I Am Damo Suzuki

Lyrics

(1)

Generous of lyric, Jehovah's Witness (2)
Stands in Cologne Marktplatz (3)
Drums come in
When the drums come in fast
Drums to shock, into brass evil  (4)

What have you got in that paper bag? (5)
Is it a dose of Vitamin C? (6)
Ain't got no time for Western lesson (7)
I am Damo Suzuki

The park alight with acid rain
Give it to me Jaki every day (8)
Who is Mr. Herr Stockhausen? (9)
Introduce me
I'm Damo Suzuki

Soundtracks, Soundtracks (10)
Melched together, the lights
The lights above you

Listener was in cahoots with Fritz Lieber (11)
And read him every day
Recipe for fear gas, amount of salt ash (12)
I put by cup of meine fire, okay
I have no time for Western lesson
I am Damo Suzuki

May we go back to days pre-Virgin (13)
Cannot get on clear vinyl
The handle that was brass, is now brass evil
The rock that was an egg, is in wrong cradle
The hand that cradles the rock, makes egg gooey
I am Damo Suzuki (14)

Is this West latent pattern? (15)
Run it, says Damo's spirit
Is this lesser European?
Speak it, says Damo's spirit
I am Damo Suzuki

 

 

SaveSaveSaveSave

SaveSave

Notes

1. A tribute to the second lead singer of Can, one of MES's favorite bands. The artists that MES has expressed unqualified appreciation for over the years are relatively few, and generally, perhaps always, are acts that preceded the Fall. From memory, this category includes, aside from Can, Gene Vincent, Link Wray, Captain Beefheart, Bo Diddley, The Monks, The Velvet Underground, and The Stooges. Damo apparently liked the song (from The Wire):

A piece of latterday Can fandom resulted in Suzuki being 'immortalised' by Mark E. Smith in The Fall's "I Am Damo Suzuki", from the 1985 album This Nation's Saving Grace. What does he think of this tribute?

"When I first heard that song I thought there must be someone else called Damo Suzuki," he replies. "I never thought someone would make a song for me. I met Mark E. Smith twice after that time, when I was playing as Damo Suzuki Band. And that piece was really great. He also made a cover version of "Oh Yeah" [from Tago Mago] but in their own style."

Despite the "also," Suzuki later qualified this statement in the Fall fanzine The Pseud Mag:

The Fall did the song 'I Am Damo Suzuki', which sounds like 'Oh Yeah', but did they also record The Can song 'Oh Yeah' as a straight cover version? [I ask this because some Fall fans understood you to mean this in a previous interview, and have been looking for this straight cover version of 'Oh Yeah'.]
No, I was not that meaning they did real cover version.
They developed "Oh yeah" in thier style.
It's not only "Oh Yeah" if you hear "I'm Damo Suzuki"..much more compliation of feeling that Mark felt about me.

"Sic" for pretty much all of that.

"Oh Yeah" is indeed the song "I Am Damo Suzuki" is most obviously based on, featuring a similar drum part and vocal line. The descending changes that form the main theme of the song, however, do not come from "Oh Yeah," although they are, fittingly, a recurring pattern in Can's work, spanning several years: they first first appear on "Don't Turn the Light On" from Soundtracks, and the same descending chord figure appears in "Gomorrah," and later in "Bel Air" and "Midnight Men," and a similar pattern appears in "Hunters and Collectors." So it is a recurring theme in Can songs...

The chord progression that appears in the aforementioned Can songs is also found more or less identically in "Mark of the Mole" by the Residents from the album Assorted Secrets.

MES's vocal imitates Suzuki a bit, exaggerating the Japanese accent a bit in the process, but the song is clearly intended as a tribute rather than a mockery. Reformation has helpfully reproduced the following information:

Quotes from the booklet accompanying the Omnibus edition of This Nation's Saving Grace (details above):
 
John Leckie (producer): "One of those where we did two takes and Mark liked the band on one tape but he liked his vocal better on the other. Now, on a computer you'd be able to edit that and stretch it to make it all work, so I said, 'well, all we can can do is to take the vocal off here and put it on to a piece of tape. The two takes had different arrangements, like the verse and chorus came in at different times, so the whole thing gives the impression of being completely random, but the reason being that the first take was eight bars of verse, four bars of chorus, eight bars of verse and the second take is twelve bars of verse, six bars of chorus, a different arrangement. Also Mark's standing next to Karl, so the drums are coming through the vocal mix and every time the drums stop on the first take you can hear these ambient drums going on from the vocal mix on the second take and I thought it was fantastic and so did everyone else, but a totally unconventional way of doing it."
 
