Dr. Bucks' Letter
Feel I miss him and walk a dark corridor
Woke up one morning
Doctor Bucks' letter (3)
Of my own making, I walk a dark corridor of my heart (4)
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 (5)
J. McCarthy, approximately 10-15 days (6)
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" (7)
I never leave home without: (8)
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, (9)
She runs 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! (10)
I was in the realm of the essence of Tong.
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
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.
See "More Information" below.
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.
Dan points out that this poem was used as the opening stanza of "Magpie" by Blur (1994). MES is known to have been a fan of Blake, whereas I'm uncertain whether he was familiar with the Blur song. He later appeared on a song by Damon Albarn's subsequent band Gorillaz, on the other hand ("Glitter Freeze," 2010).
3. Dan suggests an echo of "Death Letter Blues" by Son House:
Got a letter this morning, how do you reckon it read?
Say "hurry, hurry, the gal you love is dead"
Both songs deal with loneliness and alienation from a loved one:
"I didn't know I loved her, until I let her down"
4. Julia Adamson (Nagle) says it's "art" (Twitter). However, the consensus seems to be that it sounds like "heart," and Conway Paton has posted a transcript in MES's hand with this formulation (below). Note the comment section, where Dan has unearthed several examples of the phrase "corridor(s) of the heart," which seems to be a cliché.
We also consume
Which means aid board will not be able to recover the legal fees
Paid by them
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.
7. See note 1: Pete Tong is a DJ for BBC Radio 1; MES, then, was reading a magazine profle of the latter. According to nairng, "Pete Tong's famous, long-running shows on Radio 1 were The Essential Mix and The Essential Selection, where he drew listeners' attention to certain 'essential' tunes. So 'essential' was a word associated at the time with Tong, and 'Essence of Tong' is a typical title for a magazine interview with him."
And, in fact, Dan found the very interview in question, from which many of the above lyrics are taken (or adapted). This is (believe it or not) from Hot Line, the "complimentary magazine for Virgin Trains passengers," issue #8 (Autumn 1999):
Dan will doubtless be hard at work trying to determine exactly when MES was on a Virgin train...stay tuned in the comment section for any developments on that front.
"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.
10. See Harleyr's transcription of the first performance of the song in "More Information" below, where it is a black Amex card. Dan points us to Wikipedia for the intel on this card:
"The American Express Centurion Card, known informally as the Amex Black Card, is an invitation-only charge card issued by American Express. An invitation is extended to Platinum Card holders after they meet certain criteria. The Centurion Card comes in personal, business, and corporate variants."
The Hot Line article which is the source for the "Essence of Tong" section:
From Pander! Panda! Panzer! :
Pan in my name.
Pan is my name.
Artificially audible through a Tandy loudhailer.
I don’t know who shoot the horse despite the speculation of Dr Bucks’ letter.
I bribed cameramen because I defaulted on my equity payment.
As a thespian I am so glad to visit the countryside to specialise in retrospective.
It does one’s heart in, especially as I just rushed here from Wrexham.
It’s hard to be the pilot of the rat pack.
What does it all mean in the end it is …
What does it matter?
Dr Bucks' letter...
Harleyr's transcription of the debut performance at London Astoria 2 on 24th May 2000 (as mentioned in comment 15 above). Harleyr: "My assumption is that this was closer to the original text from the magazine feature, before Smith edited it down to the funniest bits for the album."
THe Essence of Tong
I never leave home without
Sunglasses - I wear them all year round
And seem to need them more often
It is a habit
They're good to hide behind
The ones I ? the moment
Are those Philip Starck bendy ones
2. Music, cassettes, cds
There's always something I'm listening to
For work or pleasure
Or to use on my show
Right now I've got about twenty of them with me
Dr Buck's Letter
3. Palm Pilot - it's my lifeline
I ? to my PA's computer
She turns my diary
and I download it
4. Mobile Phone
5. Black Amex Card - they made such a fuss about giving it to me
But I spend more time getting it turned down
Because people think they're so fake
My top 5 books or magazines
1. The Beach by Alex Garland, Penguin
I was a bit late on him to be honest but I'm reading The Beach now because I'm working on the soundtrack for the film
I'm also reading The Tesseract.
2. Addicted by Tony Adams
3. The Picture of Dorian Grey
The Essence of Tong
This ? Tong
Magazines 5. All of them
I'm a magazine junky
Whether it's GQ, The Face, computer mags
Nothing too nerdy
I'm a sucker for a great cover
If it's got a nice picture of Kate Moss on it
I'll buy it
Ride across America in a convertible
East to West
A classic drive that takes in the plains of Nevada
This is the Essence of Tong
The Essence of Tong
The Essence of Tong
Shows I set the video for
1. News and sport
2. Friday night's alright
? did a great job and loved working on it
3. Ali G
The All Black Show was a real breakthrough
This is the Essence of Tong