Gramme Friday

Lyrics

(1)

The people I like
The people I like
The people I like live
In kitchens and halls
 

I can't reach a decision on this.
Can I come back to you on this?
Hitler lost his nerve on it
Dr. Morell prescribed it well (2)
It's fast debts
 

I am Robinson Speedo
and this is my Gramme Friday (3)
Skin drops slow to the bones
 

But I've got my hunger anyway
I'm on Gramme Friday
Work and eat spontaneous
Enter the house of weariness
It's Fastnet (4)
 

Look out
Look down
Look out
Look now
The hunger....
Friday

 

Notes

1. "Gramme" is the British spelling of "Gram," or the latter is the American spelling of the former, as the case may be. "Originally defined as 'the absolute weight of a volume of pure water equal to the cube of the hundredth part of a metre, and at the temperature of melting ice' (later 4 °C), a gram is now defined as one one-thousandth of the SI base unit, the kilogram, or 1×10−3 kg, which itself is defined as being equal to the mass of a physical prototype preserved by the International Bureau of Weights and Measures." (Wikipedia) The song is apparently about amphetamine use, otherwise known as "speed." It is not a controversial claim that MES has had a taste for the stuff, and perhaps still does. Anyone who wants to can probably find out more substantive information about this via Google, but unless it directly affects lyrical content in a demonstrable way, I'm uncomfortable presenting what may seem like gossip about anyone's drug use. Suffice it to say that I do not condemn anyone for using drugs; although some of the concomitant behavior or effects may be worthy of opprobrium, in principle I do not have a problem with it. I feel it is proper to make this statement here because I do not want to appear as though I am taking either a self-righteous or a prurient interest in someone's drug consumption.

^ 

2. Dr. Theodor Morrell was Hitler's personal physician. From Wikipedia: "When Hitler had trouble with grogginess in the morning, Morell would inject him with a solution of water mixed with a substance from several small, gold-foiled packets, which he called 'Vitamultin,' whereupon Hitler would get up refreshed and invigorated. A member of Himmler's SS acquired one of these and had it tested in a laboratory, where it was found to contain methamphetamine." Note however that this may be an overblown case of misidentifying an addiction based on wishful thinking plus misinterpretation of old medical records in light of modern norms; see jules's acute comments below. In any case, what is most relevant is what MES knew or thought he knew, and even then he needn't have believed it to have made use of it.

^ 

3. This is, of course, a reference to Robinson Crusoe, from Daniel Defoe's novel of the same name. Crusoe, whose story was loosely based on that of the Scottish castaway Alexander Selkirk, discovered, on his otherwise deserted island, a native whom he dubbed "Friday," after the day on which Crusoe first encountered him. Friday became Crusoe's assistant, and this is the origin of the descriptor "Friday" to describe an assistant or a sidekick (as in, frequently, someone's "man Friday" or "girl Friday").

^

4. Fastnet or Fastnet Rock is an islet at the southernmost tip of Ireland. It is basically a giant rock, which is probably why it is in the lyrics--it seems that MES is singing about a huge rock of speed. Note that this was one of the maritime locations commonly mentioned on the Shipping News which would come on very late in Britain when TV stations were signing off (thanks to Russell Richardson).

The rock would have been in MES's mind around the time he was recording Grotesque (After the Gramme). The biannual Fastnet yacht race, in which sailors navigate around the rock, resulted in 18 deaths in August 1979 when the weather turned rough, and consequently the 1981 race probably garnered a lot of media attention at the time. So the connection between racing and "speed" can also account for MES's use of the word here, possibly.

Aubrey points out that this also resembles certain words in German that refer to a carnival. From a blog about German culture:

There are three different words in German for “Carnival” or “Mardi Gras”: Karneval, Fasching and Fastnacht. Although all three refer to the same pre-Lenten observance, each has a different tradition and reflects somewhat different customs in different regions of the German-speaking world.

(...)

The word Fasching dates back to the 13th century and is derived from the Germanic word vaschanc or vaschang, in modern German: Fastenschank = the last serving of alcoholic beverages before Lent. In olden times the 40-day Lenten period of fasting was strictly observed. People refrained from drinking alcohol or eating meat, milk products and eggs. The English word “fast” (to refrain from eating) is related to German fasten.

