Cowboy George

Lyrics

George (1)

Low fat canned meat
I won
Said I won
I hate you
Low fat Limeys
In Cavalry

Unseen footage
Unseen facts
Unseen knowledge (2)

Low Fat Limeys

I bite into
A mad sinner
I lost the plot

Into the hill
Into the hill
Into the hill
Into the hill

Unseen knowledge
Unseen facts
Unseen footage

Unseen knowledge
Unseen hills
Unseen facts
On facts, on facts, on facts

I had two broken bottles
I had two brown bottles
And a white nose as I entered
Five years of confinement (3)
This is the story that unfolded
As it went on into the sea of
Unseen footage and
Unseen facts
Unseen refinement
Unseen extension
Chicory Tip in a shopping centre (4)
With a soundtrack again

All is beyond
Our equity your future, again
Incensed, Das Boat (5)
Robin Redbreast (6)
In my fate again

Unseen footage
Unseen facts
In exclamation
He is going

Notes

1. Dan remarks: "There's an Islamic concept, called "Al-Ghaib," sometimes translated as "unseen knowledge," which means something that is known only to Allah."

MES gives us more than we usually get in this interview, although he characeristically escapes by way of a non sequitur before he says too much:

In "Cowboy George" there are lyrics about "unseen knowledge, unseen forces". Is that about mortality? Death? The other side?

That’s, uh, very much sort of the case. That’s one of the tracks that was a first or second take. We done it about 100 times since in the studio, and as we listened to it before we did the final cut, said, "That is the best one." I don’t even know what I’m saying really, because I’m still on medication from the wheelchair. [laughter] Heavy German medication, you know. Which I’m not used to. But it’s still the same lyrics. And it captures it more, I think. It is a bit mystical, that one, yeah.

"Very much sort of" sums it up!


The Story of the Fall aptly calls this a "surf cum spaghetti Western vibe"; in that respect, it's a cousin of "Chino" and "Hittite Man." This one oddly dissolves into a gloppy keyboard coda that doesn't end anywhere near as soon as you think it will, taking up almost half the song. I think of it as musically portraying a step into the region of "unseen knowledge" mentioned in the lyrics, although I have no idea if it was intended that way.

MES IDs "George":

You've got Pete, that's who Cowboy George is, who is into really weird rockabilly. And then you've got the rhythm section who are really into Motorhead and shit like that and then you've got Eleanor who's into German experimental stuff. It's a nice combination.

Musically there is a resemblance to "Jack the Ripper" by Link Wray.

Cabrini Green may have cracked the mystery of Cowboy George:

"Episode 16, Season 4 of The A-Team, entitled "Cowboy George": Face books Boy George, instead of Cowboy George, to sing at a Country and Western bar near an oil pipeline; to keep the locals happy, Hannibal pretends to be Cowboy George. Boy George assists the team. Would be hilarious if this tune was inspired by that!"

Meanwhile, Mike Smith suggests:

"Despite MES ID'ing Pete as Cowboy George, I can't help connecting the name George with the 'Unseen facts,' etc., (the "unknown knowns" statement from Donald Rumsfeld, United States Secretary of Defense) and coming up with George W. Bush, under whom Rumsfeld served. Is 'George' characterized as a cowboy owing to acts like invading foreign countries, confining prisoners unseen in military prisons, and being a former Governor of Texas? 'Into the hills' calls to mind images of al-Qaeda hideouts in the hills of Afghanistan, literally in caves..."

P Hogg points out that this song sounds a bit like "Pushin' Too Hard" (slowed down, here) by the Seeds (note that MES calls out (Sky, presumably) "Saxon" at the end of "Weather Report 2").

MES is slurry on this one, and some of the above lyrics may be wrong.

^

2. Despite what MES says in note 1, it strikes me as odd to characterize death in terms of "unseen facts." There are different kinds of mystery, and, in general, "unseen facts" is a little bit odd of a phrase for the Fall, as it implies something that can be known but merely isn't known yet. The spaghetti Western vibe comes through on "unseen hills." 

