Fortress

Lyrics

(1)

(Spare a little grease, spare a little grease...And today, here on the vitamin B glandular show...)

Two hours!
With four left wing kids
I spent time in Nazi Fortress
Much discussion in room C-H-1-O-C-H-11 (2)

I did not understand why
I could not accept the fact
that I'd accepted the contract
Much discussion in this institution
Much discussion in boiled beef and carrots (3)
Room C-H-1-O-C-H-2-O-11

It was clear in the window eye
The brick outlined the blue sky
And I had to go round the gay graduates in the toilets
And Good King Harry was there fucking Jimmy Savile (4)

Much discussion in room C-H-1-O-2-H-11
Much discussion in room C-H-1-O-11 (5)

Notes

1. This song is brief on Hex Enduction Hour (1:23, depending on where you place the cut), where it serves as the intro to "Deer Park." Live, the songs were usually played separately, and "Fortress" was longer than in the studio. A possible clue to the lyrics is identified in the entry for this song on Reformation: "The first performance features MES mentioning King George (as well as Harry, as used in the released version) in the lyrics; George would continue to be a part of the lyrics for some time to come. The version played on 4 June 1981 (and there may be more) has the lines, 'I spent time in this institution / It's called Great Britain.'"

The keyboard riff at the beginning is a preset beat on the Casio VL tone keyboard; an almost identical riff is used on "The Man Whose Head Expanded." The same riff appears in "Da da da ich lieb dich nicht du liebst mich nicht aha aha aha" ("Da Da Da I Don't Love You You Don't Love Me Aha Aha Aha") by the band Trio. They were associated with Neue Deutsche Welle ("German New Wave," but reportedly they preferred to call their style Neue Deutsch Frölichkeit, or "New German Cheerfulness"--one wonders, was there old German cheerfulness?). "Da Da Da" was a number 2 hit in the UK in 1982 (thanks to nochmal in the comment section of "The Man Whose Head Expanded" for bringing all this to my attention). "Da Da Da" came out not long before the appearence of Hex Enduction Hour.

The same intro (the Casio riff and the spoken lines) also appears at the beginning of "Look, Know" on Hip Priests and Kamerads.

^

2. From Craig on the Fall online forum:

QUOTE (chachacha @ Sep 29 2005, 03:32 PM)
did i read that room c-h-1-0 etc referred to a room in the bbc where mr smith was treated to a forum with some crypto/proto-communists or anarcho-syndicalists and their over-interpretation of things????

CRAIG: [I]t was Radio One Talkabout, a bunch of left wing kids (a theatre group or somesuch I think) were invited onto the show to talk about erm the state of the nation, and they in turn had invited MES as their guest. There are tapes of it floating around, and it's a hilarious listen. After 50-odd minutes, the problem with the nation is ascertained to be, like, y'know, right, the establishment, right, and all that, it's the establishment, right, right, y'know, it's like, them.
 
This has now been confirmed beyond reasonable doubt as the correct reference. Martin points out that, in the rendition of "Fortress" from March 7, 1985, MES sings "I spent time in BBC fortress." Dan did some investigating and discovered that on April 14th, 1981, MES indeed appeared on a BBC program called Talkabout as part of a round table discussion with four "left wing kids" from the Albany Basement Theatre Group of Lewisham: Stephen Powell, Miranda Taggart, Tracey Russell and Glenn Stevens, along with guest Ann Leslie of the Daily Mail
 
This session took place at the Langham Hotel, an establishment "across the road from Broadcasting House (the home of Radio 1 at the time) in the former hotel used by the BBC after the second world war before being bought by them in 1965 (sold again in the 1986 and returned to use as a hotel)." Note that in a press release for the mini-album Slates, the recording was said to take "[t]he hip priest approach, aired first on an April Peel session recorded in the Nazi fortress..." The Peel session was recorded in the Langham building, which thus seems to also be the titular ("nazi") Fortress in question here.
 
Talkabout is also apparently referenced in "Marquis Cha-Cha."
 
djbawbag points out that "Room C-H-1-0-C-H-11" may be partly inspired by George Orwell's 1984, where Room 101 was the ultimate torture chamber in the Ministry of Love. The room contained whatever the prisoner fears most--in Winston Smith's case, a cage of rats was fashioned like a helmet over his head, leading him to famlously cry "Do it to Julia!", signalling the moment where he was finally completely broken. According to Wikipedia, "'Orwell named Room 101 after a conference room at Broadcasting House where he used to sit through tedious meetings.'"
 