(...)

Fastnacht... refers to the Swabian-Alemannic carnival, which differs in some ways from Fasching and Karneval, and is found in Baden-Württemberg, Franconia (northern Bavaria), Hesse and much of Switzerland. Although this word looks like it comes from the German for the “eve of Lent,” in fact it is based on the Old German word fasen (“to be foolish, silly, wild”). Thus the word, sometimes spelled Fasnacht (without the t) actually means something like “night of being wild and foolish.”

Fastnacht translates to English as "Shrovetide," i.e. Lent, (thanks to Mike Watt). The literal meaning of the word is "almost night."

And from Wikipedia, we learn that one of the names for the carnival is Fasnet:

In parts of East and South Germany, as well as in Austria, the carnival is called Fasching. In Franconia and Baden-Württemberg as well as some other parts of Germany, the carnival is called Fas(t)nachtFassenacht or Fasnet; in Switzerland, Fasnacht.

Finally, some commenters have pondered the content of the name--fast, like speed, a net, like the net of addiction, stuck fast, etc.

See the comments below for much discussion about Fastnet...

^

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Comments (31)

dannyno
  • 1. dannyno | 20/11/2013
The first few lines go like this:

"The people I like
The people I like live
The people I like live in kitchens and halls"
dannyno
  • 2. dannyno | 20/11/2013
There are several lines missing at the end of the song, but they are hard to make out.
bzfgt
  • 3. bzfgt | 23/11/2013
I added the repetitious lines at your behest. What the hell is "Fastnet"? I did this one so long ago I can't remember, but I don't know how I let that slide without an inquiry.I suspect he doesn't even say that; I'll listen to it again and see if anything shakes loose.
bzfgt
  • 4. bzfgt | 23/11/2013
OK, he says "Fastnets..." the final 's' is definitely pronounced but inconclusive, since he often appends an 's' to the end of a word where it does not belong. I suspect he might be saying "fastness," a little garbled, but the capital 'F' in the Lyrics Parade makes me suspect the transcriber knew something, i.e. what the hell "Fastnet" is, so I won't change it unless nobody can answer the question for me. I will hie to the forum and pose the question.
bzfgt
  • 5. bzfgt | 23/11/2013
Damn it, I'm not convinced he says "Robertson" at all, I've changed it to "Robinson." Are there live versions where he says "Robertson" clearly, or how did that start?

I have no idea how that slipped by when I did this...this is like a trip to the pre-historic past, this must have been one of my earliest entries. bzfgt
bzfgt
  • 6. bzfgt | 23/11/2013
Look, I'm making it exactly what it says--"fast nets." If anyone wants me to change it they have to tell me what "Fastnet" is.
Bimble
  • 7. Bimble | 09/12/2013
The only thing that comes to mind is the boat race - or the rock that give it it's name. Gong on when the album was recorded, the 1979 disaster would have been recent.
Joseph Mullaney
  • 8. Joseph Mullaney | 17/08/2014
It's Robinson, surely?
bzfgt
  • 9. bzfgt | 21/09/2014
Yes, I don't know how it got like that.
TamFG
  • 10. TamFG | 05/08/2015
Whilst fully respecting your reluctance you speculate on MES's drug usage, I believe it's certainly worth stating that in British street slang "Speed" refers to amphetamine sulphate and not, as you state in note 1, methamphetamine which is a different drug (usually referred to in Britain as "meth") of which I'm pretty sure there is no record of MES ever using.
I think "crank" does indeed refer to methamphetamine (in America?) but I don't think it ever refers to amphetamine sulphate, at least not in Britain.
bzfgt
  • 11. bzfgt | 25/08/2015
Interesting, I didn't know "speed" only referred to the one and not the other. I think here in the US it's all "speed," but I'll defer to your knowledge here.
Neil
  • 12. Neil | 31/10/2016
Not much meth in the uk in 1980. I think speed would cover any type of amphetamine, including dexamphetamine. Likewise crank.
Aubrey the Cat
  • 13. Aubrey the Cat | 30/09/2017
Fastnet - Fastner, Fastnacht or Fasching - German carnival: https://twitter.com/MikeStuchbery_/status/914187318210318336
dannyno
  • 14. dannyno | 01/10/2017
Aubrey, comment #13: oh, <applause> for the first new angle on that line in ages.
Mike Watts
  • 15. Mike Watts | 10/11/2017
Fastnacht translates from the German as 'shrovetide' - which would include Shrove Tuesday (pancake day) and Good Friday...
bzfgt
  • 16. bzfgt (link) | 18/11/2017
Hi, Aubrey! Don't you usually comment here under another name? Or is that someone else....

