The chiselers
He is desperate
Passed on
The 9th richest, bar none (2)
The chiselers

He is short
They are short
The Stones are short
Mr Grumbly, with a white Ferrari, is short
Giving you hard looks (3)

In the long long Yeltsin days (4)
Get in touch
They're skint
Relocation due for the chiseler

Dry hump, in the hip club (5)

Chiseler, chiseler, you're a godamn chiseler

(internet) (6)

The chiselers

He is desperate
They are desparate
One mad, bad, one mad
The Arab in

He is short
Pink Floyd are short


9th richest country in the world bar none

Dry hump, in the hip club


Dry hump, in the hip club

I try to think like you do
Act like you do
Try to dress like you do
I thought I was you (7)

Now you turn around
Point your finger at me
Say I'm Chilinist
You think I'm the pits

The chiselers are here
And when they appear
You know I'll disappear again
The chisellers are there
And everywhere
And now I'll never come here again

I think like you do
I act like you do
I thought I was you

I need no persuasion
You know what to say
The process is clear
You are not happy

I try to think like you do
Dress like you do
I thought I was you




1. This song also appears, all on one single, in variant forms as The Chiselers and Chilinist. This version, which is the one that appears on The Light User Syndrome, has the most lyrics and this is why it is the one I chose to list it under here. This version is particularly fascinating as it contains a lot of things, not all of which are, to my ears, equally worthy. Some of the best music on The Light User Syndrome happens within the auspices of its seven minutes and five seconds, as does some of the least appealing moments of the album. The music on offer ranges from prog and fluffy AOR grandiosity to some of the more hard-edged stuff of the Fall's 1990s, sometimes at the same time. Brix seems to be enjoying herself here, and she's all over the song both vocally and instrumentally, which isn't the case with many of the songs on the album. MES doesn't seem to have thrown away any of the ideas he had for the song, and although the trimmed versions from the single provide a solid alternative to this state of affairs, one wonders whether this reading should have stayed a B-side, sort of like the "director's cut" on the flipside of a DVD.

"Chilinism," a practitioner of which is called a "chilinist," are probably just a weird-out variants of, respoectively, "chiseling" and "chiseler." Etymologically, these words are evocative of "chiliasm" (from the Greek chiliad, a group of a thousand units), the Latinate version of which is "millenialism" or "millenarianism," the doctine that Christ will reign on earth for one thousand years immediately prior to the final judgment. It is somewhat characteristic of MES that he takes a petty and self-serving phenomenon, the chiseler--and for MES there is usually an emphasis on a specific kind of chiseler, those who treat music as primarily a business, some of whom, in the process, rip off the Fall for good measure--and makes an "ism" out of it. And the "ism" he seems to be comparing it to is not just any old "ism," but one so grandiose as to be concerned with the end of the world as we know it.

Reformation provides the following anecdote from frequent Fall collaborator Grant Showbiz

Grant Showbiz quoted in "Tape Op" no 16, 2000: "I was...working on [Chilinist] and Craig Scanlon had gotten a clarinet and we tried very hard to make it work, to get a good sound. Then Mark heard it and said, 'What the fuck is there a clarinet on this song for?' He told us to wipe it off the track. We played the mix again and Mark was like, 'This is shit. Where is the clarinet? That was the best thing on the track.'"  

"Chilinism" was to be Scanlon's final recording with the band, and by all accounts MES was trying to push him out at this point, so it is likely this behavior was more juvenile than senile.

From Hanley's The Big Midweek:

We’ve always been a band who puts an album together quicker than this one single is taking. Mark’s got infinite ideas as to what arrangements he wants in, how many parts it should have, what happens in each part… and he won’t rest until he’s exhausted them all, and us.

After countless revisits to the studio, we are setting up again, Brix and Julia with the guitars, Karl with a guitar, a drum kit and half an eye on the keyboards. But what’s this? Instead of tuning his guitar, Craig is opening a much smaller case. I look on in horror as he begins to assemble a clarinet.

‘Prestwich junk shop,’ he mumbles by way of explanation and proceeds to play it all over the track.

Mark hates it and has it wiped off. Then he listens to the play-back wondering what the fuck happened to that noise, before demanding its return on account of it being the best bit.

What we eventually emerge with is an over-processed, convoluted, over-extended version of what we had in the first place, several months previously. It’s a self-indulgent montage of disjointed styles, none of which have any real connection with one another, and, for what it’s worth, you can’t hear the clarinet at all. There’s the bones of a decent song in there, buried by Mark and a producer with too much time on their hands.

We play the Astoria in London and the Junction in Cambridge. There’s the going on hours late, there’s the walk-offs, trying to drag the band off, stopping and starting songs, messing with the equipment. Afterwards, even the fans are asking ‘Why don’t you leave?’

