Clear Off!

Lyrics

(1)

When the off-license asks (2)
I've been 2 months
Checks the crack
On their forehead
Should comb a hair
Over that

And these Czech shoes
Are a bloody reminder
And this town
Is not much different
The clothes, the stooped appearance

Over the hill
goes killer civil servant (3)

I still remember
The white leafy border
The scheiss in winter (4)

Over the hill
goes killer civil servant

There's a song she had before
Borough town
That had the snappy rejoinder

Who's there?
What's wrong?
Clear off!

Notes

 

1. From Uncut magazine, October 2003 (thanks to Dan): "The lyrical idea came when I bumped into a good pal I hadn't seen for 10 years who'd just got back after working behind the Iron Curtain. He was still dressing like a Czech factory worker, drinking heavily. He'd obviously seen some terrible things and I think he'd left his sweetheart behind. The drums and Gavin Friday's part really make it.

^

2. In Britain an off-license is a liquor store, i.e. a place that has a license to sell liquor to be consumed off the premises. This cryptic little song  probably has something to do with Eastern Europe (but see note 2 below), what with the Czech shoes, the "killer civil servants," the paranoia. Like "Copped It" and "Stephen Song," it features guest vocals by Gavin Friday of the Virgin Prunes.  

^

3. Although "civil servants" would be apparently be approporate characters in a song about Eastern Europe, with its mentions of Czech shoes and bit of German cussing (see notes 1 and 3), this may be a reference to a British civil servant rather than a European one. Danny drops a bit of science in the comment section:

"In February 1983, civil servant Dennis Nilsen of Muswell Hill was arrested on suspicion of murder. This song was first performed in September, by which time Nilsen had been charged with 5 murders plus some attempted murders. He is thought to be responsible for 15 murders in total, which makes him one of Britain's most prolific serial killers."

Known as the "Kindly Killer," Nilsen is also a necrophiliac (although he now resides in a maximum security prison in Yorkshire where one imagines he is unable to act on his more gruesome urges).

^

4. Scheiss is German for "shit."

^

Comments (6)

dannyno
  • 1. dannyno | 02/05/2013
"Killer civil servant".

In February 1983, civil servant Dennis Nilsen of Muswell Hill was arrested on suspicion of murder. This song was first performed in September, by which time Nilsen had been charged with 5 murders plus some attempted murders. He is thought to be responsible for 15 murders in total, which makes him one of Britain's most prolific serial killers.
dannyno
  • 2. dannyno | 20/02/2014
"Kindly Killer", not "Kindle killer"! It's not like he had an abiding hatred of electronic book readers.
bzfgt
  • 3. bzfgt | 22/02/2014
A typo, Wise One. Thanks for catching that.
Mark
  • 4. Mark | 07/07/2014
Your footnote references are numbered 1, 3 and 4.
dannyno
  • 5. dannyno | 28/09/2014
From Uncut magazine, October 2003:

"The lyrical idea came when I bumped into a good pal I hadn't seen for 10 years who'd just got back after working behind the Iron Curtain. He was still dressing like a Czech factory worker, drinking heavily. He'd obviously seen some terrible things and I think he'd left his sweetheart behind. The drums and Gavin Friday's part really make it."

http://thefall.org/news/pics/03oct-uncut.html
Martin
  • 6. Martin | 22/04/2016
I think it's worth mentioning that the most of the lyrics of the song were in place from the very first live performance (27 September 1983 in Nottingham), including the references to Czech shoes and the killer civil servant. However, the line "Borough town" is altered at times in this and in other gigs. At Nottingham, "borough" seems to be replaced by "Gloucester" (I'm not 100% certain about this, though). At Glasgow on 4 October 1983 the town cited is Brighton.

By the way, the line "white leafy border" often got slightly extended to "white leafy border post" in gigs, and the German "scheiss" replaced by "shitty".

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