I Feel Voxish

Lyrics

(1)

A pillbox crisp (2)

Offer, offer, it was not an unreasonable offer

A pillbox crisp, that French git 
The spikes he left in the bathroom (3)
And I never heard from him again

Offer, offer, it was not an unreasonable offer
But it made me hungry
For victuals could not raise nor buy (4)

I feel voxish, stack-heeled Hari Krish (5)
Those disgusting vegan new punks (6)
Caught my life mould, give me silenced lectures

Offer, offer, it was not an unreasonable offer
But it made me hungry
For victuals could not raise nor buy

I've been sharpening a knife in the bathroom
On a brick I got from the garden
No one will fuck with me again

Offer, offer, it was not an unreasonable offer
But it made me hungry
For victuals could not raise nor buy

Feel vox crisp (7)
And voxish

Notes

1. "Vox" is Latin for "voice," so the title means something like "I feel like singing." There is also a line of amplifiers called "Vox." 

Then again, Reformation reports the following:

"I also like experiments where it's just a sound experiment. In a way I find that I did that with something like 'I Feel Voxish', I just wanted a vocal tune going - but the lyrics in that are dead interesting actually." 

The song is built around a bass riff by Steve Hanley, and Karl Burns adds a second bass.

^

2. A famously obscure little phrase; a "crisp," in England, is what is called a "(potato) chip" in the United States, whereas "chips" are French fries over there. Maybe a potato chip shaped like a pillbox, or else a nonsense phrase (see note 7). From T.L.B.:  "I think he's talking about Pringles type small round crisps that are packaged in cylindical tubes, like a longer, narrower version of a pill box used for storing a hat. This style of crisp hadn't made it to Britain by 1983, so MES wouldn't have had a frame of reference for them if he'd come across some on tour in America or Europe and might conceivably have described them as 'pillbox crisps.' Maybe it's used in the lyric as a signifier of something inferior, a shoddy version of British crisps like Smiths Crisps, which M.E.S. would doubtless have preferred!"

Even if T.L.B. is wrong about the details, it may be the case that the connotations of the term "pillbox crisp" are private in this way. 

As Mike Groughsovt points out below, the general idea seems to be that the Frenchman whom we will soon meet is a jerk for leaving syringes in the bathroom and taking off (see note 3 below).

On the other hand, his definition of "pillbox crisp" is "An effete French pill popping dandy now branching out into needle drugs." He goes on: "I'm proposing Crisp with a capital C, as in Quentin. That's the dandy. You know how you hear this done with historical names, someone is a corner-store Shakespeare, or, I dunno, a Robespierre on the Dancefloor... so 'pillbox Crisp' makes the French git and effete pill-popper..."

And PatrickH remarks that "the first thing that came to mind re pillbox crisp for me was the disc of foam that you get in the top of a pill bottle, it's thin and round, like a crisp, and might be the kind of rubbish that would be left behind by a drug user."

Danny points out below that there is no reference to the title in the lyrics, which is true, but "pillbox crisp" is certainly a pun on "feel voxish."

"Pillboxes" in the sense of concrete guard houses are mentioned in "H.O.W."  

^

3. The reference here is almost certainly to hypodermic needles. John points out that the "French git" may be Claude Bessy, a journalist who was associated with MES and apparently liked his spikes...on the other hand, T.L.B. says "I'm not sure Claude Bessy would have been the French git, MES was supposed to be good friends with him and I don't think he would have described him like that as he wasn't a Fall band member or manager so there's no obvious reason for them to have fallen out. Also, it is unlikely that next line 'never hear from him again' would apply to Bessy either because he worked with The Fall on the Peverted By Language Bis' video which I'm guessing was mostly filmed after I Feel Voxish was written." And Dan points out that "git" is relatively mild and may be banter. So, we do not know.

^

4. Smith pronounces "victuals" the way it's spelled, eschewing the the correct pronunciation "vittles." The line is from H.P. Lovecraft's story "The Picture in the House" (thanks to John in the comments below), in which a traveling scholar seeks shelter in an old New England house. The denizen is an old man who has a book filled with pictures of supposed African scenes, and his favorite is one which shows the "butcher shop" of a band of cannibals. The old man waxes passionate about the picture: "Killin' sheep was kinder more fun [after viewing the picture]--but d'ye know, twan't quite satisfyin'. Queer haow a cravin' gits aholt on ye--As ye love the Almighty, young man, don't tell nobody, but I swar ter Gawd that picter begun to make me hungry for victuals I couldn't raise nor buy..." [emphasis in original]  

^

5. The International Society for Krishna Consciousness is commonly known as the "Hare Krishnas" after the movement's mantra "Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare." According to the movement's founder, A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, Harā means "the energy of God" while Krishna and Rama refer to God himself, meaning "He who is All-Attractive" and "He who is the Source of All Pleasure". The Krishnas are known for, among other things, their vegetarianism.  

^

6. Smith pronounces "vegan" as "vedge-an," whereas the proper pronunciation is "vee-gan." This may be an honest mistake, as the word was not at all common in 1982; on the other hand, Smith often seems to enjoy mispronouncing words, and a mispronunciation is sometimes employed to convey contempt.

