Hexen Definitive/Strife Knot
Tied up to posts
Blindfold so can't feel maintainance
Kickback art thou that thick?
Death of the dimwits
Businessman hits train (2)
Businessman hits train
His veiled sex seeps through his management sloth
The journey takes one hour
The DDR scene (5)
Alpine give over
You can clutch at my toes
You won't drive me insane
You know nothing about it
It's not your domain (6)
Don't confuse yourself with someone who has something to say
Cause its a hexen rain
You're hexen fodder
Hexen bowl boils
Hexen rule explain the mood harm
While greenpeace looked like saffron on the realm (7)
A Kellogg's peace (8)
The opposition was down
Red church on a hill
Red church on a hill
Louis Armstrong tapes waft down the aisles
And its a hexen hour
Hexen bowl boils
Hexen rule in the hour of the fall
It takes grace to play the second fiddle well (9)
Scab-ridden physog, the crusty knife(10)
Beware the one whose knees you wet
He goes with you down, and pats your head
That's strife knot
Strife is life and don't forget it
Strife is life, you don't wanna hear it
Could be thirteen or thirty one of this mob
Could be thirteen or thirty one of this mob
Life is strife but you don't wanna hear it (11)
Strife is life and that's it
And that's it, and that's it
And that's it
Hexe means "witch" in German (plural: Hexen). This is of course etymologically related to the English word Hex, which means a magic spell, and quite often this in a negative sense, as in a curse.
Dan: From the fanzine Grim Humour #4, June/July 1984, p.9 (but based on an interview dated to the Electric Ballroom gig on 8 December 1983):
G.H.: What's the 'Hexan' [sic] thing that crops up a lot in your lyrics?
MARK: Hexan [sic] is a German word for a group of witches around a cauldron. There's no such word as enduction, though I could have sworn I'd seen it after I wrote it down...
K-punk (Mark Fisher) has some fascinating but highly speculative remarks on the concept of "hex" in Fall lyrics:
The Fall’s intuition was that social relations could not be understood in the ‘demystified’ terms of empirical observation (the ‘housing figures’ and ‘sociological memory’ later ridiculed on ‘The Man whose Head Expanded’). Social power depends upon ‘hexes’: restricted linguistic, gestural and behavioural codes which produce a sense of inferiority and enforce class destiny. ‘What chance have you got against a tie and a crest?’, Weller demanded on ‘Eton Rifles’, and it was as if The Fall took the power of such symbols and sigils very literally, understanding the social field as a series of curses which have to be sent back to those who had issued them.
Russell again delivers the goods:
'Trouble and strife' = wife in London Cockney slang. Tie the knot = get married, strife knot?
Jonder: "It is worth noting that Blake's poem was first set in a post-punk musical context by Mark Stewart and Maffia on their 1982 single Jerusalem."
2. "Businessman hits train" reminds me of "Man Bites Dog." The origin of this phrase is the journalistic bromide, "When a dog bites a man, that is not news, because it happens so often. But if a man bites a dog, that is news." Of course, it's not as certain that "Businessman Hits Train" would be more newsworthy than "Train Hits Businessman." The surface meaning, of course, is just that a businessman gets on the train, but there may be an oblique reference or joke here concerning the inversion of terms.
7. Greenpeace is an organization dedicated to environmental activism. MES's second wife was/is named Saffron Prior. They were married in 1992, but Zack points out that they may already have known each other at this point. Prior began working for the Fall some time in the 1980s, and her mother Tina Prior was the artist responsible for the cover of Dragnet.
8. The Kellogg-Briand Pact, signed by the USA, Germany and France in 1928, committed the signatories to not using war to settle disputes of any kind among them. Most of the other nations of the world subsequently signed on. The pact is named after US Secretary of State Frank B. Kellogg and French Foreign Minister Aristotle Briand. In practice, the result of the pact was that, within a few short years, nations began waging undeclared wars. It was partially on the basis of this pact that several of the defendents at the Numremberg trials were charged with "crimes against peace."
Dan points out a probable pun--a "Kellogg's piece," i.e. a (brown, shrivelled) cornflake...
9. This line seems very true, and may be either a rare dislay of empathy on the part of the band leader, or a parting shot at Marc Riley. The source is probably a saying attributed to the famous 19th Century English Baptist Preacher C.H. Spurgeon, “It takes more grace than I can tell, to play the second fiddle well.” There is also a (perhaps apocryphal) statement attributed to Leonard Bernstein about the second fiddle. Bernstein was asked what the most difficult instrument to play was; and he is supposed to have replied, "Second fiddle. I can always get plenty of first violinists, but to find one who plays second violin with as much enthusiasm or second French horn or second flute, now that's a problem. And yet if no one plays second, we have no harmony." I'm not sure if a conductor would have referred to the instrument as a "fiddle," although he may have been playing on the proverbial sense of "second fiddle."
11. It seems to me that "strife is life" is more muscular formulation, whereas "life is strife" strikes me as a bit trite. The title/refrain is reminiscent of the Gordian Knot, from an ancient legend (WIkipedia):
At one time the Phrygians were without a king. An oracle at Telmissus (the ancient capital of Phrygia) decreed that the next man to enter the city driving an ox-cart should become their king. A peasant farmer named Gordias drove into town on an ox-cart. His position had also been predicted earlier by an eagle landing on his cart, a sign to him from the gods, and, on entering the city, Gordias was declared king by the priests. Out of gratitude, his son Midas dedicated the ox-cart to the Phrygian god Sabazios (whom the Greeks identified with Zeus) and either tied it to a post or tied its shaft with an intricate knot ofcornel (Cornus mas) bark. The ox-cart still stood in the palace of the former kings of Phrygia at Gordium in the fourth century BC when Alexander arrived, at which point Phrygia had been reduced to asatrapy, or province, of the Persian Empire.
Alexander the Great resolved to loose the famously intractable knot, presumably because they said it couldn't be done and he was that kind of a guy. He either sliced it with his sword (the most common version) or lifted it from its pin before untying it, something that apparently nobody had thought of before. In any case, the story indicates the passing of an age, both historically and more metaphorically as, depending how you look at it, Alexander was a new kind of leader with a can-do attitude or else just a crude tyrant who hacked his way through problems. Star Trek fans will immediatelty be reminded of the Kobayashi Maru scenario, when a young Captain Kirk passed an unpassable Star Fleet ordeal by surreptitiously reprogramming the computer to allow him to win an unwinnable simulated battle. In each case, the problem was recontextualized, some would say illegitimately, in order to produce the desired result. Thus, today a "Gordian Knot" is a metaphor for a seemingly intractable conundrum that can only be solved by a shift in the entire terrain of the problem.
Dan submits the following quote from Louis Pasteur: "Let us therefore strive in the pacific field of Science for the pre-eminence of our several countries. Let us strive, for strife is effort, strife is life when progress is the goal." Danny also points out that the idea of strife being fundamental to life goes back to Heraclitus who famously said "War [or "strife," polemos] is the father and king of all."
Furthermore, Dan adds, "So 'life is strife' is a common enough sentiment, but just to note that it is used in Gertrude Stein's Wars I Have Seen. Feels relevant somehow."