Before the Moon Falls



We are private detectives onward back from a musical pilgrimage
We work under the name of 'The Fall.'
Who would suspect this?
It is too obvious.
Our office is secluded.
Those there to suspect
Would not see the wood for the trees
We were six like dice but we're back to five (1)
Up here in the North there are no wage packet jobs for us (2)
Thank Christ
While young married couples discuss the poverties
Of their self-built traps
And the junior clergy demand more cash
We spit in their plate and wait for the ice to melt (3)

I must create a new regime
Or live by another man's (4)
Before the moon falls (5)
I must create a new scheme
And get out of others' hands
Before the moon falls

I could use some pure criminals
And get my hands on some royalties (6)
Before the moon falls

A problem of this new scheme
Is answering obscene phone calls
Before the moon falls

Gotta stop drifting around
Kill this ugly duckling  (7)
We've got the power
And must not misuse it
Cos life is short and full of thought
I use the power
I use the power

And I will forever end this reign of terror (8)
Before the moon falls
Before the tide subsides
Before the moon falls for the fifth time (9)
Before The Fall swoons


1. This refers to the departure of keyboardist Yvonne Pawlett. The Fall who recorded this song were MES, Marc Riley, Craig Scanlon, Steve Hanley, and Mike Leigh.

From "Backwater" by Brian Eno (1977):

There were six of us but now we are five
We're all talking
To keep the conversation alive

(Thanks to reader Craigness.)


2. The phrase "wage packet," literally a pay envelope, is sometimes used in Britain to mean wages in general. Thus, the lyric indicates the difficulty, in the North, of finding what is sometimes called a "straight job."


3. Thanks to Bradley who points out that this may be a reference to Hanns Hörbiger's "Welteislehre," a theory that holds, among other things, that the Moon is largely made of ice. Wikipedia: "According to his ideas, ice was the basic substance of all cosmic processes, and ice moons, ice planets, and the "global ether" (also made of ice) had determined the entire development of the universe." See note 9 below. 


4. This paraphrases William Blake's lines in Jerusalem, spoken by Los: "I must Create a System or be enslav'd by another Man's. I will not Reason & Compare; my business is to Create." MES later adapted the famous "Jerusalem" section of Milton a Poem as "Dog is Life/Jerusalem," and the poet is the subject of the song, "W.B."  

28 years later, in the last song on the Fall's last album, "Nine Out of Ten," MES sings "You don't break rules you don't follow them."


5. In the Peanuts strip from 6/24/1979, Sally is sleeping in the back yard with a friend named Eudora. The latter is anxious that something is going to fall on her head when she's sleeping, and at one point she asks "What if the moon falls out of the sky, and hits me right on the head?" The word balloon from this panel is reproduced on the sleeve of Dragnet.

Note the lyric was in place before the cartoon was published, and thus the latter illustrates the former but did not inspire it to begin with. 

Dan speculates that the origin of the line is in a book MES is likely to have read:

"From The Morning of the Magicians (1960, Destiny Books, 2009 edition, p.207):

'It is certain, then, that the moon will end by falling on to the earth.'"

This is from my notes for "Hotel Bloedel," and conveys a bit of the character of the book in question:

In the pseudo-historical book about the occult The Morning of the Magicians, which contains, among other things, an account of occult tendencies in the NSDAP that is of dubious veracity, it is reported that a Tibetan monk nicknamed "The Man With The Green Gloves" lived in Berlin and headed a group called "The Society of Green Men," which was in consultation with Hitler about a secret underground city ("Agarthi") from which Buddhist adepts ruled the planet. Interestingly, the authors themselves seem to have openly acknowledged that their book is fanciful, but this hasn't stopped some of its claims from being perpetuated


6. Mark weighs in:

I seem to recall that the "pure criminals" line was a dig at Step Forward Records for their lack of royalty payments. MES makes another dig at them (specifically Miles Copeland) in "What You Need ."


7. I assume most readers will be familiar with the fairy tale by Hans Christian Andersen of this name. Spoiler alert: the duckling was a swan.


