Garden

Lyrics

(1)

The first god had in his garden
From the back looked like a household pet
When it twirled round was revealed to be
A three-legged black-grey hog (2)

See what flows from his mushy pen (3)
Garden
Garden

That person is films on TV,
Five years back, at least;
He's the Young Generation dancing troupe
Try'na perform Country And Western
(Do a dance here) (4)

Never since birth not eaten in a day
Never since courtship stayed up some nights
He had a Kingdom Of Evil book under a German history book (5)
He was contrived like that

See what flows from his slushy pen
Garden
Garden

Small, small location on huge continent
Sodomised by presumption (6)
Crook traitor past revealed at last

Godzone! (7)
Godzone! (Jacob's Ladder) (8)

Godzone!
Godzone!

[...can be erased. This entails explosive charges, left to me by a dead sailor from Bury, being wired up under every window sill in close proximity to my ears. When phones ring and are inconvenient to the ears, I just press table lamp light button next to my bed and they blow up. I got the idea from a book.

 Yours sincerely, Mr Reg Varney]  (9)

The same thing could have been taken for a spoilt slate with largesse resource. His ferry stopped at the 'Pool port. (10)
Wild Bill Hick shaves and charts at last. The second god's sad - he's coming up - he's waiting number four with a bullet... Less stylish porch, we have the second god's influence. Wild Bill Hick shaves and charts at last. (11)

(Shotgun!)
Shotgun!
Shotgun!

Shotgun! 
Shotgun! (12)

The best firms advertise the least (13)

The second god lived by mountains that flowed
By the blue shiny lit roads
Had forgot what others still tried to grasp
He knew the evil of the phone
He knew the evil of the phone (14)
The bells stopped on Sunday when he rose
The bells stopped on Sunday when he rose (15)

He's here
He's here at last
I saw him
I swear (16)
He's on the second floor
Up the brown baize lift shaft (17)
He's here
He's here at last
I saw him
I swear

A Jew on a motorbike (18)
A Jew on a motorbike
A Jew on a motorbike
A Jew on a motorbike
A Jew on a motorbike
A Jew on a motorbike
A Jew on a motorbike
A Jew on a motorbike
He's here
I saw him
I swear
Up the brown baize lift shaft
A Jew on a motorbike
A Jew on a motorbike
A Jew on a motorbike
(A Jew on a motorbike)

Notes

1. This song has some of MES's most enigmatic lyrics, but in this case I find the effect to be a wealth of associations and possible interpretations rather than mere perplexity. I would not presume to say what the song is about, largely because I think that polysemy is to a certain extent what it's about. The origin of meaning itself is figured as taking the form of a thwarted or unclear message, as the god writes with a "mushy" or "slushy" pen. The song seems to throw a satirically accusing light on any account of divine creation--or of the origin of things, whether seen as literally divine or not--that forgets that the resulting universe is confused, chaotic, petty, and comical, and, in any case, perverted by language. As is the case with some of the very best Fall songs, the lyrics are both awe-inspiring and humorous. The music matches this perfectly: it sweeps along majestically, but if we zero in on the bass line, it bounces up and down in a lilting figure that is somewhat reminiscent of "Look, Know." I try not to crowd these notes with my opinions, but in this case I feel compelled to say that the song under consideration is an absolute masterpiece. None of what I say below should be taken as a definitve account of what the song means; it is more accurate to say that these are reflections inspired by the lyrics, even if what I say unavoidably takes the form of an explanation. More than that, though, the thoughts below are found nowhere else but in "Garden," and thus they surely belong to it in that sense; in other words, I have not used the song as an excuse to expound on ideas I already had, but have tried to follow it where it leads me and record the results.

