Gut of the Quantifier



I'm telling you now and I'm telling you this  (2)
Life can be an onward, downward
Chip-chit-chip-chit-chip (3)

I'm not saying they're really thick
But all the groups who've hit it big
Make the Kane Gang look like (4)
an Einstein chip   (5)
A place to live
This is the Thule group. (6)
This is the cool group
(I'm telling you now and I'm telling you this)

Shawn and Petula Macabre (7)
Here are your wedding pictures
They are black
Stick it in the gut
Stick in the mud
Boffins bray
Boffins brag (8)
Stick it in the gut
Stick in the mud

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

Cheap fog
Cheap fog
Rotting scout-belt (9)
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 (10)
If God could see this
He'd stick it
They stick it in the gut
Cheap fog
Rotting scout-belt

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 (11)
Wealthy philanthropist
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. Dan points out that this likely alludes to "I'm Telling You Now" by Freddie and the Dreamers. This was a Manchester band, and they have the dubious distinction of being mentioned in "Idiot Joy Showland." 



3. "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"...


4. 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. According to Dan, there was an Einstein computer ("produced by a Taiwanese company, designed and built in the UK, and released in the summer of 1984").


6. 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."


7. 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."


8. "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. Maybe a reference to attire associated with the Boy Scouts?  


10.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."

Basmikel expands:

"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.


12. 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...




Comments (58)

  • 1. Robert | 02/05/2013
"Gut of the Quantifier" has a groove that is reminiscent of James Brown.

Or the chorus of "Funkytown" by Lipps Inc.
  • 2. John | 01/08/2013
Is downward chip a golf reference? I have wondered whether stick it in the gut/mud was a reference to vaginal and anal sex.
  • 3. David | 20/10/2013
When 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.
  • 4. dannyno | 14/02/2014
Is it obvious that the "it" in "stick it in the gut" is a knife, and so what we're talking about here is stabbing the "quantifier" in the stomach?
Simon Moore
  • 5. Simon Moore | 02/05/2014
It is actually "life could be an upward, downward chip". The idea was that in the future, rather than having "upper" or "downer" drugs, you simply have a computer chip implanted into you that does the same thing.
marc balance
  • 6. marc balance | 14/05/2014
..I think David is on the right track here, a stab at successful groups, this paragraph here is quiet obvious:
'I'm not saying they're really thick
But all the groups who've hit it big
Make the Kane Gang look like
an Einstein chip...'
in other words: I'm not saying they're completely stupid, but all the bands who are popular today, make the kane gang look smart like einstein...
I#m sure this shawn and petula macabre line is wrong. I guess it is something like 'shawn, immature, .....' I isolated the line and slowed it down with a time stretcher (keeps the pitch)... my english is too bad, but if you want to take a try on it I can send you an mp3. just send me yr email address composite.... red composite doors are very popular in the uk (..entranced entrance....) javascript:void(0);

  • 7. acousmetre (link) | 15/05/2014
To my hear, this is so much more likely stolen from Jr. Walker and the All-Stars "Shotgun."
Listen here:

The Jr. Walker has the more pronounced funk groove that The Doors song lacks. I think this song is an even more obvious and blatant riff-theft than "Athlete Cured," so much so that it should be called a "cover."

If MES knew that The Doors stole their riff from Jr. Walker, which seems likely, as Jr. Walker was played in Northern Soul clubs, it gives a context to the lines about riff-makers and the age of the pop stars.
  • 8. bzfgt | 22/05/2014
Thanks, I've heard that song all my life and somehow never made the connection.
  • 9. bzfgt | 22/05/2014
Marc, can you message me your email to my private messages? I'd like to hear that slowed down version...
marc balance
  • 10. marc balance | 03/06/2014
bzfgt, sent my email by the 'contact' thingie at the top of the page, sent two mp3s to the email from which reception notice came.... did I made any mistakes, or did you received the mp3s???
  • 11. bzfgt | 15/06/2014
Sorry for taking so long, Marc, I got the mp3s and they sound very clear. Thank you very much for doing that!