8. nairng: "I have just watched the Hammer version of Dracula (Christopher Lee in title role); Harker writes in his diary, 'With God's help, I will forever end this man's reign of terror.'"


9. The Morning of the Magicians (p.210) (see note 4 above):

"And so, according to Horbiger, the Moon, the one that we can see, is only the last, and fourth, of the satellites captured by the Earth."


More Information

Before the Moon Falls: Fall Tracks A-Z


William Blake (thanks to Sam and Dan):







Comments (41)

  • 1. dannyno | 07/04/2013
"And the junior clergy demand more cash"

Pay rises for the Church of England clergy were in the news 1977-1978, not least because they were in the context of a wider incomes policy. I found articles from 1978 where the increases were said to be fundable by voluntary donations to the Church.
  • 2. dannyno | 19/06/2013
From "The Morning of the Magicians" (1960), Destiny Books 2009 edition, p.207:

"It is certain, then, that the moon will end by falling on to the earth."

See also Hotel Bloedel for more "The Morning of the Magicians" references.
  • 3. dannyno | 19/06/2013
Before the moon falls for the fifth time

Again, "The Morning of the Magicians" (p.210):

"And so, according to Horbiger, the Moon, the one that we can see, is only the last, and fourth, of the satellites captured by the Earth"

Gurdjieff is cited too.
  • 4. Martin | 21/02/2014
It may be slightly interesting to know - at least so we can see how MES was constantly rewriting lyrics between live and studio versions - that the line "We were six like dice but we're back to five" was absent in the first known live performance of the song (25 March 1979) as Yvonne Pawlett was still a member of the group.
  • 5. Mark | 22/06/2014
I seem to recall that the "pure criminals" line was a dig at Step Forward Records for their lack of royalty payments. MES makes another dig at them (specifically Miles Copeland) in "What You Need".
  • 6. Mark | 22/06/2014
I seem to recall that the "pure criminals" line was a dig at Step Forward Records for their lack of royalty payments. MES makes another dig at them (specifically Miles Copeland) in "What You Need".
  • 7. bzfgt | 24/06/2014
That's great, but what do you mean you "seem to recall"? Do you think MES said this in an interview or something?
  • 8. nairng | 27/10/2014
I have just watched the Hammer version of Dracula (Christpher Lee in title role); Harker writes in his diary, "With God's help, I will forever end this man's reign of terror".
Wrt the "pure criminals", MES is surely suggesting that he feels the unpaid royalties can only be his if he can arrange for them to be stolen?
  • 9. nairng | 28/10/2014
Ok i realise now im not disagreeing with mark about the pure criminals...think i read that with undue haste last night! The whole issue of step forward royalty non-payment is discussed with an mes quote on p33 of the "paintwork" book by brian edge...i think he got all his quotes from old nme/melody maker/sounds interviews, but didnt give dates or owt.
  • 10. dannyno | 20/12/2015
On the FOF, I wonder if the "pure criminals" line comes from a comic book:
  • 11. dannyno | 30/04/2017
"Kill this ugly duckling"

Hans Christian Andersen, of course.
  • 12. bzfgt (link) | 13/05/2017
Thanks, that's something I never would have noticed should have a note but, of course, it should.
  • 13. dannyno | 29/06/2017
The implication of note #4 is that the Peanuts cartoon is in some way the source of the "moon falls" imagery. People have certainly expressed this belief on the FOF.

They are wrong. I think the Peanuts cartoon was appropriated for the Dragnet cover because of its coincidental echo of the "moon falls" line, and not because it was the source of the lyric or the title. As previously commented, I think the source of the "moon falls" line and song title is the book "The Morning of the Magicians".

Why do I think the Peanuts-origin idea is wrong?

Well, first of all, the line doesn't actually appear in the cartoon.

Secondly, the cartoon was published on 24 June 1979. Dragnet was released on 26 October. But the song was performed as early as March.

