Barmy

Lyrics

(1)

Out of England, I dream of its creamery (2)
When I'm there I dwell on Saxony. (3)
In Turkey when I've been due to World War I
Istanbul is the place 'cos of my birthday. (4)

I am barmy
Bleedin' barmy

I got everything
I got everything I want except for Hungary (5)
I got everything I want except for money.

I've got the best round set aside for parties
They'll have one when I've gone 
In fact, they said so, good one.

I am barmy
Bleedin' barmy

Friends disintegrate within circles of cash 
Residue after years of fab genius 
Is a pension for the jews   (6)
and a medal from the company which I wiped my butt on  (7)
and hung on a laburnum tree. (8)

I am barmy
Bleedin'  barmy
I am barmy 
Bleedin' barmy

Just call me the first
Just call me the first

I lay waiting hopefully on sloped grass green
I am barmy, bleedin' barmy

A dramatic verse
A dramatic verse
A dramatic verse 

The programs lot
We break into tune
Take and bring a word 
Ring a buzzer 
Take and bring a word  (9)

A dramatic verse

 

 

Notes

1. From Reformation

The riff is based on "Valleri" by the Monkees. If you listen to Valleri you can see a sort of connection with a horn riff which appears half way through the song. This was confirmed by an interview MES had with Edwin Pouncey in Sounds (28 September 1985): "I pinched it from Valleri...It came out well, that song, better than I thought. What we did was, we used all the 70s effects. Wah-Wah and all that. Wah-Wah pedals are great, when I play the guitar with them it sounds great, whatever you play...I typed out Barmy like it was a big deal; there are a lot more lines than I actually used, a lot more choruses. When we recorded it I was really sick, dead ill, I was on antibiotics. I had a really bad chest infection from smoking and not eating properly and it looked like I was going to go into hospital. When we did 'Barmy' you could hear it in my voice, this rattle of phlegm. But it sounds good, it sounds better than if I'd done it straight."

^

2. This may be an instance of MES substituting a word for another with a similar sound, as we would expect to hear "greenery" here. However, the lyric as it stands is not incoherent; "cream" is often used both to denote excellence, as cream is what rises to the top, and a kind of rich and luxuriant goodness.  

^

3. Saxony is a state of Germany, and contains Dresden and Leipzig. It is named after its early inhabitants the Saxons, a group of German tribes that merged with the Angles, another Germanic people, and conquered the land that is now Great Britain, founding the Kingdom of England in the 10th century.  

^

4. MES was born on March 5th, 1957. It's not clear, of course, that the narrator is meant to be MES, or to have the same birthday. I have not found any particular significance for this date with relation to Istanbul. There is a movie called Istanbul that was released in 1957 (on January 23rd). Of course, it could be the other way round, and Istabul could be significant with relation to the narrator's birthday...

^

5. Or maybe "hungry." The Lyrics Parade had the latter for years, which seems to be the main reason to prefer it, so here it has been changed. But there are good arguments either way (see the comments below), and we may never know which word is correct. 

^

6. "A pension for the jews" may refer to the many survivors of the Shoah who were granted life-long pensions from the Germans by the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany after World War II, which was established in 1951 by members of the World Jewish Congress at the behest of the Israeli government. Laburnums are deciduous trees with poisonous pods that re native to continental Europe.  

^

7. Dan points out that "company" can mean a military unit, or a business organisation, or the CIA. It might mean something like the East India Company.

"The Company" is a nickname for the CIA which is sometimes used by its agents, although they more commonly employ the metonym "Langley," but it's just the sort of faux-insiderish jargon that might be used in a song like this one, which hints mysteriously at historical situations in a somewhat humorous manner. The nickname "The Company" may itself be derived from the East India Company as the CIA was a sort of successor to the former as an organization that has its hand in all sorts of international affairs in a clandestine or semi-clandestine manner.

This may be a clue that the narrative voice of the song is not to be too closely identified with Mark E. Smith, although such determinations are usually fluid in any Fall song. The British Empire (along with the Allies or Entente Powers) fought against the armies of the Ottoman Empire (who were aligned with the Central Powers) on Turkish soil in World War I; the Allies were victorious, although Turkey gained independence in 1923. Mark E. Smith was born on March 5, 1957, a date which has, and the components of which have, no particular significance in relation to Istanbul, although the movie Istanbul, which starred Errol Flynn as a diamond smuggler, was released in 1957. Here and in general, it is important to remind ourselves that the narrator has declared himself barmy, although when avoidalble it mustn't be used as a cop-out.  