Lyrics from the version from Tut's Chicago 16 July 1981 :

'Much discussion in Langham House fortress.
Boiled beef and carrots' [see note 3 below; note the initials "BBC"]
 
Thus, MES's discussion on Talkabout is almost certainly a source of inspiration for the lyrics, and the BBC connection makes the Orwell connection plausible. The suggestion would be that the interview session was akin to a horrible form of torture. This seems entirely in character; considering the subject matter and the kind of discourse involved, it's not hard to imagine MES being displeased. 
 
According to Marvellous: "CH10H11 is a mangled reference to the chemical composition of disaccharide sugars (including table sugar): C12H22O11. Anybody who sat through chemistry lessons in the 70s was exposed to the formula C12H22O11 + H2SO4 → 12C + 11H2O."
 
^ 
 
3. There is a music hall song that dates from 1909 called "Boiled Beef and Carrots," performed by Harry Champion (note the initials "BBC").
 
Also, from P.G. Wodehouse's Right Ho, Jeeves (thanks to idonotknowyournamr on the Fall online forum):
 
The air was sort of heavy and languorous, if you know what I mean, with the scent of Young England and boiled beef and carrots.
 
 

4. "Good King Harry" usually refers to Henry V, who ruled England from 1413 until his death in 1422, and of whom a fictionalized version appears in Shakespeare's Henry IV parts I and II and Henry V. Jimmy Savile was a DJ and television personality for the BBC who died in 2011 and is currently the subject of numerous allegations of sexual abuse of children. It's not completely clear whether King Harry is fucking Jimmy Savile, or whether "fucking Jimmy Savile!" is an interjection; the orange lyrics book has "My fave Jimmy Savile!" (which is again ambiguous due to the punctuation!). 

^

5. The room number is made even more mysterious by its dream-like mutability; every time it appears, it's something different. Other inexplicable, or only partly explicable, numbers or combinations of numbers and letters appear in "Eat Y'Self Fitter," "Paranoia Man in Cheap Sh*t Room," and "50 Year Old Man" (thanks to Reformation for the list).  

^

 

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Comments (38)

harleyr
  • 1. harleyr | 16/03/2013

As has been pointed out on the Forum, the phrase 'Boiled Beef and Carrots' gives a clue about the identity of the institution Smith is talking about.

dannyno
  • 2. dannyno | 24/03/2013

"fucking Jimmy Savile"

The Lough Press Fall lyrics book has it as "my fave Jimmy Savile".

bzfgt
  • 3. bzfgt | 24/03/2013

Harley, could you point me to the discussion? There's no thread for Fortress as far as I can tell...

dannyno
  • 4. dannyno | 27/04/2013

If we can take Good King Harry literally, then it may or may not be interesting to think about who had recently played Henry V on screen on the BBC or elsewhere, that MES have seen or imagined seeing. I mean, it's going to be an actor recently known for that role, rather than an apparation of the actual king.

In which case: Robert Hardy had played him in 1960 and David Gwillim had played him in 1979. Either of those would probably plausibly be found in the BBC, but my money is on Gwillim.

djbawbag
  • 5. djbawbag | 23/02/2014

Room number lyric is probably inspired by Room 101 from George Orwell's 1984.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Room_101

“ You asked me once, what was in Room 101. I told you that you knew the answer already. Everyone knows it. The thing that is in Room 101 is the worst thing in the world. ”

"Orwell named Room 101 after a conference room at Broadcasting House where he used to sit through tedious meetings."

The Talkabout programme was presumably made at the BBC's Broadcasting House (in Portland Place and Langham Place, London).

Lyrics from the version from Tut's Chicago 16 July 1981 :

"Much discussion in Langham House fortress.
Boiled beef and carrots "

dannyno
  • 6. dannyno | 27/02/2014

What programme was this?

Conway Paton, in "The Pseud Mag" iss 2, Feb/Mar 2005, p.19, dates the show as follows:

"Fortress recounts a BBC1 radio roundtable that Mark took part in with 4 outspoken left-wing students. Broadcast on 6 April 1981, Mark managed to get in a couple of sentences during the hour-long programme. Listening to it, you can easily see Mark wondering why on earth he ever accepted the contract."

But the BBC Radio 1 schedule for 6 April 1981 was as follows:

7am: Mike Read
9am: Simon Bates
11am: Andy Peebles
12:30pm: Newsbeat
12 Paul Burnett
2:30pm: Steve Wright
4:30pm: Peter Powell
7pm: Stayin Alive [health advice programme]
8pm: Richard Skinner
10am: John Peel

So what roundtable?

However there was a programme on 7 April 1981 at 7pm called "talkabout". So perhaps it was that.

A couple of days later The Fall were playing gigs in Europe.