However, oddly enough, when I listen to them I swear to you hear "Petula Macabre" very clearly, with MES enunciating the final silent syllable of "Macabre".
  • 12. dannyno | 11/12/2014
From "The Big Midweek":

"Gut of the Quantifier" is a better attempt by Brix at playing Hide The Riff than 'Elves' was... This ones a Doors song which they took from an old blues song... by the time we've finished it's altered beyond recognition."
  • 13. goodoldneon | 13/02/2016
The bass riff in the verses sounds a lot like Lowell Fulson's "Tramp" to me:
John Richards
  • 14. John Richards | 26/01/2017
If there was an award for "The Internet's most overly-intellectual explanation of the lyrics of a Fall song" then I am pretty damn sure that the second paragraph of Note 1 would win it. But I think when you said "assuming for the moment that it is meant to make some sort of sense" you might just have pulled the rug from under your own argument. Anyway I've bookmarked it now so I can show my children, when they grow up - please don't take this page down for the next 10 years, ta.
  • 15. bzfgt | 11/02/2017
John, a lot of my notes would probably be in the running--I often weed out some of my gassier moments when I find them again in the sober light of day. But I don't know how I could avoid talking a stab at what a quantifier is and why it's here, and I'm not making an "argument," and it's not really an "explanation"--it's not like I'm trying to put something over and just accidentally noted that it may not make any sense at all. I am perfectly up front about the fact that I have little idea what it might be about and am just stumbling around in the dark.

Anyway, you didn't even notice that there were two typos in my logical notation! I mean, sheesh.
  • 16. dannyno | 17/02/2017
"Who are the riff-makers.
Who are they really?
How old are the stars really?"

These lines read like magazine headlines, don't they?

"How old are the stars" might refer to rock stars (or other famous people), or it might refer to astronomy. The prior mention of "riff-makers" suggests the former, but it might not necessarily be so.
  • 17. dannyno | 18/02/2017
Yeah, good points.
  • 18. dannyno | 25/02/2017
"Einstein chip"

Perhaps a reference to the Tatung Einstein computer? Produced by a Taiwanese company, designed and built in the UK, and released in the summer of 1984.
  • 19. dannyno | 25/02/2017
Imitators hereby defeated. From now on, if a comment claims to be me but doesn't have my avatar, it's not me. Or I've forgotten to log in.
  • 20. bzfgt (link) | 03/03/2017
It's the sincerest form of flattery man
  • 21. GFR | 03/03/2017
Some cunt's been fucking about deleting posts here.
  • 22. jensotto | 07/12/2017
I'm thinking of the Quantifier was a figure in MES' universe with a habit of asking rethorical questions like "How do you quantify love/intelligence/..?"

Thule Group: The one that springs to mind is a Norwegian Group, later solo Project, from Finnmark: Radio DJ Harald Are Lund, who visitied BBC/Peel from 1968 on, played their songs in the mid/late 80s

I wonder og MES has ever heard about Blowfly. Songs from Fresh Juice, 1983, are part of the global "collective consciousness"....
  • 23. KevinO | 12/02/2018
Petula Clark, an actress and musician known for her hit song "Downtown," starred in "Goodbye, Mr. Chips," a 1969 film.
  • 24. dannyno | 12/02/2018
Comment 23: it was a musical based on the 1934 novel which was more famously made into the 1939 film. But I presume you're not serious about any connection...
  • 25. KevinO | 13/02/2018
A number of Fall songs include lines in Latin, or refer to the language, such as Tempo House, The Reckoning, Insult Song, Alton Towers, Spectre Vs Rector, and New Puritan. In the 1969 version of Goodbye Mr. Chips, Peter O'Toole plays a Latin teacher.
  • 26. dannyno | 13/02/2018
Is there any Latin in this song?

And is any of the Latin found in certain other songs also found in the musical?
  • 27. bzfgt (link) | 13/02/2018
  • 28. bax | 25/02/2018
This is the Thule group
This is the cool group

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
  • 29. bzfgt (link) | 10/03/2018
I dig that, bax!
  • 30. Basmikel | 15/06/2018
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" ie money/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.
Portsmouth Bubblejet
  • 31. Portsmouth Bubblejet | 08/07/2018
On both the recorded version and the live version at Clitheroe Castle, I reckon Smith is singing 'an onward downward...' at the beginning of the song, as opposed to 'upward downward'.
  • 32. bzfgt (link) | 15/07/2018
Yep, "onward."
  • 33. bzfgt (link) | 15/07/2018
OK I stuck in David and Basmikel's comments....I need to stop for the night soon, I'm not sure if I need to be doing more editing or if I'm just getting lazy because it's 3 AM...
Martin Gammon
  • 34. Martin Gammon | 20/08/2018
Riff is almost identical to that of 'Would I lie to you ' by Eurythmics, which was released earlier the same year.
  • 35. bzfgt (link) | 25/08/2018
Damn, this song is seriously overdetermined when it comes to musical antecedents....
  • 36. bzfgt (link) | 25/08/2018
OK I can hear the resemblance but it seems a pretty generic one.
  • 37. Mark | 30/01/2019
After the "Here are your wedding pictures / They are black" line, somebody laughs.
Stephen Poole
  • 38. Stephen Poole | 06/03/2019
The riff bears some resemblance to "The Changeling" and "Shotgun," but sounds almost identical to the riff that comprises 95 percent of the song "Nighttime," originally by The Strangeloves but notably covered by the J. Geils Band and Sweden's The Nomads.
  • 39. bzfgt (link) | 16/03/2019
Damn, another one?!
  • 40. bzfgt (link) | 16/03/2019
Sounds way more like Rema-Rema to me, the riff and even the vocal melody is identical whereas some of the notes are different in Night Time. The "Rema-Rema" chant is "Kick 'em in the gut!" Seems more likely if anything that the latter was inspired by "Night Time," they wouldn't both have come out of "Night Time" that much closer to each other than they are to it.
  • 41. bzfgt (link) | 16/03/2019
Yep, it's definitely "Rema-Rema." Every other one mentioned is close and could be an influence on Rema-Rema, and she could have been listening to "the Changeling," but she had to have heard "Rema-Rema" when she wrote this.
  • 42. dannyno | 02/04/2019
It is suggested, by Julian Cope, that Rema-Rema is itself borrowed from the same source as The Doors' "The Changeling":