Steve Hanley. "Years later I met him [Damo Suzuki] in a club in Germany. He came up to me and said 'I am Damo Suzuki'. He was aware of the track. He seemed pleased enough."
 
Robert remembers an interview in the book Tape Delay in which MES states that Suzuki's mangled hybrid use of language was a big influence. This adds up; although there are numerous instances one could point to, for one, look at "Quit iPhone," where at some point MES seems to leave the English language, or indeed language, behind entirely...although one can never be entirely certain of such things, as Smithian diction is challenging at the best of times, particularly for us Yanks...
 
In an interview with studybees.com, MES relates an amusing anecdote about meeting Suzuki:
 
He was well into the internet before it all took off, wasn't he? Great man, such a laugh. We were on tour in Germany once and he came back to the hotel. It was just me and him. He said "Let me hear the tape of the show tonight" and I said "Oh alright then". I put this tape on and it was the wrong side of the bloody tape! And he says, "Your material certainly reminds me of CAN." He was fucking cracked, it was like the 13th Floor Elevators or something. I got on very well with him.
 
 
2. Suzuki became a Jehovah's Witness around 1974, when he got married to a woman who professed that faith. He retired from music for about ten years at that point, and this was seemingly related to his conversion. More recently, according to Suzuki

I’m a Jehovah’s Witness no more, but I believe in their God and I do believe in the Bible, which gives me a way of truth. Also, it’ll never die whilst the morals of today are changing and changing. 

^

3. Can was formed in Cologne, Germany. 
 
 
4. Dan makes an interesting and perhaps relevant connection:
 
Henry VIII, Act IV, Scene 2 (Griffith speaking): "Men's evil manners live in brass; their virtues We write in water."
 
 
5. Perhaps this an echo of "Blue Bag," which states: "Blue, blue bag, nothing you get today."
 
 
6. "Vitamin C" from 1972's Ege Bamyasi warns: "Hey you,
You’re losing, you’re losing, you’re losing, you’re losing your vitamin C!"
 
 
7. For a long time we thought this was "Western medicine," which we thought may have something to do with the Jehovah's Witnesses' beliefs about blood transfusions; they interpret the Bible as forbidding the ingestion of blood, and consequently forbid congregants to receive blood transfusions, even in emergencies. Suzuki underwent some sort of operation for cancer in 1983, and did not accept a transfusion even though he was warned that he would likely die if he did not do so.
 
But a live version has convinced me that it is "Western lesson"...
 
 
8. Dan remarks:  "I don't know about the park, but Cologne's cathedral is often cited as an example of the damage that acid rain can cause to buildings."
 
Jaki Liebezeit was Can's drummer.

^

9. I'll tell you who--Karlheinz Stockhausen (1928-2007) was an avant-garde composer who was known for electronic and aleatoric music. "Aleatoric," incidentally, is not an English word, but is the result of a translator's error ("aleatory" means "by chance" in English). Two of the founding members of Can, Holger Czukay and Irmin Schmidt, were Stockhausen's students (Stockhausen's contemporary and fellow experimental composer, Luciano Berio [1925-2003], taught at Mills College in Oakland where two of his students were Phil Lesh and Tom Constanten of the Grateful Dead; the influence of avant-garde classical music on psychedelic music of the time would be an interesting subject to explore). 

^

10. Soundtracks is the second album by Can, and the first one Suzuki appeared on (Malcolm Mooney also sings several songs on the album). It is an album of music Can made for various movies, and the liner notes state "Can Soundtracks is the second album by the Can, but not album no. two..." Thus, the band considered Tago Mago (with Suzuki on vocals) to be the authentic follow-up to Monster Movie.  

