Hard Life in Country

Lyrics

 

(1)

[spoken: Yeah, it's like, its a bit sort of reedy, John, somehow, it's weedy sort of...] (2)

It's hard to live in the country
In the present state of things
Your body gets pulled right back
You get a terrible urge to drink

At three a.m.
The stick people recede
The locals get up your nose
And leather soles stick on cobble stones

It's hard to live in the country
It has a delicate ring
Nymphette new romantics come over the hill (3)
It gets a bit depressing

Paper local
Drunken scandal
Publish your address as well
Locals surround where you dwell
Old ladies confiscate your gate railings
For government campaigns  (4)

Its tough in home county  (5)
Councils hold the ring
D. Bowie look-alikes (6)
Permeate car parks
Grab the churches while you can
Port-a-loos
Yellow cabins by methodist doors
New Jersey car parks permeated by

 

D. Bowie sound-alikes

It's good to live in the country
You can get down to real thinking
Walk around look at geometric tracery (7)
Hedgehogs skirt around your leathered soles
Fall down drunk on the road
It's good to live in the country

Look at yourself as a man
The valley rings with ice-cream vans (8)
It's good to live in the country

Leather soles stick on precinct flagstones
Small up town Americas like your outskirt town

The villagers
Are surrounding the house
The locals have come for their due
It's hard to live in the country

Notes

1. The title may have been inspired by "It's A Hard Life" by the Seeds, a band MES admires (thanks to Zack).

Dan:

From the cover of Room to Live: "Vignettle [sic] number three shows the harsh results of technology in yokel hang outs. Horrid truth behind all that romanticized green grass."

^

2. Dan points out that John Brierly is credited with production on this album...but not on this song.

 

In general:

"It's really hard for me to explain that song, it's like, I'm too subjective. It started as a sort of pop song, real simple, but then I kept distorting it you know, kept adding bits, like, when I heard Bow Wow Wow singing about the country it really pissed me off so I put in the line about when New Romantics come over the hill - it gets a bit depressing. It's like, semi-fun but very prophetic, I really did have feelings of paranoia about the villagers surrounding the house, and it came true. When we went to Australia I left this bloke in charge of me house, but he let all the scum of the village in and they, like, wrecked the place, broke down doors, and they attracted the police to the place, so the village did close in on me. I mean don't get me wrong, I love Manchester, but sometimes the claustrophobia sets in ..." (Masterbag)

^

3. See note 1.

^

4. Martin informs:

"During WWII there was a national scrap drive especially active in London where a lot of railings were grubbed up and sent off to be scrapped. I have never been able to find out what really happened with this pre-emptive move to destroy London before the Luftwaffe but it seems that program was more of a public relations exercise rather than of any practical use and the railings were dumped."

^

5. The counties around London are called the "home counties." According to the Oxford English Dictionary, they are "the English counties surrounding London, into which London has extended. They comprise chiefly Essex, Kent, Surrey, and Hertfordshire."

^

6. Bowie also turns up in "Mere Pseud Mag. Ed.," "Get A Summer Song Goin'," and "He Pep!

^

7. "Geometric tracery" is an architectural "term used for the early type of bar tracery, a French invention adopted for the East end of Westminster Abbey, begun in 1245. The chapel windows...are divided into two lights separated by a slim central mullion with a pointed arch above filled by a foiled circle."

^

 

8. Wordsworth's "The Idle Shepherd-Boys" opens: 

THE valley rings with mirth and joy;

          Among the hills the echoes play

          A never never ending song,

          To welcome in the May.

Thanks to gappy tooth on the Fall Online Forum for pointing this out; gappy very aptly points out that "Ultimately, it doesn't matter whether MES had WW in mind or not, the suburban bathos of starting a line with the pastroal "the valley rings" and ending it with ice cream vans is the same either way." 

Wordsworth's poem is a pastoral idyll which does sound a cautionary note about shepherd boys having too much fun and neglecting some lambs, but in all expresses a much more cheery and sentimental view of country life than MES does here. 