Taken from their sole 4AD 7” EP, this obsessively psychedelic pslab of 1980 Post-Punk soul slopped a pungent stew of refusenik chanted vocals and plenny Suicide 2nd album keyboard FX over the hoariest of all soul riffs, i.e. that venerable sucker that Grand Funk had half-inched for their 1970 epic ‘Heartbreaker’ and which the Doors just couldn’t resist re-nicking the following year for 1971’s ‘The Changeling’. Oh, and all the cranky lead guitars came from future Ant Marco Pirroni

Link]Archived link
  • 43. bzfgt (link) | 27/04/2019
Wow--add another to the list!
  • 44. bzfgt (link) | 27/04/2019
And, I don't hear a thing like it in Hearbreaker, really. It's possible he's thinking of a different GFR song, or he's making a very loose connection.
Philip Cartwright
  • 45. Philip Cartwright | 05/12/2019
One more name to add to the list of bands who've used the basic riff: Joy Division on No Love Lost. I bet if you tried hard enough you could come up with a dozen more.
  • 46. bzfgt (link) | 21/12/2019
Hmm, "No Love Lost" doesn't sound all that much the same to me, I can see the similarity but not the kind of sameness as with "Rema Rema" or something
  • 47. bzfgt (link) | 21/12/2019
Oh wait there it is
the balance
  • 48. the balance | 21/12/2019
note #1. I disagree. The bass riff is almost identical to the riff in The Cangeling. Both Riffs even share the same key, starting on A
and change to G (within the riff). The riff in Rema-Rema starts on G and plays up to A, so is quite the opposite and the phrasing is much more simplified. For trained ears it doesn't sound almost identical at all. Completely different. Trust me, I#m a musician, bass and guitar player, as well as an audio engineer. But more important, trust the one, who 'created' (or ripped-off) and played the song.... Hanley is right here.
  • 49. Otter | 08/08/2020
In the first mention of the poor, you have "take from the medium poor to give to the needy poor". I think this "needy" should be another "medium", like it is the second time these lyrics come around.

That's what I hear, but I get that Mark's delivery is rushed and it sounds a bit like "needy". But I checked a couple of other versions on Youtube for corroborating evidence. In the 1985 Peel Session, he distinctly says "medium poor" both times; and on the 1985 Hacienda recording, he says "take from the medium poor to give to the average poor", which is substantially the same thing.

And it makes more sense as a lyric, if that counts for anything.
  • 50. Otter | 08/08/2020
Incidentally, I love how the lyrics are mocking your attempts to identify the original source of the riff. You might as well ask how old the stars are.
  • 51. bzfgt (link) | 16/08/2020
I don't know that it makes more sense, but that's probably right then
  • 52. dannyno | 02/09/2020
"Downward chip"

It's occured to me today that this might be a corruption of the phrase "when the chips are down".

  • 53. bzfgt (link) | 06/09/2020
  • 54. bzfgt (link) | 06/09/2020
Doesn't help with "Einstein chip" entirely but I like it
  • 55. dannyno | 06/09/2020
There's some riffing on different meanings of "chip", I think.

If I'm right that it's the corrupted idiomatic expression in that "life can be downward chip" lyric, it's not immediately obvious whether than helps with anything at all! But maybe he's saying "life is a gamble" or something like that.
  • 56. dannyno | 03/04/2021
"I'm telling you now"

Inescapable echo of the Freddie and the Dreamers song.

  • 57. bzfgt (link) | 03/04/2021
I never remember who "Freddie and the Dreamers" are, but somehow that song is familiar....that horrible giggle, though...that sort of makes "Idiot Joy Showland" seem justified...
  • 58. John (link) | 21/10/2022
The riff also makes me think of the Pretenders' Time the Avenger, though the Pretenders tune is faster

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