^

2. A chilling (and, typically, humourous) image: I find this encounter with the creature in the garden to be far more evocative than if it were described as something stranger or more sinister. Rather than being intensely horrified or awestruck, I imagine the immediate reaction of a witness to this scene being a loss of bearings, as the familiar is subtly undermined. It should be recalled that, in the book of Genesis, human beings' original home was in a garden where Adam and Eve walked and talked with God as a familiar acquaintance. In the Jewish and Christian traditions there is a theme of homelessness or uncanniness, since we are not at home in this world, having been expelled from our original abode and exiled here. With these lines, if we imagine ourselves entering the garden of the "first god," we are immediately presented with a familiar domestic image, a "household pet"--we expect to feel at home in the garden, and we interpret what we see accordingly. As the animal turns, the full shock of the situation is not something that immediately bludgeons us, but slowly sets in as the creature facing us is not what we expected to see--we are at a loss in the place where we had thought to be, finally, most at home. This is a masterful evocation of the experience of uncanniness. The word "uncanny," a term perhaps most famously employed by Sigmond Freud, is Unheimliche in German, which literally means "un-home-ly." What is uncanny, as Freud uses the word, is strange but always at the same time familiar--for Freud, an experience of the uncanny is above all an encounter with what is most strange in ourselves, to ourselves. In these lines, we are confronted with the strangeness of our own origin, which is certainly not presented as something horrifically, outrageously alien, but rather just a bit confusing, simultaneously familiar and unfamiliar, and perhaps something which has nothing to say to us that we are capable of understanding. The first god's creature is like an unreadable hieroglyph: we recognize it as writing, as something which is meant to convey something to us, but it does not yield any meaning. In the garden, things are just a little bit off-kilter; we are allowed to hope, but never permitted anything approaching a beatific vision. 

[Dan:  Three-legged pigs in gardens? Makes me think of chanchitos, Chiliean good luck ornaments made of terracotta in the shape of three legged piglets.]

^

3. One among several instances in Fall lyrics of MES using an odd and unexpected adjective; the effect is jarring, and all the more so because "mushy" is not a particularly euphonius or poetically chiming choice of word. The line seems to operate on two levels. On the one hand, the interruption or diffusion of the god's message is implied, so that we only have a distorted sense of what he might be saying to us. On the other hand, however, the god's writing could refer to the creation of the world itself; the connection between words and world is a common religious trope, as seen in the Midrashic "In the beginning, God looked into the Torah and created the world." In that case, the written word is the original blueprint for the universe. It is a universe that is "perverted by language," as the album title proclaims: if the pen of its creator is mushy, then a fortiori our own words take us even further from the original source of meaning. Immediately after this, we suddenly find ourselves escorted into a much more mundane scene, and left to wonder what the connection is with the god in the first verse (see note 4 below).

^

4. This is an abrupt transition from describing the garden of the first god to mocking a ridiculous character; the "films on TV" line is one of MES's most brilliant insults ever. My punctuation of the line, with a colon after "TV," indicates my interpretation of the lyric: the person in question is "five years back," like films on TV are. This is the most intuitively obvious interpretation, I think, although another is possible: the films could have aired on TV five years ago, which would strengthen the insult in one sense but water it down in another. The person would be more out of date, but the insult is weaker in the same way that "I'll bet you 75 dollars" can be a more powerful challenge than "I'll bet you a million dollars." If we push the films too far back, the insult is excessively hyperbolic. This is admittedly a very small point. 

We are left to wonder: is this person the "first god"? In that case, perhaps we were first shown how he sees himself, and now we are being shown how others see him, as an anachronistic and slightly ridiculous character. On the other hand, maybe we are just seeing what is on the other side of the "mushy pen": from the author of a message to those who are its intended recipients, or perhaps the recipients are the words that flow from the god's pen (see note 3 above). On our side of creation, self-important fools and badly executed buck dancing are what we get. These are Christ figures, as it were, in an axiologically neutral sense: incarnations, images, or avatars of the god (see note 6 below). Arguably the god by himself in his garden, on the other hand, is an incarnation, image, or avatar of the twerps who populate the world of "films on TV."

The Young Generation danced on the BBC in the 1960s and 1970s. Stephen Parkin provides the following helpful information in the comments below:

The Young Generation were a group of dancers who were on a Saturday night TV Variety programme in the 70s; from the clip I've found they did a dance routine and sang at the same time. They were a bit like Pan's People on Top of the Pops, except that there were more of them, with an even M/F split, [and] they were better dancers as well. Later they were replaced by The Second Generation, I think. 

And Danny has dug up the following:

On his first adult Saturday night TV series, The Rolf Harris Show, accompanied by the irreparably dated Young Generation dance troupe, he would draw huge landscapes on 12ft x 9ft backdrops. It looked effortless. But Harris would practise the paintings in full size as many as five times, against a stopwatch, so he could recreate them live in the allotted time each week."