^

 

8. According to Harley, "Laburnum trees are also known as 'golden chain' trees, have lots of hanging yellow flowers, and would be good places to hide medals."

^

9. 'Take' and 'bring' are words with opposite meanings, and are often confused with one another by beginning speakers of English. The song at this point seems to have succumbed to barminess, and the narrator is perhaps in a sense regressing in his ability to make sense in his native language.  

^

Comments (42)

dannyno
  • 1. dannyno | 07/05/2013
I think there's a clue to be found in the first world war soldier's song which has the refrain, "I or we] must have been bloody well barmy!"

There are lots of variations to be found. Here's a typical example:

"Why did we join the army boys?
Why did we join the army?
Why did we come to France to fight?
We must have been bloody well barmy!"
dannyno
  • 2. dannyno | 13/07/2013
"Creamery"

A creamery is where butter is made.
hippriestess
  • 3. hippriestess | 06/05/2014
I always thought the opening line was "Out of England, I dream of extreme worry" - this would tie in both with Smith's repeated statements that leaving England made him feel anxious and ill and with the title of the song.
bzfgt
  • 4. bzfgt | 13/05/2014
Could be, but I still hear "it's creamery."
Mark
  • 5. Mark | 25/05/2014
Ads for "This Nation's Saving Grace" used the phrase "phlegm cough rattle", I think. Probably refers to this song.
dannyno
  • 6. dannyno | 23/08/2014
"I got everything I want except for hungry"

Hungary? That's what I'm thinking.

Dan
Gus
  • 7. Gus (link) | 09/04/2015
Is it a spoiler, or know to all British folks, that Barmy means B-army = British Army? If this is new to you, maybe should forget it, because the lyrics describe B-ritish -Army history, as was also visible in earlier comments and notes.

This birthday I think means a spiritual fact, that MES can not know, so I am not sure why he would choose to put that line in. Istanbul refers to the conception of the historical Reformation, because that is where Erasmus from Rotterdam would get his Bible from, that was later than translated by William Tyndale, and inspired queen Elisabeth of Tudor, as later Bibles would create Oliver Cromwell. But this may be off topic, because the British Army referred to in this song is the Commonwealth army, that has secret alliances to the whore of Revelation, the romanist antichrist.
This may get to complicated for you British...

At any case, the song may look like British Army in the 20th century, but the words "Bleedin' Barmy" refers to the red coats, the way that Barmy was dressed during the American civil war. Saxony refers to very old British heritage, so again, the spiritual meaning of the lyric is so wide and well understood by MES, that I see an army of Angels whispering song texts in his pen.

However, my estimation is, that he deliberately hides the real meaning of Barmy, in order to write a strong lyric, using a little historical reality, than puts codes on key's to the story.
An innocent rape.
He can't get away with this when I read it though!
I've made poems that way myself, hiding the reality that is the skeleton for factual connection in the consciousness of the beholder, while the song itself becomes a creature itself. The trick was merely a help, like a mold for concrete pouring, but not the end product.

The meaning is not literal by the way.
The text is the text as it is.
But is made that way I suppose as I said, and opens reality that MES himself does not know. Red Coats are not Ironsides, and Ironsides is NOT what is described here, while "Barmy" may just as well mean British manhood in general in a certain interpretation around consciousness of a population.

MES may want to read my comment here, because Ironsides is what we want from Reformation and the New Puritan, while Red Coats must be dismantled.
The latter is not easy.
Yes, I am serious.
dannyno
  • 8. dannyno | 10/04/2017
"In Turkey when I've been due to World War I
Istanbul is the place 'cos of my birthday."

The feel here is that the narrative of the song is set in a time quite close to World War 1. Istanbul only became widely used outside of Turkey after about 1928.

Researching possible historical candidates, one name I've come across is Richard Meinertzhagen (revealed as a confabulator). There are certain echoes, but nothing specific enough yet to pin him down as a favourite. So it's on to the next one.