Crucially, in the UK Peanuts was published by the Daily Mail. 24 June 1979 was a Sunday, so the Mail on Sunday was published that day instead of the Daily Mail. I don't know if the strip appeared in the Mail on Sunday - I'm assuming it did. I searched through the Daily Mail from June through to October 1979, and the strip does not appear. So perhaps it was in the Mail on Sunday, which I haven't searched. It's possible. However, the Daily Mail was not publishing the strips in the same order as they were published, in which case the Mail on Sunday maybe wasn't either.

At any rate, given the dates it seems clear that the Peanuts strip post-dates the song title and lyric.
  • 14. dannyno | 30/06/2017
Ha! Overnight a thought occurred which I've just checked out. The Mail on Sunday didn't exist in 1979, only being launched in 1982!

So, unless another paper was printing Peanuts on Sundays, that means that the cartoon in question definitely did not appear in the UK on 24 June 1979 - it must have been after that date or not at all.

  • 15. bzfgt (link) | 15/07/2017
Dan, what do you mean the line doesn't appear in the cartoon? Is it altered on the cover of Dragnet? I feel like there's an obvious meaning to what you're saying that I'm missing.
  • 16. bzfgt (link) | 15/07/2017
Or you just mean it's not the line that appears in the song itself?
  • 17. bzfgt (link) | 15/07/2017
You love to put book titles in quotation marks...
  • 18. bzfgt (link) | 15/07/2017
Thanks, Dan, I got a good note and discovered a typo in the "Hotel Bloedel" notes.

The note could be better, though, and so could the one from Bloedel--what is the specific evidence that MES read MOTM? It seems right to me, and so familiar, that he has, but I don't seem to have a source here, or at HB, or in the notes for "Hittite Man," that connects him with that book in particular...
  • 19. bzfgt (link) | 15/07/2017
There I just say "MES is known to have read The Morning of the Magicians". If it were Wikipedia, it would say "How? By Whom?" above it. Not that we hold ourselves to quite Wikipedia standards, but still...
  • 20. dannyno | 15/07/2017
Comment #15

The "Peanuts" line is "What if the moon falls out of the sky, and hits me right on the head"?
The song title is "Before the moon falls", which is not in the strip.
And the lyric is "Before the moon falls" and "Before the moon falls for the fifth time", neither of which are in the strip.

The common bit is just "the moon falls".

The moon falling for the nth time is fairly obviously a "Morning of the Magicians" thing.

That's what I mean.
  • 21. dannyno | 15/07/2017
How do we know MES has read "Morning of the Magicians"? We don't. There is no direct reference to the book anywhere in his interviews or writing that I'm aware of. However, there are so many references to the notions in the book in interviews, writing and song lyrics that it is a reasonable inference that he has read it. He could have read about it, of course. But it's not like the book is difficult to find, or not famous, or not the kind of thing he would have read.

See the FOF for more discussion.
  • 22. bzfgt (link) | 22/07/2017
OK, I fixed the [/i]Bloedel[/i] note although I could almost swear we had a reason to think he'd read it beyond "he would." Maybe not, though.
  • 23. bzfgt (link) | 22/07/2017
Sorry I acknowledge re:^ it's a bit more than that. I will fix my note here too. I see the relevance of your second MOTM quote now.
  • 24. Richieboy | 19/01/2019
I hear: And I will forever end this reign of terror.

Ok, thanks, bye.
  • 25. dannyno | 09/02/2019
Note 4:

"This doesn't necessarily mean that the line was inspired by the cartoon,"

This overlooks the clinching chronological point that the line cannot have been inspired by the cartoon because the cartoon was published on 24 June 1979 (though not in the UK), and the "before the moon falls" line was being performed as early as March. I checked with a recording of the Lyceum gig on 25 March 1979.
  • 26. Bradley | 05/03/2019
Horbiger's theory of lunar catastrophe is based on the assumption that the moon is made of ice.

