City Dweller

Lyrics

(1)

Victim: message of the euro-bore
Mannered
It's a good life, bowing to a tyrant (2)

Gone
Christian gang chants sweet 
Regional 
Keep your head down for the moment

(That now suit is now in bucket
It's a good life, Europe)

Avoid the dismantled
All heads stuck in bloody plant pots (3)
All looking at them
Forgetting the endless drive against nature
City dweller

Must we base ourselves again into organic mud?
You're well welcome to it
Get out of my city you mediocre pseud
And take those red-tie bastards
Who put up the olympic flag with you (4)
They walk around leering at young girls in packs
Worse than any yobs (5)

(.....Catalonian)

It's January 20th
Euro-bore: I support media
Keep olympic bidding

City dweller
Backwards
More than you can ever know
Mr. cab driver
What do you want
Mr. cab driver (6)

City dweller

This hillbilly cab driver
He has submerged himself into the psyche of the average 
Cab driver
They love me, they knock off 10 to 15 pence
This is wandering
Those casual days are over and dull
dull (7)

Agricultural gangs chant for sweet freedom (8)

Get out of my city 
You mediocre pseud 
And take those red tie bastards with you
City dweller

They should remember there's nothing worse 
Than a half-educated grim red dwarf 
City dweller
Cuts up
Cab driver, cab driver 
Oh Mr cab driver

(He's up there now, listening to us, I know he is)

Why do you leave a a poxy card? (9)
Oh, Mr. cab driver

What do about it?

Too much to drink
Too many drugs
Too much sex
Too young

 

 

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Notes

1. This originally appeared on the Behind the Counter single as "Cab Driver." The lyrics of that version are different, but they are hard to make out; at some point it would be good to put them up, so if anyone knows what they are, please contact me.

^

2. A dictum is an authoritative but not legally binding statement made by a judge or, in common usage, any sort of proclamation; the dictum here is presumably "It's a good life, bowing to a tyrant." 

djbawbag points out that there is a Twilight Zone episode called "It's a Good Life," in which the plot does involve bowing to a tyrant, in the form of 6-year-old Anthony Fremont, who has mental powers that make him extemely dangerous. Otherwise, he's about like any other 6-year-old, which means the people of the town have to make sure they don't displease him if they wish to survive. 

^

3.  Carl says "Manchester City Council hired people to wear costumes with plant-pots for a head, flowers coming out of the top, and walk around the Market Street/Piccadilly Gardens area." It is not certain why this happened, or if it happened in just this way, but Carl says he saw them himself. As yet we have no corroborating evidence of this.

^

4. Manchester bid for the 2000 Olympics, and this presumably would have already been going on in 1993 or 1994 when MES was writing this song (at whjch point, I'm told, the 1996 Olympics was already set). 

Manchester unsuccessfully bid for the Olympic games in 1992, 1996 and 2000, finally landing a sort of booby prize, the 2002 Commonwealth Games.

^

5. A "yob," in English slang, is a crass and aggressive young man from a working class background. A yob is somewhat similar to what is now called a "chav," I think, but the former is more likely to be violent, as far as I can make out.

^

6. It's not the most intuitive of connections, to say the least, but it does nevertheless seem possible that this is an allusion to Lenny Kravitz's 1990 hit "Mr. Cab Driver," about a young black man who has a hard time getting a taxi because of racial prejudice.

^

7. "Those casual days are over" is sung in such a way that it is reminiscent of "Your ballroom days are over, baby..." from "5 to 1" by the Doors.

^

8. Agricultural gangs, which were common in the 19th century (but still persist in some form), were groups of workers, mostly women and children, who contracted out as a group to do farm labor. Often they were organized by a "gang master" who would bid on jobs and coördinate the laborers' efforts. In the 19th cenury the practice was widely condemned as exploitative and began to be heavily regulated in the latter part of the century.  See comment 31below by MediocrePseud for a more contemporary account.

^

9. In English slang, "poxy" means of poor quality or worthless. It is possible he says "proxy." A "proxy card" is a card filled out, often by a shareholder of a corporation, instructing a stand-in or proxy how to vote in the absence of the voter herself. On the other hand, Niall comments, in favor of "poxy," "Having received plenty of them myself over time, I'm fairly convinced the line is referring to a cab driver's habit of leaving a calling card with the passenger at the end of a ride, to encourage them to use their service again. It typically lists the cab service name & phone number."

