Arms Control Poseur

Lyrics

Death of a sense of humour
'N death of sense
How do you recover from this?

What do you fear?
Being found out
Then why do you always give yourself away?

What do you want to do?
Hide
Then why go out and make an exhibition of yourself?

What do you seek?
Oblivion (1)
And drugs walk the streets

What you want to be able to do 
Is worst advice
A Louse given in largesse (2)

Arms control 
Arms control poseur
Arms control (3)

Parliament connives a diseased access company
There's nothing much I can do about this
So I drink and recline with an acquaintance, sound

Spouse is talking on the phone
To well-armed arms control poseur

Arms control poseur

I found my home
I made a calendar that wasn't there
To find whether it was the first of December
Or not

Armed control poseur
In pity and envy
Dragged from the streets
I quite very very much enjoyed
His jovial lies (4)
Lying
 

[The following two stanzas are separate, interwoven vocal lines by MES:]

Armoured car interior
Encrusted with bluebottles (5)
I even stoop to an icy vodka (6)
As I feel the inevitable 
battle creep nearer and nearer
Armed control poseur
As my great great great great great 
great great great
great 
familiar found out


As my great great great great 
similar found out

As my great great great great great 
great 

great grandfather found out

Sports car interior
Encrusted with bluebottles
Armoured car interior 
Encrusted with bluebottles
I even stoop to an icy vodka
As I feel the inevitable
battle creep nearer and nearer
Chip! Chip! (7)
Arms control poseur
Arms control poseur 

 

Arms control poseur
Arms control poseur
Arms control poseur

Get me a nice wooly polo neck 
With a red cardigan 
From Next 
Ideal summer wear (8)

Arms control poseur

Notes

1. In his biography of Mark E. Smith, Hip Priest, Simon Ford identifes this line as taken from Malcolm Lowry. It is known that Smith is a fan of Lowry's work:

One of the best writers I like is Malcolm Lowry, who was from bleeding Warrington, or somewhere. He's one of the best bloody writers, he wrote the best books: Under The Volcano. But some bratpack idiot writes a bloody book that is some complete rip-off of Under The Volcano, about a guy who goes to Mexico and gets fucked up, and he makes a million dollars.

I'm not sure what book this is.

The opening lyrics are adapted from Lowry's posthumous work, La Mordida, a novel that was in progress when Lowry died. On page 124 Lowry writes:

"Death of a sense of fun, ditto humor, ditto of sense. How do you recover from this? If you what you fear is being found out why do you always give yourself away? If you really want to hide why do you always go out and make an exhibition of yourself? And if it is oblivion that you seek, why do you drink in such a way as will inevitably cause the most agonized kind of remembrance in such a way in short as you will ever have to stop [sic]." 

^

2. This may also be an echo of Lowry, who writes in the posthumous novella Lunar Caustic, about a drunk who checks himself into a psychiatric ward, that the protagonist will "bleed, so that he will not have to hear the louse of conscience, not the groaning of imaginary men, nor see, on the window blind all night, the bad ghosts." Good advice, given in good faith, can indeed be like a reproach when the recipient knows it will not be followed. 

^

3. The song's title may have it's source, according to Dan, in "an article in the New York Times of 14 October 1988, pA35, by Paul Warnke. It's titled 'Foreign Policy Fake, Arms Control Poseur.'"

This was, of course, during the 1988 presidential campaign which saw Vice President George Bush pitted against Michael Dukakis. The article begins:

"How George Bush maintains his campaign pose as a foreign policy and arms control expert is a bafflement. The fact is, he's more like the marginal baseball player who has a ''cup of coffee' in the major leagues than the Hall of Famer he'd like voters to think he is. For example, he fails to understand the limited role of nuclear weapons in national defense..."

The complaint seems to be, in part, that Bush seemed to have thought the US could "win" a nuclear war vs. the USSR...Bush is found to be too sanguine about nuclear weapons in general, and at the same time rather ignorant about the technology and its possible uses.

