Dr. Bucks' Letter

Lyrics

 
I lost my temper with a friend (2)
Mocked him and treated him with rudeness
And though I tried to make amends
Feel I miss him and walk a dark corridor

Woke up one morning
Doctor Bucks' letter
Of my own making, I walk a dark corridor of my heart
Hoping one day a door will be ajar
At least so we can recompense
Our betrayal of our hard won friendship
In vulgar and arrogant abeyance
To what was untrue underneath our parlance

I open the envelope, Doctor Bucks' letter
Re: Welfare Benefits reports

J. McCarthy, approximately 10-15 days (3)
I got down, I was depressed
It was Doctor Bucks' letter

Turn the radio on

Doctor Bucks' letter

Cheer myself up
Put the radio on, get the magazine out
And read about "The Essence of Tong"  (4)

Checklist:

I never leave home without:          (5)
1. Sunglasses - I wear them all year around, and seem to need them more often, it’s a habit
Music - cassettes, CDs
3. Palm Pilot - it’s my lifeline. I think it’s my P.A.’s computer, (6)
She rules my diary and I download it
4. Mobile phone
5. Amex card - they made such a fuss about giving it to me but I spend more time getting it turned down!

 

I was in the realm of the essence of Tong.

 

Notes

1. At the Fall online forum, SnoweyUK has given a reasonable basic interpretation of the lyrics: 

"Here is my interpretation for what it is worth:

Someone (not necessarily MES - he may have read this somewhere), is stressed because they have acted badly to a friend of theirs in the heat of the moment. The Friend hasn't forgiven him.

I think that the friend is Doctor Buck and the letter is the trigger that set off the ruckus between them.

Emotionally distraught he picks up the letter again and this causes him to feel more anguish about the argument. It reminds him of it.

To distract himself he tries anything 

The Radio

A Magazine

In the magazine he reads about The Essence of Tong....... its a distraction" (SnoweyUK) 

According to Conway, in the same thread, "Snowey has the guts of the story. The first part of the song is about a real friend of MES and a letter that was written by Dr Bucks (doctor books) - note position of the apostrophe in the song title - to him. Grant Showbiz told the good doctor that MES had the letter in front of him in the studio when he recorded the vocals. Any further details of the background to the letter and the doctor's identity are really unnecessary to the understanding of the song and I'm sure he would prefer they remain private."

Pete Tong is a DJ for BBC Radio 1; MES, then, was reading a magazine profle of the latter. 

If this is correct, the title is spelled "Dr. Bucks' Letter" because the titular character is named "Dr. Bucks," a near-homophone of "Dr. Books." Whether the latter is someone's name, or a nickname for an actual person, is not clear.  Dannyno weighs in:

Just to add to the confusion, the second Fall Lyrics book contains what appears to be a circular letter addressed to Smith from Nutrihealth International, all about prostate problems. It includes a quote from a "Doctor Buck M.D. Sleaford, Lincs." The company does exist.

John Bush, in a review from Allmusic, suggests the song is a tribute to Charles Bukowski, a theory which has been repeated elsewhere. However, I was unable to corroborate this and it does not seem very likely based on internal evidence alone.

I've seen this song compared to Joni Mitchell's "The Jungle Line," from The Hissing of Summer Lawns, and I can sort of see it, there is a similar thing with the drums and some of the bassy parping sounds.

According to Julia Nagle:

"One of my personal favs. Adam Helal is responsible for this one composed on pro tools - it's a musical masterpiece with slow, low bass loops. Lyrically it's about a friend, a doctors letter and a magazine interview with a DJ. Curious."

According to a Fall feature in the Quietus "there is a Dr. LJ Buck registered as a GP in Salford)." However, this is certainly not our Dr. Buck(s), as Dan has discovered, since she wasn't registered there until 2006 at the earliest (this is generous, 2012 looks more likely).

Ben Pritchard comments on the song:


BP: Yeah, it’s a good tune. It was called Adam Goes To Canada originally cos it was Adam’s song, Adam Halal or whatever his name is, it was his song. He put it together on ProTools and I came in and did that riff over it.

^

2. The opening line perhaps echoes the poem "A Poison Tree" by William Blake, which begins: 

I was angry with my friend;
I told my wrath, my wrath did end.
I was angry with my foe:
I told it not, my wrath did grow.

^

3. Steph.opal weighs in:

John McCarthy is a British journalist who was held hostage in Lebanon for 5 years (as was Terry Waite). The line seems to be "J. McCarthied, approximately 10-15 days" suggesting that due to the depression produced by Dr. Bucks' letter he chose to remain isolated indoors.

Zack reminds us of "American actress Jenny McCarthy, whose career peaked in mid to late '90s. It's feasible that she could have been mentioned in the same magazine as that banal Pete Tong interview."

And of course, the mother of all J. McCarthys, Joseph McCarthy, the infamous American demagogue who made it his luridly insincere mission to root out communist sympathizers in all departments of American government, where they were said to be hiding out, in various numbers depending on when he was speaking. In fact, the number seems to have ranged between "57" and "205," although only 65 of the 205 were still working in goverment by the time he made the claim. The movie The Manchurian Candidate has a McCarthy-like figure glancing at a bottle of Heinz ketchup before asserting "57"...

