Dice Man

I am the dice man (1)
And I take a chance, huh
Do you take a chance, huh?

Where you two going?
Where you two going?
Is this a branch on the tree of showbusiness? (2)

Do all these musicians
Have a social conscience?
Well, only in their front rooms

But I am the dice man
And I take a chance man
Do you take a chance, huh?

They stay with the masses
Don't take any chances
End up emptying ashtrays

But I push, push, push, push
Throw the bones and the poison dice
No time for small moralists

Cos I am the dice man
And I take a chance, huh
Do you take a chance, fan?

They say music should be fun
Like reading a story of love
But I wanna read a horror story
Where are you people going?
Where are you people going?
Is this a branch on the tree of showbusiness?  

But I am the dice man
A balls-on-the-line man
Do you take a chance, baby?

Notes

1. The song is named after the novel The Dice Man by Luke Rhinehart (the pen name of George Cockcroft). All the major decisions of the protagonist, a psychiatrist, are determined by a throw of the dice; apparently it was based on experiments Cockcroft himself made in this manner. From Reformation

In an interview with Jon Wilde published in Jamming, MES said, 'That song was one of the most truthful. I based it on the book because I loved the idea that this guy would throw dice in the morning to decide how he'd be that day. I believe you have the right to change. We don't have a deliberate policy of keeping people guessing - that's just the way I am. You only look at life through your own eyes. I thrive on being outside the pop mess but not many people see that. I'm dead proud that The Fall aren't just another branch on the tree of show biz. Basically, rock music isn't very interesting, so it's only people like me who can make it interesting.' (Full interview here)

For a relatively recent report on Rhinehart/Cockcroft (who has since died), see "More Information" below.

In the 2021 anthology, Excavate! The Wonderful and Frightening World of The Fall (edited by Tessa Norton and Bob Stanley) is reproduced on p.67 what is described as "Preparatory notes for various songs, 1978-80". It is effectively a handwritten track listing and credits for Dragnet.

Alongside Dice Man is the following annotation (see for comparison the sleeve note reported in comment #1 here):
 


"(From the book, don't read it, the song's much safer.)

dedicated to all ex-members of The Fall & Their petty materialism."

Thanks to Robert and Dan.



The first recorded live performance ends with MES shouting, 'I ain't no fucking musician, baby!' Musically, the song has a Bo-Diddley-type riff. 

 

 

^

 

2. From the Step Forward press release announcing the single "Rowche Rumble"/"In My Area" (double A side):

"ANOTHER BRANCH ON THE TREE OF SHOW BUSINESS ?

The new single. Double-A side. Songs: 'ROWCHE RUMBLE' (Look At What The People Around You Are Taking) This is a great dance number and combines a cheek-in-tongue put down of a popular sweetie with The Fall's tribute to Racey. Dig it."

Thanks to Dan for finding this. The press release dates from July 1979, and "Dice Man" was first played at the end of the month, and included this lyric from the beginning.

^

Comments (29)

Robert
  • 1. Robert | 06/05/2013
Note for this song from the album sleeve insert:

"To all ex-Fall members and also from the book. Don't read it, the song is much safer."

http://s.pixogs.com/image/R-371281-1321778353.png
Macker
  • 2. Macker | 28/09/2015
There is some spoken word at one point during the song (I believe it's MES) can anyone decipher please?
bzfgt
  • 3. bzfgt | 15/11/2015
Sorry Macker, I can't make out a single syllable of that, if anyone can then please submit your results!
dannyno
  • 4. dannyno | 28/03/2017
From the "Rowche Rumble" press release (http://thefall.org/gigography/79jul00.html):

ANOTHER BRANCH ON THE TREE OF SHOW BUSINESS ?


"Rowche Rumble" was first played at the end of June 1979, and the single released at the end of July.

"Dice Man" was first played at the end of July 1979, and appeared on "Dragnet", released at the end of October.

It would be interesting to know if the early lyrics included the "branch of showbusiness" line, given its appearance in this other context.
Martin
  • 5. Martin | 01/04/2017
"'Dice Man was first played at the end of July 1979, and appeared on "Dragnet", released at the end of October`.

