Auto-Tech Pilot



Last night I heard 3 real loud ricochets
From the police tech center at the top of my street
And then the morning after, brass band in unison
Jumping, shouting, all 3000  (2)
Meanwhile I've been broke in twice
And had a maniac at door, swearing, 12:05 AM

And I really think this computer thing is getting out of hand
And I think this tech pilot isn't going to land
Three quarters of mail destined for bin
Time to put an end, to the extend
All the bump men
Time we kick this
Compute garbage in, garbage out (3)
And time to put a cap on this
With a brain, nice habit
And I'm thinking of...

(Track is deserted
All securities run forth of the perverted)
Isn't gonna land

On its purgatory band
Auto tech pilot
Isn't gonna land
Jet isn't gonna land
Troll the instant pilot
Auto tech pilot
Isn't gonna land




1. The image of an "auto-tech pilot" suggests an image of technology as a force that has become more or less autonomous of human control. I'm unsure how the break-in and the brass band in the first verse connect to all this, however. A rumor persists that Miles Davis heard this song and decided he wanted to work with the Fall; however, there doesn't seem to be any truth to it.  


2. This may refer to the Sedgley Police training facility in Prestwich, which seems to be more or less in the proper location. The Greater Manchester Police Band is a large and very adept group of musicians, but certainly they cannot number 3,000, which would be almost half the force. The song, which is in part a cautionary screed against the hegemonic ubiquity of technology, also seems to be an excuse for MES to grouse about his local police. However, if we take it a little more seriously (which is always a good idea, as MES often seems petty at first blush, but there is almost always more happening than at first meets the eye), the song seems to be comparing the harmonious order of a highly administered society (which is in that sense doubly technological, run with and often by machines and at the same time run, often explicitly understood, and generally treated as a machine) with the concomitant, and often simulataneous, violence and disorder that attends such a society. Both kinds of phenomenon occur at many scales and in various respects, and often the order is the violence rather than a side effect. The contrast between the violent and technologically enhanced policing techniques by night and the riotous yet (literally and figuratively) harmonious work of the band the next day is, in fact, a figure that expresses this tension. Danny points below out that "The song contrasts the disturbances caused by the police (firearms/band) with the criminality and anti-social behaviour experienced by MES/narrator" (and I think he may also mean "compares" where he says "contrasts"). But, as we can see, the interlocked complicitly of order and disorder that characterizes the role of advanced technology in serving, administering, and in many respects supplanting society can already be seen in the vignettes of the police MES provides. 



3. "Garbage In, Garbage Out" (or "GIGO") is a famous slogan that was especially popular among early computer programmers. It was coined in 1963, and popularized by George Fuechsel, an IBM instructor. It has also been extended from the sphere of computer programming to describe human decision making, an example of how humans increasingly understand themselves on the model of a computer.  


Comments (8)

  • 1. dannyno | 23/05/2013

I've often wondered if there is any connection between this song and the TV programme "Airwolf", about a high-tech helicopter, which ran in the mid 1980s.


  • 2. dannyno | 25/05/2013

"Three quarters of mail destined for beer"

Destined for bin, is what it is.


  • 3. dannyno | 25/05/2013

"the police tech center at the top of my street"

Probably refers to the Sedgley Park police training facility (owned by Greater Manchester Police since 1979): and

Greater Manchester police do have their own band:

The song contrasts the disturbances caused by the police (firearms/band) with the criminality and anti-social behaviour experienced by MES/narrator.

  • 4. dannyno | 25/05/2013

perhaps also worth noting some news stories from the period. The song was released in September 1986.

1986 was the year of the Challenger space shuttle disaster (January).

In June 1986, John Stalker (deputy chief constable of Greater Manchester police) was suspended and removed from the inquiry into the RUC's alleged shoot to kill policy in Northern Ireland. He was cleared and returned to work but did not finish the work of the inquiry, the report of which was never published.

There was the US bombing of Libya in revenge for the bombing of a TWA airline.

In August came the news that Boeing were to introduce the "microwave landing system".

  • 5. bzfgt | 02/02/2014

I can't believe this has been sitting there all this time with the Lyrics Parade's "time we cake this" and nobody's called me on it...

  • 6. bzfgt | 02/02/2014

Danny, this link:

"robably refers to the Sedgley Park police training facility (owned by Greater Manchester Police since 1979):"

does not work, but currently this one is working:

  • 7. bzfgt | 02/02/2014

Any idea why he'd call SP a "tech center," though?

  • 8. bzfgt | 02/02/2014

Because footnotes are often ephemeral, I didn't want to put this in the notes, but for your pleasure here it is:

Add a comment

You're using an AdBlock like software. Disable it to allow submit.