Gut of the Quantifier
I'm telling you now and I'm telling you this
Life can be an onward, downward
I'm not saying they're really thick
But all the groups who've hit it big
Make the Kane Gang look like (3)
an Einstein chip (4)
A place to live
This is the Thule group. (5)
This is the cool group
(I'm telling you now and I'm telling you this)
They take from the medium poor to
Give to the medium poor
Via the government poor
Give it to the poor poor
They're knocking on my door
Stick it in the mud
Stick it in the gut
Rotting scout-belt (8)
Stick it in the gut
Who are the riff-makers.
Who are they really?
How old are the stars really?
Half-wit philanthropist, cosy charity gig (9)
If God could see this
He'd stick it
They stick it in the gut
Stick it in the gut
Stay in the mud
They take it from the medium poor
To give it to the medium poor
Via the government poor
And give it to the poor poor
Stick it in the gut
Red composite (9)
You son of a bitch
Stick in the mud
Stick it in the gut
I'm telling you now
and I'm telling you this,
Life can be a downward chip.
1. According to Hanley, this was mostly written by Brix, with a riff copped from "The Changeling" by the Doors. At the same time, the Doors' riff is copped from "Shotgun" by Junior Walker, which in many ways this song resembles more than it does "The Changeling." "Gut of the Quantifier" has a groove that many fans also find reminiscent of James Brown. The basic riff also appears in "Tramp" by Lowell Fulson, which was a hit in its own right and also famously covered by Otis Redding (thanks to goodoldneon). And, it has been pointed out to me that there is also a resemblance to the 1977 hit song "Boogie Nights" by Heatwave (which went to #2 in both the US and the UK) (thanks to academichamilton).
As if that all weren't enough, by far the strongest resemblance, regardless of what Hanley says, is to "Rema-Rema" by Rema-Rema...the riff with the vocal refrain of "stick it in the gut/Stick it in the mud!" sounds virtually identical to the riff and refrain "rema-rema!"
This, in turn, might have been inspired by one of the above-mentioned tracks, or by (another!) "Night Time" by the Strangeloves, which was covered by J Geils Band and the Nomads of Sweden (thanks to Stephen Poole for adding another one to the pile!). And another one--Dan has found that Julian Cope traces "Rema-Rema" back to "Heartbreaker" by Grand Funk Railroad, although this is tenuous--the riff doesn't really appear in "Heartbreaker."
Joy Division's "No Love Lost" also has a similar riff (Philip Cartwright).
All of these songs resemble (or vice versa) "Gut of the Quantifier." But it is hard to believe that Brix hadn't heard "Rema-Rema" at some point and, consciously or not, appropriated it.
"Quantifier" is most commonly used to refer to a symbol preceding a logical or mathematical statement that indicates one of two things: that the ensuing predicate or quantity applies to all of the subject-statement or figure that follows it (universal quantifier), or that the statement singles out one thing that exists (existential quantifier). The symbols used vary, but a typographically simple example from predicate logic would be the statement "All dogs are mammals" which could be symbolized as (x)(Dx Mx). The first 'x' is the universal quantifier, and a more literal translation of the symbolized statement would be "for any 'x,' if 'x' is a dog, then 'x' is a mammal." An existential quantifier, on the other hand, operates in the following manner: the statement "The dog is a mammal" could be symbolized (∃)xMx, which more literally would mean "There is an dog such that the dog is a mammal." The existential quantifier, (∃), specifies that the subject--a dog--exists. As for examples from mathematics, that field is mostly beyond my ken, but they work in a similar way. What would it mean to say that a quantifier has a "gut"? I'm not certain, but my best intuition about the lyric--assuming for the moment that it is meant to make some sort of sense--is that it is intended to draw a contrast between the rigidity of logic and the messiness of life as it is lived, or between the ideality of sense and the messy physicality of existence. If this is so, of course, the song may in a way be meant to ironize or undermine it's own meaning, or the project of making sense in general, adding to the difficulty of interpretation.
See note 9 below for some general remarks from readers.
2. "Chip" may be an empty signifier which allows the lyricist to draw connections that otherwise would not be available to him. It is possible that it is meant to have a more determinate semantic content than this, but I do not have much of an idea about what that would be. Thus, here "chip" could replace "spiral," "motion" or "trajectory," whereas none of these words would work at all in the phrase "Einstein chip," where "theory," "equation," "formula" or something of the sort would be more appropriate; even if we start to wander farther out looking for a noun that could go with "Einstein" (shirt? joke? hairdo? television appearance?), it is hard to arrive at anything that could follow "downward." Simon (below) suggests that "upward, downward chip" means that an implanted computer chip will, in the future, supplant drugs ("uppers" and "downers").