^

11. Fritz Leiber (1910-1992) was a fantasy author. Initially a Lovecraft acolyte, Leiber became a widely influential author in his own right, coining the term "sword-and-sorcery" for the kind of stories he told. The name, without the hyphens, has become accepted terminology for the subgenre of which Robert E. Howard and Leiber are considered major founding figures. Leiber is perhaps best known for his Lanhkmar stories. MES is a reader of Leiber, but I cannot find anything to suggest Suzuki is; thus, the "listener" here may be MES himself. 

^

12. In some incarnations of the Batman franchise, there is a villain named Scarecrow (or, on the TV series, named Shame) who uses "fear gas."

^

13. Can signed with Virgin records in 1975, a year after Suzuki left the group. Robert points out that this may be a fan's lament that the Virgin material is inferior. Also, there may be a little joke about becoming a virgin again, although "pre-Virgin" in this case would have to be prior to birth or something, so maybe not...

^

14. I am not sure about the gooey eggs and the brass evil. The lyrics pun on "The Hand That Rocks the Cradle is the Hand That Rules the World," an 1865 poem by WIlliam Ross Wallace that extols motherhood:

BLESSINGS on the hand of women! 
        Angels guard its strength and grace. 
      In the palace, cottage, hovel, 
          Oh, no matter where the place; 
      Would that never storms assailed it, 
          Rainbows ever gently curled, 
      For the hand that rocks the cradle 
          Is the hand that rules the world.

It goes on like that.

And from "Diamond Mine" by Higher Elevation, "The hand that cradles the rock/Can certainly roll the world" (thanks to maleslate from the Fall online forum).

^

15. Does MES's Damo Suzuki come off a bit like a paranoid crank? I am not sure how much of this relfects the latter's character, and how much that of the former...I don't mean to suggest that MES is himself a paranoid crank, but he does seem to consistently get a kick out of paranoid crankitude.

^

SaveSaveSaveSave

Comments (35)

dannyno
  • 1. dannyno | 18/04/2015

"Recipe for fear gas"

Could be a Batman reference?

http://batman.wikia.com/wiki/Fear_Gas

Dan

dannyno
  • 2. dannyno | 05/06/2015

"The park alight with acid rain"

I don't know about the park, but Cologne's cathedral is often cited as an example of the damage that acid rain can cause to buildings.

Antoine
  • 3. Antoine | 27/12/2015

Recipe for fear gas, amount of salt ash, I put by cup of meine fire, okay - today it struck me as if he's got those two items sitting by his cup of firewater/whisky. Paints a nice pitcure with the previous lines if we agree Smith is the listener, listening to Can while he reads Fritz Lieber with a whisky alongside a fear gas recipe and "salt ash" on his coffee table.

Incidentally, salt ash turns up nothing on Google but a town in cornwall, which I'm sure many folks have googled, but it's interesting that the town's name is derived from "ash tree by the salt mill," which sounds very Smith-y and also vaguely ties in to Blake via the mill...

bzfgt
  • 4. bzfgt | 27/12/2015

Yeah good, I think meine fire is booze for sure, what else? But I'm struggling to make it all come into focus, not that your comment isn't cogent, just a little impressionistic but I feel like there may be more there for us adumbrated in your words. Someday. It is very late which is why I sound almost nonsensical here....sorry.

Robert
  • 5. Robert | 27/11/2016

"Ain't got no time for Western medicine"

Live versions make it clear this is "Western lesson".

Years ago I skimmed through the book "Tape Delay," which contains an interview with MES. The one thing I've always remembered was him saying that one of his greatest inspirations was Suzuki's mangling of language, from not knowing English/German so well at the time.

bzfgt
  • 6. bzfgt | 21/12/2016

Crap, I always liked it as "Western Medicine" because this is funny to me, that's a phrase a lot of alterno-types contemptuously use, and it makes more sense in the context of talking about "Vitamin C". I will have to listen to some versions and see what there is to be seen, the studio version could certainly be either one.

dannyno
  • 7. dannyno | 23/12/2016

I've always heard "medicine". What, though, is a "western lesson"? Is it a short course in cowboy movies?

bzfgt
  • 8. bzfgt | 27/12/2016

Right, the former makes sense, the latter does not. The former is funny, the latter is not. The former fits the context, the latter does not. So, it will take a really good bit of evidence, aural or otherwise, to make me change it, but it is now in the crosshairs.