^

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Comments (34)

djbawbag
  • 1. djbawbag | 14/06/2014
"It's a Good Life " :
One of Smith's many Twilight Zone references ?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/It%27s_a_Good_Life_(The_Twilight_Zone)
dannyno
  • 2. dannyno | 18/06/2014
"pyche of the average "

psyche?
bzfgt
  • 3. bzfgt | 24/06/2014
Maybe so...maybe so.
James
  • 4. James | 26/07/2014
It's A Good Life- a brilliant episode of TTZ. Originally, a story by US writer Jerome Bixby- worth seeking out.
dannyno
  • 5. dannyno | 08/08/2016
Typo:

"Too many dugs"

Drugs? Dugs could be bad in excess too, though.
bzfgt
  • 6. bzfgt | 03/09/2016
Yes, they could--you are a meticulous dude.
Guest Informant
  • 7. Guest Informant | 28/10/2016
Is it

"They walk around wearing young girls in packs"

ie surrounded by "young girls".
bzfgt
  • 8. bzfgt | 29/10/2016
GI, I hear that too now, kind of, although there is a subtle sound that could be "at." I'm going with it though since the vowel seems clearly that of "wearing." Since sometimes a vowel is mispronounced I would reopen the case if there is a live version(s) where he clearly says "leeing."
dannyno
  • 9. dannyno | 22/02/2017
"Avoid the dismantled old heads stuck in bloody plant pots"

Reminds me a bit of Keats' poem Isabella; or, The Pot of Basil
http://www.bartleby.com/126/38.html

But more realistically I wonder if "bloody" is just an expletive rather than descriptive, and so we might be talking about dolls' heads or something ("dismantled", in other words, is to be taken literally rather than as a metaphor for decapitation).
MandrakeAnthrax
  • 10. MandrakeAnthrax | 02/08/2017
"He's up there now, listening to us, I know he is" - this line sounds to me like it's whispered by one of the band members (possibly Karl), in reference to MES himself.
Carl
  • 11. Carl | 21/02/2018
Think the "heads stuck in bloody plant-pots" bit is about the 1996 Olympics bid. Manchester City Council hired people to wear costumes with plant-pots for a head, flowers coming out of the top, and walk around the Market Street/Piccadilly Gardens area. No idea as to the significance. Reckon it is probably "all heads" rather than "old heads"
Squeller
  • 12. Squeller | 22/02/2018
The host for the 1996 Olympics was determined in 1990. Olympic hosts are determined several years in advance; even without knowing the specific year, it's unreasonable to imagine that the bid would have been open as late as 1994.
dannyno
  • 13. dannyno | 23/02/2018
And the 2000 games were awarded in 1993 (Manchester bid for that too). In 1995, Manchester was announced as the winner of the competition to host the Commonwealth Games.
dannyno
  • 14. dannyno | 23/02/2018
In other words:

note 4Manchester bid for the 1996 OLympics, and this presumably would have already been going on in 1993 or 1994 when MES was writing this song.


... is incorrect. The bid referenced in the song would be the bid for the 2000 games, not the 1996 games.
bzfgt
  • 15. bzfgt (link) | 24/02/2018
Crap, OK. Is there any documentation of anyone walking around with plant pots at any point in these bids, though? If true, that is a significant bit of intelligence.
bzfgt
  • 16. bzfgt (link) | 24/02/2018
OK I changed it to 2000. I do not actually know that Manchester bid for the 2000 Olympics, though--did they?
dannyno
  • 17. dannyno | 24/02/2018
Yes.

2000:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Manchester_bid_for_the_2000_Summer_Olympics

1996:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bids_for_the_1996_Summer_Olympics

And see also this: http://manchester1984.uk/chapters/section-6/chapter-26/

This relatively short account covers the period from 1984 onwards, when the first idea of bidding for the Olympics came up, through lessons from the unsuccessful bids for the Olympic Games to be held in 1992, 1996 and 2000, leading to the successful bid for the 2002 Commonwealth Games.
Carl
  • 18. Carl | 26/02/2018
I should add I can't remember exactly when I saw these plantpot people, but I did see them with by own eyes, quite possibly sober at the time. Obviously, Olympic bids viewed decades after they happened blur into one. I reckon it is most likely to be Jan or Feb 1994. That could fit in nicely in terms of timing but If it is known that the lyric was written earlier than this, then what we have is a coincidence, since I can't remember being in Manchester at all in 1993. It could also have been later in 1994 or even in 1995. I just can't be sure.

I had a quick Google image search for the plantpot people in question, but came up blank, sorry.
Junkman
  • 19. Junkman | 26/02/2018
Love this one, such a mournful, weary feel to it.

Can't tell from the comments up thread if you used to have this but I always heard "They walk around leering at young girls in packs".

Also after note 8 you have "red tight" - typo?

Re yob, you have it pretty much right. Yob apparently is backslang ('boy'), and similar to 'lout' in that it's a general term of dismissal. Chavs are a more modern phenomena, and more like an actual subculture with specific clothes, and pale gangsta pretentions derived from hip-hop videos.
dannyno
  • 20. dannyno | 04/03/2018
"Gone" at the beginning. I think it's "None" or something like that.