"Irreparably dated," of course, fits well with the "films on TV" line.

^

5. Kingdom of Evil (1924) is a novel by Ben Hecht (1894-1964). It is a phantasmagoric horror story, the sequel to Hecht's Fantazius Mallare (1922). Hecht went on to become a Hollywood screenwriter, writing or co-writing Scarface (the original 1932 version), Gone With the WIndGunga DinWuthering Heights, His Girl FridaySpellboundNotorious, and Mutiny on the Bounty, among many others. Kingdom of Evil is pulpy and purple, and would be less likely to connote intellectual maturity than would a German history book.  ^

6. The Lyrics Parade has "small covenance" here. "Covenance" is not a word, but the transcriber could have been groping for "covenant" (there is no sibiliance at the and of the word on the recording). Either one makes sense: "continent" more immediately and intuitively so, but in a larger context it seems appropriate for there to be a reference to a covenant in the song. Is the garden, the home of the god, here said to be a small location in the wider world the god has made, and in which the human relation to the divine is more real than what the latter would be in and for itself? According to Kant, all we can say about God is what our relation to him ought to be; God in himself is completely unknowable. The garden is a notional place, implied by the world but never found within it. In "Garden," the world is a mirror for the god, and the distorted reflection he finds therein is all he knows to be true of himself, or our confused thought of the god is the god thinking himself at the moment of a necessary but impossible self-possession: the greatest fullness of being that is at once the most externalized, insubstantial state. Can I really say this notion belongs to the song? In any case, this is one thought the song enables us to think...

In any case, every other version I have heard has MES saying "continent," and I am pretty sure that's what he says here. Humans were expelled from the garden, which was guarded by cherubim and a flaming sword so that we could not re-enter, but the world soon expanded, first by miles, then tens of miles, then by ten thoudands of miles, until eventually we came to understand that we are inhabitants of a tiny world on the outskirts of a galaxy, itself on the outskirts of the Virgo cluster of thousands of galaxies, itself dwarfed by the tens of billions of other galaxies surrrounding it. The garden--the seat of creation and the spiritual center of the universe--is a tiny spot on an infitesimal speck, so to speak. How could such a location ever be found by one searching for it? How many zillions of lifetimes would it take to reduce the odds to 50 billion to one? I am reminded of William Blake's lines:

There is a Grain of Sand in Lambeth that Satan cannot find
Nor can his Watch Fiends find it: tis translucent & has many Angles.

If Satan cannot find the garden, unfortunately, neither can anybody else; the first god pressed the wrong button only to see his creation zip away at the speed of light in every direction. 

^

7. Native New Zealanders sometimes refer to their country as "Godzone," an epithet derived from "God's Own Country" ("God's own..."). In Beyond Good and Evil, Nietzsche writes: "Around the hero everything becomes a tragedy; around the demigod everything becomes a satyr-play; and around God everything becomes--what? perhaps a 'world'?" Whether or not MES had this sentence in mind, it is evocative of one of the song's themes: the god is closely associated with the world which springs up around him, which is described, in part, as petty and ridiculous. Nietzche's line seems to suggest that the god and its world are inseparable, that it is in the very nature of a god to give rise to a world. This is a key notion in "Garden"; the grandeur of a god and the pettiness of the world, rather than being a contradiction, indicate one another. A god would not be a god without something profane to contrast him to; and yet, this very contrast also shows us the god in a less than flattering light, as it is also in the nature of a god that we only know him through looking at the world. And in "Garden," it is possible that God only knows himself that way...the holy or sacred is here a vanishing point, implied yet contradicted by the world it is implicated in. The God cannot remain alone, in his Godhead; the phone is always ringing, with the sacred on one end of the line and the profane on the other, but all the action is in the wire...