I dreamt that these lines were from a TV theme song, which I identified and put in my notes...I was very happy until I woke up and realized that it was all a dream. I think this chorus is more perplexing to me than it needs to be; for some reason it doesn't go down easy for me. In any case, in this song's companion piece, "Cowboy Gregory," we learn that the "unseen knowledge" may be a "pack of shit," a typical (and refreshingly deflating) equivocation.

^

3. Compare "The Joke," whose narrator spends "five years in a PC camp." Several readers have suggested that this is a reference to his marriage with Brix. Brownsocketspurpleeyes called my attention to this quote from the NME, where Brix tells of first meeting MES:

"After the show I decided to venture downstairs to the bar, an insecure teenager on her own, and I literally smacked into Mark Smith. He had a bottle of beer in each hand and white powder coming out of his nose."

Brix and MES were married on July 19th, 1983 and split up some time in 1989, so the timing is more or less correct.

Note that if the song is about Peter Greenway, as MES has suggested (see note 1 above), he had been in the band roughly five years at this point, although this seems less likely to be the primary reference, at least. 

See "Hip Priest," where the narrator says he has "drunk from small brown bottles since I was so long."

^

4. Chicory Tip is an English group that got their start in 1967; they were reportedly one of the first bands to use a Moog. The band's biggest hit, and the one that features the Moog, was "Son of My Father" which went to #1 in the UK in 1972.

^

5. A song called "Das Boat" appears on Reformation Post TLC.

^

6. A robin redbreast is one of several species of robin; in the nursery rhyme of that name, Robin Redbreast survives a feline assault, so the fate in question may not be so bad. This line got a lot of attention in the comment section; Danny suggested that it also calls to mind "Who Killed Cock Robin?", in which the avian protagonist is not so lucky. And Simon reminds us of the lines from Blake's "Auguries of Innocence," "A robin redbreast in a cage/Puts all Heaven in a rage."

According to Zack, this Blake couplet plays a role in "the film Red Dragon; it's not in Thomas Harris's original novel, but MES has quoted elsewhere from Harris's Hannibal Lecter series ('peculiar goatish smell') and 'Hip Priest' appears in the film adaptation of The Silence of the Lambs."

From Crow: 

"'Robin Redbreast' was the title of a BBC Play For Today, written by John Bowen (who wrote 'The Ice House' for Ghost Stories For Christmas and another excellent Play for Today, 'The Photograph'), about a TV script editor (Anna Cropper) who moves to an islated village in the country to 'get her head together' after a relationship break up. She becomes pregnant by the local gamekeeper and slips into a psychic netherworld where, due to the locals conspiring against her, she feels unable to leave the village to return to her home in London. Shades of 'Hard Life In Country.' In black and white and first shown in 1970, it's well worth a look. No obvious link, but its themes and atmosphere would not have been atypical MES fa(y)re."

^

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Comments (37)

dannyno
  • 1. dannyno | 13/07/2013
"A robin redbreast is one of several species of bird; in the nursery rhyme of that name, Robin Redbreast survives a feline assault, so the fate in question may not be so bad."

Ah, but what if the nursery rhyme being referred to is "Who Killed Cock Robin"?
dannyno
  • 2. dannyno | 06/11/2013
I think it's a "white nose" not a "white note", with all that implies.
dannyno
  • 3. dannyno | 03/12/2013
"unseen facts"

Reminiscent of that Donald Rumsfeld quote about "known unknowns". Johari Windows and all that. Look it up.
bzfgt
  • 4. bzfgt | 16/12/2013
I got distracted and looked up "suppurates" instead.
bzfgtI
  • 5. bzfgtI | 16/12/2013
It might be "nose" but that's not at all certain to me, he adds 's's to words that end in consonants and this actually sounds slightly more like 'note' to me. But 'nose' actually makes some kind of sense so I'll change it for now.
Simon
  • 6. Simon | 19/03/2014
'A robin redbreast in a cage. Puts all heaven in a rage.'

