Fantastic Life


Got eighteen months for espionage
Too much brandy for breakfast
And people tend to let you down
It's a swine
Fantastic life

Dole penicillin to eastern ching plague-ridden
And one thing I have found
What you cast out will hit back
And a man will find he has to deny his
Fantastic life

Ours is not to look back
Ours is to continue the crack (1)

Met a 54 year old dustbin man
And '48 he'd been in Jerusalem (2)
Sold surplus oil to Arab fighters 
For M-cocktails to burn Jewish terrorists (3)
What a turn-up!  (4)
Fantastic life

Style's too easy to buy nowadays
And there's interference with the mail
And you just can't get out the words
Some people think if they had a job they'd be well
A fantastic lie!

The Siberian mushroom Santa
Was in fact Rasputin's brother
And he didst walk round Whitechapel
To further the religion of forgiven sin murder
Fantastic lie! (5)

No lie, friend called David
He said he had a barney on Corporation Street
He said he told the policeman what he really thought
But knowing him I don't believe that crap
A Fantastic lie (6)

I just thought I'd tell you
I just thought I'd tell you
About fantastic life

And I just thought I'd tell you
Some fantastic lies

And I just thought I'd tell you
And I just thought I'd tell you

I walked right (West) round Wakefield Jail (7)
A fantastic life
And I just thought I'd tell you
And I just thought I'd tell you


1. From "The Charge of the Light Brigade": "Theirs not to reason why, / Theirs but to do and die".

"Crack" or "craic" is a term which in Britain means conversation involving news or gossip. It comes into English by way of the Irish (whence the spelling "craic") which in turn derives from the Middle English "crak" (loud, bragging talk). (Russell sent me down this path, and everything I know about the subject I learned from Wikipedia, which is an online encyclopedia--for the craic, check out the "Talk" sections!).


 2. The Battle for Jerusalem of 1948 pitted Jewish and Arab militias against one another for control of the city. Eventually, the Jordanian Army got involved, and the battle ended with Jerusalem partitioned into areas of Israelis and Jordanian control.  

A variant from 6/12/81, City Gardens, Trenton:

"An old school pal in a bar urinal / He used to push pills in Electric Circus/His dad pushed pills to Guy Burgess"

Martin, the field reporter on this one, maintains that "Guy Burgess was a British intelligence officer who passed secrets to the Soviet Union during the Cold War. The Electric Circus was a Manchester music venue where The Fall played in 1977."


