I make no apologies for this re-hash of an old posting for inclusion in this particular series for as debut 45s go, this is about as good as it gets:-

mp3 : The Sundays – Can’t Be Sure

The release of this single capped a meteoric rise, even by indie-band standards. Harriet Wheeler and David Gavurin had met and fallen in love while studying at Bristol University but it was only after they graduated in the late 80s did they contemplate doing anything musically. They worked on a few songs which led to them forming a band with two other friends from university – Paul Brindley and Patrick Hannan – and they scraped together some money for a demo tape that was sent round a few indie labels. There was a fair bit of interest which intensified after the band, all of whom by now were living in London, played a few live gigs. In August 1988, they signed to Rough Trade and just five months later Can’t Be Sure was released to huge acclaim.

It was an era of female-fronted bands, but from the outset there was something different about The Sundays. The debut single was enchanting, melodic and dreamlike in nature, with the vocal style being reminiscent of Elizabeth Fraser albeit the words were much more easily picked out and understood. The music seemed to draw on a huge number of influences from the previous 30 years or so but there were very clear comparisons to be made with The Smiths, particularly on one of the b-side tracks.

The Rough Trade connection also cemented the views of many that at long last there was a group truly worthy of inheriting the fey crown at a time when so many pretenders to the throne were moving towards the dance floor.

Here’s your b-sides:-

mp3 : The Sundays – I Kicked A Boy
mp3 : The Sundays – Don’t Tell Your Mother

The band would be together until 1997 but they were never that prolific, with just three albums and six singles to show for the best part of a decade in the music business. There’s no doubt that they were badly affected by the collapse of Rough Trade in the early 90s that sort of brought a halt to things before they really began while the onset of parenthood for Harriet and David put things on the back-burner in the mid 90s.

I don’t think there’s many would argue that they ever bettered the debut single, although there are gloriously warm and sunny days when I will argue the merits of Summertime, their biggest hit in the UK in 1997.



  1. JC, Prepare for a barrage! Quite a few fans of the Sundays, and Harriet in particular, in these parts. I ought to know… I’m one of them. Indeed, a cracking debut single.

  2. Another big fan here. Would love them to surprise us with a new record out of the blue. Can’t Be Sure seduced me in a way few songs ever have. I fell in love with them (well, Harriet at least) instantly. I have a white-label vinyl copy of the debut album that I will never part with. I’m also with you on Summertime – a lovely shimmering tune that comes so very close to usurping this one.

  3. Perfection isn’t necessarily something I look for in music, indeed it’s often a song’s minor imperfections that draw me in in the first place. Having said all that, I wouldn’t change a single note, vocal or production tweak on ‘Reading, Writing and Arithmetic’. It’s perfect.

  4. i love this single – easily their best

    and i always thought that harriet wheeler would be the prefect guest vocalist for massive attack in the same way that tracey thorne and elizabeth fraser were

  5. Enjoyed this post, and reading (writing and arithmetic) people’s comments. For me, ‘Cry’ is up there as an excellent single too – and I see that one of its CD single B-sides (it was that era of multiple versions of CD singles) – is backed by a demo of ‘Can’t Be Sure’.

  6. I might have thought ‘Can’t Be Sure’ was their best single if I’d heard it before ‘Here’s Where The Story Ends’. I may be mistaken about this but I don’t think Can’t Be Sure was released in the States as a single. Like the Robster, I heard ‘Story’ and fell for Harriet and the Sundays immediately. Hair metal bands were proliferating in the US and alternative (i.e. college) radio was becoming more prominent. Once college stations picked up on it MTV put ‘Story’ on heavy rotation and sealed the deal. So, yes, Cant Be Sure is a great song but I and many other Yanks first heard it as an album side. Brian, is anything I just wrote correct?

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