^

 

Comments (20)

dannyno
  • 1. dannyno | 11/03/2013
The villagers
Are surrounding the house


Seems to refer to the film "Straw Dogs" (1971)
Jeffrey Bernard
  • 2. Jeffrey Bernard | 12/03/2013
I Like the way this site is authored....excellent work. i do agree that Crop Dust is ace also...where is it?
bzfgt
  • 3. bzfgt | 12/03/2013
Coming soon...
John
  • 4. John | 22/08/2013
He really digs using America as a hammer to drive his point home in live versions as well. My favorite is "New Jersey, upstate US, is like your town in 10, 15 years time"
dannyno
  • 5. dannyno | 02/12/2013
"Home county", not "home country". The "home counties" are the counties around London.

Dan
dannyno
  • 6. dannyno | 08/04/2016
"It's a bit sort of reedy, John..."

Presumably this is John Brierley, who is credited for production on Room to Live. Although not on this song.

Dan
Martin
  • 7. Martin | 10/05/2016
I got intrigued by these lines:

"Old ladies confiscate your gate railings
For government campaigns"

I came across this:

During WWII there was a national scrap drive especially active in London where a lot of railings were grubbed up and sent off to be scrapped. I have never been able to find out what really happened with this pre-emptive move to destroy London before the Luftwaffe but it seems that program was more of a public relations exercise rather than of any practical use and the railings were dumped. [https://greatwen.com/2012/04/17/secret-london-the-mystery-of-londons-world-war-ii-railings/]

There's a lot more about the railings on the above site. Also, there's more information here: http://www.londongardenstrust.org/features/railings3.htm
bzfgt
  • 8. bzfgt | 24/06/2016
Outstanding, Martin! Sorry it took me so long to get to this, I've been very lax with this site lately but I have no idea why the notification for this was still in my inbox unread, as I've certainly been (seemingly) caught up more recently than October...EDIT: wait, it's from only May, you've got that backwards English stuff going on...
dannyno
  • 9. dannyno | 10/08/2016
The lyrics seems to refer to the English countryside, in general. But then there are two American references - to New Jersey and to "small up down Americas" - which have always confused me. Is there actually an American inspiration for this song?
bzfgt
  • 10. bzfgt | 25/08/2016
Yeah, it's tough.
M.S. Pierce
  • 11. M.S. Pierce | 21/10/2016
Anyone know why MES sings Bough-ee instead of Bow-ee? It's clearly deliberate.
bzfgt
  • 12. bzfgt | 22/10/2016
I've heard that before, although "Boe-wee" is correct, some people with the name pronounce it differently (like the inventor of the Boo-wee knife). In Bowie's case I recall one of the million articles after his death talking about disputes over how to pronounce his name and what the correct way is.

MES certainly may know how it's pronounced and just choose to pronounce it differently for his own reasons, either as subtle mocking, because he likes the sound better, or any other of a zillion inscrutable motives...and I think on "He Pep!" he pronounces it the right way, doesn't he?
Zack
  • 13. Zack | 17/12/2016
The title may have been inspired by "It's A Hard Life" by Smith faves The Seeds.
dannyno
  • 14. dannyno | 12/02/2017
"geometric tracery":

http://www.lookingatbuildings.org.uk/styles/medieval/walls-and-windows/gothic-windows-and-tracery/geometric-tracery.html
Zack
  • 15. Zack | 19/02/2017
Correction to Note #1: The song by The Seeds is called "It's a Hard Life" - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F_7yokZ-sOU
bzfgt
  • 16. bzfgt | 25/02/2017
I should have known that. And it should have been "(It's a) Hard Life." Why do they always do that?
dannyno
  • 17. dannyno | 25/06/2017
From the cover of "Room to Live":


Vignettle number three shows the harsh results of technology in yokel hang outs. Horrid truth behind all that romanticized green grass.
bzfgt
  • 18. bzfgt (link) | 09/07/2017
Is "Vignettle" your typo or sic?
dannyno
  • 19. dannyno | 09/07/2017
"Vignettle" is the typo on the cover, yes.
bzfgt
  • 20. bzfgt (link) | 15/07/2017
OK, restored...not a bad portmanteau, actually.

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