3. Molotov cocktails are a common street fighting weapon that were deployed numerous times in Jerusalem in 1948. The makeshift bombs were notably employed to burn buses in the Hadassah medical convoy massacre during the period of the Battle for Jerusalem. The attack on a medical convoy was portayed as a war crime by the Israelis, but the vehicles also contained military supplies, complicating the status of the attack vis-à-vis the Geneva Conventions.
4. A "turn-up" means an unexpected piece of good luck, as in turning up a card and finding you have a fourth ace.
5. Rasputin was a mysterious and charismatic figure, a mystic who became heavily influential with the Russian Imperial Romanov family, and was a controversial figure accused of sexual progligacy and antinomian practices and beliefs. Whitechapel is a district in East London.
Danny and Hiccup Percy suggest that this passage has to do with the theories one occasionally hears about fly agaric mushrooms (Amanita Muscaria). The psychedelic effects of ingesting the mushroom are said to be responsible for the origin of philosophy and religions; the mushroom is identified with the mysterious Soma spoken of in the Vedas; Christ is even said to be a fictional character, an allegory for the mushroom; and the iconic caps are said to be hidden in plain sight in artworks throughout the centuries...such ideas have been kicking around, seemingly, for ages, and have been popularized in the writings of Terence McKenna and The Sacred Mushroom and the Cross (1970), a notorious book by John Allegro that popularised his theory that the bidlical character of Christ is an allegory for the Amanita mushroom. Such theories were (somewhat) famously lampooned by the Russian musician and artist Sergey Kuryokhin in the radio routine "Lenin Was A Mushroom."
As vaguely familiar as all this was to me, I hadn't realized that Santa Claus was part of the act, but my comment section patrons have removed the scales from my eyes--the Wikipedia page for Amanita Muscaria even has a section about St. Nick. The moral of the story is that one should never underestimate the comprehensive sweep of the imagination of the mushroom cultist (although some of these notions may actually have merit--I don't know enough about it to sort the wheat from the chaff; I don't want to discourage anyone from investigating further, though). 
The reference to Whitechapel brings Jack the Ripper to mind, and according to my sources (below) there is a connection (although not a historically valid one) between Jack the Ripper and Rasputin. Again Wikipedia serves up the goods:
Alexander Pedachenko (alleged dates 1857–1908) was named in the 1923 memoirs of William Le Queux, Things I Know about Kings, Celebrities and Crooks. Le Queux claimed to have seen a manuscript in French written by Rasputin stating that Jack the Ripper was an insane Russian doctor named Alexander Pedachenko, an agent of the Okhrana (the Secret Police of Imperial Russia), whose aim in committing the murders was to discredit Scotland Yard. He was supposedly assisted by two accomplices: "Levitski" and a tailoress called Winberg. However, there is no hard evidence that Pedachenko ever existed, and many parts of the story as recounted by Le Queux fall apart when examined closely. For example, one of the sources named in the manuscript was a London-based Russian journalist called Nideroest, who was known for inventing sensational stories. Reviewers of Le Queux's book were aware of Nideroest's background, and unabashedly referred to him as an "unscrupulous liar". Pedachenko was promoted as a suspect by Donald McCormick, who may have developed the story by adding his own inventions. 
In general, then, the verse is an ingenious farrago of conspiracy theories and crackpot history, for which MES has proclained a predilection, for instance in an interview with Vulture: "I read daft history books. Sometimes the books I read are a bit crackers or strange."
6. Dave Tucker played some clarinet on Slates, and also played that instrument and keyboards at some Fall gigs. He spoke to Dave Simpson for the latter book The Fallen, which interviews every former Fall member up to the time of its printing (2010). Here is what he had to say about the song (via Reformation):
Dave Tucker, interviewed by Dave Simpson for the book "The Fallen" (Canongate, 2008) suggests that the song refers to him, "having been identified by the scrutinising Smith as someone prone to exaggeration. The song describes a 'David' who reckoned he'd had a run in with a policeman, but suggests Smith didn't believe him.
'It's true', pleads Tucker. 'I was in the cells the next day.'"
7. Wakefield Prison is in West Yorkshire. It mainly houses sex offenders, and has been dubbed the "Monster Mansion." Spy Klaus Fuchs, who supplied information to the Soviets concerning both British and American nuclear weapons research, was confined at Wakefield between 1951 and 1959 (a bit more than "18 months," but espionage nonetheless). Dr. Harold Shipman, who was convicted of administering lethal doses of morphine to his patients, committed suicide within the walls of Wakefield Prison (see also "What About Us?"). As for walking around the jail, one historian has claimed that the popular children's rhyme "Here We Go 'Round the Mulberry Bush" originated among women prisoners at Wakefiled, who would circumambulate through the yard, which contains a large mulberry tree (the veracity of this is doubtful, however MES may have been aware of the attribution).  

More Information

Comments (44)

  • 1. dannyno | 27/04/2013
The Siberian mushroom Santa

This refers to the dubious family of theories that links Christian theology or origins, or the Santa Claus myth, to the the psychoactive fly agaric fungus:
  • 2. dannyno | 27/04/2013
There is also an alleged Rasputin connection to the Jack the Ripper Case (aka the Whitechapel Murders):
  • 3. dannyno | 27/04/2013
"Corporation Street".

Plausibly, Corporation Street in Manchester:,_Manchester
  • 4. dannyno | 17/11/2013
Rasputin is mentioned in Whitechapel context in Colin Wilson's "Ritual in the Dark", of Fall lyrics fame. Wilson wrote more about Rasputin.
  • 5. dannyno | 18/11/2013
From Wilson's "Ritual in the Dark" (perhaps more on this in other Wilson books - he did a novelisation of Rasputin's life). pp.295 onwards of my edition. Sorme is listening to the old man from the room above his flat:

"My mother was Polish. Well... the gentleman who is known to the Press as Jack the Ripper was a close friend of my father's. His name was Sergei Pedachenko, and he came from the same village as Grigory Efimovitch Rasputin. In fact, he was a relative by law of Grigory Efimovitch....
Well, Grigory Efimovitch and Sergei Fyodorovitch belonged to one of the raskolniki, that is to say, a heretical sect, known as the Khlysty. And the Khylsty believed in salvation through sin. You understand? A fine theological point, as you will recognise. The more one sins, the more one can repent."
  • 6. Geoff | 01/01/2014
I always heard "mushroom SATYR" not Santa.
  • 7. HiccupPercy | 24/06/2014
Regarding this verse:

The Siberian mushroom Santa
Was in fact Rasputin's brother
And he didst walk round Whitechapel
To further the religion of forgiven sin murder
Fantastic lie!