^

8. In the book of Genesis, Jacob--who is also called "Israel" and is the scion of the twelve tribes of the nation which bear this name--dreams of a ladder extending to heaven. From Genesis chapter 28, verses 10-19:

Jacob left Beersheba, and went toward Haran. He came to the place and stayed there that night, because the sun had set. Taking one of the stones of the place, he put it under his head and lay down in that place to sleep. And he dreamed, and behold, there was a ladder set up on the earth, and the top of it reached to heaven; and behold, the angels of God were ascending and descending on it! And behold, the Lord stood above it [or "beside him"] and said, "I am the Lord, the God of Abraham your father and the God of Isaac; the land on which you lie I will give to you and to your descendants; and your descendants shall be like the dust of the earth, and you shall spread abroad to the west and to the east and to the north and to the south; and by you and your descendants shall all the families of the earth bless themselves. Behold, I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land; for I will not leave you until I have done that of which I have spoken to you." Then Jacob awoke from his sleep and said, "Surely the Lord is in this place; and I did not know it." And he was afraid, and said, "This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven.


In the context of "Garden," the words "I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land" ring ironic; while the connection between what is divine or original and what is profane or derived is insisted upon, it is also portrayed as confused and uncertain, not incidentally, but by virtue of its nature.  

^

9. This segment comes from a bit MES performed/read on the pirate radio station Greenwich Sound Radio in 1983, entitled "Mark E Smith's Guide to Writing Guide."  Reg Varney (1916-2008) was an English actor, known for playing Stan Butler in the 1960s-1970s sitcom On the Buses. The lyric about blowing up phones is echoed later in the line "He knew the evil of the phone." This entire section (beginning with "...can be erased") has been edited out of some CD versions of the song.

The full text of this letter is included in the blue lyrics book, and reads as follows (the part that is not audible on the track is in brackets):

[MANCHESTER

Dear T.V. Times,

Your majesties,

I have concocted, through the noble invention and blarneycraft of the humble northerner, a system, whereby constant annoyance by the telephone] can be erased. This entails explosive charges, left to me by a dead sailor from Bury, being wired up under every window sill in close proximity to my ears. When phones ring and are inconvenient to the ears, I just press table lamp light button next to my bed and they blow up. I got the idea from a book.

Yours sincerely,

Mr. Reg Varney
(Please note, all the herbs is available from P.O. Box 935 G.T.V. Manchester)

Thanks to Mark for bringing this to my attention. 

Note that the form of the sentence "Guide to Writing Guide" would reappear. On the album I Am Kurious, Oranj, at the end of "Yes, O Yes," MES ia heard saying "And that's what you get when you join the M. Clark School of Soccer Coaching School: Enraged and inflamed with torment." And Code: Selfish opens with "The Birmingham School of Business School."

^

10. Presumably Liverpool.

^

11. Wild Bill Hickok (1837-1876) was a scout, soldier, sheriff, and "gunslinger" in the "Old West." He was also briefly an actor in Buffalo Bill's WIld West Show. While this stage of his career was short-lived, it is evocative of one of the themes of the song: something original and wild or great being portayed or represented in a way that distorts it and renders it a bit ridiculous. As in Philip K. Dick's Ubik when the messages from a divine being come couched in the form of inane advertisements, in the world of "Garden" the multivalent onslaught of meaning renders a pure origin apprehensible only through diffuse echoes. Wild Bill dresses up as himself and takes to the stage, and isn't even adept enough of an actor to portray himself convincingly. This fits with the statement that he "shaves and charts at last"; the idea is that a message must be watered down in order to be widely communicated (what is sometimes called "selling out"). Wild Bill "Hick" is certainly a joke, but it may also be a clue that this line also refers to someone else.  

Mr. Marshall points out that this line probably refers to Pete Wylie, who apparently shaved and charted around this time... 

^

12. The counterpart of the earlier "Godzone," this is our introduction to the second half of the song, which deals with the "second god." Fittingly, a sacred image is replaced with a profane one, as heavenly thunder gives way to its man made echo.   

^

13. An odd interjection; the song becomes less cohesive as we are taken further away from the original garden scene. This statement could be heard ironically as, if it were a boast made by a company, it would itself be intended as a form of advertising. At the same time, it could be heard as a swipe at evangelizing: why does the eternal plenum of the godhead need advertisers or adherents?  

^

14. See "when phones are inconvenient to the ears..." in the Reg Varney bit, and note 9 above. Thop suggests, "One might interpret this as saying that the second god is more reclusive, intentionally less contactable or apparently so. Sort-of the same idea as church-goers being referred to as 'God-botherers.'"