I am looking into Fastnacht etc.

And, let me join Dan in applauding the comment.

RE: the other recent comments, I should say that I didn't know meth wasn't the preferred kind of speed in the day. I unthinkingly named the kind of speed that is most familiar but of course "speed" can refer to any number of things I think, even diet pills, no?
bzfgt
  • 17. bzfgt (link) | 18/11/2017
I don't know how I'm only seeing these comments just now...I am majorly behind it seems. If anyone reading this is worried I won't get to your comment, I am trying to catch up now, but it can't hurt to comment again in case I really did miss it. Unless I see the email notification there's no way to know when there's a comment.
bzfgt
  • 18. bzfgt (link) | 18/11/2017
OK one of the guys at that Twitter thing calls it "fastnet." But I don't see that attested anywhere else. Unless he got it in his head from the rock or the Fall song, then that is odd indeed.
bzfgt
  • 19. bzfgt (link) | 18/11/2017
Ah but now I find it's sometimes called "Fasnet" (one 't').
John Kedward
  • 20. John Kedward | 05/04/2018
I've always liked the mood/tone of this song. The persistent tension of the guitars, that change of chord on the electric one towards the end. The paranoia of coming down, comes through with it, as well, in the content and feel of the vocals. I'm curious about the Fastnet term, as well. Maybe it's a bit like a dragnet; a feeling of being suddenly trapped in a net, but after going down a vortex quickly. A metaphor for coming down as the speed wears off.. I'm not sure about the connection with the boat race or the tragedy in 79. It seems a world away from it and doesn't go with any of the other themes of the record. I was 18 when this came out and remember speed was bought and sold in grammes and it was a common thing to buy it on a Friday for the Weekend. I think the Robinson Speedo is a joke on the isolation of coming down when it's hard to interact with anybody meaningfully without paranoia.
russell richardson
  • 21. russell richardson | 28/04/2018
FASTNET
late night listeners to the BBC in the 70s and beyond will remember that the very last broadcast (when broadcasts actually stopped at night!) was the shipping forecast, which gave a poetically coded description of the weather and sea conditions around Britain. two things: this would usually be listened to in a sleepy state, enhancing its poetic effect; and it always repeated the exact same unusual words for the sea areas (Dogger; Fisher; German Bight; Scilly and.... Fastnet among them).
It's such an odd word to hear coming over the aether at 1 a.m. that I think we all had our heads twisted a bit. On the BBC!
I'm sure you can hear a few online, with a calm voice intoning stuff like, "Bailey / Variable 3 or 4 / Moderate / Showers / Good"
and then you could go to sleep. NB this would come close on the heels of the Peel Show, which ended at midnight, so...
dannyno
  • 22. dannyno | 05/05/2018
I'm pretty sure the maritime associations of "fastnet" have been covered either here or on the FOF. I'm an advocate of a connection of some kind. The only trouble is that we're not entirely certain that "fastnet" is indeed the lyric.

Peel's programme was on Radio One, and the shipping forecast was on Radio Two until 1978 and Radio Four ever since. But for some time Radio One merged with Radio Two late at night, so anyone who stuck with the channel after the last programme (Peel if it was Peel), would get the shipping forecast after the news.
jules
  • 23. jules (link) | 19/05/2018
Note 2 I saw a documentary recently where a forensic examiner looked at Morrel's medical notes and there is no evidence to support any of the popular myths regarding Adolf's drug use, the one about methamphetamine likely stems from the misreading of a brand-name in the hand written log of what he had prescribed, there only being one letter difference between a vitamin tonic he regularly gave Hitler and a powerful stimulant.Likewise only anecdotal evidence supports the story that he used and had Methadone named in his honour though it was called Amidone by the German pharmaceutical firm who first synthesised it.
perhaps it seems comforting to some to believe Hitler was a drug addled loony but the truth is he was just naturally psychotic and foaming-at-the-mouth barking.
If I remember the documentaries title I'll post it when/if it comes back to me.
dannyno
  • 24. dannyno | 20/05/2018
Was it Hitler's Hidden Drug Habit? Channel 4 "Secret History" documentary?