Siberian mushroom Santa - this stuff is well known:

Seeing Whitechapel and murder in consecutive lines immediately makes one think of Jack the Ripper, which makes this of interest in context of the whole verse:
  • 8. HiccupPercy | 24/06/2014
I forgot to add: chase up the link to William Le Queux in the Ripper suspects page.
  • 9. HiccupPercy | 24/06/2014
And finally: I shall read the comments next time before I waste everyone's time. *rolls eyes*
  • 10. bzfgt | 24/06/2014
Thanks, fellers, this all resulted in a really good note. Hiccup, don't worry about wasting anyone's time, it's good to see you contributing here lately and your comments are very helpful, and nobody's going to die if you duplicate Danny once in a while--I do it all the time, since sometimes it seems like it can be hard to get anywhere with this stuff that he hasn't been first.
  • 11. HiccupPercy | 24/06/2014
Thanks bzfgt.

I particularly like the William de Queux link - that he was regarded as a teller of tall stories and was included in an anthology, with an introduction by Michael Moorcock, which was published in 1975 and reprinted in 1976. I'd put money on MES having seen this book.
  • 12. Gus (link) | 08/04/2015
Thank you for the research behind the lyrics, well done.

I must disagree with conclusions though, and as I would comment on another song, this song also starts with the key here:
"Got eighteen months for espionage"

This song is about espionage. Where pederasts are used to blackmail politicians, where Israel and the Jews are being blamed for Jesuit controlled workings of espionage, and the role of the Anglican Church as a tool to indoctrinate and spy on the British population. More indoctrination tools are there, but in this song Rasputin is your typical infiltration into nobility.

Espionage decides who is in power, and uses fantastic lies to achieve targets.

I am not going to give more information here, because from my viewpoint, MES is a British hero. The songs New Puritan is also based on the forgeries within religion, but the comment over here that I saw believes all kinds of fantastic lies. Wikipedia is a list of fantastic lies, don't take anything serious there than years numbers.

Maybe I may remind you of mushroom clouds from nuclear blasts.
The way Israel would get Nuclear weapons, was from selling children for nuclear medical treatment against ringworm. Israel has nuclear weapons, and thus may be the reference MES tries to make here, rather than mushroom connection to religion, or the military hippie spy Terence McKenna. More important will be, pedophilia is the most used means to control politicians, and folks going to jail for that are the lower ones on that system. It is espionage services that handle the children, therefor, the end and the beginning of the lyrics connect in my understanding perfectly as an indirect explanation of reality to the audience, that is in the fog or not in reality about prisons, church and politics.

British Puritans where opposing the Anglican Church, and therefor all government. The songs "New Puritan" and "Reformation" have in fact the same content as this one.

Whatever you understand from my words has my utter respect!
russell richardson
  • 13. russell richardson | 30/05/2015
footnote 1
yes but...
for non-Oirish readers: highly interesting etymology of the word crack as craic
nice to know it's not just a new form of old Irish fun, but a borrowed form of good Northern chat or verbal entertainment.
(and the phrase" he didn't crack on')
russell richardson
  • 14. russell richardson | 30/05/2015
i only went and forgot the link:
  • 15. Martin | 10/10/2016
Here's an interesting lyrical variation, from a gig at City Gardens, Trenton on 12 June 1981:

"An old school pal in a bar (?) / He used to push pills in Electric Circus/His dad pushed pills to Guy Burgess"

[If anyone cares to tell us what the (?) is then the song can be heard here on youtube:

Guy Burgess was a British intelligence officer who passed secrets to the Soviet Union during the Cold War. The Electric Circus was a Manchester music venue where The Fall played in 1977.
  • 16. bzfgt | 15/10/2016
Martin that definitely is an interesting variation! I'll try to get it in, as you suggest I'd feel better about it if we can clear up the "(?)". I'm listening right now, we'll see. OK, no chance.
  • 17. bzfgt | 15/10/2016
Sounds kind of like "An old school pal in a barn you annul."

Also I assume "What a turn-up!" is a thing? It of course could otherwise be "What a turnip!" although I have no idea why it should be.
  • 18. dannyno | 15/10/2016
Yeah, "what a turn-up" as in "what a turn-up for the books":
  • 19. dannyno | 17/10/2016
Comment #17:

Sounds kind of like "An old school pal in a barn you annul."

