Considering the obvious amount of effort put into the lyrics, it's quite incredible this was only played once. One of those (mostly) two chord epics. Extremely haunting for the most part, the only upbeat departure provided by the title repetition. Plays with surrogate mother and death imagery. The 'He writes letters to his parents/He writes letters through his parents' part suggests an otherwordly/seance scenario. 'He says they talk to him.' Self(?) reflective (no pun intended) too: "I was left with this surrogate mirror. I thought, Who created this monster?'" MES even sings at the 'last orders, Dan' bit. Astonishing stuff and definetly one that got away.
posted @ 14.35 PM, June 13, 2008
Jazzed Up Punk Shit
The version available on the 2005 reissue of Hex Induction Hour is from a live performance at the 666 Club, Manchester 15 May 1982. The snippet below comes from its last documented live performance on 19 May 1982 at Burnley FC social club. A holy organ intro leads into some cheesy drums and a whole bunch of indecipherable lyrics, in amongst which emerge small snatches such as the title, 'man with beret and beard and hat', 'WMC', and what sounds like '10 ounce a day big mac/mach.' Plus, another welcome appearance for 'Good evening we are The Fall.'
Also available on the Hex reissue as well as the 2004 reissue of A Part of America Therein and Live From The Vaults : Hoff Alter Bahnoff. This was often played live from 1981-82 and judging by the Burnley performance, must have been amazing to hear/witness. Based around a swipe at session musicians - 'All they talk about is equipment' - the oompah chant of 'Jingles, cabaret, Mersey beat' is a stand out, but, having just recently come across this, the absolutely manic ending is now officially my current favourite Fall moment.
A wonderful Bo Diddley riff with Vicious Lou Reed overtones, cheeky Ant Music drumming and some damn good snarling near the end to boot. Lyrically enigmatic, surprise, surprise. The closest clue I could unearth stems from an old interview with occasional Fall drummer, Steve Davis, here, who admits he used to be in 'a bunch of wannabe posers from Rossendale' called Victor Draygo. Hardly enlightening, but still, 'Master bold morals get reptiles and ankles' eh?
Talk about subversive. This lo-fi experimental piece is astutely anti-musical. You'll no find any catchy wee tune in here that's for sure. One of those waaaay off the wall Fall moments. Scratchy strings and snatches of Pope Paul II speech. 'Twas the time of the first Pope visit to Britain in 450 years. Not anti-Catholic, as many critics of the time interpreted it, but anti- Pope. As MES told MasterBAG magazine, 'This Polish boy he really frightens - no - disgusts me. I mean he's reeking of socialist dictatorship, man, he's propogating populist myths. "The People's Pope" - but he's really quite insidious. The guy stinks.'
I keep expecting this one to take off somewhere, but it just keeps strolling along. There's a definite sixties detective tv theme tune feel to it, boosted by the twangy guitar, not unlike Elvis Costello's twangy guitar take on the same theme in 'Watching The Detectives.' Possibly a wry comment there, possibly/probably not. And is that that harpsichord tinkling away in the background again? It certainly adds to the theme tune feel. Today's lyrical offering: 'He was a blubbering heap/He should have served himself up/Preferably in a restaurant with meat'
Truly, an epic of...er epic proportions - over 12 minutes in Iceland. This swirls around your head like a mighty swirly thing - a battleground of noise and drama, without the pomposity that might suggest. The NZ version on In A Hole is the more frantic. Aside from the manic laughing and pummeling bass in the Iceland version, the keyboard in the last two minutes or so is completely mental. Plus, the whole "Reptilian government merged with the Jewish semite man" scenario pre- dates David Icke's mad theories by several years. Spooky.
The Man Whose Head Expanded
There's that cheap Casio again. And another intriguing storyline about a paranoid man, with a fear of appearing illiterate imagining his beer is poisoned by a soap-opera hack stealing his ideas. After a basic bass line riff and the comical 'Turn that bloody blimey space invader off!', the tune collapses into something else altogether before picking up again. The Peel version is much more urgent and features the megaphone vocal technique so beloved of MES. In Iceland, as one would expect, the mood is more sombre.
Video here: The Man Whose Head Expanded
Joker Hysterical Face
Touch of the domestics, inspired by 'a couple who live downstairs from us...they used to play Abba ...on full blast. She was a divorcee, and it's not very far from the feminist movement. Like the man is the main thing to blame.' (from Dave Thompson's Users Guide to The Fall). So, a sarcastic play on the old cliché' 'you don't make the same mistake twice' when he sings, 'She made a mistake three times at least.' Rolls along on a twangy guitar line with sharred intervals for the hysterical chorus. Pop culture celebrity watchers look out for Ted Rogers of crap 321 quiz show fame (as opposed to Sale of the Century cited on the In A Hole version).
