A Past Gone Mad
The Infotainment Scan
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.
Mark Goodier Session May 17 1993
Roaming over the road
Serial killers were always a bore in my book
Roaming around they go down the deep deep deep streets
What is he talking about now
Fucking square meals are useless for you
Out of thin air, big night, old house
It's that time again
It's the time of the fall
Bowing to a tyrant, incorrigible horrible hotel
In a suit marked 1948
Indicative of a blinkered attitude
That suit is now in the bucket
If I ever end up like Ian Mcshane cut my throat with a garden tool
If I ever end up like Ian Mcshane cut my throat with a kitchen tool
It's a good life in Europe
If I ever end up like that twat from Points of View I'll cut my throat with a tool (10)
If I ever end up like Richard Madeley cut my hands off with a axe-wheel (11)
Ahh Ah ah ahh
Ahh ah ah ahh
[See, the rocks in Spain look like the ones 'round the lochs in the Highlands] (12)
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.
10. Points of View is a program on the BBC in which viewers letters about the programming are featured. It has been running since 1961. At the time when this song was probably composed, the host was Anne Robinson. Previous hosts, to that point, were Barry Took (1979-1986), Kenneth Robinson (1965-1969), and Robert Robinson (1961-1964, 1969-1971). Apparently none of these Robinsons are related to one another. It would be unusual, although not quiite unthiinkable, I am told, to call a woman a "twat" in the English of England.
As Dan points out, the line does not necessarily target a host, but possibly a guest...
11. Richard Madeley is an English journalist. He and his wife Judy Finnigan hosted the chat show Richard and Judy. Finnigan is the subject of a possible allusion in "Is This New." As far as I can glean, an "axe-wheel" is a kind of rim for an automobile the edges of which could, I suppose, be sharpened...
On the version on The Twenty-Seven Points (passable) it's "If I ever end up like Judy Collins, cut my throat with a garden knife" at one point.
12. From the beginning of the live "Glam Racket/Star" on The Twenty-Seven Points: "The rocks in Spain look like the ones around lochs in the highlands, on or on the continent."