Brillo De Facto
He got no man
In cake shops
I am celestial
Tiny tears of blame
We all know
Where he came from
Gay cruiser, a
The Kennedy (3)
I asked her
"I wanna tell you
How pale he is" (4)
"He's got noblesse"
He give no man
Got no de facto plan
Little elf (5)
And the asphyxiation of the troll will finally be
All salute at the altar of filo pastry
At the altar of Kennedy joy
In Victoria Station
The James Fennings (7)
And the infants
To suckle him
1. This seems to have something to do with facial hair. It first appeared on setlists as "Brillo Filo." Some have suggested a connection with Lee Brilleaux, of the band Dr. Feelgood, and this seems to be borne out by MES himself (who will be quoted on the subject later in this note).
"Worth noting that the band 'Dr. Feelgood' got their name from the Johnny Kidd and the Pirates version of the blues song 'Dr. Feel-Good,' originally by William Perryman (aka Piano Red, aka Dr. Feelgood).
Aretha Franklin's song 'Dr. Feelgood (Love is a Serious Business)' is different.
Theodore Morell, Hitler's doctor, has also been referred to as a 'Dr. Feelgood.' Of course Morell has been mentioned in Fall songs in the past."
The Latin "de facto" means, basically, "in fact," generally in opposition, whether implicitly or explicitly and particularly in English use, to "de jure" which means "by right" or "by law," but also can imply something a bit looser like "by title." For instance, one might say "I am the de facto foreman of this crew," where one holds no title, but functions as such. In this case, one would be in a de jure sense (according to title) a mere crew member, but function as a foreman, and thus foreman would be one's de facto position.
The Latin "Filo" in Latin is a form of "filum," meaning "thread" but also "texture," and, by extension of the latter, the nature of a thing (Wiktionary has "texture, style, nature" and thus I am assuming it is this sense of "nature" and not the kind with chirping birds and trees). But it is also a kind of pastry dough, and it is in this way that it is used in the song; nevertheless, it would be remiss to totally ignore the Latin, bumped up against "de facto" as we are.
But the title may also have been "Brillo Nilo" at some point, according to Mojo (and note the reference to Dr. Feelgood and Brilleaux):
"'You wanna know my problem?' (reaches into his man-bag for a green manila folder of lyric sheets: visible on one are the scrawled words, 'Homeric night, second one today, brillo-nilo'). 'It's Lee Brilleaux out of Dr. Feelgood, but this track's better than Dr. Feelgood. Imagine it played by Motörhead, with Pete [Greenway]'s guitar... The house is full of lyrics, I'm not fucking short of words. There's too many.'"
Dan notes that MES, who at this point apparently had lung and kidney cancer, would have been aware that Brilleaux died of lymphoma, and that "Homeric night" could mean death, as "very often in Homer's Iliad, when a character dies, darkness or black night covers their eyes. See: Morrison, James V. 'Homeric Darkness: Patterns and Manipulation of Death Scenes in the "Iliad."' Hermes, vol. 127, no. 2, 1999, pp. 129–144."
"Brillo (Pad)" is a brand name for steel wool scouring pads that are pre-saturated with soap. Andraes reminds us of Andy Warhol's 1964 Brillo box artworks, which were plywood boxes painted to look exactly like the mass marketed cardboard boxes in which Brillo Pads were sold. Some of the lyrics, Andraes points out, could refer to Warhol, and perhaps to his sexuality ("He got no man"), although this is speculative.
"Nilo" is the Latin name for the Nile, but here it may be nonsense syllables coined to rhyme with "Brillo" (although "nillo" would be expected, sort of like saying "Brillo Schmillo").
Brillo is often used to refer, metaphrically, to hair that is stiff and short, like facial hair (or, in the case of Frank Zappa's "Camarillo Brillo," pubic hair--David Abby makes the Zappa connection in the comments below).
Comment by Peter Greenway, during Tim Burgess twitter listening party devoted to New Facts Emerge, 22 October 2020:
"Name comes from Mark thinking i was trying to channel Wilko Johnson."
2. Tecumseh (1768-1813) was a Shawnee tribal chief who attempted to unite Native Americans in resistence against US expansion in to Indian territory.
"If the first bit does contain the word 'President,' then 'the Kennedy' is presumably John F., who is said (by some) to have fallen victim to Tecumseh's curse. (The curse supposedly strikes down every president elected in a year divisible by 20.)
The 'sorry' could relate to JFK's approval of the Kinzua Dam project, which flooded 10,000 acres of Seneca land. Or the more recent (2009) official apology 'to all Native Peoples.'"
3. Joincey suggests: "If the lyric is "The Kennedy/I asked her" then we might wonder if it might be Susan Kennedy again, after her previously being written about by MES in 'Susan vs. Youthclub." There we speculated that the titular "Susan" might be a character from the Australian soap opera Neighbors. Of course, this is somewhat speculative and, even worse, it is not possible to be certain the above transcription is correct, although it does sound like "Kennedy"...
Note, however that "the President" is (probably?) mentioned in the previous verse; see note 2.
Perhaps an echo of Shakespeare, Hamlet, Act 3, scene 4:
Alas, how is't with you,
That you do bend your eye on vacancy
And with the incorporal air do hold discourse?
Forth at your eyes your spirits wildly peep;
And, as the sleeping soldiers in the alarm,
Your bedded hair, like life in excrements,
Starts up, and stands on end. O gentle son,
Upon the heat and flame of thy distemper
Sprinkle cool patience. Whereon do you look?
On him, on him! Look you, how pale he glares!
His form and cause conjoin'd, preaching to stones,
Would make them capable. Do not look upon me;
Lest with this piteous action you convert
My stern effects: then what I have to do
Will want true colour; tears perchance for blood.