However, we shouldn't exclude the possibility that MES is the narrator - he might have visited Turkey due to his (family-related) interest in the war.
dannyno
  • 9. dannyno | 10/04/2017
Laburnum trees are sometimes said to be the tree that Judas hung himself on.
bzfgt
  • 10. bzfgt (link) | 06/05/2017
Dan, I've often thought "Hungary"--I think we have discussed it on the FOF--and there seems to me to be much going on in these lyrics I can't pin down, I think you're absolutely right that Europe and WWI could be seen as important clues here. I want to change the spelling to Hungary, is there any positive reason to prefer the ungrammatical and nonsensical "hungry"?
bzfgt
  • 11. bzfgt (link) | 06/05/2017
Dan, I need a reference. Judas for Laburnum would be huge (relatively!) but I cannot find any confirmation. Judas trees are said to be Cercis siliquastrum (European Redbud) and can be extended to the other Cercis trees, but Laburnum is not a Cercis. At least, that's all I've been able to discover.
bzfgt
  • 12. bzfgt (link) | 06/05/2017
The closest thing to a connection I can find:

The chain-flowered redbud (Cercis racemosa) from western China is unusual in the genus in having its flowers in pendulous 10 cm (4 in) racemes, as in a Laburnum, rather than short clusters.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cercis

At best, this could suggest that Laburnum is sometimes mistaken for a Judas tree, and even in this case for one of the Judas-by-extension trees...
dannyno
  • 13. dannyno | 06/05/2017
Comment #12.

I went back to the book where I read it, or thought I had, and clearly I completely misunderstood what it was telling me!

Doh!
harleyr
  • 14. harleyr | 07/05/2017
Perhaps worth pointing out that Laburnum trees are also known as 'golden chain' trees, have lots of hanging yellow flowers, and would be good places to hide medals.
dannyno
  • 15. dannyno | 25/07/2017

and a medal from the company


Just to pick at this a bit. "Company" could mean a military unit, or a business organisation, or the CIA. It might mean something like the East India Company.
dannyno
  • 16. dannyno | 25/07/2017
In the sleevenotes to This Nation's Saving Grace is a page of credits, which begins with a list of people titled "FOR: TA" - i.e. acknowledgements, dedications, thanks, that kind of thing.

The last name on that list is Paul Nash. Well, there could be other Paul Nashes, but a significant one is the artist Paul Nash (1889-1946) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paul_Nash_(artist), who served during the first world war and painted some remarkable images of battlefields.

One of his paintings is entitled Mansions of the Dead, which makes me wonder about the instrumental first track on the album: Mansion.

Now, I wouldn't say there are any obvious correspondences between the life of Nash and this song, beyond the first world war theme. But the acknowledgements in the credits does make me wonder if there is something of Nash in this song.
bzfgt
  • 17. bzfgt (link) | 29/07/2017
Yes, quite right, that should be mentioned.
bzfgt
  • 18. bzfgt (link) | 29/07/2017
I meant that about "Company," I hadn't noticed the next one which I'm about to read.
bzfgt
  • 19. bzfgt (link) | 29/07/2017
Re: Nash: this song is very slippery for me, I always feel like there's something going on just beneath the surface I can't quite glimpse.

I'm not sure I did the right thing with "Hungary."
Mike Watts
  • 20. Mike Watts | 18/01/2018
I think MES has probably substituted 'creamery' for 'greenary' - England's green and pleasant land etc... There's nothing wrong with 'creamery' and it works fine, but the one thing you really notice if you come back from the Mediterranean is how green everything is.
SomeConsumer
  • 21. SomeConsumer | 28/01/2018
It almost sounds like Mark is alternating the phrases "a dramatic verse, and automatic verse."
PTSN
  • 22. PTSN | 29/01/2018
Re laburnum: is the point that it is poisonous? From somewhere on the web:

"The signs of lupine [a related tree] poisoning can develop within an hour or may take as long as a day. The signs are related to the nervous system and resemble the signs seen with excessive consumption of nicotine (tobacco): twitching, nervousness, depression, difficulty in moving and breathing, and loss of muscular control. If large quantities were consumed, convulsions, coma, and death by respiratory paralysis may occur. [..] There is no antidote"

Other sources say the reputation is not deserved. But it nevertheless has this reputation.

