Hit the North
Hit the North (1)
My Cat says eeeee-ack (2)
Hit the North
95% of hayseeds are corn-pones, guaranteed (3)
Computers infest the hotels
Cops can't catch criminals
But what the heck, they're not too bad, they talk to God
Hit the North
Manacled to the city, manacled to the city (5)
All estate agents alive yell down nights in hysterical breath (6)
Those Northern lights... so pretty
Those big big big wide streets
Those useless MPs (7)
Hit the North (Manacled to the system)
From the back third eye psyche, the reflected mirror of delirium,
Eastender and Victoria's lager, the induced call, mysterious, (8)
forth - Hit the North
Hit the North
1. The Fall decide to show they can be insanely catchy when they feel like it, and ride this one all the way to number 57 on the British charts. What more did the record-buying public want? It's truly hard to say. The song did remain on the charts for five weeks, though. Manchester comedian and Fall fan Frank Sidebottom (Chris Sievey) did a humorous version of the song which can be viewed here.
From Steve Hanley's "The Big Midweek", p254: "initially inspired by Mark's dislike of Norwich... On the way back from playing there, Mark said, 'I don't like it round here! It's too flat. I can't wait till we hit the North.' And a couple of days later he had the words to a new political anthem."
From an interview in Debris, early 1988, transcribed and posted to alt.music.the-fall:
'Hit The North' started out as a tune written by Brix Smith and Simon Rogers ("the most South London guy you could ever meet," says Mark). It just sounded strong as an instrumental, a kind of 'Peter Gunn', but Mark took to writing couplets and shouting the 'Hit The North' slogan.
I tried to compare the use of a slogan with Morrissey's "Shoplifters of the world unite!" Smith thought differently: "No, I thought that was very Sex Pistols; it was deliberately and heavy-handedly controversial, whereas 'Hit The North' has a dual meaning; punish it, or go there. When we did the video in Blackpool we were in a Yates' Wine Lodge and all these rugby teams were going 'Hit the North? What's that mean then?' And this girl behind the bar was great; she said 'In America they say "Let's hit L.A.," and they just
mean "Let's go there.".' Eventually all the old dears joined in and everyone was having a big rap about what it meant.
"My basic attitude is that I'd rather live here than in the South and it always has been. I don't really care where anybody lives, though, and I think this North/South divide is nonsense. I don't envy anyone who lives in Reading, Swindon, or Northampton; they're horrible new towns and the people are spiritually dead down there."
Dan provides this note about the genesis of the music:
From a Sound on Sound feature on The Fall in the studio, especially around Simon Rogers' time, and focusing on Hit the North among other tracks:
While The Frenz Experiment is a very live–sounding album, "Hit The North" was a far more programmed affair. But in keeping with the spontaneous approach of the Fall, the song had its roots in a test track that Simon Rogers created when he first bought his Sequential Circuits Studio 440 sequencer/sampler.
“Mark had a sort of love/hate relationship with machines,” Rogers says. “He liked the idea of them, but he didn’t always like the process that you went through. It was slow and he just didn’t want to be dictated to by them. So he would try and subvert the situation. I’d just got this 440 and literally the first thing I put into it was a bass and a snare just on two pads, a little tiny Indian bell which I’ve still got, and a sax note and a bass note from a Gentle Giant record.
“Mark came round to my bedroom studio and I said, ‘Oh, here’s the new sampler, have a look at it’, and just pressed play and out comes the basis of ‘Hit The North’. He said, ‘What’s that music?’ And I said, ‘Well, it’s the first thing I put in.’ He said, ‘I’ll have that, just do me a tape.’”
As Chris points out in the comments, the main riff keyboard resembles "Political Nightmare" by the Minutemen.
"The cat in the first line appears to me to be saying "eeh, 'eck" to me; something a Mancunian may say to express wonder. I thought perhaps a note might be in order for those who have never seen Coronation Street, the long-running UK soap opera set in a fictional Manchester suburb. Its use of Manc dialect has exposed the UK to such phrases as "will 'e 'eck as like" (i.e. he certainly will not), and "eeh 'eck" could be heard regularly when I used to watch it. I feel like it's something MES wouldn't say himself, but Granada (which produced the show) would pepper the script with such stuff to try to create authenticity. MES may be alluding to hackneyed Northernisms with the line, but fans outside the UK might not register this."
3. The North/South divide in England is here portrayed in American terms, although the polarity of cultural stereotypes is reversed; the North of England is more rural, less wealthy, and considered to be more culturally backward in popular portrayals; the national television and radio media in England generally features presenters with a Southern accent, which is treated as neutral or universal, whereas Northern accents are considered to be regional. This reverse isomorphism with the US does not extend to the political sphere, however; politically Southern England is, on the whole, more conservative than the North.
4. The Story of the Fall identifies one Cyril James Anderton as the referent of this line. Anderton was the Chief Constable of Greater Manchester from 1976 to 1991, during which time he maintained a high profile in the media. Anderton was dubbed "God's copper," and was outspoken about his Catholic faith and what he considered to be its relevance to his role as a police officer:
I am accused of bringing into play my own Christian principles but those principles strengthen my hand as a policeman. The law is rooted in righteousness and Christian principle. I have no difficulty about enforcing it. Nor do I have a conscience about it.
Anderton claimed to often consult with God about his police work, so MES's lyric is quite accurate. This Northern constable was often paired in the public eye with a Southern counterpart, one John Alderson, who was the Chief Constable of Devon and Cornwall from 1973 until 1982. Alderson was often accused of being soft on crime, and he promoted community relations and preventative measures rather than the hard line approach favored by Anderton.
The Happy Mondays apparently wrote "God's Cop" about Anderton.
5. This line echoes some lines from Blake, who is talking about a city in the South. The reference here is almost certainly conscious, as MES is known to have been more than a casual reader of Blake. From "London":
I wander thro' each charter'd street,
Near where the charter'd Thames does flow.
And mark in every face I meet
Marks of weakness, marks of woe.
In every cry of every Man,
In every Infants cry of fear,
In every voice: in every ban,
The mind-forg'd manacles I hear
8. There are Mexican, Canadian and Australian beers called "Victoria" or "Victoria's," but I have unable to identify a British libation of that name. Several readers have suggested that this is a reference to a popular televition program. From Stu Nicholson:
"The line 'Eastender and Victoria's lager' probably refers to the soap opera Eastenders, which is huge in the UK" (and thanks to Huckleberry for initially making the connnection). There is some debate below as to whether this is a put-down of soft Southerners and their lager, etc. Dan points out the interview from Sound on Sound in note 1 above, however, where MES is quoted as saying that the "North/South divide is nonsense."