It would be interesting to know if the early lyrics included the "branch of showbusiness" line, given its appearance in this other context."


Yes, from the very first performance: 29 July 1979; Marquee, London
nutterwain
  • 6. nutterwain | 03/06/2019
I'm hearing "well only in their brunch groups" instead of "well only in their front rooms"

Although debatable if 'brunch' was a thing in 1979?
bzfgt
  • 7. bzfgt (link) | 03/07/2019
Nutterwain, I seem to remember it was indeed a thing in 1979. I can remember it being mentioned at least in the early 80s, in any case.

It sounded like "brunch grooms" to me when I listened for "brunch groups," then if I let myself hear "front rooms" it sounds more like that. Listen again, I'm pretty sure it's the latter.
Tony Renner
  • 8. Tony Renner (link) | 16/11/2019
https://www.theguardian.com/news/2019/nov/07/the-dice-man-elusive-author-luke-rhinehart-george-cockroft-emmanuel-carrere
dannyno
  • 9. dannyno | 18/11/2019
Comments #6 and #7 - the earliest documented use of "brunch" in the Oxford English Dictionary is 1895:

1895 - Independent 22 Aug. 2/1 Breakfast is ‘brekker’ in the Oxford tongue; when a man makes lunch his first meal of the day it becomes ‘brunch’: and a tea-dinner at the Union Club is a ‘smug’.
bzfgt
  • 10. bzfgt (link) | 23/11/2019
Has to be, the "gr-" of "groups" is definite
T.L.B.
  • 11. T.L.B. | 16/01/2020
Hi, I have the day off work, and nothing better to do than start a debate about Dicenan lyrics!
I think that the repeated line in the first verse currently transcribed as "Where are you two going?" is actually something else. I admit I haven't done any research on live bootlegs and such like, but to my ears, on the recorded version on 'Dragnet' at least, MES is just singing a hard letter "t" rather than than the word "two".
This could be an early nod to the love/hate relationship MES had with the Northern England working class, what I think he called the "cloth cap, forlock tugging attitude" in an interview once, further explored on Grotesque, in songs like 'English Scheme' and 'The N.W.R.A etc.
There's a common Northern England colloquialism, more often heard in East Lancashire (East Lancs towns and villages are often named in Fall songs of this era, eg Haslingden in 'That Man') and Yorkshire to abbreviate the word "the" as t',. Eg : "I'm off t'pub."
I think MES was subverting and critiquing this expression by using it slightly out of context - normally its before a noun, not a verb, and was singing : "Where you t't't' going? as if he was taking the piss out of some Northern comedian in the working men's club circuit, who would no doubt consider themselves to be on "a branch of the tree of show business", which is the next line.
This interpretation would also fit with another MES trait, where he likes to vocalise abbreviations or sound effects in songs, like "unbrzzzptt the subject" in 'Prole Art Threat' or the chorus of 'Glam Racket' , where I think he is singing "Glam Rckt", with "rckt" as the abbreviation for racket.
T.L.B.
  • 12. T.L.B. | 16/01/2020
I got that slightly wrong - t' is actually short for two words, to and the,
So "I'm off t'pub.", means "I'm off to the pub."
T.L.B.
  • 13. T.L.B. | 16/01/2020
And "brunch groups" in the next verse is surely "front rooms" instead? I think that's unequivocal, I don't think brunch existed in England in 1979, certainly not in Salford anyway!
T.L.B.
  • 14. T.L.B. | 16/01/2020
I stand by that, even after seeing Dan's research about 'brunch'!
bzfgt
  • 15. bzfgt (link) | 19/01/2020
Hmm I think "front rooms" seems more likely now, and maybe that other stuff, I'll listen to it soon
But "brunch" definitely existed in the 70s
T.L.B.
  • 16. T.L.B. | 31/01/2020
'Front rooms' makes sense , in that he's describing musicians ostentatiously drawing attention to their social consciences. Whereas 'brunch groups' does not sound convincing to me. What's a brunch group? Is is a group of people who regularly eat brunch or an actual band/gruppe who eat brunch? Why would M.E.S. put that in the lyric? It's a bit poxy if so, and I am always tempted to give M.E.S. the benefit of any doubt in these matters and say he intended the option that has the most artistic/literary merit, although that too is debatable I suppose.