My sense is that this note descends in order of likelihood. 

 

^

4. See note 1. "It has all gone Pete Tong," in England, is rhyming slang in some circles for "it has all gone wrong," and is even the name of a 2004 film about a fictional DJ who is going deaf. "Tongs" are also Chinese secret societies in North America.   

^

5.Additional lyrics that frequently appear in live versions: "I was suffering from rhinocerosis," and another item he never leaves home without: "J.D. Salinger, The Catcher in the Rye" (Zack).

^

 

6. "Personal Assistant."

^

 

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Comments (27)

dannyno
  • 1. dannyno | 24/03/2013
Just to add to the confusion, the second Fall Lyrics book contains what appears to be a circular letter addressed to Smith from Nutrihealth International, all about prostate problems. It includes a quote from a "Doctor Buck M.D. Sleaford, Lincs." The company does exist.
Michael Park
  • 2. Michael Park | 18/08/2013
Dr. Buck Ruxton lived in Dalton Square in Lancaster and murdered his wife (insatiable jealousy) and maid (witness to murder ) and dismembered them both leaving body parts in Annan in Scotland
He left a letter admitting guilt after original denial before his hanging - Dr Buck's letter (he was known locally as Dr. Buck) - there seems to be some liink perhaps
My kids' favourite song after Mexico Wax Solvent
dannyno
  • 3. dannyno | 26/09/2013
It's a pleasing connection, but there doesn't appear to be any link to the actual song.

Dan
John
  • 4. John | 17/10/2013
The only J. McCarthy that springs to mind is Senator Joe McCarthy from the 1950's Red Scare days.
Colin
  • 5. Colin | 05/11/2013
I agree on Bukowski. There's no proof that the song has anything to do with him.
Fuiru
  • 6. Fuiru (link) | 29/11/2013
Funny, I always heard the lyric as "The essence of Tonga". I thought he was reading a travel article.
Chris
  • 7. Chris (link) | 02/07/2014
re:4. John McCarthy is a British journalist who was held hostage in the Lebanon for 5 years (as was Terry Waite). The line seems to be "J. McCarthied, approximately 10-15 days" suggesting that due to the depression produced by Dr. Bucks' letter he chose to remain isolated indoors.
Mark
  • 8. Mark | 03/07/2014
Is it "Bucks'" or "Buck's"? Just checking...
bzfgt
  • 9. bzfgt | 15/07/2014
Bucks'--see note one. I don't have my cd here to make sure that's right, though...
Martin
  • 10. Martin | 03/09/2014
Both on the inlay sheet and on the jewel case of the original CD release it's written as "Bucks´". In the expanded edition it's rendered as "Buck's".
Martin
  • 11. Martin | 03/09/2014
By the way, has anyone tried contacting Pete Tong himself to see if he can shed any light on the interview mentioned in the song?
dannyno
  • 12. dannyno | 16/02/2015
Martin: it's something I've thought about but haven't actually done. Perhaps worth a tweet.
Zack
  • 13. Zack | 03/12/2016
Another J. McCarthy: American actress Jenny McCarthy, whose career peaked in mid to late '90s. It's feasible that she could have been mentioned in the same magazine as that banal Pete Tong interview.
Zack
  • 14. Zack | 19/02/2017
Additional lyrics that frequently appear in live versions: "I was suffering from rhinocerosis" and another item he never leaves home without: "J.D. Salinger, The Catcher in the Rye."
dannyno
  • 15. dannyno | 25/02/2017
Witnesses to the first performance of the song at London Astoria 2, 24 May 2000, reported as follows (from http://thefall.org/news/000530.html):

"Tom:

eponymous hero 'desires to drive across America in a convertible' and some other lines some hilarious.


"Michael":

Other lines include "I am reading Alex Garland's The Beach, I was a bit late with that one to be honest, but I'm working on the soundtrack for the film", "I read magazines, I am a magazine junkie, GQ, The Face".


And Reformation! quotes Julia Nagle from the press release for The Unutterable:


"One of my personal favs. Adam Helal is responsible for this one composed on pro tools - it's a musical masterpiece with slow, low bass loops. Lyrically it's about a friend, a doctors letter and a magazine interview with a DJ. Curious."
bzfgt
  • 16. bzfgt (link) | 03/03/2017
I adde Joe McCarthy to the lineup although it seems unlikely to be about him. I can't tell whether it is or is not meet that I do this.
bzfgt
  • 17. bzfgt (link) | 03/03/2017
I wonder if we can take it that those are all "Pete Tong" speaking.
dannyno
  • 18. dannyno | 03/03/2017
I think so, yes.
bzfgt
  • 19. bzfgt (link) | 03/03/2017
Note that we've got a Salfordian physician in tow now (note 1).
dannyno
  • 20. dannyno | 10/11/2017
According to Ben Pritchard, the song was originally called Adam Goes to Canada:

http://thefall.org/news/pritchardint2006.html


BP: Yeah, it’s a good tune. It was called Adam Goes To Canada originally cos it was Adam’s song, Adam Halal or whatever his name is, it was his song. He put it together on ProTools and I came in and did that riff over it.
dannyno
  • 21. dannyno | 02/12/2017
Note 1:


According to a Fall feature in the Quietus "there is a Dr. LJ Buck registered as a GP in Salford)."