I'm still hearing, like Junkman in comment #19, ""They walk around leering at young girls in packs". It's not "wearing".

And I now hear

Avoid the dismantled old heads stuck in bloody plant pots


as

Avoid the dismantled
All heads stuck in bloody plant pots


This doesn't help from the point of view of the lyric making sense, but it is what i'm hearing.
dannyno
  • 21. dannyno | 04/03/2018
Interesting echo from the Guardian of 19 September 1990 (too early for this song, really), in a piece ("Gloom as Georgia is on everyone's mind" - about the announcement of the winner of the 1996 Games):

Stephen Bierley. The Guardian,19 Sep 1990, p.20.Nobody is absolutely sure when the five Olympic rings on Manchester's Town Hall will be dismantled.
dannyno
  • 22. dannyno | 04/03/2018
The winner of the 2000 Olympic bid was announced on 23 September 1993.
bzfgt
  • 23. bzfgt (link) | 10/03/2018
Thanks, Carl, since you're sure I'll mention it but I wish we had evidence beyond eyewitness testimony, which Dan will tell you is unreliable!
bzfgt
  • 24. bzfgt (link) | 10/03/2018
I mean, he's right in general, but not necessarily in this case.
bzfgt
  • 25. bzfgt (link) | 10/03/2018
Of course they presumably weren't dismantled...
bzfgt
  • 26. bzfgt (link) | 10/03/2018
Gone sounds like "gone" to me

I agree with the next thing, it doesn't seem to me the heads are dismantled, but the latter are what we are to avoid, based on the timing
bzfgt
  • 27. bzfgt (link) | 10/03/2018
There's a repeated second vocal with the words "city" and "migrate," I think, can anyone catch that?
bzfgt
  • 28. bzfgt (link) | 10/03/2018
Junkman, definitely "at"--one wants it to be "leering" since it makes sense, but it sounds more like "lairing", could it be pronounced like that? I'm going to make it "leering" for now.

"Red tight" is probably a legacy from the LP that I never corrected.
Junkman
  • 29. Junkman | 16/03/2018
Yes I think that's just an MES pronunciation quirk, just the way he emphasises/expresses
Niall
  • 30. Niall | 30/07/2018
Having received plenty of them myself over time, I'm fairly convinced the line:
"Why do you leave a a poxy card?"
is referring to a cab driver's habit of leaving a calling card with the passenger at the end of aride, to encourage them to use their service again. It typically lists the cab service name & phone number.
MediocrePseud
  • 31. MediocrePseud | 07/10/2018
The formation of gangs to perform agricultural work is still practised, perhaps not as commonly as it used to be, partly due to the introduction of the minimum wage and better mechanical devices for the work and regulations that make it more complicated to run a gang and also to join one.
In the 1970's and 80's I worked on several farms during holidays from school and college and it was simply a case of turning up at the right place at a given time and cracking on with the days work, mostly fruit picking and hand weeding of crops before harvest. Gangs were more prevalent in vegetable picking such as potatoes, asparagus, carrots etc and I worked around the East Anglia region for a few years at the appropriate time of year and my gang-mates were mostly students, travellers and unemployed people earning "a bit on the side" - an English term for illicit earnings made but not declared while in receipt of benefits. The gangs were sometimes exploited by unscrupulous gang-masters but not as commonly as sometimes claimed, your earnings were in proportion to the quantity of product that you picked so it was easy to calculate how much you had earned for the day and it was paid daily, in cash and tax-free as it was considered to be "casual labour" which was seasonal and temporary. I'm not sure what the current situation is with gangs but I would think that they are still in use as the alternative is for the landowner to hire the labourers individually, a very time consuming and difficult process and one that requires reserve labour to replace ones who "jack"- another quaint little term for resignation of your job without notice and with immediate effect i.e walking off from the job, often with the comment "Fuck your job" but they usually came back the next season!
I enjoyed doing casual gang labour but it was just for extra cash and I didn't rely on it, I would think that it is more difficult now to find work on a gang as the master would have to top-up the earnings of anyone who didn't make the lower limit for minimum wage and that would not endear you to the boss!
Bazhdaddy
  • 32. Bazhdaddy | 13/10/2018
Suggestions;
:08 Victim, vestige of the euro-bore
:21 none or numb
:24 pristine gang
1:14 who put off the olympic flags
03:47 why did you leave porn in the car
03:53 every city is invaded by hillbillies, two, what to do about it, load-up

There's a background chant throughout sounds like "why can't this city do libraries properly" but I'm far from sure
bzfgt
  • 33. bzfgt (link) | 13/10/2018
Definitely "message," not "vestige"

I'm not sure about "victim/dictum"
bzfgt
  • 34. bzfgt (link) | 13/10/2018
I hear a lot of it how we had it

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