harleyr
  • 9. harleyr | 28/12/2016

For what it's worth, I took 'western lesson' to be a shorthand for 'western philosophy' or 'western way of life'. So I do think that makes sense. Whether or not it is what he is singing, I won't comment.

bzfgt
  • 10. bzfgt | 04/01/2017

Yeah, my comment was a bit strong; one could fairly easily make sense of it, but it's not something that makes sense without a little interpretive elbow grease.

bzfgt
  • 11. bzfgt | 04/01/2017

Also if anyone has a specific live version that makes "lesson" clear, I will check it out (although that still wouldn't necessarily mean the studio version is "lesson").

Robert
  • 12. Robert | 23/01/2017

Studio version sounds clearly like "western lesson" to me throughout.

Context for this (in my mind) is related to the MES interview I mentioned above: Damo ain't got time to learn any English... but he's gonna go ahead and sing in that language anyway.

Robert
  • 13. Robert | 23/01/2017

In the live version from 13.2.1987 (on YouTube) MES very clearly enunciates "lesson".

dannyno
  • 14. dannyno | 29/01/2017

Hm. Just thinking about "Westerns", of course Can did the soundtrack for Deadlock...

bzfgt
  • 15. bzfgt | 04/02/2017

"Western lesson"is an odd way thing to call an English lesson...I am going to listen to the live version now, though, and stranger things have been sung.

Now my adblock is completely turned off and this stupid anti-spam thing still says its on and i have to keep refreshing it. Anyone know how to deal with this?

bzfgt
  • 16. bzfgt | 04/02/2017

OK, first time through on 1987 sounds more like "Western Medicine" to me, but I don't trust myself. Will someone else please check this?

bzfgt
  • 17. bzfgt | 04/02/2017

Ho! He clearly says "Western Lesson" at 5:18! Clearly! Damn it, I don't like that nearly as much.

EXCEPT, he might be saying "lesser," as with "Lesser European" in the next line...fuck, what now...

bbzztgf
  • 18. bbzztgf | 04/02/2017

Crap, that's a waste of a damn good note about blood transfusions...I left a tiny bit in. I should have copied the rest and saved it on a Word document in case it ever changes back...

Robert
  • 19. Robert | 05/02/2017

"Western lesson" is an odd way thing to call an English lesson

Granted, but 1) This is from the point of view of a Japanese character... and 2) This is far from the only time MES has used an odd phrase to describe something.

dannyno
  • 20. dannyno | 05/02/2017

Well, I guess we have to buy "Western lesson". I'm less convinced by the interpretation that it's about English lessons.

Robert, above, recalls the "Tape Delay" MES interview. But what MES says there isn't that Damo had no time to learn English (in fact it's fairly clear MES doesn't know Damo at the time) :


He wasn't even singing lyrics in fact, he didn't even know what he was singing, the Japanese guy, he was just like, he was learning English, and he was just saying words, you know?

Robert
  • 21. Robert | 06/02/2017

what MES says there isn't that Damo had no time to learn English

It's right there in the quote you posted! He doesn't know the language but that's not going to stop him being the (influencial) singer.

I don't read the lyric entirely as "English lessons" ... more that Damo isn't going to do things (including singing) the normal way.

Calling him "the Japanese guy" there belies the fact that MES has been a Can fan since the 70s (he has mentioned going to see them back then). He would have known of Damo well enough at the time of that interview (mid-80s iirc).

dannyno
  • 22. dannyno | 08/02/2017

Er, the quote says he was "learning English", not that he wasn't!!! My point isn't that he was a fluent speaker.

"I've got no time" can mean two things. It can mean you literally don't have time (and of course you can learn English without going to formal classes), or it can mean you are impatient or dismissive or scornful of the very idea. i.e. the difference between saying "I haven't got time to learn English" and "I've no time for people who think I should learn English", kind of thing.

Anyway, I agree that it's "Western" something and that it signifies a desire to do something differently.

dannyno
  • 23. dannyno | 08/02/2017

Oh, and my point wasn't that MES didn't know who Damo was - obviously he was a longtime Can fan . My point was about whether when the interview was conducted MES knew or had met Damo personally.