This isn't to suggest, however, that I think the song is about George Bush. Given a host of other lyrics and remarks by MES, at first blush this may in fact seem to be more likely to be a jab at a hypocritical leftist who advocates arms control while perhaps harboring vicious tendencies. On the other hand, it is not at all clear that this is what is going on, given the verses and their depiction of a down-and-out drunk à la Lowry (see note 1 above).  In any case, the poseur seems to not merely be a poseur in the sense that he beats his wife by night while protesting by day; he (or she) is said to be "well-armed" (which may be a point for Bush, or just as easily a Lowry type with a pistol or a knife or two), and below we find him talking on the phone with the protagonist's spouse, for unspecified reasons. And the lines that follow do seem to suggest that the arms control poseur may be a politician (or even a metonymic stand-in for a government) that publically promotes arms control but trades in arms. The narrator (who may or may not be the same person as the protagonist, in which case the opening lines are a kind of self-interview) takes great pleasure in the poseur's come-uppance, perhaps a result of popular anger at his "lies."

^

4. This line echoes Eugene O'Neill's "It's Great When You Get In" (the phrase in question is bolded below):

They told me the water was lovely, 
That I ought to go for a swim, 
The air was maybe a trifle cool, 
"You won't mind it when you get in" 
So I journeyed cheerfully beach-ward, 
And nobody put me wise, 
But everyone boosted my courage 
With an earful of jovial lies.

(Thanks to Dan)

^

5. Bluebottles are flies (they can also be wasps, which seems less likely in context, but not entirely implausible); a bluebottle also figures in "Don't Call Me Darling."

See the comment section below: Dan points out that bluebottles may indicate a corpse in the car (or not; see his link). Jevans on the other hand thinks it may just mean that the owner neglects the car.

^

6. There is actually a drink called a "Malcolm Lowry," although I'm not sure if it's something the author concocted or acutally drank. In any case, a Malcolm Lowry doesn't contain vodka, but is made with white rum, tequila, triple sec and lime juice.

^

7. The word "chip," in a very different context but in similarly inexplicable fashion, plays a central role in "Gut of the Quantifier."

^

8. Next is a seller of clothing and footwear in Britain and Europe.

^

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Comments (21)

anal bumhaus
  • 1. anal bumhaus | 09/10/2013

i would imagine the 'brat pack' author is kerouac, and "on the road"

sounds like he got beatnik and brat pack muddled up

just a guess.

Martin
  • 3. Martin | 30/04/2014

I'll try again:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Next_plc

dannyno
  • 4. dannyno | 10/06/2015

anal bumhaus:

in this context "brat pack" will refer to a group of up and coming U.S. writers identified under that label in the 1980s:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brat_Pack_(literary)

dannyno
  • 5. dannyno | 13/06/2015

"Encrusted with bluebottles"

Mulling the meaning of this line, I found this:
http://www.edp24.co.uk/news/police_smash_way_into_north_walsham_car_after_bluebottle_swarm_sparks_corpse_fear_1_1707688

Which then makes me wonder about what else is in the sports/armoured car other then bluebottles.

Jevans
  • 6. Jevans (link) | 22/12/2015

I merely took the dead bluebottles as signifying that person who owned the car was more concerned that it was a sport's model, as opposed to its actual worth as a motor vehicle - so much so that they couldn't be bothered to clear out the dead insects that collect over time.
The reference to Next, and the implication of vanity, backs this up. (Next was perceived as being slightly cooler then than now - I knew people who would fuss over the 'Next Directory', if you can believe that.)

dannyno
  • 7. dannyno | 28/12/2015

Well, but is it a sports car, or an armoured car, or what?

dannyno
  • 8. dannyno | 13/05/2016

Just to record another bit of information that doesn't really help us with the bratpack author question:

From NME, 17 Sept 1988:
http://thefall.org/gigography/88sep17.html


I've no desire to write a book. Although I might bloody have to if these brat-pack Americans carry on. It's garbage.