Dan speculates that "downward chip" might be a corruption of "when the chips are down"...
3. The Kane Gang were an English trio that played a slick sort of blend of blues, funk and R&B that was at times reminiscent of Steely Dan (without the irony). If we examine the Kane Gang song "Looking for Gold" (although you don't have to, since I did--you may thank me), it is not without a certain superficial stylistic kinship to "Gut of the Quantifier," although the aesthetic sensibilities of the two bands could not be further apart. I'm not sure what MES means by "all the groups who've hit it big," but one presumes he doesn't mean all of them, ever; nevertheless, he doesn't seem interested in specifying what groups he is sneering at here.
5. Thule in ancient Greece was a name for a northern island, and is a name which is now most often thought to have confusedly referred to Norway, although Orkney, Shetland, and Scandinavia in general are also candidates for the 'real' Thule. In medieval geographies, Ultima Thule can refer to any place beyond the borders of the known world. Some of the leading Nazis were fascinated by an idea of a historical Thule, apparently inspired by a 19th century forgery called The Oera Linda Book which was once widely, and falsely, thought to be an ancient manuscript, written in Old Frisian. The Nazi party on part had its roots in an organization called The Thule Society which was dedicated to arcane and occult studies. The Thule Society located the origins of the so-called Aryan Race in an actual northern region called Thule, but this has no scholarly basis. The Society seems to have been more interested in propagating anti-semitism than in any scholarly pursuits; Hitler severed his ties with the group around 1920, and by the middle of the 20s the Society was defunct. MES has mentioned reading The Morning of the Magicians, a widely discredited, but nevertheless popular, work that paints Nazism as an occult movement. While some of the Nazis were indeed interested in the occult, the importance of this interest to the movement, and the number of Nazis interested in occult ideas in any serious or consistent way, is hugely exaggerated in the book, according to most current scholarly opinion. According to Morning of the Magicians, however, the roots of Nazism can be found in the mystico-racial mythological ideas of the Thule Society. It is clear that MES has no sympathy for Nazism, if we look at his various references to it over the years, but it is a topic he seems to find interesting. In general, MES seems to have a fairly wide knowledge of history, certainly more so than the average person in this age, although it is seemingly not roo rigorous or deep, and not much distinction is made between history and pseudo-history. However, I don't get the sense that he is more than commonly naive or gullible; it seems to be more the case that he likes a good story, and he is far more interested in the psychological, spiritual and anthropological insights that a good story provides than he is in keeping the facts straight.
According to jensotto there was a Norwegian musical group called "Thule."
And bax makes a cogent point: "Thule is one of the world's most northerly towns (Northwest Greenland)--i.e., MES declaims the Fall to be the top band, in the coolest place."
6. These names seem to be made up (although it is possible that they are nicknames for real people). KevinO is reminded of Petula Clark, "an actress and musician known for her hit song 'Downtown,' and who starred in Goodbye, Mr. Chips, a 1969 film."
7. "Boffin" is British slang for a scientist, computer programmer or engineer, and is akin to the modern usage of 'geek' in that respect; it's origin is unknown, although it has been suggested that it might be derived from Nicodemus Boffin, a character in Dickens' Our Mutual Friend.
9.From David: "When This Nation's Saving Grace came out, the Ethiopian famine was in full swing and pop stars were indulging in high-profile charity projects like Live Aid and Band Aid. I took the references to philanthropy and giving to the poor to be a bit of a stab at rich popstars telling their considerably less well-off fans to give money to charity."
"I reckon David's comment, #3 above, is right on the money. Taking a stab at rich pop stars is implied in the title phrase too; I think the meaning of the word quantifier in this lyric is 'distributor of quantity,' i.e. money and food. The Fall, being the Thule group, is above that.
Chip I think of as casino chips, like 'the hand we are dealt.' The chips that the medium poor hopes will result in food for the poor poor's gut may very well be stuck in the mud instead.
I have no idea what the Macabre wedding pictures have to do with this, though.
10. The best I can figure is that this is a suggestion that the composite of all these wealth-redistributing activities is something akin to communism. This is one of those songs, however, that probably isn't meant to be paraphrased. David, in the comment section, points out that this is the era of Live Aid and Band Aid, and MES may be taking a stab at the rich pop stars who tried their hand at philanthropy at the time. This would not be out of character...