I'm Into C.B.
Well I've never had a car
Never been near a lorry
Got a nasty habit of scratching my nose
My codename's Happy Harry (2)
I'm into C.B.
I've had loads of jobs
For very minute lolly (3)
Creation schemes (4)
So I suppose I was lucky
And the money it took
To buy a CB set
Took lines off my belly
My codename's Cedar Plank
I'm Into CB
I'm Into CB
At 16 I drank cheap sherry
Got plastered in the stations and swing parks (5)
Off my mother I stole some money
Had a treat with a bottle of Martini
So sick I couldn't walk or sit
Since then I've not touched it
I won't bore you with tales of being greedy
I'm just into CB
I'm into CB
My family's a weird lot
My stepsister's got a horrible growth
Listens to all this muzak shit
Reads Smash Hits while she's eating her tea (6)
To me it sounds like bad CB
My father's not bad really
He got me these wires and bits
Apart from that he talks to me hardly
I'm just into CB
This is Happy Harry Plank (7)
from the land of waving palms (8)
calling out to Cedar Plank
There's no Code 13
In the home of chocolate city
I'm having trouble with the terminology (9)
But I'm into CB
I've got this letter before me
It's buff with a confidential seal
I'd better open it
It's a fine and a formal threat
I should have listened to "New Face in Hell" (10)
The date expired last week
Up here I forget what time it is
It says you're going to go when you go
Or else you're for it boy
If that's what you get for having a hobby
Next mail you get will be mail in jail
If that's what you get for having a hobby
Next year mail in jail
It that's what you get for having a hobby
Next time I'm out I'll join a riot
That's the last you'll hear for me
I'll keep clear of CB
Keep clear of CB
1. Citizen's Band radio is a short-distance radio service used for communication between users. It originated in the 1940s in the USA, and became a fad in the 1970s. There is an entire C.B. lexicon of slang or jargon terms, some of which saw widespread usage during the C.B. fad. C.B. is mostly, although not exclusively, used by truck drivers to fight boredom, exchange information about traffic and road conditions, score drugs, and convey information about the location of police officers ("bears").
The press handout for Hex Enduction Hour contains a "next single announcement", which says of B side "I'm Into C.B.":
a comment on the weedy Home Office Sanctioned LIBERACE-ISM of U.K. band transmissions.
On the other hand, from Hide magazine:
A- What's the aspect of C.B. radio you're interested in?
M- It was a very big thing in England when we brought the record out, C.B. It
was really funny, it's cruel really, but after going to America and seeing
C.B. It's a really good thing the way the outlaws and truckers do it. It's a
real standout against authority. You're driving down the road in the south
and truckers will signal you on the radio that there's police round the
corner y'know. But when they brought it into England they had all these
limitations on it so anybody that got these C.B.'s could only go 4 miles.
You got all these bores thinking they're really being American. You get that
alot in England, like " ah yeah, I got a C.B. set like the Americans " you
hear them talking, they'd go " hey, it was bloody great, I got 10 miles away
last night ". What's the use, they might as well pick up the fuckin' phone.
They got into it for the technical aspect of it, forgetting that in England
it's a waste of time.
A- Unusual topic for a song about C.B.'s...
M- It's about more of a character type, like the people who were upset when
they found out what ELVIS was like. People who embrace things that they don't
really understand, you know what I mean?
Early versions of this--including the one from Sept. 30, 1981 released on the 6-CD Fall Box Set 1976-2007 and expanded editions of Hex Enduction Hour as "I'm Into C.B. (Stars on 45 Version)"--were a medley of the music to several Fall songs in Sequence ("Psychic Dancehall," "Fiery Jack," "Rowche Rumble" and "Leave the Capitol") paired with the lyrics to "I'm Into C.B." as they were at the time.
A character named "'Happy' Harry Cox" appears on the 1974 Firesign Theater album Everything You Know is Wrong (thanks to William Ham). An American chain of drugstores named "Happy Harry's" was founded in 1962, and was absorbed by Walgreen's in 2006.
4. This probably means a job creation scheme, i.e. a government program to put people to work (Martin points out that both "creation schemes" and "government schemes" appear in the live version from Leeds, 1981/11/5).
6. Smash Hits was a British popular music magazine that ran from 1978 to 2006, and they used to print lyric to pop songs in their pages. The issue of December 25th 1980-Jan. 7 1981 featured "New Face in Hell" (thanks to Neil Campbell).
7. It's not clear why Happy Harry includes "Plank" in his handle here; is it his surname? Is he related to Cedar Plank? John Kedward points out this may be a sly suggestion that characters are "thick as two short planks."
8. Dan has found that "land of waving palms" used to be a way of referring to a Jewish area or a ghetto. It smacks of anti-semitism; the palm branch is a symbol in Judaism, but the phrase apparently refers to the way Jews would supposedly gesticulate when they spoke. From Dan:
The book, Trials of the Diaspora: a history of antisemitism in England, includes this endnote: "Whitechapel was referred to as 'the land of waving palms'" (p.705).
So from this I conclude that the phrase referred to a predominantly Jewish area or, indeed, a Ghetto. And that although places like Whitechapel or East London more broadly might have specifically picked up the label "land of waving palms", it likely could also be used generically.
And, although I haven't found any written evidence, is it not possible that it might also refer to Prestwich, which had and has one of the largest Jewish populations in Britain.
Thus, "from the land of waving palms" tells us that Happy Harry Plank is either Jewish himself or is from East London or wherever and perhaps even Prestwich itself.
...John Kedward suggests another angle: "I think the land of waving palms might refer to the trend of pubs-- for working class teenagers( some with Hawaiian shirts)-- turning into wine bars around 1979-80 in England. Many owners would revamp their places, installing different, exotic lighting, tropical imagery, and fake plants, including palms. They were a kind of ersatz, exotic place for people who couldn't afford or didn't have the resources to travel."
9. Surprisingly, and perhaps appropriately in light of this line, there is little genuine C.B. slang in this song. "477CC" doesn't figure into Citizen's Band argot, and I have no idea what it refers to here. Apparently there is a humorous list of Code 13s, though; see Mark's comment below.
"Chocolate City" is CB slang for York.
It is also slang for Washington D.C., due to its large African American population, and is also used to refer to the black part of town in many American cities. The Parliament song "Chocolate City," from the album of the same name, brings both of these usages into play.
10. "New Face in Hell" is about a "wireless enthusiast" who comes to grief when he overhears evidence of a government conspiracy. Happy Harry's crime is uncertain; he seems to have received a cease and desist order; it may have been because he didn't have a license. In the U.S., individual licenses were technically required to operate a C.B. up until the early 1980s, and use of power boosting technology is still prohibited; in Britain an individual license was required by law until 2006. C.B. radios were illegal in Britain until 1981, so the narrator may be in Britain, although this doesn't seem to jibe with the references to "the land of waving palms" (although there are some palms in England) and "Chocolate City."