Age of Chang

Lyrics

Into the flower duct
Into the lowlands
The flower drum awaits
As I, clever Dick, change (1)
And sets the hawks
Somewhere down the line
Change, no bed of roses
Somewhere down the line
We'll find our wants
And put paid and galvanise
Our reminiscences
And put p--

Time for change!
T for change!
Time for change!
T for change!

No time for reminisces
Consign them
To your insect mind
No time for reminiscent
This is time for change
Change the socks
To the rats, change!

Time for change!
T for change!
Time for Chang!
Time for change!
T for change!

Contractual land
And laptop survey
A dam of vast proportions
Slops film of dyke in Thailand

Time for change!
Of the all the change
Get cash for change
Card for change

Time for change!
Time for change
T for change!
Tears for change
Time for change
Reminiscing
T for change!
Sop for change!
Time for change!
T for change!
Space games for change
Time for change!
To challenge
T for change!
To change

A dam of vast proportions will break over Hawksmoor... (2)

Notes

1. The flower drum is a Chinese folk dance employing a small hand drum called a "flower drum," and the phrase also refers to the songs that accompany the dance. "Flower" is an adjective denoting something gay or festive, but also carries the implication that such festivity may be a bit morally shady or dissolute. So the phrase refers to a gay, festive, or dissolute dance or song that is usually accompanied by a drum. Furthermore, The Flower Drum is a 1957 novel by C.Y. Lee about refugees from Mao's China living in San Francisco. It was made into a popular musical by Rodgers and Hammerstein.  The word "change" in the lyrics becomes "Chang" in the title, which is a word that has a Chinese sound to it, and Thailand pops up in the lyrics, so the song has at least a vague Eastern theme.

Billy "Brilliant" Chang was a nightclub owner and notorious cocaine dealer in London's Chinatown (in Limehouse, see note 2 below); in the era immediately between the World Wars, the London press was wont to fulminate about the "Yellow Peril" in Limehouse, telling lurid tales of drug dealing and the moral corruption of young white females. Chang was arrested for drug dealing after the death by overdose of one such young woman led to repeated police raids on his property, which finally resulted in them discovering a stash of cocaine in his flat. Chang had made himself infamous with the press and the police by sleeping with a string of women who were young, white, and coked to the gills; one raid reportedly found him in bed with two chorus girls. After his arrest, a search of the premises uncovered a stack of identical letters, all inscribed with the same words, which I shall now reveal for the benefit of the students of human nature among my readers (I trust none of you will make ill use of this information):

Dear Unknown – Please do not regard this as a liberty that I write to you, as i am really unable to resist the temptation after having seen you so many times. I should extremely like to know you better, and should be glad if you would do me the honour of meeting me one evening where we could have a little dinner and a quiet chat together. I do hope you will consent to this, as it will give me great pleasure, and in any case do not be cross with me for having written to you.

Yours hopefully, Chang.

P.S. – If you reply, please address it to me at the Shanghai Restaurant, Limehouse-Causeway, E14. 

"Clever Dick" is apparently British slang for someone who thinks they are clever or always tries to have a witticism ready but is really more of an annoying bore.

The Blue Orchids, a band formed in 1979 by ex-Fall members Martin Bramah and Una Baines, had a song and an EP in 1982 titled "Agents of Change." Danny asks whether this is a coincidence in the comment section below; I think it's pretty unlikely that it is, given the similarity of the name and the Fall connection, and there is indeed somewhat of a similarity in the chord changes (changs?). 

^

2. There is no town or municipal unit of any kind called Hawksmoor in Britain, as far as I can discover. Hawksmoor was the surname of an English architect, Nicholas Hawksmoor (1661-1736); one of his buildings, St. Mary Woolnoth, is an Anglican church in London that appears in T.S. Eliot's "The Waste Land":

Unreal City,
Under the brown fog of a winter dawn,
A crowd flowed over London Bridge, so many,
I had not thought death had undone so many.
Sighs, short and infrequent, were exhaled,
And each man fixed his eyes before his feet.
Flowed up the hill and down King William Street,
To where Saint Mary Woolnoth kept the hours
With a dead sound on the final stroke of nine.
 
The stanza concerns itself with death. Death is the (literally) ultimate change--and, as Eliot's poem perhaps suggests in referring to living Londoners as though they were dead, change can be understood as a form of death. On the other hand, in the case of Eliot's crowd, lack of change may be what is equated with death: the automatic and anonymous movements of the crowd are reminiscent of the shades in Hell whom Eliot alludes to in the line "I had not thought death had undone so many," a quote from Dante's Inferno. The flood of people may be the water from MES's burst dam, although it may perhaps be justly argued that "Hawksmoor" is too thin a thread on which to hang this surmise. 
 
Hawksmoor also designed the parish church in Limehouse, where London's Chinatown was originally located (see note 1 above).
 
There is also a 1985 novel by Peter Ackroyd called Hawksmoor in which a detective of that name investigates murders committed in London churches. The churches were designed by an 18th century architect named Nicholas Dyer modeled on the detective's namesake (thus, somewhat confusingly, the character modeled on Nicholas Hawksmoor does not bear that name, but the character from the 20th century does). Dyer is a Satanist who conducts human sacrifices in the churches. The book deals with a fire and a plague from British history, but not a flood. Dyer is said to practice a mystical and syncretic form of religion based on "laws of harmonious proportions" he derives from ancient traditions; is it too much of a stretch to speculate that these proportions may be "vast"? 
 
I have checked for "Hawksmuir" and "Hawksmore" without any significant results...
 
Dannyno has put it best with regard to this song: "Some Fall songs are like wasps' nests, you have to poke them a bit with a stick to find out if there's anything there." 
 
 

Comments (8)

dannyno
  • 1. dannyno | 12/10/2013
There's a Blue Orchids song/EP called "Agents of Change". Coincidence?
dannyno
  • 2. dannyno | 12/10/2013
I don't think it's "flour drum", I think it's "flower drum", as in "The Flower Drum Song", novel by CY Lee later turned into a Rodgers and Hammerstein Broadway musical and movie. The "flower drum" is a traditional Chinese dance: http://english.ah.gov.cn/Character/mainmenu.asp?newsid=79&title=Flower%20Drum%20Dance
dannyno
  • 3. dannyno | 13/10/2013
There's a final line missing from the end of the text here.

"A dam of vast proportions will break over [ ]"

It's very clear up to the [ ], but I think the [ ] bit is "hawk-" something or other: it is very indistinct.
dannyno
  • 4. dannyno | 15/10/2013
""Clever Dick" is apparently British slang for someone who thinks they are clever or always tries to have a witticism ready but is really more of an annoying bore."

Kind of, but I think you make it sound harsher than it is. It's something you could say to a colleague without getting thumped: "alright then, clever dick, tell me..."
dannyno
  • 5. dannyno | 13/06/2015
Note 2 typo:

"comitted"
Michael F
  • 6. Michael F | 20/08/2015
Hawksmoor is a restaurant chain the original one is in Spitalfields e1 (opened 2006 according to Wikipedia)
Ray
  • 7. Ray | 05/01/2016
It isn't "Hawksmoor". It's "Oxenholme", the site of the railway station on the West Coast Main Line that serves Kendal, Cumbria. As such, this arguably constitutes another incidence of MES pre-cog - a foretelling of the recent floodings of the town.
dannyno
  • 8. dannyno | 11/03/2017
Mmm, but it doesn't sound like Oxenholme at all.

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