Also, I reckon brunch was a more popular concept in say, California, at the time of composition, rather than Prestwich.
bzfgt
  • 17. bzfgt (link) | 01/02/2020
Right, I agree "front rooms" makes sense, except that it sounds more like "brunch group." Definitely people who congregate for brunch, not the band option.
Michael
  • 18. Michael | 24/11/2020
What's a front room, anyway? Like a living room/lounge? I'm drawing an association to the conscious mind as the 'front room' to the unconscious; but that might be me projecting Freudianism onto MES.
dannyno
  • 19. dannyno | 06/12/2020
Front room would mean living room/lounge to me, yes.
Junk for Brains
  • 20. Junk for Brains | 12/12/2020
As for the spoken word portion of the song, yours truly did a quick Command+F in a PDF of "The Dice Man", searched for the word "blocks", and found the following: "Great bleak Blocks of God, descend, quiver, create." So there you have it.

And here's the line with some context:

"The dice in position before him, he knelt silently for two minutes and prayed. He then picked up the two dice and began shaking them gaily in the bowl of his hands.

Tremble in my hands, O Die,
As I so shake in yours.

And holding the dice above his head he intoned aloud:

'Great bleak Blocks of God, descend, quiver, create. Into your hands I commit my soul.'

The dice fell: a one and a two—three. He was to leave his wife and children forever."
Joseph Holt
  • 21. Joseph Holt | 05/02/2021
It’s absolutely “front rooms”. I’ll add my voice to the fact that absolutely no one in Manchester was talking about brunch in 1979!
Not that it’s any proof of lyrically accuracy, but Muze magazine in the mid-late 80s had an article on The Fall, where that line was used to illustrate the piece. Being focused purely on the Manchester music scene, Muze had a relatively short run between about 1985-89ish. Not sure who was behind it, but it always felt like Tony Wilson had a hand in it and Mick Middles seemed to do most of the writing.
dannyno
  • 22. dannyno | 15/02/2021
Muze was published by Howard Shannon.

Was this the article?

https://www.mdmarchive.co.uk/gfx/17302/HiRes-1.jpg

https://www.mdmarchive.co.uk/gfx/17344/HiRes-1.jpg

https://www.mdmarchive.co.uk/gfx/17344/HiRes-2.jpg

Source: https://www.mdmarchive.co.uk/deep-search/muze

There were probably others.
bzfgt
  • 23. bzfgt (link) | 22/02/2021
I hear "brunch grooms." I can't remember when I switched it to "brunch groups ," at some point I guess I was persuaded. So I'm checking Eindhoven 1980-06-13...here it sounds like "front rooms." And MES could have muffed the line a little to give us "brunch grooms." The other one I have is Leadmill, 1982-12-02. This one sounds kind of muddy. Again, though, "front rooms." It's going back to that for now, and I will hear your objections.
bzfgt
  • 24. bzfgt (link) | 22/02/2021
But I'm putting a note with the possible variant.
bzfgt
  • 25. bzfgt (link) | 22/02/2021
Yes in light of the live versions, Dragnet seems like "front rooms" with particularly crispy consonants. I don't think a note is necessary, I'm pretty firmly convinced of "front rooms" now.
bzfgt
  • 26. bzfgt (link) | 22/02/2021
Can someone give me a time stamp where you hear the bleak blocks of God?
bzfgt
  • 27. bzfgt (link) | 22/02/2021
"Front room" I think of as a parlor
dannyno
  • 28. dannyno | 30/03/2021
In the 2021 anthology, Excavate! The Wonderful and Frightening World of The Fall (edited by Tessa Norton and Bob Stanley) is reproduced on p.67 what is described as "Preparatory notes for various songs, 1978-80". It is effectively a handwritten track listing and credits for Dragnet.

Alongside Dice Man is the following annotation (see for comparison the sleeve note reported in comment #1 here):


(From the book, don't read it, the song's much safer.)

dedicated to all ex-members of The Fall & Their petty materialism.
bzfgt
  • 29. bzfgt (link) | 03/04/2021
Crap, how did I never put that in from comment #1? Anyway, I gave Robert a belated acknowledgement.

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