I guess it’s just an old neighbourhood thing
As the story goes, once upon a time in Bradders’ past he lived nearby an old woman he was in friendly, chatty terms with. Apparently she was a very religious lady but never had the habit of praying. This was because, in her own words, she was in good enough terms with God to know that he knows her name anyway and there’s no point in bothering him with additional messaging. And that’s the story behind Say Hello to the Pope as well, seemingly set after the old lady had passed away. Much like The Great Western, it too is about reminiscing the past.
But because it’s on The Great Western, the said reminiscing isn’t a sad ordeal. Say Hello to the Pope is a joyous frolic and a wink-in-the-eye farewell to a great woman Bradders had the delight to know. It’s a great bundle of joy that’s got a great big warm smile on its face as it shuffles around in one of the most upbeat ways of James’ career. On the album’s otherwise more somber and serious second half it’s the song that reminds us of the big pop tunes of the first half, and actually betters most of them.
The most delightful moment has to be, like so often on The Great Western, the backing vocal parade in the chorus. Maybe it’s just the backing vocal nutter in me but the choir of “say hello!” just gets me every time and puts a smile on my face if the song as a whole hasn’t done it by the time the first chorus hits.