Robert
  • 24. Robert | 08/02/2017

"I've no time for people who think I should learn English", kind of thing

Yes! This is the meaning I was trying to get across.

bzfgt
  • 25. bzfgt | 11/02/2017

"2) This is far from the only time MES has used an odd phrase to describe something."

This claim is irrefutable. I suppose if he didn't we'd all be out of a job...

bzfgt
  • 26. bzfgt | 11/02/2017

Right, I agree "got no time" seems to imply Danny's second meaning. And it seems certain that "lesson" is what he's singing now, disappointing as it may be to we fans of naturopathy or whatever. Also the JW abhorrence of transfusions was a nice connection. But here at Annotated Fall we take an objective view of such things.

However, I understand Dan's hesitance, I am not 100% convinced he never said "medicine." But if he did, the studio version isn't going to help, another live version would be needed to restore a "medicine" or two.

Robert
  • 27. Robert | 11/02/2017

An additional minor note:

May we go back to days pre-Virgin

Smith here perhaps refering not just to Damo having left Can, but also to the widely-held opinion that their Virgin (and later) records were inferior.

dannyno
  • 28. dannyno | 14/04/2017

"brass evil"

Shakespeare. Henry VIII, Act IV, Scene 2 (Griffith speaking):


Men's evil manners live in brass; their virtues
We write in water.


Tenuous, but interesting.

bzfgt
  • 29. bzfgt (link) | 13/05/2017

Solid enough to print, I think it's a good connection. Even if it isn't conscious it's a good connection.

bzfgt
  • 30. bzfgt (link) | 13/05/2017

I was just thinking--we share a lot of sensibilities and views on what's relevant, what songwriting is and is not, the role of annotation and interpretation, etc. If we didn't, it would be pretty rough, with the amount we work on this together!

dannyno
  • 31. dannyno | 13/05/2017

Yeah, I think so. We don't always agree, but we don't fight about it if we don't.

dannyno
  • 32. dannyno | 13/05/2017

"brass evil"

I was following up my Shakespeare citation, and found an annotation on that line drawing attention to a Latin motto: Scribit in marmore laesus. "The injured man writes in marble". Also found in the form "In vento scribit laedens, in marmore laesus": Legends are written in the wind, betrayals in marble. "Laesus" can mean "hurt", "injury" and "betrayal" etc. "laedens" seems to literally mean "striking" - so something significant.

There's also a quote from Sir John Har(r)ington's translation of Ludovico Ariosto's "Orlando Furioso" (1st ed 1591):

Men say it, and we see it come to pass,
Good turns in sand, shrewd turns are writ in brass


https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Orlando_Furioso

https://www.bl.uk/collection-items/ariostos-orlando-furioso-in-english-1591

https://zsr.wfu.edu/2016/orlando-furioso-in-english-heroical-verse-by-sir-john-harington-1607/

See also Beaumont and Fletcher's "Philaster". "Philaster" probably predates Henry VIII, which Shakespeare wrote in collaboration with Fletcher.


If you aim
At the dear life of this sweet innocent,
You are a tyrant and a savage monster,
That feeds upon the blood you gave a life to; 88
Your memory shall be as foul behind you,
As you are living; all your better deeds
Shall be in water writ, but this in marble...


http://www.bartleby.com/47/3/53.html

bzfgt
  • 33. bzfgt (link) | 18/05/2017

"We don't always agree, but we don't fight about it if we don't."

Well yeah, that's of course the most important thing. Although maybe we should fight a little, maybe it'll give us an edge...but I don't really mean we're collegial, it's just that in a few kind of abstract ways we kind of share a view of things.

bzfgt
  • 34. bzfgt (link) | 18/05/2017

"Also found in the form "In vento scribit laedens, in marmore laesus": Legends are written in the wind, betrayals in marble."

That sounds really familiar, not just that I've seen it before, but that I've seen it recently....no idea where though.

....actually maybe a fantasy novel, which makes sense...

bzfgt
  • 35. bzfgt (link) | 18/05/2017

Ha! Actually I think it was your comment 28, that clears it right up!

Add a comment

You're using an AdBlock like software. Disable it to allow submit.