Hexen Definitive - Strife Knot
One of those two for the price of one songs, not always merged live. The Strife Knot section on the Peel version is longer and more improvised where strife,as well as being life, is also Fife. Can't resist any old rhyme, MES, sometimes. See also on Peel version, the reassuring, 'Ladies and Gentlemen - The Fall' announcement. Elsewhere, the drum kicking in at the hexen bits is another of those exhilirating ear catching Fall moments. Archaic sentence structure ('Kickback art thou that thick?') and intriguing phraseology ('His veiled sex seeps through his management sloth') run riot in this one.
Room To Live
Hitler's reason for annexing parts of Czechoslovakia and Austria - Lebensraum. Make of that what you will. Nice spacey guitar and what sounds like a harpsichord on the album/B side version, as well as minimalist sax tooting. The guitar phrase sounds brilliant on the live NZ version - everytime he says 'room to live' it kicks in majestically after the drum roll. Lyrically, I love the playful double meaning of 'I'll stick around the centre always/Even if it is run down.' and the random 'There's a D.H.S.S.S. Volvo estate right outside my door/With a Moody Blues cassette on the dashboard.' Not to mention the puzzling 'some men want reporters with no wig.'
Marquis Cha Cha
A Falklands War comment, the title cleverly puns on Mark E, Lord Haw Haw and Thatcher. The opening military beat and whistling (with added kazoo on NZ version) succumbs to cha cha cha music to produce a sassy shuffle. As usual MES takes a baiting stance, whipping the intelligentsia, by portraying an ex Brit character stranded in South America gladly broadcasting propoganda for the junta. Left wing hypocrisy in siding with the Galtieri position is neatly mocked by the narrator inviting them to the local clubs to hear some real bossa nova and sarcastically empathising with them: 'You educated kids know what you're on about/You've been oppressed for years.' Should've been number one.
Solicitor In Studio
Rant at all the young TV execs, a solicitor having problems being miked up and also science celebs, such as Patrick Moore and Magnus Pike: 'Scientists and their bloody childish reading habits.' The lyrics appear to have been jotted down while watching some horrendous 80s discussion/interview type telly fodder. Sir Anthony Beaumont-Dark, Tory rentaquote MP of the time, also gets a look in. A playful guitar lick helps along what is actually a bouncy little tune. The live versions include some spontaneous TV type announcing and theatrical coughing.
Video here: Solicitor In Studio
Hard Life In Country
According to the intro remarks, 'It's a bit, sort of, reedy.' And the guitar certainly sounds it - reedy as in reed on a wind instrument that is. Then you've got the Joy Division Twenty Four Hours bass line and a litany of disdain at the modern state of the nation where, surprisingly, amongst the New Romantic Bowie clones, 'Old ladies confiscate your gate railings for government campaigns.' Truly, the country is going to rack and, quite possibly, ruin. I like how, on the In a Hole live version, guitarist Marc Riley is told to turn it down and duly complies. Also, on that version, the inevitability of a creeping small town Americana is prophesised: 'New Jersey, upstate U.S is like your village in 10/15 years time.''
Rolls along on a doleful bass line with MES spouting forth about claming benefits and 'having a grouse.' With much dislocated turns of phrase and baiting of wet liberals (a favourite MES pasttime) there are swipes at the Dutch and the Welsh, including what appears to be a dig at Richard Burton's 'chubby round jowls.' This, though, could be tied in with the fact that 'Winston Churchill had a speech impediment' - a line used on a DHSS poster intended to destigmatise disabilities. The associations made in MES's mind, though, tend not to link logically or neatly. Thank god. Thus, a pop at Heaven 17's British Electric Foundation project at the time, where they coralled various crumbling pop stars to sing classics: 'I'd sing "Solitaire" for the B.E.F./But who wants to be with them, anyway?'
Video here: Tempo House
I Feel Voxish
Nearly a catchy pop song at first, but, of course, that wouldn't be enough, so we have some great chaotic bass invasions, more prominent on the live Iceland version, and an unexpected last chord on the descending guitar bit. What exactly the 'unreasonable offer' was or what a 'pillbox crisp' is, I leave to your drug addled imaginations, seeing as how there's a French git involved leaving 'spikes' in the bathroom. Anyway, you're not likely to mess with a bloke who's been 'sharpening a knife in the bathroom/On a brick I got from the garden.'