https://www.imdb.com/title/tt4130388/

First aired 2014.

jules
  • 25. jules | 31/05/2018
I'll watch it soon as I can but it doesn't sound familiar, then again, I am known to watch films for substantial parts of them and slowly have it dawn on me that I've seen it before, sometimes twice, so I won't stick my neck out , I'll just watch it and let you know. I did have an old pharmacopeia from around the post-war years that had all the old trade names of the mixtures and potions they used to make, very handy for this sort of thing, it's quite stunning the drugs our predecessors used, now considered dangerous, Winston Churchill was very fond (like, daily fond) of a cough syrup containing diamorphine, commonly known as heroin, is that where his stiff upper lip came from? I'll get back to you on the documentary, though if it only aired on TV it won't be the one as I watch zero TV these days, too much garbage. Jules.
jules
  • 26. jules | 31/05/2018
No, definitely not the one I saw, this was interesting in places but typical of the TV journalism where "possibly" becomes fact with no further evidence than was initially presented but they want it to be true so it adds to the drama, these documentary writers could have worked with the West Midlands police with such a talent for conjuring "facts" from almost nothing. I noticed that mention was made of brand-name pharmaceutical products on several occasions but no record of the use in the otherwise meticulous log kept by Morrell. We need to remember that there was no stigma attached to the use of these products, as there would be today. It's a common failing, this looking back with modern opinions on past events, the second world war was fought, by both sides relying on amphetamine based medications. The allies had Dexedrine, a tablet containing dexamphetamine, millions of these pills were issued to allied troops, and airmen in particular made heavy use of them. The axis troops (Germany, Italy, Japan, with Romania, Hungary and several other Balkan countries), had Pervitin, as stated, which contained methamphetamine, certainly a stronger drug than dexamphetamine but used in correspondingly smaller doses and both drugs were later marketed in a very popular "cocktail" mixed with some type of barbiturate, a heavy and addictive sedative, to smooth out the jittery behaviour that amphetamine alone produced with repeated use. The world famous "Purple Hearts" were one such mixture, likely to cause dependence either psychological, to the amphetamine, or physical, to the barbiturate, very dangerous in itself as sudden withdrawal has caused fatal seizures.
So, interesting but again, no physical proof of the use of amphetamine by Hitler only anecdotal, and shaky at best, evidence of his possible use on two occasions and it seems strange to me that despite noting, literally, hundreds of injections administered to the Fuhrer, including one containing strychnine (actually a stimulant in very small doses), he would fail to note the dose of a substance not considered harmful by either the medical profession, largely, or the public, who used Pervitin enthusiastically as did German troops. I've still to see any substantive proof of Hitler's so-called "addictions", though I don't doubt the fact he used vast amounts of vitamins and other supplements and Dr Morrell's own records document his use of barbiturates, we have to remember the culture at that time, thousands upon thousands used "barbs" as they became called, to sleep, as sedatives for the nerves and for depression, so he was doing something done regularly by large numbers of people, with their doctors blessing. It hardly constitutes world changing news, anyway, this is already way too long for a post on Fall lyrics. If my sieve like memory recalls the doc. I'll post it. Jules.
dannyno
  • 27. dannyno | 04/06/2018
bzfgt
  • 29. bzfgt (link) | 09/07/2018
John but if we're looking at the literal semantics it could be fast as in secured, "stuck fast," in which case we wouldn't need to shoehorn an awkward reference to velocity in to the net thing
bzfgt
  • 30. bzfgt (link) | 09/07/2018
I think I've done all that needs to be done in note 4 about Fastnet, pending some new discovery of course. I at least briefly mention every theory and direct readers down here to the comments...interesting stuff about Hitler/dope.
bzfgt
  • 31. bzfgt (link) | 09/07/2018
On the other hand I''m not sure the dope note (2) is adequate...anyway, thanks for the excellent and enlightening comments, jules, and also as I say at the end of note 2: "In any case, what is most relevant is what MES knew or thought he knew, and even then he needn't have believed it to have made use of it."

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