Gentlemen's Agreement

Lyrics

(1)

We plough the fields together (2)
In all types of intemperance
Our bones cracked in unison
Gentlemen's, gentlemen's agreement

You know what he is
And probably still is
Sticking his colours
To whatever new mast there is
But our agreement is over

I thought we had some kind of agreement
But with you it was just prurience
You're addicted to excitement
My energies are down now with yours
And you're sitting on my back fence
But I thought we had an agreement
Gentlemen's, gentlemen's agreement

Your brain is software
Your brain is Game Boy (3)
It's filled with excretement
And your short-term memory
Will fleetingly remember
Our gentlemen's agreement

Gentlemen's, gentlemen's agreement
Gentlemen's, gentlemen's agreement

 

 

Notes

1.  Reformation provides some interesting quotes:

MES, quoted in The Biggest Libray Yet, no. 8 (February 1997): "It's very much of today. The short concentration span. Which connects with sex. It took me fucking ages to write, really pissed me off because the band had written this great tune and I just couldn't get the lyric. It came bit by bit though the two months we were in the studio."
 
MES, interviewed in Melody Maker, 1 December 1993: I think 'Gentlemen's Agreement' is one of the best things we've ever written. But I can't be objective about it. You write a song like that, and expect people to be really impressed, and it just washes over them. They just think it's The Fall A Bit Slower. People always tend to underrate us a bit.
 
The entry goes on to speculate that the song is about the so-called Trevor Long affair, concerning a manager Smith unsuccessfully sued for ripping off the band. This is also the presumable subject of "The Birmingham School of Business School," also on Code:Selfish.
 
From Q magazine

"It's very much of today," he says. "The short concentration span. Which connects with sex. I've become a recluse again at the moment but over the last year I've been out and about a lot and met a lot of people who suffer with that. It took me fucking ages to write, really pissed off because the band had written this great tune and I just couldn't get the lyric. It came bit by bit through the two months we were in the studio. I go in to record with a big box of lyrics and the band have their tunes ready, but we'd be in there forever if we stuck to trying to fit one to the other. So in the end I lock the box and start writing on spec. Don't force it, that's the secret. 

Gentleman's Agreement is a 1947 novel, made in to a film with Gregory Peck that same year, about a journalist who poses as a Jew to uncover anti-Semitism in New York and Connecticut.
 
From Dan:
 
You Can Drum But You Can't Hide, p.129: "'Gentleman's Agreement," about the band members' unwritten rule which stated that if one room-mate got lucky on tour, the other party had to sleep elsewhere; i.e. on the floor in someone else's room." Not sure in what sense you can say the song is "about" that, though... 
 
Dan is wise here; the title may be taken from this practice but it seems inapt to say that is what the song is about. 

^

2. There is a famous hymn called "We Plough the Fields and Scatter" from the late 18th century which has been recorded at least once under the title "We Plow The Fields Together," but ths title seems to be a variant and I'm not sure when it originated; as far as I can tell it is only attested to by a single version by the London Philharmonic Choir that post-dates this album.  

From Zack, "'We plough the fields and scatter the low-grade lichen of mankind' is a lyrical ad-lib that turns up on more than one occasion on the Bootleg Box Set."

^

3. A Game Boy is a hand held video game console that was popular at the time.  

^

Comments (6)

dannyno
  • 1. dannyno | 20/11/2013
The last lines are:

"And your short-term memory will fleetingly remember
Our gentlemen's agreement
Gentlemen's, gentlemen's agreement
Gentlemen's, gentlemen's agreement"
dannyno
  • 2. dannyno | 16/11/2014
From Simon Wolstencroft's, "You Can Drum But You Can't Hide", p.129:

"'Gentleman's Agreement', about the band members' unwritten rule which stated that if one room-mate got lucky on tour, the other party had to sleep elsewhere; i.e. on the floor in someone else's room."

Not sure in what sense you can say the song is "about" that, though...

Dan
Zack
  • 3. Zack | 19/11/2014
"We plough the fields and scatter the low-grade lichen of mankind" is a lyrical ad-lib that turns up on more than one occasion on the Bootleg Box Set.
dannyno
  • 4. dannyno | 18/11/2016
"low grade lichen" - note 2 and comment 3.

I've been thinking of "lichen" in terms of the algae/bacteria&fungus organism, but actually it might be a metaphor based on a skin condition, like Lichen sclerosus (http://www.nhs.uk/conditions/lichen-sclerosus/Pages/Introduction.aspx) or Lichen planus (http://www.nhs.uk/conditions/lichen-planus/Pages/Introduction.aspx), which I suppose is named after the organism

The phrase "low grade" is used in medicine, you see.

.
Martin
  • 5. Martin | 12/12/2016
"Excretement"?

"Excrement", surely? But maybe he pronounces it incorrectly?

Also, there are some background lyrics, especially near the beginning of the song, which may or may not be an echo of the main vocal line, but which are impossible (for me at least) to make out. Anyone?
bzfgt
  • 6. bzfgt | 27/12/2016
I checked, he definitely says "excretement" and I want to say it's not really that uncommon for him to alter a word like that, although of course I can't think of an example at the moment...

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