^

7. This may be a clue to "pillbox crisp," as both phrases pun on "feel voxish." 

^

Comments (34)

dannyno
  • 1. dannyno | 05/05/2013
There are several songs where the title doesn't relate to the text of the lyrics, but to an approach, or the origins of an idea which may be musical as much as lyrical. So "I Feel Voxish" in this case, but we've also got "I'm Frank" and "Craigness" and "Stephen Song" and "Bill Is Dead".
John
  • 2. John | 01/08/2013
Voxish may refer to the vocal effect, which may be pushed through a Vox pedal or special amp. "Get" sounds like "git" to me. The victuals line is from The Picture in the House by HP Lovecraft, which you should read to get more context
bzfgt
  • 3. bzfgt | 06/08/2013
Thanks, John, the Lovecraft reference is a great catch--that's the kind of thing that makes this project worthwhile, in fact. Great job.

My understanding is that "git" is an alternate pronunciation of "get" and maybe more common in England, but that in the North it was still likely to be "get." I'm not sure about this, though, and I'll have to listen again.
bzfgt
  • 4. bzfgt | 06/08/2013
I listened tonight and it actually sounds more like "get" to me.
dannyno
  • 5. dannyno | 21/12/2013
Yes, git/get, same thing.
Mike Groughsovt
  • 6. Mike Groughsovt | 13/01/2014
I don't, uh, Get the confusion here. "Git" means "jerk" or "asshole" -- i.e. the Frenchman who left the needles (note: "he" left in the bathroom). So it's saying "A pillbox crisp [the fuck?], that french git, the spikes he left in the bathroom.."
Translation: "... that French jerk, he left dirty syringes in my bathroom and I never heard from him again..."
Nest paw?
bzfgt
  • 7. bzfgt | 22/01/2014
The confusion is about the line "the pillbox crisp." If you don't get the confusion, what does it mean? That's the one thing you don't say in your comment...the general interpretation seems sound though, I'll move it up.
bzfgt
  • 8. bzfgt | 22/01/2014
Where the hell did I get "feel box crisp"?
bzfgt
  • 9. bzfgt | 22/01/2014
Danny,

My understanding is that it's pronounced "get" in some parts of England and "git" in others, which is the entire question above, so in that sense, not the same thing.
bzfgt
  • 10. bzfgt | 22/01/2014
Sorry, Mike, I didn't mean tio sound snippy in my last comment. The confusion is about "pillbox crisp," not whether MES thinks the frenchman is a jerk for leaving needles in the bathroom.
Michael Groughsovt
  • 11. Michael Groughsovt | 28/01/2014
Snippy? You sound incredibly patient and considerate. I'm the one who sounded like a jerk with my original tone. Sometimes I type whatever pops into my head, need to work on that. Thank you for doing this site.
Anyway, taking a stab, what about a "pillbox Crisp"? An effete French pill popping dandy.. now branching out into needle drugs?
dannyno
  • 12. dannyno | 02/02/2014
The song has inspired art:
http://www.saatchiart.com/art/Painting-I-feel-voxish/179072/102082/view

and businesses:
http://www.voxishindustries.com/pages/about-us

Dan
dannyno
  • 13. dannyno | 02/02/2014
Trying to find another angle to "pillbox crisp", I've tried looking at headwear, and then also at communion wafer boxes.

Dan
bzfgt
  • 14. bzfgt | 12/02/2014
Leopard Skin Pillbox Crisp. Anyway, it's clearly a pun on "Feel Voxish" (or vice versa), whatever else it may be. I suppose vice versa is closer to it since it's in the lyrics and the latter is not, which means the hunt has a little more urgency.
bzfgt
  • 15. bzfgt | 15/02/2014
Oops, I missed your last comment, Mike. I didn't think you sounded like a jerk or anything, and I said the "snippy" apology because it's hard to tell what the tone of a written message is supposed to be and I have been accused of snippitude many times in the past when I didn't mean to be (and sometimes when I did). Anyway, I like your interpretation of "pillbox crisp" more than anything I've heard yet, although it is seemingly impossible to corroborate it...
Mike Groughsovt
  • 16. Mike Groughsovt | 17/05/2014
1. I am unaware of anyone being called a "crisp" in this sort of context

Hello again, how are you?.. Hmmm did I make it clear I'm proposing Crisp with a capital C, as in Quentin. That's the dandy. You know how you hear this done with historical names, someone is a corner-store Shakespeare, or, I dunno, a Robespierre on the Dancefloor... so "pillbox Crisp" makes the French git and effete pill-popper, was my gist. I really really think it's "French git", not "get", don't you?
Tgee
  • 17. Tgee | 05/02/2017
Leopard Skin Pill Box Hat / A pill box crisp , = MES ...shitawk?
MES was never one for Dylan now was he,
Jus a thought
bzfgt
  • 18. bzfgt | 11/02/2017
It's hard to say, I bet he's more into Dylan than he gives out. Although he did once claim to be a WIlbury's fan...http://thequietus.com/articles/09277-mark-e-smith-nick-cave-shane-macgowan-nme-interview
John Howard
  • 19. John Howard | 07/07/2017
The French git is possibly Claude Bessy, founder of Slash and noted junk abuser. Very likely to have left needles in his host's bathroom.