MES may be alluding to this with the Robin Redbreast line, we know he is a William Blake devotee.
Paul G
  • 7. Paul G | 29/07/2015
I'm fairly sure that the passage from the 'broken bottles' to the 'five years of confinement' is a reference to Brix.

There's a passage in the book Paintwork by Brian Edge (1989 Omnibus Press) on page 67...

Brix related her first impressions to Melody Maker scribe Steve Lake. ... "Mark just looked completely dishevelled", she remembered, fondly. "He had a bottle of beer in both hands and he was sort of staggering around in crumpled up clothes. And I said to myself, 'God, if he's not a junkie, I don't know who is.'

I think they were married for four years so give or take a few months before that we could have our five.
Zack
  • 8. Zack | 05/03/2017
"A robin redbreast in a cage/Puts all Heaven in a rage" figures prominently in the film Red Dragon; not sure if it's in Thomas Harris's original novel, but MES has quoted elsewhere from Harris's Hannibal Lecter series ("peculiar goatish smell") and "Hip Priest" appears in the film adaptation of The Silence of the Lambs.
dannyno
  • 9. dannyno | 06/03/2017
Paul, comment #7: " think they were married for four years so give or take a few months before that we could have our five." They were married in 1983 and separated in 1989. Six years. I don't understand why broken bottles refers to Brix, and I'd be surprised if MES still felt any need to refer to Brix in song in 2010. MES tells us that "George" is Pete. Pete joined The Fall in 2006. 2010 is nearly 5 years after that. I don't know about his drinking or drug habits, but the dots may as well be connected that way too, just as plausibly.
dannyno
  • 10. dannyno | 06/03/2017
Zack, comment #8: the Blake quote is only in the film. I like the connection.
bzfgt
  • 11. bzfgt (link) | 19/03/2017
Seven years, depending what the months are (what I mean is if it was married Jan. separated Dec. it'd be 7 years)
Cabrini Green
  • 12. Cabrini Green (link) | 21/04/2017
Episode 16, Season 4 of the A-Team, entitled Cowboy George:

Face books Boy George instead of Cowboy George, to sing at a country and western bar near an oil pipeline; to keep the locals happy, Hannibal pretends to be Cowboy George. Boy George assists the team.

Would be hilarious if this tune was inspired by that!
dannyno
  • 13. dannyno | 21/04/2017
I'm very tempted to see if the episode was repeated nearer to the recording of the song.
bzfgt
  • 14. bzfgt (link) | 13/05/2017
It sure would be, that is going in the notes faster than you can spit...
dannyno
  • 15. dannyno | 17/07/2017
"I had two brown bottles"

Could these be similar to the brown bottles that Hip Priest drank from since he was so long?
Martin
  • 16. Martin | 24/07/2017
Re Note 15: already mentioned in the pertinent entry on the Reformation! site.

And here:

https://sites.google.com/site/reformationposttpm/the-university-of-fall-ephemera/cross-referencing-in-the-fall-1

(Not often I'm ahead of Dan so forgive me my chest-thumping!)
dannyno
  • 17. dannyno | 24/07/2017


Respec'
bzfgt
  • 18. bzfgt (link) | 29/07/2017
Wow the cross-referencing page is great...I'll bet we could expand that quite a bit if we spent a little time on it. I need to figure out an appropriate place to link to it, perhaps on the main page here.

Yes, great job with the scoop...amazing how nicely we work with the competition here at TOF.
bzfgt
  • 19. bzfgt (link) | 29/07/2017
It needs a wolverine entry!
bzfgt
  • 20. bzfgt (link) | 29/07/2017
TAF
Crow
  • 21. Crow | 14/02/2018
Love this site, has provided much solace ( and not a little laughter) post MES.

Robin Redbreast was the title of a BBC Play For Today, written by John Bowen ( who wrote The Ice House for Ghost Stories For Christmas and another excellent PFT , The Photograph) about a TV script editor (Anna Cropper) who moves to an islated village in the country to 'get her head together' after a relationship break up.She becomes pregnant by the local gamekeeper and slips into a psychick netherworld where due to the locals conspiring against her, she feels unable to leave the village to return to her home in London. Shades of " Hard Life In Country".