Mclnerny, the Suzanne Vega of Literature. And it's like Private Eye said, Mclnerny has inspired a whole bloody style of new journalism beloved of The Face and NME. 'You walk across the room. You sit opposite Cliff Richard. He throws a punch at you. Ha!


So maybe MES had Jay McInerny in mind, or maybe not. No idea which of his books it would be if it is him. But then, maybe MES isn't being entirely accurate

dannyno
  • 9. dannyno | 28/07/2016

MES told Select magazine http://selectmagazinescans.monkeon.co.uk/showpage.php?file=wp-content/uploads/2011/05/dubiouslyrics.jpg that he took the title from an American newspaper (you can imagine "Arms Control Poser" as a headline, can't you?). Worth reading the whole bit.

dannyno
  • 10. dannyno | 28/07/2016

The song was first played live in August 1989.

I found an article in the New York Times of 14 October 1988, pA35, by Paul Warnke. It's titled "Foreign Policy Fake, Arms Control Poseur".

http://www.nytimes.com/1988/10/14/opinion/foreign-policy-fake-arms-control-poseur.html

Could it be that? Mind you, The Fall were at Sadler's Wells around that date.

dannyno
  • 11. dannyno | 28/07/2016

"Dragged from the streets
I quite very very much enjoyed
His jovial lies"

Shades of Eugene O'Neill's poem, "It's Great When You Get In":

"They told me the water was lovely,
That I ought to go for a swim,
The air was maybe a trifle cool,
"You won't mind it when you get in"
So I journeyed cheerfully beach-ward,
And nobody put me wise,
But everyone boosted my courage
With an earful of jovial lies. "

bzfgt
  • 12. bzfgt | 31/07/2016

That Select link goes to a blank page unless its something too clever for my computer and mark e smith "select" magazine arms control poseur via Google doesn't turn it up. Otherwise it looks like you've got some good stuff up there, I'm going to put it off for next time though....

bzfgt
  • 13. bzfgt | 31/07/2016

In see, got to google with less information because it's scanned. I got one interview now to come up but it isn't the one with ACP, it's from Infotainment Scan era. Unless I'm missing it, I'll read the whole thing anon, it may have some generally usable stuff in any case.

bzfgt
  • 14. bzfgt | 31/07/2016

OK, I see the links on the FOF

dannyno
  • 15. dannyno | 22/02/2017

Note 3: "The song's title phrase is somewhat obscure to me"

In comment 10 the newspaper headline from which the title was likely taken was identified, but I think it got overlooked with all the other stuff.

bzfgt
  • 16. bzfgt | 25/02/2017

Dan, what would be the connection between Sadler's Wells and the NYT?

bzfgt
  • 17. bzfgt | 25/02/2017

Cool, an acceptable revision to note 3 was the result, it doesn't exactly crack the song wide open but I think it's an improvement.

dannyno
  • 18. dannyno | 25/02/2017

Sadlers Wells/NYT

Well, I was thinking that if that NYT article is the source of the title phrase (and we know it was a newspaper headline from MES's interview in Select magazine, quoted above, and this was the only one I could find), then how would MES have seen that issue of the NYT? One might think that MES saw it in America, but The Fall were not in America at the time - they were at Sadlers Wells. But of course the NYT would have been available in UK cities anyway - or maybe Brix read it or something.

bzfgt
  • 19. bzfgt | 25/02/2017

Oh, I see--yeah, it has an international edition, I haven't been abroad much but when I was I saw the Times, certainly.

bzfgt
  • 20. bzfgt | 25/02/2017

Good point about Brix, she could have been homesick, developed a Times addiction at Middlebury, or Smith or whatever it was, etc.

Martin
  • 21. Martin | 20/03/2017

You could certainly buy US newspapers in London around the time of the release of the song. Virgin Megastore in Piccadilly Circus had a range of foreign press, one of which was the NYT. Not a stripped-down foreign edition, either, but the full US edition.

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