Pillbox crisp more of a drug reference than a military one, perhaps.
dannyno
  • 20. dannyno | 07/07/2017
Comment #18, re: Bob Dylan. MES seems to have mixed opinions. In conversation with Michael Stewart, who asked him about the line in "Renegade" about Dylan not being able to write for toffee, MES says:


I wasn't criticising him. To me Dylan is Bible.


Which might be praise, but also might be making the point that MES regards Dylan as borrowing a lot from the Old Testament.

http://www.michael-stewart.org.uk/docs/2009-06-14_hudlitfest-transcript.pdf
bzfgt
  • 21. bzfgt (link) | 15/07/2017
There's a lot of Claude Bessy in these comments lately...
bzfgt
  • 22. bzfgt (link) | 15/07/2017
The Dylan stuff is intriguing, could MES be a closet Dylan freak?
T. L.B.
  • 23. T. L.B. | 19/08/2017
I think "pillbox crisp" is a lot more literal in it's meaning. I think he's talking about Pringles type small round crisps that are packaged in cylindical tubes, like a longer, narrower version of a pill box used for storing a hat. This style of crisp hadn't made it to Britain by 1983, so MES wouldn't have had a frame of reference for them if he'd come across some on tour in America or Europe and might conceivably have described them as "pillbox crisps". Maybe it's used in the lyric as a signifier of something inferior, a shoddy version of British crisps like Smiths Crisps, which M.E.S. would doubtless have preferred! One of my all-time favourite Fall tracks.
T. L.B.
  • 24. T. L.B. | 19/08/2017
I also think the title is more to do with "vox" as in voice, like "Bono vox" rather than Vox amps (aren't they expensive? I'm not sure The Fall would have been able afford those at this point in their career). The title is maybe a generic thing he's come up with to describe a lyric that was otherwise difficult to give a form to, so I Feel Voxish would just mean "I feel like ranting/rapping about anything". Words of Expectation from the same era has a similar vibe.
T. L.B.
  • 25. T. L.B. | 19/08/2017
just realised my last 'vox' comment pretty much reiterates the first para of the notes word for word, sorry bzfgt!
I'm not sure Claude Bessy would have been the French git, MES was supposed to be good friends with him and I don't think he would have described him like that as he wasn't a Fall band member or manager so there's no obvious reason for them to have fallen out. Also, it is unlikely that next line 'never hear from him again' would apply to Bessy either because he worked with The Fall on the Peverted By Language Bis' video which I'm guessing was mostly filmed after I Feel Voxish was written.
dannyno
  • 26. dannyno | 20/08/2017
Comment #24-25: I'm not a strong advocate of a Bessy link, but "git" is relatively mild and could certainly be used in banter. And you might well say "never hear from him again" if there a period of silence, given that nobody can predict the future. As for the meaning of the title, again I'm not a strong advocate of anything in particular, but it strikes me that one could "feel" voxish even if you couldn't afford a vox pedal.
duncandisorderly
  • 27. duncandisorderly (link) | 01/09/2017
in the early 80s, the second-hand market was awash with old AC30s left over from the 60s & 70s, & smith would certainly have seen as many vox amps as anyone else knocking about in a band back then. possibly even a guitar or bass with their branding either, or the vox version wah-wah pedal.
but the actual line made me think of george harrison as well as bob dylan. I should probably listen to the song again.
bzfgt
  • 28. bzfgt (link) | 16/09/2017
No, thanks TLB--when I don't know what's going on, as in this case, I'm only as good as those I quote, and I am not convinced by the Quentin Crisp/actual pills angle, so thanks for helping me balance that out with something else.
bzfgt
  • 29. bzfgt (link) | 16/09/2017
I don't have vox amps in the notes but maybe I should, although ultimately I agree with you on that too.
bzfgt
  • 30. bzfgt (link) | 16/09/2017
I took out the line about the lyrics maybe being meaningless, it's just defensiveness because people always say we're over-interpreting when we interpret, and it's always possible a Fall song is just a kind of free associating but that doesn't relieve us of the responsibility to determine some of the things it might mean....
bzfgt
  • 31. bzfgt (link) | 16/09/2017
Yeah, it's always the problem--because Bessy is the only candidate nominated here, it comes to appear as though it is more likely he than someone else, but really we just have no idea. He was just French and in the right place...
bzfgt
  • 32. bzfgt (link) | 16/09/2017
Anyway most things are about Alan Wise...did he speak French?
PatrickH
  • 33. PatrickH | 08/10/2017
The first thing that came to mind re pillbox crisp for me was the disc of foam that you get in the top of a pill bottle, it's thin and round, like a crisp, and might be the kind of rubbish that would be left behind by a drug user
bzfgt
  • 34. bzfgt (link) | 18/11/2017
Thanks, Patrick, excellent idea; incorporated.

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