I used to be proud to be in this band. Now people are looking at me with pity, thinking, what the fuck are you doing? What was always the unthinkable is now something I can almost imagine considering. And yet… ‘If you had a business for sixteen years,’ I tell them, ‘that sent you round the world and gave you the opportunity to leave a legacy, would you find it so easy to just abandon it?’
The Fall are asked to write music for a Channel 4 play. Instructions from above are very strict. We are to write individually so it is clear who has written what. The winners will be sent to a London studio to record their piece and, hopefully, the best one will end up on the soundtrack.
And the winners are me, Karl and Si, so each piece comprises only keyboards, drums and bass. Now there’s no guitar at all! Surprise surprise, we don’t get the commission.

A live performance of the ‘Chiselers’ piece is to be televised for Granada Reports at Matt & Phred’s jazz club in Manchester. Recording takes place in the afternoon prior to the evening’s show.

There’s no sign of Craig. When I ask Mark about this, he tells me this small stage isn’t big enough for someone who didn’t play on the record.

Craig’s being pushed out. Maybe he’s losing interest because he’s being pushed out. Maybe he’s being pushed out because he’s losing interest. Heading over to his the following day, we have a brutal discussion. ‘You’ve given up.’ It’s more of a statement than a question.

He looks at me. ‘The truth hurts. But yeah.’

‘Craig, just go round there and find out what’s going on.’

So he does, only to have Lucy inform him he’ll be receiving a letter from Mark which explains everything.

Several days later this fabled missive arrives, explaining nothing. In this manner, Craig is informed he is no longer in The Fall because of his failure to maintain equipment.


Thanks to Dan for typing all that out.

And from Martin:

"The Peel session of the song includes the line 'nosy idle gossips,' also used in 4 1/2 Inch. The full line in this session is 'adrenalin fusspots and nosy idle gossips.' There's also this: 'Mr Grumbly swerved the car.'"


Zack finds a conversation between Simon Wolstencroft and producer Mike Bennett:


Bennett: "The track 'The Chiselers' was something that was going on all the way through Cerebral and all the way through Light User and Mark E Smith just kept adding to the car [?]. [...] I think there's a big section of it that was recorded on a Dictaphone and looped from Phoenix Festival. Then we went into Bucks Music in Notting Hill on a four-track. We describe it as 'from Shabby Road to Abbey Road and everything in between' and that's where we mastered it: Abbey Road."

I believe the looped section that Bennett describes is either 2:58-3:22 on "Interlude / Chilinism" or 6:32 to the end. If Bennett's memory is correct - if the single includes a sample of The Fall live at Phoenix Festival 1995 - that means that Craig Scanlon did indeed play on the "Chiselers" single as he was still a member of The Fall at that time.



2. Below we learn that this refers to the ninth richest country in the world, although what "bar none" could mean in this context is unclear (or rather it is absolutely clear that this is a typical--and typically wonderful--humorously garbled send-up of discursive conventions on MES's part). In 1995, the world's ten richest countries by GDP were the USA, Germany, Japan, France, the United Kingdom, Italy, Brazil, China, Spain, and Canada. I listed them all because there are various ways of measuring wealth, and because it's doubtful if MES checked any statistics or was concerned with precision, but nevertheless we shouldn't even assume he's refering to a country on this list (much less assume he means Spain).  He mentions an "Arab" later, so he could be thinking of a Middle Eastern country with oil wealth, but really, who knows?


3. This sudden concern with shortness is puzzling, although further down it occasions one of the more memorable, and frequently quoted, lines from this era, when Brix bleats "Pink Floyd are short!" Short in what sense? Possibly physical stature, although David Gilmour is six feet tall, and Roger Waters soars to a full 6'3'' (these things can be determined very quickly these days using Google). These folks could be coming up short in terms of money or product, or not reaching the minimum metaphorical height to get on the cosmic amusement park ride of not being a douche. What seems clear is that in MES's eyes they are lacking something.

According to nairng at the Fall online forum:

I always imagined it was about the club going bust, so they begged (chiseled?) for money from the Rolling Stones & Pink Floyd, but were refused because said bands found themselves 'short'. Er, of money.
I have no evidence for this.

The Halifax foorball thing is probably misdirection, but you never know...


4. Boris Yeltsin was the first president of post-Soviet Russia, presiding over a country which was run by chiselers, and in which often the only means of survival was chiseling. Russia underwent a catastrophic economic collapse after the dissolution of the U.S.S.R., and crime and fraud were rampant. "

"In the long, long days" is a favorite line of MES's, and he often comes on stage shouting over whatever opening number is chosen "Good evening, we are the Fall, in (or "of," or "from") the looong, looooong days!" It is somehow an evocative phrase, even beyond the fact that it is now associated with the beginning of a Fall show--and, appropriately enough, it is impossible to say why. Yeltsin's long, long days were largely a time of chaotic penury and larceny, before stability was restored and crime and poverty became more predictably executed and distributed.


