(Birtwistle's) Girl in Shop



Thank ya...

The stars dripped from the sky in a race (2)
Reflecting the occupations of late 

Total fool
Idiot pool
Track thirty-one   (3)
Inspection hill
Don't ask or refuse
The colonial
Slave for Smith

Idea from 1983 sheer travel boredom

Shadow stop
Largest bed, largest bed
And a kid
The biggest dick ever you've seen
He defines the cause for injuries
He employs all chances to his own advantage
What does not kill him, makes him
Longer, stronger
And a pussy (4)

Queen of Bozos
Compassion, compassion
Read on
Strike the world
Just criticism


Total fool
Idiot pool
Track thirty-one
Inspection hill
No refusal or refuse (5)

It's alright
He's alright anyway
Bert Millichip (6)
Left him alone
Let him fuck
Relive the Pope
Cheap flights with bright light lights

Holy cigarette case for the jews (7)
Hey Lord, Blackpool - have played this place

Can't miss the derivative
Resident again in the bedroom
In hazed English

He's got the Broadway vampires right round him (8)
He is British
He is worm
His failure from the East and the West End
Now suddenly feel the Broadway
October Sunday Halloween
And idea of double bass bluaah gg
Partied with himself
For only 80 pence

Fifteen people off on where holidays go
Fifteen people off on where holidays go
And where...
And where do holidays go?
Go on...

I cannot make it up

Need more time


1. Spencer Birtwistle is credited with writing the music to this. Thus, the possessive form of "Birtwistle's" presumably means this is his song; see also "Stephen Song" (Hanley), "Craigness" (Scanlon),  "The Quartet of Doc Shanley" (Doc S. Hanley), "Jung Nev's Antidotes" (Neville Wilding), "Jim's 'The Fall'" (Watts), and "Greenway" (Peter, that is), which are all seemingly titled after the main author. As far as I know, however, "(Birtwistle's) Girl in Shop" is the only one named after someone not actually in the band at the time of recording (although, as one last twist, Birtwistle apprarently played all the instruments on the recording, which according to Reformation is all synths). Birtwistle, who was in a band called Laugh in the 1980s which scratched the indie charts, occupied the drum stool for part of 2001--long enough to put Are You Are Missing WInner on his resume. He was, reportedly, canned shortly after that album's release, but came back in 2004 and stuck around until 2006, logging in on Fall Heads Roll and kicking off the iconic Peel version of "Blindness" with some "Superstition" drumming.   "(Birtwistle's) Girl in Shop" came during the off period, after an encounter between the two men in a pub led to MES dragging Birtwistle into the studio to catch lightning in a bottle. This may explain some of the lyrics below, such as "Don't ask or refuse/The colonial/Slave for Smith" (the slashes are arbitrary and included for consistency with my enjambment above, as I am not sure of the syntax, but I take these lines to be a suggestion that, even out of the band, Birtwistle is at MES's beck and call).

It is not clear whether the "girl" is also Birtwistle's, but my guess is no; for a moment I thought that the placement of the parentheses might be a clue, but      "(Birtwistle's Girl) In Shop" would be a very odd name, because the main title would then be "In Shop." 


2. This line echoes "Backdrop," which contains the line, "The stars drip from the sky/ In a race upside down." Dan points out:

MES will probably have been familiar with the Albert Camus line:

"Sometimes at night I would sleep open-eyed under a sky dripping with stars. I was alive then."

Whether he nicked the line we are not in a position to say, but it's possible he remembered it. The image of a sky dripping with stars is not unique, at any rate.


3. Zack points out that a reference to "track 31" also pops up in "Backdrop," in this case a 1983 version from the Austurbaejarbio album.


4. "What doesn't kill me makes me stronger" is Nietzsche, from Twilight of the Idols.  


5. Danny points out that there is an Inspection Hill in Queensland, Australia (and it's the only one I've found). "Refuse" is pronounced here as in "garbage."  


6. Bert Millichip was an English football player who later served as Chairman of the Football Association, the national governing body of football in England. Millichip is also mentioned in "Kicker Conspiracy," which came out in 1983--which gives us a possible clue to the lyric "An idea from 1983" a couple of stanzas back, if there can be said to be "stanzas."


7. Zack (see comments below) points out that "In the Grotesque-era 'self-interview,' MES claims that 'City Hobgoblins' was originally titled 'Case for the Jews.'"


8. Danny points out that the phrase "Broadway Vampires" appears in the song "Rose of Washington Square." The song was written by Ballard MacDonald (with music by James F. Hanley) and popularized by Fanny Brice, probably beginning in 1920, in the Ziegfield Follies, the enormously popular revue performed on Broadway from 1907 to 1931. In 1939, a film loosely based on Brice's life, Rose of Washington Square, featured Alice Faye, Al Jolson, and Tyrone Power, with the title song performed by Faye.

The chorus of "Rose of Washington Square":

Rose of Washington Square I’m withering there
In basement air I’m fading
Pose, with or without my clothes
They say my Roman nose, it seems to please artistic people;
beaus, I’ve plenty of those
With secondhand clothes and nice long hair
I’ve got those Broadway vampires lashed to the mast
I’ve got no future, But oh! what a past...