Mate, it's "in a bar urinal"..
  • 20. bzfgt | 21/10/2016
I assume it was Russell Richardson I mentioned in note 1, and there's not someone else named "Russel" (which is how I had it spelled)? If that's wrong and I just erased someone's contribution by adding an 'l', then let me know, Russel...
  • 21. bzfgt | 21/10/2016
Dang, of course it is.
  • 22. Blang | 01/08/2017
I read in a piece about Poison Ivy and Lux Interior of The Cramps that they met in a university class that was actually about the Siberian Mushroom Santa theory. Was this song written after MES met/toured with them? Cause if so it seems likely he got it from them.
  • 23. dannyno | 05/08/2017
Blang, comment #22.

This is the article where Lux Interior and Poison Ivy describe how they met:

POISON IVY: We were both studying art at Sacramento State college in the early Seventies. It was a very strange art department in Sacramento at that time, too, because the whole student population was made up of hippies, and they were into witchcraft and metaphysics and everything else. We met up in a class called Art and Shamanism. The textbook for that class was called The Sacred Mushroom and the Cross, and the subject of that book is how the real topic of the Bible is the Amanita muscaria mushroom and that Christ is a metaphor for this magic mushroom.

"The Sacred Mushroom and the Cross" (1970) is the notorious book by John Allegro that popularised his mushroom/Christ theory. While the song post-dates any meeting between MES and The Cramps, and so it is possible that MES learned of this stuff from them, it's also true that the book and the theory had been relatively popular and well-known for many years before they would have met, and it is not at all implausible that MES had already the read the book or absorbed the theory.

The idea that MES would only have learned about this from a conversation with Poison Ivy and Lux Interior about how they met, seems much less plausible, to me, particularly given the Colin Wilson lyrical connection I note above. We also know MES read a great deal of Colin Wilson stuff, and Colin Wilson referred to all these theories about fly agaric in his books (eg, "Mysteries", first published in 1978, just for example).
  • 24. dannyno | 06/08/2018
A bit more that seems relevant to my comment #5, and the heretical Jewish sect/link to Rasputin:

From the interview with Escape (, Spring 1989:

I'll tell you who's a good writer - Isaac Bashevis Singer. I used to read a lot of Yiddish literature, still do. Singer wrote a great story called Satan In Goray. It was a true story about what happened in 1666 in this Polish village called Goray. It's all been covered up in Jewish history but Yiddish people still remember it. All the Orthodox Jews got out of hand, because they were so oppressed by the bastard racist Pole and Russians, that they had to keep to themselves, cut off. All these weird Jewish sects sprang up. One of them believed that if you did evil on the outside, your inside would be good - almost like a Rasputin scenario. They believed that doing evil was the best thing to do, because the inverse maths says your inside would therefore be pure. Can you believe this?!

So if MES happened to have missed the Khlysty in Colin Wilson, he certainly seems to have got to the same, or a similar, place through Isaac Bashevis Singer.
  • 25. bzfgt (link) | 16/08/2018
There's also PKD's The Transmigration of Timothy Archer based on a heterodox bishop . In the book he dies in Israel while (this part is fictionalI think) investigating whether a (n also fictional) psychedelic mushroom that grows there has something to do with the Resurrection. I haven't read it since the 90s so this is partly what I can recall and partly scraped together from Wikipedia.

But MES was a fan of Dick and this has the same mushroom Christ trip going on.
  • 26. dannyno | 20/08/2018
But that book was published posthumously, i.e. in March 1982. And the song was debuted the previous May, and first released in November.
  • 27. bzfgt (link) | 25/08/2018
Crap, I'm glad I didn't note it then.
  • 28. dannyno | 21/11/2018
"What you cast out will hit back"

A reference to possession and exorcism, a la Spectre vs Rector?
  • 29. bzfgt (link) | 01/12/2018
With the language "cast out," almost certainly. That is a common phrase re:spirits and, with MES's interests, it seems pretty much definite he's alluding to that.
  • 30. bzfgt (link) | 01/12/2018
I think it needs a slightly longer note than I can give it right now, though...a little quick blurb about MES's interests in the occult seems like it could expand to more than I can deal with at the moment, although sometimes I start writing something like that and realize I can get it in two sentences...I guess it sounds kind of haphazard when I put it that way...
  • 31. egg | 26/10/2020
Something like the lyrical variation mentioned in note 15 is actually on the version on the Lie Dream single. It's a different vocal track in the right channel during the "met a 54-year-old dustbin man" part. It sounds like:

[can't make out the first line, ends with something like "orange hairs"]
Some years back in the E. Circus
His dad sold brown flares to Guy Burgess [this was "pills" in some live versions, maybe it's "brown clears"?]
Turn around

A few other things. MES is deliberately stuttering in one line: "And you just c-can't g-get the words".

I thought it was "Hell!" after "Some people think that if they had a job they'd be well". Like "hell no". It's "Crap!" on the Fall in a Hole version.