If we interpret this song in a Christian context, the second god could be Jesus. In any case, in a way the second god is the furthest extreme from the first: if "what others still tried to grasp" is the knowledge or essence of the first god, then the divinity of the second god is a kind of acheived idiocy. If the first god's pen is mushy or slushy, then the price of incarnation is unavoidable, and the most perfect incarnate god would be the most ignorant of divine matters. His "Godzone" is accordingly a funhouse of appearances where mountains flow, and when the phone rings--is the first god on the line?--the second god is not interested in, or perhaps even capable of, answering it.

On the other hand, as is perhaps always the case in the nest Fall lyrics, the interpretation could be pushed in another direction: on some live versions, MES sings: "What was a revelation to some seemed normal to him." The second god is simply cool--that is, if being tuned in to the divine mystery of creation is indeed cool (as we've seen, the case for this is far from obvious in this song). 

^

15. As the church bells fall silent, we have completed the transition to immanence--we are left with only an incarnate idiot god, who dwells right here among us, by the side of the road. The appearance of the second god may be reminiscent of the "Death of God" theology of Thomas J.J. Altizer, who famously held that, with the incarnation, God emptied himself into the world: the heavens were vacated. 

^

16. Mark the mad prophet sounds unhinged here, as he bears witness to the advent of the second god. It is one of his best vocal performances (on an album full of them), not sounding a magisterial prophetic baritone like Charlton Heston in The Ten Commandments so much as the reedy tenor of one of Lovecraft's drunks (as I imagine it) or some other such creepy character; the final revelation has as much of the atmosphere of a horror story as it does of holy scripture--not that the Book of Revelation doesn't have that atmosphere also, come to think of it, which is why it crops up in so many horror movies. And yet here it is horror of the banal rather than the bizarre that grips us; even the black-grey hog dumbly leering in the first god's garden is now five years back at least, no match for the evil of the phone, as the utmost horror is the facile reality under which the god has buried himself, and the awful realization that when he comes he will be unrecognizable by virtue of his familiarity, indistinguishable from his creation. Blake's grain of sand is a pixel on the smartphone in your pocket. And there is no transcendence there for Satan or any of his watchfiends to find. Yes, I realize that there were no smartphones in 1983.

^

17. The brown baize lift shaft is an echo of Jacob's Ladder earlier in the song. Baize is a coarse fabric, and is what is used on the surface of pool tables. If the lift shaft were actually composed of baize, it would be difficult to ascend, to say the least. In his divine aspect, the second god is elusive, but if we interpret the song as saying that divinity is now fully immanent (and that in such a way that it virtually vanishes) then we might take the singer's insistence--"I swear"--as the bravado of a false prophet.   

^

18. We ride out the song's finale with an absolutely perfect image. From Reformation:

"As for the jew and his motorbike, in an interview with Steve Lake ('After The Fall,' Melody Maker; 21 April 1984) MES explained it thus: 
 
"That song's like a skit on the 'prophet syndrome'. Derives partly from those talks I'd have with a driver of ours who was Jewish, long talks about Judaism. I'd say to him, "Now there's one thing you'll never see, a Jewish person on a motorbike.'" Then one day I was going through Golders Green on the way to a London gig and suddenly the street was full of Jewish people on motorbikes.'
 

It would seem that the riders MES saw had some garments on that marked them as Jewish; perhaps they were Orthodox Jews. In any case, whatever the inspiration for the lyric was, in this image the sacred and profane are placed together, yet remain distinct; at the same time, divinity only comes to us second hand, suggested by the motorcycle rider's clothing, and thus it remains within the realm of appearances. The entire song can perhaps be seen as MES's commentary on this single image.
 
The line, however, first appeared on early live versions of "Tempo House."
 
Russell, in the comments, mentions Dylan's famous motorcycle accident, and this would certainly, I think, be in the back of most people's minds also when considering this line.
 
According to Brix, however, this refers to a specific individual, Sol Seaburg [sic], who sang in a Manchester band called FC Domestos and was a part-time driver for the Fall. This is also presumably the "Seaberg" who is credited with helping to write "The Man Whose Head Expanded."
 

 

More Information

Garden: Fall Tracks A-Z

The Story of the Fall: 1983

Garden: The Fall Online Forum  The forum at its best, with lots of fantastic comments about the lyrics.

