If you’re a Brit, you’ll understand the fuss that surrounds the BBC’s ‘Car Share’ programme, and the significance of this song. If you live outside the UK, I’ll do my best to explain as we go along.
‘Car Share’ is a really sweet and gentle comedy. Two co-workers, reluctantly thrown together as part of the environmental agenda being pushed by the big supermarket where they both work, start sharing their journeys to work.
Peter Kay plays one of the store managers and Sian Gibson plays his shopfloor colleague. Most of the action takes place inside a car driving around Manchester while they listen to a fictional radio station, Forever FM.
Goodness knows how BBC executives reacted at the first pitch meeting for this, but I think it’s safe to say that someone with a lesser comedic reputation than Peter Kay would never have been allowed to make this amazing programme.
Ironically, I’m not a big Peter Kay fan and avoid most of his other work, but having stumbled across ‘Car Share’ by accident some years ago I’m now firmly convinced it’s one of the finest TV programmes ever made.
I used to work with someone very like Sian Gibson’s character, Kayleigh (see, there’s the connection to the Marillion song you’ve been waiting for…).
She was an absolute hoot who used to ask her managers for the most outrageous things and, seemingly against all odds, get away with them 99 times out of 100.
No manager or member of the board of directors was too important to be spared one of her pitches. And the way she’d get an agreement to something outrageous and then disappear 30 seconds before the full enormity of what they’d just very publicly agreed to dawned on the “big boss” was always a joy to watch.
If you want to know exactly what she was like…even down to her mannerisms— the little tilt of the head, the raised eyebrow, the half-smile as she sold another unsuspecting director on one of her pet projects — have a look at Sian Gibson in ‘Car Share’. That’s my old colleague to a tee…
And of course, Peter Kay gives hope to all us unfashionably-chunky, music-obsessed guys who’ve been hurt one too many times and firmly resolved never to allow themselves to get into a situation where they can be hurt again.
‘Car Share’ is brilliantly funny on so many levels…there’s the surface comedy as John (Peter Kay’s character) and Kayleigh gently bicker away in the front seat of the car about something or other…
The weird commercials playing in the background on Forever FM as they drive through Manchester…
The occasionally close-to-the-knuckle patter from the Forever FM DJs…
And the subtle and not-so-subtle “sight gags” jokes spotted through the car window as John and Kayleigh drive by which have spawned an industry of “background humour spotters” on social media.
My favourite is the traffic sign indicating the direction for the Shaun Ryder Rehab Centre…Peter Kay’s tribute to the famously hard-partying lead singer of Manchester band, The Happy Mondays.
I also find the choice of name for Sian Gibson’s character intriguing.
Peter Kay is a well-known music fan, so I can’t believe he didn’t know Marillion’s song “Kayleigh” when he and Sian Gibson set out to create ‘Car Share’.
My question is…was it just a name they both liked which would be credible for a supermarket shopfloor worker born in the 1980s…or was the entire story of ‘Car Share’ written in such a way that, sooner or later, having Marillion’s “Kayleigh” play on the car radio would say so much more than actors reciting their lines ever could.
If it’s the latter, Peter Kay is even more of a genius than his most ardent fans would have us believe. Someone who can conceive a three year long set-up for a single impactful punchline deserves a Nobel Prize, never mind the racks-full of professional and critical plaudits ‘Car Share’ has stacked up during its run on the BBC.
On the surface, at least, ‘Car Share’ isn’t a conventional romantic comedy.
Peter Kay’s character works hard to pretend he isn’t falling in love with his co-worker. He’s a bit chippy from time to time and appears to rail against Kayleigh’s more outrageous suggestions, before broadly going along with them because it’s important to him that he makes her happy.
That’s because the love comes in what he does, not what he says.
Even after Kayleigh moves house to live with her sister on the other side of Manchester, John drives an extra 90 minutes each day just so he can pick her up each morning and take her home again each night.
There’s a lesson for us all in that.
Love is what people do, not what people say…
“I love you” can mean as little as “you’ve said it to me so I think I’m supposed to say it back again”.