Hence the line, "wait for the ice to melt".
  • 27. bzfgt (link) | 21/03/2019
Right, that slipped through the cracks in revising, or something, thanks Dan.
  • 28. Craigness | 29/06/2019
There were six of us but now there are five - backwater, br ia n eno, 1977
Sea Bee Blue
  • 29. Sea Bee Blue | 26/07/2019
I believe people are forgetting MES was a psychic. Now fuck off.
  • 30. dannyno | 11/08/2019
The song made its debut in March 1979. Given the likely provenance of the "reign of terror line", it may be interesting to note that the 1958 film version of Dracula in question aired on Granada TV at 11pm on 11 January 1979. That scheduling made it a bit of a spoiler against a repeat of the final episode of the BBC 2 serial Count Dracula, which was on from 10:15pm. I can't prove MES watched it, but he could have done.
  • 31. bzfgt (link) | 16/08/2019
Sea Bee Blue: I bet I am going to say something at some future point which to which "fuck off" is a rational response...
  • 32. dannyno | 08/10/2019
Comment #10 refers to a post on the FOF where I speculated that the origin of the "pure criminals" line may have come from Strange Tales comic issue 111 (August). Quote from me:

a cover story entitled "The Human Torch - Fighting to the death with Asbestos Man", in which a frustrated scientist who feels he is not getting proper recompense for his brilliant work decides to turn to crime to steal the money he thinks his rightfully his. But he fails, due to a lack of criminal skill. So he decides he needs to link up with some experienced criminals. But how to appear credible to them? So he invents a fire proof costume and takes on a defeats the super hero The Human Torch, thereby attracting the attention of the criminal community. In the end he is defeated, of course, but the story could possibly be a source for the above quoted lines.

Here are the pictures, you be the judge:

Strange Tales 1

Strange Tales 2
  • 33. Sam | 11/09/2020
Huh, I have just discovered that there was a William Blake engraving showing someone climbing to the moon with a ladder - perhaps related? See for instance
  • 34. bzfgt (link) | 13/09/2020
Yeah there's Blake reference already, could have been banging around his mind somewhere
  • 35. dannyno | 30/09/2020
  • 36. DQ | 23/12/2020
Since we've already got one Blake reference, could "life is short and full of thought" connect with The Fly's "thought is life and strength and breath"? The poem being about the shortness of life.
  • 37. bzfgt (link) | 27/02/2021
That could definitely be a garbled version of that!
  • 38. dannyno | 12/05/2021
""I must create my own System or be enslaved by another man's" is quoted by Colin Wilson in The Outsider, as is "days of wine and roses", which is paraphrased in A Figure Walks, also on Dragnet. Curious.
Xyralothep's cat
  • 39. Xyralothep's cat | 09/12/2022
Suggest for opening narration;
Onward back from = on and back from
Self-built= self-filled
  • 40. dannyno | 15/10/2023
The "moon fall" Peanuts strip first appeared in American newspapers on 24 June 1979, as already noted.

In the UK Peanuts appeared in only two national newspapers: the Daily Mail (taking over from the Daily Sketch) and the (Sunday) Observer, and also in the Manchester Evening News. However, again as already noted, they didn't necessarily publish all of them, or all formats, or in the original order.

I can confirm that the Manchester Evening News did not publish the "moon fall" strip until 24 May 1980:

  • 41. dannyno | 02/11/2023
From Gary Westfahl's The Stuff of Science Fiction: hardware, settings, characters (McFarland, 2022), discussing moon-related themes in science fiction (p.143):

There have also been occasional concerns that the Moon might move away from its present orbit, perhaps to strike Earth and destroy human civilization. In Andre Laurie's The Conquest of the Moon (1887), a scientist attracts the Moon so it almost hits Earth before he reverses the process. An approaching Moon threatens Earth in Earl L. Bell's "The Moon of Doom" (1928), though it moves away before reaching the surface. The Moon falls into the Pacific Ocean and almost exterminates humanity in Morrison Colladay's When the Moon Fell (1929), and in Olaf Stapledon's Last and First Men (1930), future humans migrate to Venus upon learning that the Moon is dangerously approaching Earth. The most renowned story about such a catastrophe is Sherriff's The Hopkins Manuscript, in which western civilization is almost destroyed when the Moon crashes into the Atlantic Ocean.

This is the cover of the Colladay publication:

Can be read in the Internet Archive:

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