Sail the seas
and makes your hair silver
H. Co. CO2 (2)
Cosmos Four awaits (3)
A mythical European lifestyle
Cosmos 11 (4)
Cosmos rat's head
Four eyes, this is coming
Russian in the back
Single Version: (5)
O2 always meant well (6)
With five eyes
With green false green sprocket head of O2's
And Cosmos 4 and 5 (7)
Missed Little Grunwald (8)
Little Grunwald repent
Fury of Cosmos 7
Mythical stylo to you
In pig in green isle
1. The lyrics for the Ersatz version are largely a matter of speculation in places; thanks are due to the good people at the Fall online forum for trying to get this down. The lyrics for the single version seem a bit more likely to be accurate. The first word here may not actually be "cosmos"; some people say they hear "Valis" here. Valis (an acronym for Vast Active Living Intelligence System) is an extraterrestrial intelligence, perhaps divine, that Philip K. DIck believed himself to be in communication with, inspiring hundreds of pages of notes (published in somewhat redacted form as the Exegesis) and the novel Valis.
Kosmos 7 is the name of a Soviet reconnaissance satellite that was launched in 1962 and orbited the Earth for four days. It was the seventh satellite in the Kosmos series, and the second reconnaissance satellite to be successfully launched. Most of the Soviet and, post-USSR, Russian satellites have been called "Kosmos"; as of 2010, according to Wikipedia, 2,468 Kosmos satellites had been launched. "Kosmos," which means, as might be expected, "cosmos," is a name given only to Soviet/Russian satellites which are placed into orbit around the Earth.
According to Dan, "Cosmos Seven" is the title of a 1998 anthology of poems by the Australian writer Edwin Wilson. On the other hand, there's no actual evidence of a connection."
2. H. is Hydrogen, and C02 is carbon dioxide. "Co" could be MES sounding out "C0," as he often sounds out acronyms and abbreviations. In a process requiring high pressure, Hydrogen and carbon dioxide can be combined to methanol, which can be used for fuel. On the other hand, "O2" appears to be a character in the single version.
3. Kosmos 4 was the first reconnaissance satellite in the Kosmos series that was successfully launched by the USSR (Kosmos 7 was the second). As with Kosmos 7, its mission lasted for four days in 1962.
4. Kosmos 11 was a demonstration satellite launched for military purposes. The connection between the lyrics and the Soviet satellites bearing similar names should be regarded as a loose one, of course.
8. Fit and Working Again points out the 02 arena is in Greenwich, and "Grunwald/Gruenwald" is likewise a place name meaning "green forest"...also C02 (see note 2) is a gas emitted by trees and green plants...who the hell knows, but take a bunch of drugs and think about it for a while and then you can post your conclusions below.
Ersatz GB = Ersatz DB? by Jeffrey Lewis
I’m not sure if this is the best place to leave this comment regarding the album title "Ersatz GB" but here goes.
On the Wikipedia page for the “Ersatz GB” album it claims “the name Ersatz GB is a play on the title of the 1978 Len Deighton novel SS-GB.” However, I’ve found what may be another possible source, which creates some interesting cross-references.
My proposed reference point is in the book “Door Wide Open; A Beat Love Affair in Letters, 1957-1958,” a collection of letters written back and forth between famed Beat author Jack Kerouac and his girlfriend Joyce Johnson (published by Penguin Books in 2001). Perhaps Mark E Smith read this book? Kerouac, as laid bare by the letters in this collection, is an example of an alcoholic writer, a man who destroyed himself with his drinking but who was nonetheless a visionary artist, a maverick. Towards the end of “Door Wide Open”, in one of his final letters to Johnson (dated June 1958), Kerouac complains about the publishing company’s reception of his new manuscript, The Dharma Bums (a follow-up book to the smash 1957 fame-making success of On The Road). The publishers have put his wonderful Dharma Bums manuscript through an editorial wringer, and have suggested 4,000 edits, which Kerouac believes would mangle the brilliance of his book. Kerouac’s letter to Johnson (on page 149) says: “if they are trying to sneak over their ersatz version of DB on me they’ve lost a writer.” Kerouac’s shortening of “Dharma Bums” to “DB” (making an “ersatz… DB”) matches Mark E Smith’s shortening of Great Britain to “G.B.” (I believe that’s the “G.B.” of the album title) and also matches Smith’s shortening of visionary writer William Blake to “W.B.” on the Unutterable album. Kerouac and Blake and Smith: visionary writers, mavericks who did not play by the rules, and had contempt for those who did. In the “WB” song Smith quotes Blake’s poetry, longing for an unfettered English visionary essence: “Look up / the fire, the fire is falling / Look up, look up / Oh citizens of London / enlarge thy countenance / From the flaming wind-hairs of thought / in his forehead.”
This is an exhortation to the “citizens of London” to perhaps live as uncompromisingly as the kind of life suggested by Kerouac himself in Kerouac’s famous lines from On The Road:
“…the only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars and in the middle you see the blue centerlight pop and everybody goes ‘Awww!’” (On The Road)
We already know that Mark E Smith admires (or at least acknowledges) this Blake-ian fiery element of Kerouac, as seen in the lyrics to “Fiery Jack,” the writer who says “I just think think think / Too fast to write / Too fast to work / Just burn burn burn… I sat and drank / For three decades / I'm 45 / Cause I am Jack” (Jack Kerouac himself died aged 47, of cirrhosis, the result of longtime alcohol abuse. That's sometimes what happens when you follow Kerouac's "burn, burn, burn" ethos).
So what we have in the title “Ersatz G.B.” is a contrast between visionary, fiery spirit—the creative spirit of Kerouac, Blake, Smith, and Great Britain itself (an inherently flaming British spirit, as it is imagined by Blake at least)—and the “ersatz” way in which this spirit ends up finding expression, after being mangled and distorted and ruined by middlemen, editors, meddlers, bean-counters. Kerouac complained of his visionary Dharma Bums being ruined by these analytical, rule-abiding, left-brained meddlers and turned into an “ersatz DB.” I propose that Smith, in the title “Ersatz G.B.,” is similarly complaining of a ruined British spirit (that is, the visionary spirit of “WB” and MES himself), watered down by the bean-counters and soulless copy-editors and meddlers who are most definitely not the “mad ones” who “burn, burn, burn.”
At this late stage in his career Smith was completing a circle, from his youthful reference to Jack Kerouac in Fiery Jack (written in 1979 when Smith was about 22) to this witty repurposing of Kerouac’s “ersatz DB” phrase (The Ersatz GB album came out in 2011 when Smith was about 54; a writer heading towards his own alcohol-abetted demise).
Did Smith consciously or unconsciously see himself in that Kerouac letter on page 149 of “Door Wide Open?” Did Smith recognize himself in the book’s portrait of Kerouac’s decline? Was Smith, like Kerouac, an alcoholic blaming the middlemen for ruining his fiery Blake-ian spirit (thus making external excuses for what is probably the worst album of the Fall’s career)? Note Kerouac’s retaliatory threat: if the mediocre persist in meddling, “they’ve lost a writer.”
Is the title “Ersatz GB” a reference to how the spirit of Great Britain itself has been edited into mediocrity (again, possibly an excuse for the album’s lameness)?
If Smith never read “Door Wide Open” then the above is all nonsense. Smith may never have seen that Kerouac line about the "ersatz DB". But who knows.