Driving an extra 90 minutes to and from work every day shows someone how much you love them more than words ever could.
Of course, we all like to hear the words from time to time as well, but if you gave me a choice, I’d take someone who demonstrated their love over someone who just said the words every time.
That was the sweet and rather touching element to ‘Car Share’ which, alongside it’s unusual location, elevated it from a run-of-the-mill sitcom. Peter Kay’s character, John, was always doing kind things to make Kayleigh happy even though he pretended to protest while he was doing them.
(If you’ve seen the programme, my favourite instance of this is John taking an inhaler back to a co-worker who’d come to a staff party dressed as a Smurf and spent rather too much time at the bar that evening. John and Kayleigh had driven hours out their way to drop ‘drunk Smurf’ home and now John was going to retrace his steps in the middle of the night just to make Kayleigh happy. There’s no way someone does that for anyone without loving them very much…Kayleigh, not ‘drunk Smurf’, that is…)
But no happy ending is complete without things going badly off course at some point. That’s where “Kayleigh” by Marillion comes in.
John knows he’s upset Kayleigh because she’s been trying to tell him how much she cares for him and he’s been extra-busy pretending to ignore all the clues she’s been not-so-subtly dropping for him. She gets so frustrated, in the end she gets out his car to catch a cab home instead.
And no sooner has she left John’s car than the song he’d just texted into the radio station to request comes on the radio…
Kayleigh is it too late to say I’m sorry
And Kayleigh, could we get it together again
I just can’t go on pretending it came to a natural end
Kayleigh, oh I never thought I’d miss you
And Kayleigh, I thought that we’d always be friends
We said our love would last forever
So how did it come to this bitter end?
I know I’m a bit of a softie, but there was a tear in my eye the first time I saw this scene…and, in the interests of full disclosure, pretty much every other time I’ve seen it since.
It’s hard for John to tell Kayleigh he loves her because he’s been hurt before and he thought he’d managed to shut down that side of his life for good to make sure he wouldn’t get hurt again.
Acknowledging he’d upset her would also mean John confronting the fact that he clearly cares about Kayleigh more than he’s prepared to admit…to himself, never mind to her.
Thankfully unfashionably-chunky, music-obsessed guys who’ve been hurt one too many times have a way of dealing with this…
Now, I’ve never tried this myself, and I’m not saying that texting a song request to a radio station in mid-argument is the best way to apologise…you might want to pick your moment to try that…but if Kayleigh had stayed in the car, she’d have heard Marillion tell her just how sorry John was.
“Kayleigh” is a great breakup song. A guy recalling all the fine times they spent together before apologising for the way his behaviour drove them apart…
Do you remember chalk hearts melting on a playground wall
Do you remember dawn escapes from moon washed college halls
Do you remember the cherry blossom in the market square
Do you remember I thought it was confetti in our hair
A guy who remembers their time with someone in that level of detail is someone who really loves the person they spent those times with.
That’s how it was for John and Kayleigh. After all the time they’d spent listening to Forever FM and singing along to the songs that came on the radio, there couldn’t have been a better way for John to say sorry than texting in a request for Marillion to sing “Kayleigh”…a song which is all about saying sorry…at that very moment.
Like all great songs, “Kayleigh” puts feelings into words for us when we can’t think how to express what’s going on in our hearts.
Well done to Marillion for writing such a great song.
Well done to Peter Kay and Sian Gibson for creating a truly brilliant TV show.
Well done to the BBC for green-lighting a show which, on the surface, is the all-time unlikeliest concept for a ratings-topping sitcom I could possibly imagine.
And well done to every unfashionably chunky, music-obsessed guy who’s been hurt one too many times, but who found that last drop of courage to reach out to someone and try again…while their mind reminded them of their part hurts, their hearts couldn’t stop themselves…
Sometimes, that’s the way love goes….
PS — just before we get to the video, if you enjoyed this article, please give it a “clap”. You can also follow me on Medium (here) or Twitter (here) to get new articles as soon as they’re published. And why not check out my book “No Words, No Song”, where I write about more great songs like this one, available in the Kindle Bookstore (here).