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.
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).