Dan

dannyno
  • 7. dannyno | 11/03/2014

Mention of Langham House in the live lyrics makes me think that perhaps this "talkabout" programme was based across the road from Broadcasting House (the home of Radio 1 at the time) in the former hotel used by the BBC after the second world war before being bought by them in 1965 (sold again in the 1986 and returned to use as a hotel).

See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Langham_Hotel,_London

I could see the BBC using it for "youth" type discussion programmes.

Anyway, the point is that the venue may well have been Langham House not Broadcasting House.

Dan

djbawbag
  • 8. djbawbag | 13/03/2014

Just checking the credits for the 1984 Saturday Live version that's on the box set.
Recorded at Studio S2 Sub-basement, , BROADCASTING HOUSE !

Song had been out of the setlist for a while, so presumably was revived in order to be played in the building that had helped inspire it ?

dannyno
  • 9. dannyno | 17/03/2014

Except that there is evidence it may not have been in Broadcasting House.

dannyno
  • 10. dannyno | 17/03/2014

Evidence here that Langham House was used by Radio 1 in 1981:
http://www.discogs.com/Siouxsie-And-The-Banshees-At-The-BBC/release/1800195

There were definitely studios in there, therefore.

dannyno
  • 11. dannyno | 17/03/2014

See also:
http://www.cure-concerts.de/fm-tv/ft_1981-01-07.php

See also references to Langham in this history of Peel Sessions:
http://books.google.co.uk/books?id=qdsfrYAu-x8C&lpg=PA72&ots=wuCIVXKRIS&dq=%22radio%201%22%20langham%20studios&pg=PA78#v=onepage&q=langham&f=false

Martin
  • 12. Martin | 27/03/2014

With reference to note no 2, the German translation here simply says "(und Jimmy Savile)".

dannyno
  • 13. dannyno | 22/04/2014

Conclusive evidence that "Nazi Fortress" = "Langham House".

First, see this press release for Slates:
http://www.visi.com/fall/gigography/slatesdates.pdf

Which contains this line:

"The hip priest approach, aired first on an April Peel session recorded in the Nazi fortress..."

The Peel Session version of Hip Priest was actually recorded and transmitted in March 1981, but April is close enough.

Details of the session are here:
http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio1/johnpeel/sessions/1980s/1981/Mar24thefall/

Which clearly says that the studio used was "Langham 1"

QED.

Dan

Martin
  • 14. Martin | 30/05/2014

The line "vitamin B glandular show" echoes, to a point, this line in "And This Day":

"...the greyer B-1 Glandel area"

I've been googling various sites to see direct connections between vitamin B1 and various glandular disorders and will report back if anything conclusive comes up.

Marvellous
  • 15. Marvellous | 18/09/2014

Room number lyric is probably inspired by Room 101


Maybe I'm stating the obvious, it's always been obvious to me, but CH10H11 is a mangled reference to the chemical composition of disaccharide sugars (including table sugar): C12H22O11.

Anybody who sat through chemistry lessons in the 70s was exposed to the formula C12H22O11 + H2SO4 → 12C + 11H2O
http://youtu.be/AP6rTJi59NM

--
This site has the most annoyingly incomprehensible captcha system ever.

Joseph Mullaney
  • 16. Joseph Mullaney | 23/11/2014

Line missing from the start: `Spare a little grease, spare a little grease'.

Joseph Mullaney
  • 17. Joseph Mullaney | 29/11/2014

Or maybe it's `greed', not sure...

bzfgt
  • 18. bzfgt | 01/01/2015

Yeah, I think that's why I never tried to put it in before. I put "grease" in for now. "Green" might make the most sense...

thehippriestess
  • 19. thehippriestess | 15/09/2015

The line at the beginning is - the initial grunting aside - "it's Beryl Reid, Beryl Reid". The section is a parody of radio jingles and, presumably, the use of Beryl Reid was a snarky jab in the ribs at Mike Read who, as noted above, was the Radio 1 Breakfast Show host at the time.

bzfgt
  • 20. bzfgt | 15/11/2015

Hippie priestess: hello, nice to see you here! I still hear "Spare a little grease" but prefer your theory since it makes sense. Do you feel quite sure? I must sleep on it. I don't think there are any other versions with this line, are there?

thehippriestess
  • 21. thehippriestess | 23/11/2015

I first heard the section on "Hip Priest And Kamerads" where it is, for some reason, attached to "Look, Know" rather than "Fortress" - "It's Beryl Reid" was all I ever heard it as. "Spare A Little Grease" has one syllable too many, even with the random factor of MES's diction and the deliberate tape-warping.

bzfgt
  • 22. bzfgt | 06/12/2015

OK, I'll listen to that version. I would be happy if it were "Beryl Reid" if there's a good explanation for that, "spare a little grease" os perplexing. But I don't really hear "Beryl Reid" on Hex, I've been trying to.