Comments (25)

  • 1. dannyno | 18/08/2013
There is an "Inspection Hill" in Queensland, Australia.
  • 2. dannyno | 19/08/2013
Also, contrary to note 1, Birtwistle wasn't the Fall drummer at the time - he had left the group in 2001. He would rejoin in 2004, but at the time the song was released the Fall's drummer was Dave Milner. On the Fall Forum, Jim Watts (sdOK) commented that Spencer had told him that the song came about after Spencer met Smith for a drink and persuaded him to sing over some music that he wasn't going to be using himself.

Note also the reference to "idea from 1983". This could be significant, since the reference to Bert Millichip recalls the 1983 single "Kicker Conspiracy".

The line about Broadway Vampires recalls the song "Rose of Washington Square": http://clio.lib.olemiss.edu/cdm/singleitem/collection/sharris/id/1589/rec/6
  • 3. dannyno | 19/08/2013
"Shadow stop" is a photographic term.
  • 4. Zack | 24/08/2013
In the Grotesque-era "self-interview," MES claims that "City Hobgoblins" was originally titled "Case for the Jews."
  • 5. bzfgt | 02/02/2014
Track 31?
  • 6. Zack | 23/02/2014
There are all kinds of callbacks here to older songs or ideas. Here's another one of my vague recollections from binging on MES interviews over a decade ago: I remember MES saying once in a "Middle Class Revolt"-era interview that "Girls who work in shops are the new middle class."
  • 7. Mark | 23/05/2014
"Drifting people off on where holidays go" - I hear it as "Fifteen people off on their holidays go".
  • 8. bzfgt | 28/05/2014
I definitely hear "where" rather than "their." I changed it to "15" but I suspect "50."
  • 9. Brian | 12/09/2014
Bert Millichip was a solictor, Chair of the FA. and a Director / Chairman of West Bromwich Albion FC, as far as i'm aware he never played professional Football.
  • 10. Zack (link) | 25/06/2016
The original (and I believe only) source of background info on this song was a post on the Fall Online Forum by former Fall bassist and future Fall guitarist Jim Watts, dated December 16, 2003. When asked if "Girl In Shop" came from the 'Missing Winner' album sessions, Watts replied:

"Well a little sketchy but from what Spencer told me he got Mark out for a drink and asked him to sing on some tracks he had written but werent really right for his and Stella's stuff. So no I imagine it was quite recent-ish."

"Stella" is surely Stella Grundy, Spen's bandmate in Intastella.
  • 11. bzfgt | 29/06/2016
Zack, if you remember where that is link me to it please.
  • 12. Zack | 29/06/2016

Also linked in my previous post in parentheses after my name; do you not see it? I try to cite my sources as much as possible.
  • 13. bzfgt | 02/07/2016
No, I did not see it; I didn't know you could link to something that way, with a little thing that says (link) after your name...if anyone else ever did that before, I missed it.
  • 14. bzfgt | 02/07/2016
Wow, I spelled Birtwistle wrong three times.
  • 15. dannyno | 08/10/2016
"The stars dripped from the sky etc"

MES will probably have been familiar with the Albert Camus line:

"Sometimes at night I would sleep open-eyed under a sky dripping with stars. I was alive then."

Whether he nicked the line we are not in a position to say, but it's possible he remembered it. The image of a sky dripping with stars is not unique, at any rate.
  • 16. Zack | 14/01/2017
Another "Backdrop" callback: "track thirty-one" turns up in the version of "Backdrop" on the Austurbaejarbio live album.
  • 17. Zack | 27/02/2017
"Queen of Bozos o̶f̶ ̶b̶o̶z̶o̶s̶".
  • 18. townieman | 03/03/2018
I think 'Idea from 1983 sheer travel boredom' should be 'Idea formulated through sheer travel boredom'.
  • 19. dannyno | 04/03/2018
Comment 18:

towniemanI think 'Idea from 1983 sheer travel boredom' should be 'Idea formulated through sheer travel boredom'.

Yes, I can hear this too! Brilliant.
  • 20. bzfgt (link) | 17/03/2018
I think it's "total fluke" too, unless he messes up pronouncing "fool"--can someone else listen to that? It's really more like "total flue"
  • 21. bzfgt (link) | 17/03/2018
It's definitely "formulated," note that @Dan
  • 22. bzfgt (link) | 17/03/2018
I guess that "@" thing doesn't do anything here...
  • 23. bzfgt (link) | 17/03/2018
"Strike the world" isn't clear either, may be "stroke the world," and may not be "world"
  • 24. bzfgt (link) | 17/03/2018
Oh Dan already saw it...
  • 25. dannyno | 18/03/2018
You know how I like seeing how current MES' lyrical inspirations are. Or at least, I like to establish whether MES could have taken inspiration from something recent.

Re: Rose of Washington Square, the film was shown on the Carlton Cinema satellite channel on 8 March 2003. It was shown several times by the same channel in 2002. Of course, he may have got hold of it on video or DVD too, so this isn't proof of anything.

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