In black and white and first shown in 1970, its well worth a look. No obvious link, but its themes and atmosphere would have been atypical MES fa(y)re.
bzfgt
  • 22. bzfgt (link) | 17/02/2018
Crow, you mean "typical"? Something's being atypical is surely not a reason to conclude it...I am not following, I don't think, the entire pun of "psychick," I am going to make it "psychic"?
bzfgt
  • 23. bzfgt (link) | 17/02/2018
OK I made it the double negative "would not have been atypical" since it seems a slightly weaker claim and thus more defensible. I just caught up on 150 comments, I am feeling too loopy to know how relevant this all seems, I just plopped it in...
P Hogg
  • 24. P Hogg | 23/02/2018
Has the musical resemblance to Pushin Too Hard by the Seeds been mentioned at all?
bzfgt
  • 25. bzfgt (link) | 24/02/2018
It has not, and I never noticed it until you mentioned it.
P Hogg
  • 26. P Hogg | 03/03/2018
Is your profile pic Harold Ramis??
bzfgt
  • 27. bzfgt (link) | 17/03/2018
Jerry Garcia.
Basmikel
  • 28. Basmikel | 13/06/2018
I'm not a native English speaker, but I've never heard the words "mad sinner" together before. There is, however, a psychobilly band called Mad Sin. Could they have been playing at the "rockabilly festival" where MES reportedly broke his hip? (Quite a stretch, I know.)
dannyno
  • 29. dannyno | 16/06/2018
The festival seems to have been "Big Rumble", Great Yarmouth/Hemsby, June 2001. Seems unlikely he'd be calling back to an event nearly a decade ago.
Mike Smith
  • 30. Mike Smith | 14/07/2018
Despite MES ID'ing Pete as Cowboy George, I can't help connecting the name George with the "Unseen facts", etc (the "Unknown knowns" statement from Donald Rumsfeld, United States Secretary of Defense) and coming up with George W. Bush, under whom Rumsfeld served. Is "George" characterized as a cowboy owing to acts like invading foreign countries, confining prisoners unseen in military prisons, and being a former Governor of Texas? "Into the hills" calls to mind images of al-Queda hideouts in the hills of Afghanistan, literally in caves...

Probably not what MES was getting at, doesn't seem like his bag, really, but I just can't help making those connections...
bzfgt
  • 31. bzfgt (link) | 15/07/2018
Crap, that "unknown knowns" is a good connection...
dannyno
  • 32. dannyno | 15/07/2018
Yeah, see my comment #3 - nearly 5 years ago - about Rumsfeld and Johari Windows.
dannyno
  • 33. dannyno | 15/07/2018
Note 3:

Brix and MES were married on July 19th, 1984


No, it was 1983.
dannyno
  • 34. dannyno | 15/07/2018
Re: the Brix quote.. but see my comment #9,, re Pete and how long he had been in the group:


MES tells us that "George" is Pete. Pete joined The Fall in 2006. 2010 is nearly 5 years after that. I don't know about his drinking or drug habits, but the dots may as well be connected that way too, just as plausibly.


Another thought anyway.
bzfgt
  • 35. bzfgt (link) | 22/07/2018
Yeah I have that Greenway thing already
dannyno
  • 36. dannyno | 05/08/2018
On divorce dates, there's this interview with MES from Select magazine dated June 1991 (Sarky Street Poet in Love-Tug Riddle, by David Cavanagh, pp.20-22):

https://web.archive.org/web/20160828041239/http://thefall.org/news/pics/select_fall_june91.pdf


Smith wants, and can't understand why he hasn't yet got, a divorce.


That's 1991 mind you. According to MES in that interview, he left Brix in January 1989. So no divorce over two years later.
bzfgt
  • 37. bzfgt (link) | 16/08/2018
Right, I removed all reference to divorce as on second thought it doesn't seem to be the question

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