I'm Into CB
Ah yes, the Citizens Band radio craze of the early 80s. What a ridiculous fad that was. Here, against a chiming little guitar phrase we get the sad story of Happy Harry communicating to the world through the 'wires and bits' procured for him by his father. Shame, his harmless hobby is ruined by the government's insistence that he get a license for it. With a neat self-referential nod to an earlier Fall Big Brother scenario (see 1980) Harry says he 'should've listened to New Face in Hell.' Snappy little song with a groovy bit about midway when the drum picks up a beat.
And This Day
Prepare to make a withdrawal from your 'Smart organic brain bank', for there is 'No fucking respite for us here.' Described, rather perceptively, by Chris Mohr at FallNet as "a two drumkit headfuck not unlike The Velvet Underground's 'Sister Ray' played by The Glitter Band," this epic ditty (10 mins on Hex, up to fifty bleeding hours live) is one for hardened Fall junkies only. It takes a brave casual listener to make it to the end of the 15 odd minutes on the live Hip Priests and Kamerads version. Best experienced in a fog from the bottom of a glass. Guaranteed to break the ice at dinner parties.
A lesson in improv, recorded in a lava-walled Reykjavik studio. Chillingly atmospheric, with haphazard banjo plucking and piano tinkling along with a tape of the Icelandic wind recorded by MES in his hotel room. The lyrical references include a nod to "the father of Icelandic rock'n'roll" Megas Jonsson, whose anarchic outpourings saw him shunned by society, and a mention for Cafe Iol, an establishment frequented by MES when in Iceland, where 'twould appear the clientele were rather blasé about punters falling flat on their faces. Fair enough.
Just Step S'Ways
The vocal simply follows the melody of the undeniably catchy riff most of the way through. Nothing over complex here, really, with straightforward advice to steer clear of the mundane and avoid the grubby world of 'too well-known people.' A bit prescient actually, considering today's celeb obsessed society. 'To be a celebrity you've gotta eat the past, nowadays.' Also, there's a rare appearance on backing vocals by the then Fall manager Kay Carroll. Livewise, a fairly verbatim rendition apart from 'step right round the world of CND today...who wants a bayonet in the ribs anyway?'
Mere Pseud Mag Ed.
A jokey slow intro, then right into the bile. Again, the target is pretentious meeja types, especially style mag preeners as epitomised by the then in vogue The Face. The NZ live version has a very funny rendition of trendy young things' pseudo slurred patois : 'Awright, mate, how you doin? awright..talk like that' etc. Plus a warning to the crowd: 'The curse of real ale sweeps the UK. Soon it will be here. Watch out for it.' The live Hip Priests and Kamerads version has a significant lyrical makeover. Decades later, it reappears on Peel, not much changed except for higher energy guitars, some chanting and updated pop culture references. Over at the unofficial Fall forummeanwhile, Cleanville Tziabatz says: 'I think the song is an ambiguous language puzzle that asks more than it answers. I also think the song is baiting and mean-spirited, which is a big part of its charm.' Couldn't agree more.
Video here: Mere Pseud Mag Ed
Plonked at the beginning of Deer Park and merged therewith, this little oddity starts with that Casio keyboard standard demo so beloved of German novelty band Trio on their hit Da Da Da. Following strange groaning noises and 'spare a little greed' we have MES in continuity announcer guise: 'Today here on the Vitamin B glandular show.' Then some fevered visions of what appears to be some kind of meeting, most probably induced by a record company executives encounter. Anywise, there's 'much discussion in room Ch10Ch11' involving 'boiled beef and carrots...and Good King Harry was there fucking Jimmy Saville.' Nice.
Wherein the idea that there is such a thing as 'culture' is given a good kicking, along with the elitist posturings and hypocricies of the chattering 'stomach gas' classes. 'Hey there, fuck face' is such a great line to hurl around at whoever you like or dislike. MES has said the song sums up the whole feel of Hex as a general fuck off to the music industry. The 'Where are the obligatory niggers?' swipe at tokenism allegedly cost the Fall a record contract with Motown Records. Advertising and marketing bullshit gets an extended pasting on the live versions where the 'new gadget minded cretin' is to note the 'elephant house odour on the upholstery' of the car inspected by a white-coated Fred. A shimmering opener to a brilliant album.