Comments (35)

Robert
  • 1. Robert | 01/05/2013
Is it possible that "Jew on a motorbike" refers to Jesus? As in the old parody of "Jesus Christ Superstar":

Jesus Christ Superstar/Came down from heaven on a Yamaha

http://odps.org/glossword/?a=term&d=3&t=148

Smith's explanation of the lyric sounds a little made-up.
Stephen Parkin
  • 2. Stephen Parkin | 12/09/2013
The Young Generation were a group of dancers who were on a Saturday night TV Variety programme in the 70s; from the clip I've found they did a dance routine and sang at the same time They were a bit like Pan's People on Top of the Pops, except that there were more of them, with an even M/F split, they were better dancers as well. Later they were replaced by The Second Generation, I think.

Pretty for me

C&W would be pretty ghastly done by this lot, though.
dannyno
  • 3. dannyno | 30/09/2013
"Wild Bill Hicock":

There's a headline on the front of the Hey! Luciani programme which reads:

"Wild Bill Hicock relative traced to UK", plus a paragraph of story.
Andrew Sutherland
  • 4. Andrew Sutherland | 27/03/2014
Amusingly, there seem to be a few references to Rolf Harris in 'Garden'.
Firstly, the three legged black-grey hog'; RH had a three legged character, Jake the Pegg.
RH used to appear with the Young Generation dancing troupe.
During various programmes he would paint and draw - he used a felt marker pen in cartoon time-'mushy pen?
He performed a song' English Country Garden'.
Being an Australian, 'Crook traitor past revealed at last' and huge continent, could refer to this.
bzfgt
  • 5. bzfgt | 08/04/2014
Andrew, that connection is very suggestive, and while no one piece of what you say it is solid enough to convince me, as a whole it is more convincing--but still not entirely so without corroboration. The Young Generation Dance Troupe connection almost, but not quite, puts it over the top for me. It's the kind of thing I am very glad to have on the record here, but it is a bit iffy, so I will leave it where it is so people can see it when they read the comments. And I'll keep my eye out for more evidence.
dannyno
  • 6. dannyno | 29/05/2014
Rolf Harris interview from 2000, mentioning the "Young Generation" connection:
http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2000/sep/16/weekend.deabirkett

"On his first adult Saturday night TV series, The Rolf Harris Show, accompanied by the irreparably dated Young Generation dance troupe, he would draw huge landscapes on 12ft x 9ft backdrops. It looked effortless. But Harris would practise the paintings in full size as many as five times, against a stopwatch, so he could recreate them live in the allotted time each week."
Mark
  • 7. Mark | 17/06/2014
Just noticed that the whole "Reg Varney" spoken word section is printed, in the form of a letter, in the blue lyrics book on page 30. I will transcribe here in the next couple of days.
Mark
  • 8. Mark | 22/06/2014
Dear T.V. Times,

Your majesties,

I have concocted, through the noble invention and blarneycraft of the humble northerner, a system, whereby constant annoyance by the telephone can be erased. This entails explosive charges, left to me by a dead sailor from Bury, being wired up under every window sill in close proximity to my ears. When phones ring and are inconvenient to the ears, I just press table lamp light button next to my bed and they blow up. I got the idea from a book.

Yours sincerely,

Mr. Reg Varney
(Please note, all the herbs is available from P.O. Box 935 G.T.V. Manchester)
bzfgt
  • 9. bzfgt | 24/06/2014
Great!! I wish I'd seen this sooner, I could have saved you the trouble--I have a scanned version in pdf format and I can actually copy/paste from it (although I have to clean up some mistakes). Anyway, thank you very much for this!
TamFrmGlsgw
  • 10. TamFrmGlsgw | 03/11/2014
Do you have any authority on which to render the "first god" in the opening line with a lower-case 'g'? I've never seen these lyrics officially printed. If criticising anything else, I would agree with you and say "first" does indeed imply several god's and therefore archaic mythology and therefore lower-case "g". However, given that this song makes reference to Christ's second coming and that the titular 'Garden' appears to have biblical connotations, not to mention the fact that this is the lyrics of Mark. E. Smith and not a poem in any established tradition; I'd say it's entirely likely that the 'first G/god' of line one may be referring to God the father and therefore be spelt with an upper-case G.
All of this said, I could be over-analysing the fuck out of this.
TamFrmGlsgw
  • 11. TamFrmGlsgw | 04/11/2014
Ignore the above! I found a lyrics sheet, 'tis indeed a lower-case g. :)
bzfgt
  • 12. bzfgt | 08/11/2014
Right, I don't think it's ruled out either way by the spelling, and if pressed I'd say the first god is neither YHWH nor not YHWH but that the lyric is ambiguous enough to sustain multiple interpretations, and that the definitive lyric is the sung and not the written version anyway. And, if YHWH is the "first" god, then the lower case would be warranted in any case.