Likely a coincidence, but, in line with the military references in the song, the government in WWI attempted to use its chemical simarity to nicotine to create synthetic nicotine for the troops.
PTSN
  • 23. PTSN | 29/01/2018
Re "Hungary".. Surely this is just an odd way of pronouncing "hungry", to match the lack of money in the next line

I have always heard "just comic verse", to match "dramatic verse", but maybe "call me the first is right.
Definitive Article
  • 24. Definitive Article | 31/01/2018
Agree with the above. They are an honest couple of sentences, as they reflect his circumstance and lifestyle. Smith has little money, for obvious reasons. He also has no hunger, given his use of amphetamine. Stimulants rob users of their appetite, and Smith is hungry because of that.

He just chooses to use the word 'hungry' instead of 'hunger'. I think it's funny. In both lyrics he's bemoaning the absence of hunger and money, both of which might contribute to him being barmy. MES has never desired the ownership of Hungary, which the current lyric is suggesting. It's just another of his speed references.
dannyno
  • 25. dannyno | 01/02/2018
Comment #22. Laburnum is poisonous, but I think there is more work to do to understand the meaning of the image of throwing a military award into one.

Comment #23: Could be. But the line is

I got everything I want except for Hungary
I got everything I want except for money


Now, either "except for Hungary" means he hasn't got "Hungary/Hungry" or it means he has got it, but doesn't want it. There's a geopolitical theme in the song, which is why I like reading it as referring to the country.

Comment #24: what makes us think that the "I" in the song is MES? It could be, and I've tried over the years to find those connections, but it's not at all clear.
Definitive Article
  • 26. Definitive Article | 05/02/2018
Leaving the song aside for a moment, I think we can agree on a few things about Smith. First, he was a bit of a nutter. Examples abound. Second, The Fall were never a money-spinner when compared to other groups, much to his consternation. Third, he had a taste for speed, and for referencing it in song. It's not a stretch to think all aspects were condensed into a first-person lyric intended to be taken literally. That's what I do. Or you can go on, with the greatest respect, over-analysing it, which is what you do.

I reckon the lyrics in question, when taken on their own, describe all too well features of Smith himself and which impact on the fortunes of The Fall. It is him who is barmy, at least in the context of that particular verse. It's entirely self-referential, and gives overt connections you have no need to look beyond. Even if he's describing a hundred other things, he's still describing his own character and image (being barmy, relatively skint and hungry), and one of the causes of each (amphetamine abuse removing his appetite and leading to extreme behaviour, resulting in his difficult reputation in the eyes of the music industry and the subsequent lack of money this entails).
dannyno
  • 27. dannyno | 06/02/2018
Oh, you're one of those. Had these arguments a million times on the FOF. You can interpret it as about MES if you like. You might even be right, in the sense of what MES' intentions were. I think you can make that reading stand up - but I think at the expense of completely ignoring the various elements of the song. If interpretation ends up closing off avenues of investigation, it's just an obstacle.

But then, any song can be interpreted any number of ways, including literally. But the thing about interpretation is - so what? Curiosity is not extinguished. We still have a text, and the text is worth reading to see what's there.

We're interested in different things.

Once you've told somebody what a text is - in the mind of the author - "about", that does not constrain meanings others may derive from it), and nor does it tell you anything about how that text was constructed. That's what I'm interested in - where do all these words come from? What associations do they have? How do they speak to us?

You can call that "over-analysis" if you like - I don't care. To me, it's just analysis. You're going to have to put up with it.
Definitive Article
  • 28. Definitive Article | 06/02/2018
Ha, I'm on the FoF, but under a different name, so perfectly accustomed to putting up with you. Your being curious isn't a criticism as far as I'm concerned, but I do find your degree of analysis borderline neurotic. It's also interesting and valuable though. I'm happy with my interpretation of the segment under discussion, and not bothered how it relates to the rest of the song. It's actually in my top dozen favourite Fall tracks, and I've not bothered to work out what the other 11 are either.

Closing arguments from me. In My New House from the same album, is he going on about his own recent move or that of someone else? I'm going with the former, as I've read somewhere that him and Brix did move during the time of TNSG. Is Paintwork then a development of that song in terms of Smith's own reality, or that of another character? Again I opt for the former, as there's a concrete sequence from moving house and then tinkering with the decoration, and one Smith could make come to life in a pair of original songs focusing on the mundane.

