The Independent — When Gwen Stefani walked into the Anaheim house she shared with her brother and bandmates, she heard Eric Stefani playing a tender piano figure that stopped her in her tracks. The pair immediately set about writing the song that would become â€œDonâ€™t Speakâ€. Gwen gushed out some lyrics: â€œI can see it all in an eye blink/ I know everything about how you are/ I can understand exactly how you think/ Between you and me, itâ€™s not very far.â€ The verses celebrated Gwenâ€™s long-standing relationship with her bassist, Tony Kanal. It was a pretty, if lyrically unexceptional, love song; unusual for a band more noted for an energetic ska-pop. Melodically, though, it sounded like a hit. â€œThe vibes were there, the chorus was almost exactly perfect,â€ said the bandâ€™s guitarist, Tom Dumont.
When Stefani and Kanalâ€™s relationship hit the buffers, it demanded a review of their new song. â€œEric and I went into the garage, stubbornly and very irritated about the situation, and sat down and rewrote the verses and lyrics,â€ Gwen said. â€œDonâ€™t Speakâ€ went through various overhauls, some at the behest of their producer, Matthew Wilder, and each more lachrymose than the last. â€œIt used to be more upbeat, more of a Seventies rock-type thing,â€ said Gwen. â€œ[When] Tony and I broke upâ€¦ it turned into a sad song.â€ Dumontâ€™s Spanish guitar solo was spliced together from six different studio takes. â€œI was thinking about how any true classical players wouldâ€™ve hated the way I did it,â€ he said. â€œI played it with a pick â€“ a huge no-no.â€
The song featured on the bandâ€™s third album, â€˜Tragic Kingdomâ€™. Much of their established fanbase took an instant dislike to the lighter-waving tear-jerker. â€œMere words cannot describe how abysmally gutless and sugar-smothered it is,â€ ran the review in â€˜Kerrang!â€™ â€œNo Doubt suck badly.â€ The band decided not to bother Americans with the song, restricting its release to export territories. It made No.1 in the UK in February 1997. The video took a slightly different approach to the songâ€™s subject matter. â€œWe didnâ€™t want [it] to be about a normal break-up,â€ commented Kanal. â€œSo we thought: â€˜What would be the saddest thing that could happen? The band splitting up?â€™ So thatâ€™s what the videoâ€™s about.â€