There is.

But it cannot be our Dr Buck.

This song dates to 2000.

The Salford Dr Buck is Dr. Laura Jayne Buck.

Laura Jayne Buck didn't qualify until 2006 (from the University of Manchester). That was the year she provisionally registered, full registration following in 2008. She didn't enter the GP register until 2012, which was the year she joined Silverdale Medical Practice, Pendlebury, Salford. However, she is no longer listed on the Practice site and although her linkedin profile still suggests she is there, it is out of date, and have found other evidence that she left in 2014 to specialise in Care Homes, and she anyway now listed at the Poplars Medical Centre, Swinton (http://www.thepoplarsmedicalcentre.co.uk/staff1.aspx)

Anyway, the point is that in 2000 Laura Buck was a year away from beginning her medical training.

Source: General Medical Council List of Registered Medical Practitioners, https://www.gmc-uk.org/doctors/register/LRMP.asp.
bzfgt
  • 22. bzfgt (link) | 23/12/2017
OK, sorted.
HC
  • 23. HC (link) | 22/03/2019
I don't care whether or not it's really about old buk or not, I still love the fact that it's often paired to be as such, loving both buk, and mes. And the such a fuss they made about giving the Amex card and them spending more time in turning it down, is hilarious. I'm sure buk could relate!
Ian F
  • 24. Ian F | 07/04/2019
On the Deluxe Edition version of The Unutterable there is an additional excerpt from the letter after 'Re Welfare Benefits Reports'.

'We also con? (consume?)
Which means ? (a?) board will not be able to recover the legal fees
Paid by them
Behalf / their half'

I can see why it was dropped because it sounds like someone actually reading from a letter, and the tedious legalistic element at that. It lacks poetry, ambiguity and nuance.

However, when I was listening to it first time I wondered if it was part of the ongoing legal washup from the unpaid VAT bill saga. A couple of years down the track from that event, it wouldn't surprise me if it wasn't still front and centre of MES's mind. Either this original lyric was transposed from his own legal correspondence (and then deleted back out again). Or he could have been prompted to write a song whose subject was the legal case he'd just been through and the consequent fracturing of his relationship with two very old friends (Karl and Steve).

Being MES though the final song is several stepped removed from its initial catalyst.
nairng
  • 25. nairng | 27/04/2019
Three minor points:
1. Pete Tong's famous, long-running shows on Radio 1 were The Essential Mix and The Essential Selection - iirc he drew listeners' attention to certain 'essential' tunes - overall 'essential' was a word associated at the time with Tong, so 'Essence of Tong' is a typical title for a magazine interview with him.
2. I think it is 'she runs my diary', not 'rules'. It doesn't sound like 'rules' to me at all.
3. I was watching a BBC4 doc on John Lee Hooker last night; like MES, he would repeat lyrics across different songs all the time, and one lyric which I noticed on one of the all-too-short clips of the actual songs was 'I got down'. MES likes blues (eg they covered Bourgeois Blues) - pretty vague, but perhaps a source?
jensotto
  • 26. jensotto | 28/04/2019
BBC Genome (Dr Buck) is Dr Buck Ruxton - exectuted 1935 - R4 early 1991 "Surgeon's knife"

Other option: Consider Church of SubGenius and their J.R.Dobbs ("Bob" - is Slack). Then consider Dr Dobb's Journal (of Calisthenics & Orthodontia) - "Running light with overbite". Genome(running light) is Disney's "Run light buck run". Just a maze of associations - but I have several friends hung up on elements from Dobb(')s.

In the times of McCarthy and HUAC, many authors and screenwriters could not publish and tried other options. Norwegian journalist / author Sigurd Evensmo toured the US sponsored by the State Department in 1950/1 (meeting Thomas Mann, and unnamed writers in cafes outside Hollywood). Two years later, he wrote scripts for two plays - The Radar Man and Closing Time. The latter as a novel in 1957 (The Mystery from Year Null). Certainly not his style, taking place in fictional Shihayo City (mix of Chicago and DC). Perverted by language .... Evensmo was Labour/left, anti-Stalinist, disappointed with Franco in place and Non-Alignment (many visits to Croatia and met Tito).
Also note Harry Martinsson's Aniara in Sweden. Colby of CIA resided in Stockholm.
dannyno
  • 27. dannyno | 13/05/2019
Comnment #25, Nairng.

The "essence/essential" point is a good one. I've tended to assume that it was one of those "interviews" which run as a series where they send the subject a list of appropriately thematic questions and print whatever they get back - you know, like "Where I go on my holidays" or "Celebrity person X's favourite animals". Pretty common and journalism-light format. In which case "Essence of" could have been the title of the series. But of course the implication of your point is that's not necessarily so.

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