Now, if I do wind up changing it, do you have any more of an explanation? What is the connection between Beryl Reid and Mike Read?

thehippriestess
  • 23. thehippriestess | 15/12/2015

They're not connected as such but Smith has mixed people up deliberately for fun a few times...in the Michael Bracewell interview, he referred to Courtney Love as Courtney Pine for much the same reason. He probably just thought it was funny. Given that it's a taped insert rather than an actual song, I don't think any other version exists; it was just tacked onto a different track on "HP&K". Actually, given that "Look, Know" falls immediately after "Fortress" on "HP&K", it's possible that it was indeed a completely separate piece of tape and that it was a mastering error. But now imma speculating...

bzfgt
  • 24. bzfgt | 23/12/2015

Hmm, we need second and third opinions then....I'll put out the signal.

dannyno
  • 25. dannyno | 08/06/2016

An update on the dating of the Radio 1 Talkabout episode on which MES appeared. I suggested above a date of 7th April 1981, as being the closest Talkabout broadcast to Conway's dating of 6th April (when no Talkabout was broadcast).

However, in the NME dated 11 April 1981, T-Zers column, p.59, I read the following:


The Fall's Mark Smith makes a massive concession to commercialism by appearing on Radio One's Talkie (Talkabout, you call it...) next Tuesday. You can hear his words of wisdom between 7 and 8pm that night.


Magazines dates aren't always the date of publication, however on internal evidence "Next Tuesday" must mean Tuesday 14th April 1981.

So there you go. Nailed. Would be nice to find a listing as additional confirmation, but still.

Martin
  • 26. Martin | 09/06/2016

There's now no doubt about the reference to the BBC programme (and little doubt as to its date) but just in case anyone was still dubious:

7 March 85 Hammersmith Odeon, London:

MES: "I spent time in BBC fortress"

dannyno
  • 27. dannyno | 17/06/2016

redclaw2 posted a link to a recording of Talkabout on the FoF (misdated, but still):

http://z1.invisionfree.com/thefall/index.php?showtopic=8935&view=findpost&p=22586321

dannyno
  • 28. dannyno | 17/06/2016

The four "left wing kids are from the Albany Basement Theatre Group of Lewisham: Stephen Powell, Miranda Taggart, Tracey Russell and Glenn Stevens (I'm guessing at spelling). Their guests were Ann Leslie (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ann_Leslie) of the Daily Mail and MES.

dannyno
  • 29. dannyno | 17/06/2016

The broadcast includes a reference to the space shuttle Columbia re-entering the atmosphere, which allows us to date it precisely, and confirms that it was the 14th April 1981:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/STS-1

bzfgt
  • 30. bzfgt | 29/06/2016

"left wing kids are from the Albany Basement Theatre Group of Lewisham:..."

Dan, is that a quote from the broadcast?

bzfgt
  • 31. bzfgt | 29/06/2016

Never mind, I got tripped up by the unclosed quotation marks but now I see what's what.

dannyno
  • 32. dannyno | 29/06/2016

I'm so sorry about the unclosed quotation marks,

bzfgt
  • 33. bzfgt | 29/06/2016

Dan, don't beat yourself up over it, it could happen to anyone.

bzfgt
  • 34. bzfgt | 29/06/2016

You did, however, end that sentence with a comma, and for that you shall not be forgiven.

bzfgt
  • 35. bzfgt | 29/06/2016

I want to express gratitude here to redclaw2 who posted the broadcast at the FOF which allowed Dan, in a herculean feat of sleuthery, to close the books on another case.

unhip
  • 36. unhip | 08/11/2016

Fortress - BBC's Lime Grove Studios: Orwell's 1984 was filmed there in 1954 and Top of the Pops was filmed there: Harry Goodwin used dressing room 57 to undress and photograph selected audience...
Deer Park: Louis XV kept his mistresses at a Parc-aux-Cerf, so this may be an off-site extension of the LGS activities. Notting Hill is not only Rough Trade, but the start of Virgin Records & Tapes. As for C.Wilson: Victor Golloncz published early Orwell.
Rutland Weekend Television has an early piece "Star of the sexy movies": The "policeman by day" says "Evenin' All" hinting at Dixon of Dock Green staff ...

dannyno
  • 37. dannyno | 14/01/2017

unhip, comment #36/ "Fortress" is definitely Langham House for the reasons exhaustively detailed above.

dannyno
  • 38. dannyno | 16/01/2017

Nazi fortress/Langham House/Hotel:

Image

Q.E.D.

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