What do you mean a lyrics sheet? Of what provenance?
TamFrmGlsgw
  • 13. TamFrmGlsgw | 04/12/2014
In my 2005 2-Disc sanctuary reissue of Perverted By Language there is fold out sheet containing what appears to be an image of Mark E. Smith's original typewritten lyrics to Garden, albeit with lyrics different from what is sang on the recording, spelling "first god" with a lower-case G.
Mxyzptlk
  • 14. Mxyzptlk | 18/02/2015
'That person is films on TV, five years back at least'. Surely Barry Norman, whose Film '72 programme ran until it's ultimate iteration as Film 98. Next line is 'Here's the Young Generation...' Not "He's", so at least we are spared the thought of Mr Norman dressed for a Hoedown.
bzfgt
  • 15. bzfgt | 28/03/2015
I am still hearing "He's," on both PBL and Peel...
dannyno
  • 16. dannyno | 13/06/2015
"A three-legged black-grey hog"

Three-legged pigs in gardens? Makes me think of chanchitos, Chiliean good luck ornaments made of terracotta in the shape of three legged piglets.

eg: http://www.napastyle.com/good-luck-chanchito-pigs.html
ellie
  • 17. ellie | 17/07/2015
Might be of interest, the TV Times letter can also be heard here on this radio bit from '83.. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jD6Msphh_Mw&t=2m41s
bzfgt
  • 18. bzfgt | 24/07/2015
Thanks, Ellie, a few people have linked to this recently, for some reason. Great intel, and I reminded me to go to "Birmingham School" etc. and "Yes, O Yes" and link up all the "X to/of Y X" stuff. Does anyone know anything about Greenwich Sound Radio? I found it on a list of pirate radio stations from the 80s so I listed it as such, if that's accurate. All the "Guide to Writing Guides" on the internet must stem from one source, since they all reproduce the misspelling "Grenwich"--that's how you get caught!
gizmoman
  • 19. gizmoman | 25/10/2015
It's "crook trader" not traitor.
russell
  • 20. russell | 06/11/2015
Is it just a coincidence that having bought the expanded PbL and become absorbed again by this song, and Bob Dylan's latest Bootleg is being advertised that leads me to connect that last line to visions of the second coming (Dylan) and his famous 'accident'? Probably the most famous incidence of a 'Jew on a motorbike', though the possibility of hassidim on mopeds in Stamford Hill seems more likely.
bzfgt
  • 21. bzfgt | 16/11/2015
Gizmoman: How sure of that are you? It seems like it could be either.

Russell: I can't believe I didn't think of that. You're probably right that it isn't the source but it's definitely the most famous as you say. I guess I'll just leave it down here now though since the notes are pretty cluttered as it is...
dannyno
  • 22. dannyno | 06/01/2016
The quote from the 21 April 1984 Steve Lake feature on Mark E Smith/The Fall (p31) actually begins, "That song's like a skit on the 'prophet syndrome'. Derives partly..."

Also from the same article, talking about pre-cog:


I write 'Garden', a spoof on the appearance of this prophet, and then Echo and the Bunneymen [sic] come out with 'The Cutter' with all of its He Is Here thing... and it looks as if my song is trying to take the piss out of them. I mean, I will take the piss out of them, any day, but in this case it was subconscious.
dannyno
  • 23. dannyno | 06/01/2016
Apparently Jewish biker groups are a thing.

There's one called "Hillel's Angels"
Thop
  • 24. Thop | 09/02/2016
'He knew the evil of the phone'
One might interpret this as saying that the second god is more reclusive, intentionally less contactable or apparently so. Sort-of the same idea as church-goers being referred to as "God-botherers."