5. A furtive dry hump on the dance floor may be seen as a way of chiseling someone out of their sexual favors...


6. This is what the Lyrics Parade has the background vocals saying here, though in this instance I can't swear to their accuracy of transcription. According to Mark Smith, the internet was invented by Fall fans. Thus, while in 1996 the internet was just starting to be a thing, the early adopters in the Fall crowd were probably not perplexed by this.

And Martin points out that on at least one live version, "To paraphrase, the chiselers invented the internet" (Martin's source for this is the live compilation Cheetham Hill).


7. These lines are a parody of the Stylistics' "You Are Everything":

Today I saw somebody
Who looked just like you
She walked like you do
I thought it was you

The song is from 1971, but in 1975 The Best of the Stylistics, which includes "You Are Everything," went to number 1 in the UK. Thanks are in order to Flickering Lexicon on the Fall online forum for finding the connection.




Comments (15)

  • 1. john | 10/09/2013
Cheese alert
  • 2. bzfgt | 07/10/2013
I can't say I disagree; at times it's almost perverse. Engaging, though, although some editing would have improved matters. "Chiselers" is a relatively vegan version, don't you think? (emphasis on "relatively")
  • 3. dannyno | 29/10/2013
It's definitely "short" as in short of money, not short in stature. On the Fall forum I cited various contemporary news stories about those mentioned in the song, and also about Halifax FC.
  • 4. dannyno | 10/02/2014
Flickeringlexicon over at the Fall Forum has found what seems to be the source of some of the lyrics:

The Stylistics: You Are Everything

"She walked like you do.
I thought it was you"
  • 5. Mark | 21/05/2014
"Dry hump" - also used in DOSE's "Plug Myself In", which MES added vocals to, around this time.
  • 6. TamFrmGlsgw | 10/09/2014
In note 1. you write:
"The Light User Syndrome was to be Scanlon's final album with the band".
Not so. Scanlon had already left, it was in fact to be Steve Hanley's last album with The Fall.
I know your quote from Grant Showbiz seems to contradict this, but I have the 2002 sanctuary records reissue of "The Light User Syndrome" before me just now and and excerpt from the liner notes, written by Daryl Easlea, reads: "The Fall's first album without the considerable left-handed guitar skills of Craig Scanlon, who'd left the group after 15 years in late 1995...". Also, the wikipedia page for TLUS also makes no mention of Scanlon in the "personnel" section.
I know The Chiselers single was released before the album, so perhaps he did play on that song? In any case, he certainly did not record the album with the band.
  • 7. bzfgt | 21/09/2014
You're right about LUS, although Scanlon was on the single, and Hanley was on the next album, Levitate.
  • 8. bzfgt | 22/09/2014
Although apparently CS just played clarinet on the single.
  • 9. dannyno | 31/05/2015
I offer some evidence about the Halifax Town AFC connection in this FOF thread:

I quote from Hanley's "the Big Midweek" on the recording of the the single here:
  • 10. Martin | 08/09/2015
The Peel session of the song includes the line "nosy idle gossips",also used in 4 1/2 Inch. The full line in this session is "adrenalin fusspots and nosy idle gossips". There's also this: "Mr Grumbly swerved the car."
  • 11. Martin | 18/07/2016
With reference to note no. 6, about the internet, the version on the compilation album Cheetham Hill contains the following lyrics: "To paraphrase, the chiselers invented the internet".

I need to listen to early live versions of the song to see if and when this phrase was first used.
  • 12. Martin | 22/07/2016
None of the live 1995 versions of the song I have listened to contain anything at all about the internet, as far as I can hear.

In fact, most of the lyrics in early performances are based around the words "chiselers" and "Dry hump, in the hip club", which Brix sings over and over again.
  • 13. Zack (link) | 06/01/2017
Some more fun "Chiselers" recording info from the Mike Bennett / Simon Wolstencroft convo linked above.

Bennett: "The track 'The Chiselers' was something that was going on all the way through Cerebral and all the way through Light User and Mark E Smith just kept adding to the car [?]. [...] I think there's a big section of it that was recorded on a Dictaphone and looped from Phoenix Festival. Then we went into Bucks Music in Notting Hill on a four-track. We describe it as 'from Shabby Road to Abbey Road and everything in between' and that's where we mastered it: Abbey Road."

I believe the looped section that Bennett describes is either 2:58-3:22 on "Interlude / Chilinism" or 6:32 to the end. If Bennett's memory is correct - if the single includes a sample of The Fall live at Phoenix Festival 1995 - that means that Craig Scanlon did indeed play on the "Chiselers" single as he was still a member of The Fall at that time.
  • 14. Neill | 27/03/2017
I had (until I read this page) always assumed that this song was some kind of (very) oblique commentary on children/family. "Chisler" or "Chiseler" is a Dublin/Irish slang term for a child.

And, y'know, children ARE short, as the song points out.
  • 15. bzfgt (link) | 01/04/2017
Wow, one learns a lot doing this! I don't know how I'd ever have heard about that meaning of "Chiseler" if I didn't run this site. I wonder what the origin is...

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