A Past Gone Mad
A past gone mad!
Alive and well, he is on all channels
(Kiki Dee) (7)
Dwelling in craven environment
A past gone mad
Take a look back
Rear-view mirror: it's all behind you
A present gone mad
Tra-tra-la, follow, track that lava
Past, present gone mad.
A past gone mad.
1. The title seems to come from the same Marvel Spiderman storyline (1976) that partly inspired "Various Times," which consists of "Marvel Team-Up" #41--#44. The cover of #43 proclaims "A Past Gone Mad!" (thanks be to Dan).
MES, in Select magazine is asked whether the song takes aim at the House scene. He replies, "Those lyrics are more about blokes in their mid-30s trying to swing out. Always makes me laugh, that does. I'm not against dance. What I'm having a crack at is all these guys in their mid-30s who're married with kids, and because they've seen The Hitman and Her once, they're going out to clubs and ruining it for the young kids. Get my drift?"
"There's a lot of fellas in this country who won't grow up..."A Past Gone Mad" is like, you turn on the telly or listen to the radio and it's all '60s music or '70s music. And they go, It's because they don't make the tunes the same anymore. It's niot that it all (heated) it's because the fuckin' people in charge want to wallow in their past...Really good groups just got an LP out get three lines, and then you get three pages on who Yes' drummers were."
2. The song is an attack on nostalgia; serial killers seem an odd object to remember with wistful fondness, though (on at least one live version they're lumped in with Marc Riley, who reliably comes in for knocks any time MES can't think of anybody else). Are there people nostalgic for serial killers? Or is this a sarcastic reference to politicians or other prominent historical figures, many of whom are technically serial killers in some sense, such as Churchill or Stalin?
Dan: "In his 'Portrait of the Artist as a Consumer' (NME, 15 August 1981) feature, MES lists under 'Reads': True Crime Monthly."
From Matt Tempest:
Interesting to note that 18 March 1979 The Fall played Bradford's The Royal Standard - the Yorkshire Ripper's favoured pub, at the height of his killing spree. Highly possible he was in the audience.
Sutcliffe's case differs from the UK's most high-profile other serial killers - Shipman and the Wests - in that the latters' crimes were only discovered retrospectively. Sutcliffe sparked something close to mass hysteria and paranoia in West Yorkshire in the late 1970s, with the ongoing killings, and the police's inability to catch him.
3. It's notably odd that MES says "soccer" rather than "football" here. Spangles were a hard candy that was discontinued in the early 1980s; nostalgia for these is also proscibed in "Paranoia Man In Cheap Sh*t Room" and "It's a Curse."
4. Gabriel had a top ten album the previous year but, although MES couldn't have known this, he was to take a ten year break between that album and the next one. Here he is presented not exactly as an object of nostalgia, but more like an item from the past that refuses to go away.
5. This alludes to Bertholt Brecht's line from Threepenny Opera "Erst kommt das Fressen, dann kommt die Moral" ("first comes the food, then the morals"); Fressen means something like "feeding" rather than eating, as it is usually said of animals (thanks to Reformation for tracking this down). Neither MES nor Brecht see this as a bad thing; latter's point is that basic needs must be taken care of before a certain level of humanity can be expected of people, whereas formers' is that Gabriel's do-gooder mug keeps putting him off his supper.
6. The pronunciation is "dis-own-ance," as if "Pete" Gabriel is disowning infotainment. "Infotainment," which is also mentioned in "Service" as well as in the title to the album (The Infotainment Scan), is a term of relatively recent coinage that is generally used to criticize the vapidity of television news programs. The line on the surface suggests saying a prayer before eating ("grace"), and perhaps refers in context to television shows moralizing about the lurid horrors that they are selling (for instance I am reminded of the appalling To Catch a Predator).
8. Ian McShane played a loveably unscrupulous antiques dealer named "Lovejoy" on the show of the same name, which is certainly what MES has in mind, since on certain live versions he names the character rather than the actor; McShane can perhaps be forgiven now after his brilliant turn as Al Swearengen on Deadwood.
9. It sounds like "If I ever end up like you..." for a moment. The Fall wound up opening for U2 at some point; MES claimed that the audience threw Bibles at them, a typically hilarious false-but-true claim, and one that is quite in keeping with the sentiments of this song.