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." 

^ 

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. 

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.

^

Comments (19)

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').

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