5. An elf is also mentioned several times in "Couples vs Jobless Mid 30s." Here it could be a descriptive epithet for Andy Warhol if the lyrics refer to him (see note 1 above, and Andraes's comment below). Note that I am not suggesting this is likely.
6. See "Leave the Capitol": "...the monty/Hides in curtains/Grey blackish cream". As MES explains on the version of the latter from Tut's, Chicago, 1981-07-16, "monty" means "the real thing." Particularly note here, however, that transcriptions of these late-career songs are highly speculative. In other words, it's possible he doesn't say "monty" here...
7. James Fennings also appears in the Peel session version of "Blindness." I am indebted to Smudger from the Fall online forum for unearthing the following information:
And so we spent a day in the company of Marshall Jefferson, one of Bacardi’s ‘ambassadors’, who are on hand to take the great tracks that today’s up-and-coming talents have produced to the next level. The winner of the Bacardi Remix competition (in the funky house genre) was James Fennings of Prestwich, Manchester. James, already a tour DJ for The Fall for the best part of a decade in his non-house guise, won himself the chance to remix his track – which had been composed with elements laid out on the Bacardi DJ website – with Marshall’s fabled assistance.
Prestwich is in Bury, in Greater Manchester, and is where MES hangs his hat.
"'Jacobson' appears to refer to Max Jacobson, 'Dr Feelgood' of President Kennedy. Dr Feelgood being the Lee Brilleaux/brillo link."
Aretha Franklin's song "Dr Feelgood (Love is a Serious Business)" is different.
Theodore Morell, Hitler's doctor, has also been referred to as a "Dr Feelgood". Of course Morell has been mentioned in Fall songs in the past.
In fact, I can't find an example of it appearing as "Brillo de Filo". Confusion with Fol de Rol?
See the Fall Online gigography
"Filo e brillo" gets translated by translate.google.co.uk as Spanish for "Edge and brightness". There was a classic British TV series called "Edge of Darkness". Here we have "Edge of Brightness".
Brillo can mean "brightness" but also "shine", "brilliance" and similar shades (clever, cheers) of meaning. It can refer to lip gloss (http://www.spanishdict.com/translate/brillo.
"Filo" can mean "edge"/"cutting edge" or or "blade" or "wire" or "thread" or "string" or "flex", and so on.
So "shining edge" of a knife, the brightness of a blade, or the shining edge of the horizon?
"Facto" isn't a word in any language, but suggests "facts", which fits with the album title. "Brillo de Facto" could mean "the brightness of facts" or "shining facts" something?
According to http://www.spanishcentral.com/translate/filo, "de filo" means "resolutely".
Colloquially it can also mean "partner" (i.e. boyfriend or girlfriend): http://www.spanishdict.com/translate/filo
Now, the interviewer may not have had a good look at the lyrics sheet, so "nilo" may be incorrect. But a clear steer towards Dr. Feelgood from MES here. Some of the lyrics appear to have ended up in other songs.
The impression I get is that this is one of those songs that starts in one place (or more than one place) and ends up in another.
There is a Lee Brilleaux/cookery & kitchens connection, although maybe not pastry in particular.
If you read Zoë Howe's 2015 book, "Lee Brilleaux: Rock 'n' Roll Gentleman", there are lots of references to Brilleaux enjoying cookery.
It even mentions his favourite cookbooks and correspondence with a TV cook.
Also seems to be used in Italian:
And why is it worth noting where the band got their name? I did note it, mind you (note 1), on the strength of your commendation, but why did I?
William of Occam tells me it's more likely to be confusion with Brillo de Facto!
Thus "ipso facto," or even--er--"de facto."
I don't even know where I got that, I have "human dog" in Fol de Rol" which I also doubt though...
Unlikely though it may seem, I'm pretty sure this is...
Tail's up... face down!
That's definitely wrong. "Dumps" I think, I don't know about "president." This is too loaded a lyric to have as a default placeholder...I'm going to try to listen to it a few times.
He got no man
To kick himself
Tiny tears of bling
You got no man
(Don’t say it)
Says to Tecumseh
“I am celestial”
Sorry tiny tears of blame
We all know
Where can you trick us a
Had a stoop
“I want a tail.”
How pale he is!
“He’s got noblesse.”
Then at 1:44 MES says either “dedication” or “gaycation” followed by “shock the blue celestial”
At 2:34 a background vocal says “Oh, watch us strut.”
At 3:16 it sounds to me like “At the altar of Kennedy joy/and whimsy/a moribund/Model T/Where James Pfennings/Had the ______/To supple him” I have no clue what the blank is, sounds like All-Popsch to me
I cant help but hear the 'All salute at the altar of filo pastry' as a really sarcastic dig at how popular cooking shows are.
David: I guess the equation/comparison of hair with brillo?
In cake shop
...which would connect with the filo pastry line.
Doubt these were what MES was thinking of though.
"I wanna tell you
How pale he is"
Perhaps an echo of Shakespeare, Hamlet, Act 3, scene 4:
Morrison, James V. “Homeric Darkness: Patterns and Manipulation of Death Scenes in the 'Iliad'.” Hermes, vol. 127, no. 2, 1999, pp. 129–144. JSTOR, http://www.jstor.org/stable/4477298.
Just to pile on with death-related interpretations.
Ok as you were, as they say.
Also, if the first bit does contain the word 'President', then 'the Kennedy' is presumably John F., who is said (by some) to have fallen victim to Tecumseh's curse. (The curse supposedly strikes down every president elected in a year divisible by 20.)
The 'sorry' could relate to JFK's approval of the Kinzua Dam project, which flooded 10,000 acres of Seneca land. Or the more recent (2009) official apology 'to all Native Peoples'.