael from Oakland, Ca"Without You" is a Badfinger song, Nilsson just covered it
  • Rich from Bellevue, WaThis song has a surprisingly and unbelievably complex chord progression. If you're a guitarist or pianist, sit down and try to work out the chords sometime. Starts out simple enough, and you're thinking "No big deal..." but pretty soon it's become "Wait a minute, where on *earth* is he going?!?" And yet, for being all over the map with the chords, it still manages to sound smooth and right and never jarring. A fantastic bit of composition.
  • Alan from Durham City, EnglandGuitar break by Big Jim Sullivan
  • Von from Aberdeen, United KingdomThis is my fave song just now, I did remember it from Ally McBeal too and it was used then for the perfect purpose of showing how Ally was always left looking for the love of her life. It is a searingly honest song and i def rate it as a classic.
  • Ret from Bristol, United KingdomI never thought about the vocal resemblance to McCartney. In a way the construction of the song is reminiscent of Macca, especially the lyrics: an almost randomly chosen theme of the most desperate of human conditions / circumstances portrayed in an almost suspiciously objective metre and rhyme scheme, sort of "too tidy" I suppose. "I cried and cried all day" at the end of the song is possibly a break away from all the cleverness and finally an honest expression about the whole business.
  • Ann from Peabody, MaIt reminded me of my own mother and father. I still know all the words. It should be re-released. It is a very touching song.
  • John from London, United KingdomUndoubtedly his best song. It has the rare distinction of dropping off the US #1 slot and then returning to the top a week later. How many songs can this be said of, either side of the pond?
  • Esteban from ., --this song appears on the simpsons
  • Steve from Las Vegas, NvThis song was covered by Vonda Shepard on the television series "Ally McBeal." Her version was released on the soundtrack album "Ally McBeal For Once In My Life," and was released in 2001. This song is one of my favorites, and it instantly hooked me from the first time that I heard it.
  • David Fowler from Rochester, NhIknew this was a #1 song the first time i heard it. I love it still.
  • Barry from Greenville, NcThis song and Gilbert's voice remind me very much of Paul McCartney.
  • Josemiguel from Madrid, SpainVonda Shepard Cover?
  • Kristopher from Trieste, ItalyWhen I was first taking dance classes, I didn't have a partner. Whenever the classes ended, I would see all these couples walking away from the class arm in arm, and I always walk home alone listening to this song.
  • Ben from Chelsea, MeI rank this song as in the same vein as Harry Nilsson's "Without You," which is also excellent, and I like them both for the same reasons.
  • Guy from Woodinville, WaLOVE this song! Despite O'Sullivan's statement above that this song "has no comic purpose," I have always found it to be tongue-in-cheek, wallowing in misery, "poor poor pitiful me" type of song.
see more comments

Editor's Picks


AdeleFact or Fiction

Despite her reticent personality, Adele's life and music are filled with intrigue. See if you can spot the true tales.

Trans Soul Rebels: Songs About Transgenderism

Trans Soul Rebels: Songs About TransgenderismSong Writing

A history of songs dealing with transgender issues, featuring Pink Floyd, David Bowie, Morrissey and Green Day.

How "A Rolling Stone Gathers No Moss" Became Rock's Top Proverb

How "A Rolling Stone Gathers No Moss" Became Rock's Top ProverbSong Writing

How a country weeper and a blues number made "rolling stone" the most popular phrase in rock.

Michael Franti

Michael FrantiSongwriter Interviews

Franti tells the story behind his hit "Say Hey (I Love You)" and explains why yoga is an integral part of his lifestyle and his Soulshine tour.

Little Big Town

Little Big TownSongwriter Interviews

"When seeds that you sow grow by the wicked moon/Be sure your sins will find you out/Your past will hunt you down and turn to tell on you."

Brandi Carlile

Brandi CarlileSongwriter Interviews

As a 5-year-old, Brandi was writing lyrics to instrumental versions lullabies. She still puts her heart into her songs, including the one Elton John sings on.