I hear the "when phone rings are inconvenient to my ears..." line referring to this, adding a clue to what is meant by 'the evil of the phone'.
bzfgt
  • 25. bzfgt | 19/03/2016
I love that construal of "God-botherers"; I never interpreted it to mean they are bothering God in that sense, I always heard it as worrying at God, in the way a dog worries at a bone. But I have no idea where I got that notion, or what the saying actually means (literally that is). I will plop your comment in, it's awfully crowded up there though, this one badly needs editing soon.
dannyno
  • 26. dannyno | 16/11/2016
"Jew on a motorbike".

Brix Smith-Start, in an interview with the Jewish publication, "Forward", identified the "Jew on a motorbike":

So who is the “Jew on a motorbike!” in The Fall’s “Garden”? We’ve seen reams of speculation on fan sites, where some people assume it’s a Jesus reference.

The Jew on a motorbike is a gentleman by the name of Sol Seaburg. Sol was the singer in a band called FC Domestos but was also our part-time van driver. When not driving the van, he rode a motorbike.


http://forward.com/culture/348928/the-surprising-jewish-story-behind-indie-rock-legend-brix-smith-start/

Seaberg also has a writing credit on "The Man Whose Head Expanded".
dannyno
  • 27. dannyno | 21/11/2016
Brix's comment doesn't fit with MES's interview comments in note 18 above, since the one thing you presumably wouldn't say to a Jewish biker (assuming the Jewish van driver was Sol Seaburg) is "you never see Jewish motorcyclists, do you?"

But then, MES's account always felt a bit implausible - see Robert's comment #1.
bzfgt
  • 28. bzfgt | 24/11/2016
Yes, I don't think there's any reason to take MES's comment as gospel. In any case it's all logged in the notes and I don't think much hangs on narrowing it down, the fact that MES said he said it is just as interesting whether or not he in fact said it when he said he said it.
dannyno
  • 29. dannyno | 29/11/2016
Douglas Rushkoff knows the evil of the phone. Review of his "Program or be programmed" here:

https://williamhogeland.wordpress.com/2010/10/29/rushkoffs-program-or-be-programmed-and-the-social-evil-of-the-telelphone/
Jim
  • 30. Jim | 15/01/2017
I've become fascinated by this song recently, and until I read this I had always assumed the 'mushy pen' was a 'pen' in the sense of a small enclosure (eg. pig pen)
John Howard
  • 31. John Howard | 17/01/2017
A couple of random musings...
"mushy pen" brings up a the image of a spent phallus for me, taking the creation to its base level
if this is a creation myth, then the song describes the (a?) sabbath and a Jew on a motorbike would be a lapsed Jew, breaking the sabbath.
the song seems to take a lot of the tone from Arthur Machen, particularly Hill Of Dreams.
bzfgt
  • 32. bzfgt | 04/02/2017
Jim: I don't know that you are wrong, I never thought of it but it probably makes more sense. He has an animal around, and that sort of pen is more likely to be mushy, I'll wot. Never doubt yourself, my son!

John: I think I've read that but not recently enough to remember exactly what it is, I will read it.

I think in parts I am too focused on turning in a kind of unified interpretation, despite my efforts and protestations otherwise, which is certainly a mistake. I will need to revisit this one soon. Also maybe I can pare some of it down, in the early days I would get worked up over a song, blasting through my headphones at 3 AM and colonizing my awareness, and tended to slip despite my better judgment into a kind of vatic trance. This can lead to effects that are somewhat embarrassing a couple years later and too wordy in any case. Also, I had just finished a philosophy Ph.D. and had trouble with getting too academic at times--I mean, in academia I like to think I was/am a less "academic" writer than most but it still infects one's prose.
Green Shield Stamp
  • 33. Green Shield Stamp | 23/04/2017
Isn't the 'brown baize lift shaft' a figurative expression for arsehole.
dannyno
  • 34. dannyno | 23/04/2017
Well mine isn't upholstered in baize, so my reaction is "no"! But I like the idea very much. It would work perfectly well in context.
bzfgt
  • 35. bzfgt (link) | 13/05/2017
I never thought of that but you may be onto something.

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