That's what some of TNSG is for me - a celebration of the mundane, and Smith's place in life at that time. In Barmy, he looks at his ordinary existence, and finds plenty in it to write about, but it need not be what the entire song addresses. That's where I draw the line, but I wouldn't dismiss other interpretations or the gathering of details which support or overturn my understating of it. I just won't be the person that goes as far as some do.
dannyno
  • 29. dannyno | 06/02/2018
Comment #28

Definitive ArticleYour being curious isn't a criticism as far as I'm concerned, but I do find your degree of analysis borderline neurotic.


Imagine how it is for me.
bzfgt
  • 30. bzfgt (link) | 10/02/2018
Huh, I had Harley's laburnum comment in the wrong note. This one still is tantalizing as I don't think any of us know what's going on but it seems like something is. I now will read your recent comments and I hope find out you've cracked it....
bzfgt
  • 31. bzfgt (link) | 10/02/2018
It almost sounds like Mark is alternating the phrases "a dramatic verse, and automatic verse."

It all sounds enough like "a dramatic" that I don't feel confident enough to change it to "automatic"...
bzfgt
  • 32. bzfgt (link) | 10/02/2018
Why would lack of money prevent someone from being hungry?
bzfgt
  • 33. bzfgt (link) | 10/02/2018
Dan: "Now, either 'except for Hungary' means he hasn't got 'Hungary/Hungry' or it means he has got it, but doesn't want it."

Bzfgt: Yeah it never occurred to me but it could mean "Except for [I'm] hungry." And the idea that he's not hungry due to speed also never occurred to me, that's an intriguing possibility. If you do that, you will not be hungry at all, ever (except upon coming down).
On the other hand:

Dan: "There's a geopolitical theme in the song, which is why I like reading it as referring to the country."

Bzfgt: I have always thought this and used to think I was a lone voice because we didn't have anything. So something that confirms what I always suspected will of course seem likely to me. As of now I still lean "Hungary" but to the extent "hungry" is made sense of, it becomes more appealing, and the maddening thing is there's probably no chance we'll ever know for sure.
bzfgt
  • 34. bzfgt (link) | 10/02/2018
And even more maddening is it's likely we're canonizing whichever one we choose. So "Hungary" needs a "hungry" note, ay least, and if we ever flip back to "hungry" it'll need a "Hungary" note.
bzfgt
  • 35. bzfgt (link) | 10/02/2018
Wow the notes somehow got all out of order. I shouldn't have opened this page just now!
bzfgt
  • 36. bzfgt (link) | 10/02/2018
PTSN, did the govt use laburnum or lupine?
bzfgt
  • 37. bzfgt (link) | 10/02/2018
"That's what some of TNSG is for me - a celebration of the mundane, and Smith's place in life at that time. In Barmy, he looks at his ordinary existence, and finds plenty in it to write about, but it need not be what the entire song addresses. That's where I draw the line, but I wouldn't dismiss other interpretations or the gathering of details which support or overturn my understating of it. I just won't be the person that goes as far as some do."

This is entirely reasonable. And your statement that "it need not be what the entire song addresses" is on the money. A song could be inspired by his moving house, for instance, and wind up doing a lot more. And there's no law that says you can't be satisfied to stop with the former.
bzfgt
  • 38. bzfgt (link) | 10/02/2018
The closest thing I've found to an Istanbul/birthday clue is this movie, which was released in...dum dum dum dum...1957! Weak beer, I know. Someone should watch it one of these days...

All the notes are at least in order, now.
bzfgt
  • 39. bzfgt (link) | 11/02/2018
Oops, forgot the link:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Istanbul_(film)
Fit and Working Again
  • 40. Fit and Working Again | 06/05/2018
Some minor lyrical variation from the alternative version on the TNSG boxset;
"I've got the best land set aside for parties" - (I think the LP version is "best ground")
"Funds disintegrate within circles of glass residue" (LP - friends as above but both glass and cash on the double tracked vocal)

And on the LP I hear "I lay waiting hopefully" as "on May 18 oh 3"
Fit and Working Again
  • 41. Fit and Working Again | 06/05/2018
Cross ref with live version; "just call me the first of May 1803" - so meaning call me on the first of May 1803 perhaps? Something to do with Napoleon?
dannyno
  • 42. dannyno | 13/05/2018
Interesting. In May 1803 Napoleon was planning for war with Britain. On 1st May 1803, he was at Château de Saint-Cloud (there's a letter from Bonaparte to Talleyrand dated this day).

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