The song is concerned about the difficulties of talking to the one you love and getting beyond the social, familial, and sometimes superficial roles we occupy to get through day-to-day life. This interest in a person's romantic persona is reflected also in my song 'Goffmanesque'. Here is how it starts:
Why do I find it so hard to talk to youVariations on the last two lines recur throughout the song and it is this couplet that makes some people feel warm and fuzzy and has others reaching for the sick bag! In the main, the first half of the song is optimistic and positive. Feelings of anxiety creep into the second half of the song. I think that these are concerned with the fact that when you open up communication with someone you are very close to, you become vulnerable and if they then leave you, you are probably going to feel a lot worse than if you had remained closed down in the first place (with all the psychological defences in tact, as it were). I think the cloud that was written into the verses of the second half of the song reflected the fact that I wrote the first half while I was still married to my first wife but the second, after our divorce.
It's like we live in a charade
So let me take off your role
But if your mind gets cold while I'm
Holding it naked in my hand, I'll breathe on it softly
Musically, the track uses a finger-style guitar accompaniment and I have layered a couple of tracks on top in order to achieve a flowing, almost tinkling effect. A decade later, in 1982, I returned to this style of guitar accompaniment deliberately when I wrote 'Chemical warfare', only I used the romance and softness of the guitar in that song as a vehicle for making the horror of the lyric stand out even more starkly. I just can't make up my own mind about Breathe softly: does it work or is it too sickly by far?