Elves

Lyrics

(1)

When will the good Scotch return
In all its scarred splendor
When will the price of Scotch come down? (2)

 

Here's him in nearly '85
Hanging around with pop scum
It's not the business I despise
On this train, extended ride
It's the Scotch end of the market now

 

And steel glasses
And bad music corpses
Cannot hide the new rock scum
Spitting on what's good and gone
Spitting on what's good and gone
When will the price of Scotch come down?

 

Arrangement before job done
Alignment before job done
Assignment before song sung
Alignment before job done

 

All that is fantastic leagues against me
The fantastic is in league against me (3)

 

Tin-can rattle on the path
The bestial greed is on the attack
The cat black runs round the tree
The siamese reached the shore
The siamese reached the shore

 

No never, no never no more
will I trust the elves of Dunsimore  (4)

Notes

1. This cops the riff from The Stooges' "I Wanna Be Your Dog." According to Brix and Hanley (via Reformation):

Quotes from the booklet accompanying The Wonderful and Frightening World of The Fall (re-release of the album by Beggars Banquet, 2010): Brix Smith "Elves was mine. I think it was I Wanna Be Your Dog, of which at the time I was truly unaware. I must have heard it and not even realised what I had done. Until later, and at which time I went to dig a hole in the dirt!"  Steve Hanley: "This is I Wanna Be Your Dog...what we used to do is try to hide that kind of thing...and make it your own. But by the time we finished with Elves it sounded nothing like The Stooges."


Embarrassing or not, the Stooges' riff makes a return on the Peel rendition of "Clasp Hands," and can be heard in a somewhat altered form in "Rememberance R."

^

2. The following comes from an interview with MES in Tape Delay: Confessions from the Eighties Underground:

In what ways are you being experimental now?

MES: With the lyrics I think, 'cause I'm surprised, some of the new stuff that I've been writing is really weird. I've got a great song about Scottish groups, and it's uh, I started out trying to write about how shitty all Scottish groups are and how Scottish groups always lecture everybody on how they are from Scotland, and how hard up they are, and I just tried to make out that this is just a part of the national character of everybody, and you shouldn't take it seriously, don't feel guilty about it, you know? I started writing it like that, but then it started going on about the price of Scotch Whisky, and then it sort of goes into this weird thing about how I can attain to the sky and stuff, and it was really weird and really good. I'm sorry, I don't want to talk about it anymore 'cause it's a really good song you know? And the riff is like, it's like something the Sex Pistols would do, it's really good. (laughs) The riff is like completely you know, just not what you'd think from something like that. I mean if it's going to be a satire it would be something like the Bluebells or something, tinkly things, but the music is just like, how the boys came up with the music is just like, I don't know, you know, it's was one of Brix's tunes actually. When you heard the music you would have thought, you know, "I'm in hell, I'm living in hell", do you know what I mean, a sort of like direct, very simple thing, but the lyrics are really, they get more and more complicated the more I do it.

^

3. Michael Moorcock, The Warhound and the World's Pain"Be warned, war hound. All that is fantastic leagues against you!" And "Everything that is fantastic leagues against me," I said, repeating Klosterheim's warning."

^

4. The lyrics here are reminiscent of "The Wild Rover" (Roud 1173), a traditional Irish folk song, which goes: 

And it's No, Nay, never, 

No, nay never no more 

Will I play the wild rover, 

No never no more 

However, the proximate source is perhaps more likely to be "Evergreen No More" by Canadian singer David Wilcox. The chorus of WIlcox's song:

And it's nay, nay, nay never

Nay nay never no more

Shall he stay green forever

He's evergreen no more

This seems likely because Wilcox's song also contains the lines:

"Broken brown branches half-buried in snow/Are bones of a hero one Christmas ago"

which perhaps find an echo in Service: "Kick the broken brown branches."

This is speculative, and may be coincidental, or MES could be familiar with both songs (or another folk ballad containing a formulation like the above, where there's one there's generally another...).

"The Wild Rover" is generally thought to be a temperance song, which perhaps obliquely resonates with the complaints about Scotch in this song, whereas Wilcox's song, which is basically about being depressed in the winter time, is more obviously thematically connected with "Service."

Dunsimore I'm not sure of. There is a "Dunsinore" mentioned in Shakespeare's Henry VI, and in general it has a fantasy-adventure ring to it, but whether there's more to it or not I can't say at this time.

Also, Putti reports on the name Dunsmore, which is associated with a Scottish family name: "'The Dundemores' seem to have been a family of great ability, and their talents raised them to high positions both in Church and State. In the struggle for Independence, they adhered to the patriotic side, and suffered in consequence.' It fits, because it's about Scotland too." 

^

 

 

 

 

Comments (11)

dannyno
  • 1. dannyno | 02/03/2014

"all that is fantastic leagues against me"

This comes from Michael Moorcock's "Warhound and the World's Pain" (1981), part of his "Von Bek" series. From the book:

"As we rode away, Klosterheim shouted fiercely at me: 'Be warned, war hound! All that is fantastic leagues against you!

Dan

bzfgt
  • 2. bzfgt | 11/03/2014

Damn it, Danny, I just added that Moorcock thing tonight before I saw this. You always beat me to it.

Putti
  • 3. Putti | 10/07/2016

Another clue about the Dunsimore or Dunsmore thing:
"The Dundemores' seem to have been a family of great ability, and their talents raised them to high positions both in Church and State. In the struggle for Independence, they adhered to the patriotic side, and suffered in consequence"
Wikipedia
It fits, because it's about Scotland too.
The whole Wikipedia article is here:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dunsmore

Simon
  • 4. Simon | 01/08/2016

I suspect a more likely Shakespearean reference (given the Scottish theme and the fantastical atmosphere of the song) is to the Scottish play:

"Macbeth shall never vanquished be until
Great Birnam Wood to high Dunsinane Hill
Shall come against him." (4.1.105–107)

"Dunsimore" may be a corruption, intentional or otherwise, of "Dunsinane" (or a conflation of it with "Dunsinore" and/or "Dunsmore").

dannyno
  • 5. dannyno | 10/08/2016

"The cat black runs round the tree
The siamese reached the shore"

I have a feeling these lines about swimming Siamese cats come from somewhere - a story or a news item. MES is a cat lover, so I'm not thinking that any of his cats would have been in a position to have to swim to shore... But I've not found anything yet.

bzfgt
  • 6. bzfgt | 03/09/2016

Simon,

Yes, in fact I could swear I had that in a previous note, although the connection seemed too weak so I removed it. But anyway it's here now, in your comment, so we are covered.

Connor
  • 7. Connor | 14/09/2016

I think, instead of "The Siamese has reached the shore", it reads "The sky and me has reached the shore". This makes more sense to me, especially when cross-referenced with this NME quote: "it sort of goes into this weird thing about how I can attain to the sky and stuff...."

Simon
  • 8. Simon | 16/09/2016

There may also be an element of "Elsinore" in "Dunsimore".

dannyno
  • 9. dannyno | 20/09/2016

Connor: doesn't sound like that though. Also, the Tape Delay interview seems to have been conducted while the song was still a work in progress, and the "attain the sky stuff" doesn't appear to have made it into the final song.

The Siamese cat reached the shore:
http://www.rbhayes.org/hayes/manunews/paper_trail_display.asp?nid=65&subj=manunews

:-)

bzfgt
  • 10. bzfgt | 15/10/2016

That is suggestive, though, Connor. Where is the NME quote found?

dannyno
  • 11. dannyno | 21/11/2016

It's not in the NME, it's from "Tape Delay":

http://thefall.org/news/000326.html#tape

Dan

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