"Got a lying friend called David" rather than "No lie..."

The version on Fall in a Hole has a bit which alludes to the story of "Wings":
US Civil War Johnnies
Ambush under Ardwick Bridge
US Civil War Johnnies
Refugees from potato famine

Speaking of which, this song seems to be about ridiculous stories of adventure told by drunkards in the pub, which ties in with the video for "Wings" and the "pub incident" bit in "The Man Whose Head Expanded". And seemed to reflect how MES got the inspiration for most of his songs.
Steve Pringle
  • 32. Steve Pringle | 26/12/2020
  • 33. bzfgt (link) | 07/02/2021
Not sure about "David," sounds a little more like "no lie" to me still
  • 34. Ivan | 03/06/2021
Interesting comparison. On the In A Hole version, one of the 'fantastic lies' is a reference to the US Civil War veterans involved in the Irish Republican incident under Ardwick Bridge (the Manchester Martyrs). In the track Wings, one item on the 'list of incorrect things' is a reference to the same incident.
  • 35. bzfgt (link) | 05/06/2021
That is interesting!
  • 36. dannyno | 05/06/2021
Comment #34 - nice inter-song connection, except Wings doesn't actually say what is on the list of "incorrect things". The Manchester Martyrs are of course an integral part of the time travel story, but there's no textual warrant for treating them as being on "the list".
  • 37. Ivan | 08/06/2021
Comment #36. I still hear the lyric in Wings as 'Here is a list of incorrect things', referring presumably to the rest of the song. That seems to have been the original version of the lyric on the Wings page, changed (after dannyno's comment number 5 on that page) to 'there is a list..'

In early versions of the song he actually sang '(I made a list... ' which is closer textually to 'Here is', in that it reads like an introduction to the rest of the song in a way that 'There is...' doesn't.

Could you say where the assertion about the lyric being 'There is...' comes from?

Maybe this comment should've been on the Wings page!
  • 38. dannyno | 20/06/2021
Comment #37, what you hear would certainly change the meaning, although I'd argue not the point about what is on the "list" (my point we don't know what the list consists of).

Anyway, I've responded over on the Wings page. Interesting debate.

RE: "There is" - this is what I hear on record.
  • 39. Ramalamadindong | 12/03/2023
Always heard it as 'Spells too easy to buy nowadays...' which kinda fits better with getting out the words...spelling, holly-wood...from which wands are made.
  • 40. Ramalamadindong | 12/03/2023
'Spells too easy to buy nowadays...' would also fit with MES's tarot card reading 'sideline' hustle...heaps upon heaps of 'fantastical lies'
Can you imagine life without The Fall...??
  • 41. gizmoman | 18/04/2023
"Dole penicillin to eastern ching plague-ridden"
Surely it's "chick" not "ching" A reference to a girl having an STD?
Joseph Holt
  • 42. Joseph Holt | 14/06/2023
Corporation Street is in Manchester city centre and runs in front of Victoria Station.
Mark Oliver
  • 43. Mark Oliver | 25/09/2023
Not got any great insight into this, other than to compare the (possible) theme of bullshitting with the I Ludicrous song 'Preposterous Tales'. It's also one of my all-time fave Fall songs..the ones I really love are the usual suspects; this, 'Fiery Jack', 'How I wrote Elastic Man', 'Totally Wired', 'Rowche Rumble', 'Lie dream of a casino soul', 'Container drivers' know, the niiice ones with the catchy chooons, for the milkman to whistle...
david rathbone
  • 44. david rathbone (link) | 11/10/2023
Re comment #22
Don't forget the Fall lyric: "I don't need the acid factories, I've got mushrooms in the fields" from Two Steps Back, first played live 19 aug '78 (see also comments to "Two Steps Back" lyrics on this site). This was a couple of years before he met Lux, who he didn't exactly bond with. Here's Rowland S Howard's take on their interaction:
" Witness: The London School of Economics, 1980, The Fall supporting The Cramps. The two bands are anathema to each other - The Fall's pretension is to be completely unpretentious - The Cramps, to be Aliens (which back then, with the remarkably offensive genius of Bryan Gregory on guitar, they almost acheived). Mark E. Smith and Kay Carroll, (Fall singer/autocrat, and manager/girlfriend), take Lux Interior to the witch-trials. Hauling him before a mirror, they demand that he gaze upon his reflection. "Look at yourself, you look fuckin' ridiculous!" Righteous indignation with a damning Mancunian accent. Lux takes in his reflection: Huge quiff, naked torso, gold leather hipsters, and winkle-picker ankle boots. Dead Elvis. What's not to like?"

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