I Wake Up In The City



Turn the music up...

When I wake up in the city
I look around to see who's with me
And all the thoughts that pollute me
Canal and the gallery

How many of you are stable?
And the boxer with thief
The Deputy Collector is the Commander Chief

I wake up in the city
I look around to see who's with me
A lonely cloud descended (2)
The bill and the bushes haven't grown

Don't keep laughing
Can you give a dog a bone?

When they give me breakfast
Politburo KGB
Maybe a Flight Commander
Is curled up in a tree

And even Jesus had a tale
And General Custer was the same
That old dollar bill
Came out backwards in the machine

When I wake up in the city
I find I'm not around
I look at who's with me
All the thoughts that pollute me

I got glasses under my skin
I don't know how thin I been
I don't want Jesus to keep laughin'
I don't need no reason to keep laughin'

Even Jesus had a tale (3)
And General Custer was the same
Now I'm the enemy of the city
And the dollar bill came out backwards
And the new note it came out backwards
And the new note it came out backwards
And the new note it came out backwards
And new note it came out backwards

[Radio recording:]

... at 9 to 11 year olds. So how do we cope with this?

I think it is, practically, I think you'll find across the country that some schools are delivering not just two hours but even more and it's very good quality and other schools are not delivering the amount of time that they should be. So now there should be an entitlement that every youngster must get that two hours of good quality. And I want an advancement in two different areas of not curriculum ... support

A youngster is given the chance... by society ...

Okay, well, let me just say one more thing. We also have to recognize that for many youngsters, especially in their early teens...

[End of radio segment]  (4)

When I wake up in the city
I look around and see who's with me
All the thoughts that polluted them
It's the canal and the gallery

How many of you are sable?
How many of you are stable?
Sleep on the docks

The commander in chief
And the breaking of the chains
By the safe canal
By the gallery
By the fox cream boat
By the gallery
By the dark brown stable
No one's stable


1. This was later adapted, with different lyrics, as "My Ex-Classmates' Kids" on Are You Are Missing WInner. It features Ed Blaney, who apparently wrote the music, on guitar. 

The opening exhortation to "turn the music up" cannot but remind me of "Sweet Home Alabama" with its opening "turn it up," although here MES may be speaking to the producer about his monitor, wheras Ronny Van Zant just seems to be digging things...


2. This line suggests Wordsworth's "I Wandered Lonely As A Cloud." Since I don't have many notes for this one, the reader will indulge me:

I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o'er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.

Continuous as the stars that shine
And twinkle on the milky way,
They stretched in never-ending line
Along the margin of a bay:
Ten thousand saw I at a glance,
Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.

The waves beside them danced; but they
Out-did the sparkling waves in glee:
A poet could not but be gay,
In such a jocund company:
I gazed—and gazed—but little thought
What wealth the show to me had brought:

For oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils.


I put that here in its entirety so I could also put in the following verse from John Lennon, which isn't so much a parody or a comment on the original in any way, but is something of its own free standing hypnogogic gargle:

On balmy seas and pernie schooners
     On strivers and warming things
     In a peanut coalshed clad
     I wandered happy as a jew
     To meet good Doris Fing.

     Past grisby trees and hulky builds
     Past ratters and bradder sheep
     In a resus baby stooped
     I wandered hairy as a dog
     To get a goobites sleep 

     Down hovey lanes and stoney claves
     Down ricketts and sticklys myth
     In a fatty hebrew gurth
     I wandered humply as a sock
     To meet bad Bernie Smith

I will however apologize for "I wandered happy as a jew" if any of my readers find it offensive.
3. Or "tail"?
4. The voice in this recording seems to be Kate Hoey, who was UK "Minister of Sport," of all things, from 1999-2001. Danny speculates that she is talking about a school requirement for 2 hours of Physical Education per week.

Comments (14)

  • 1. dannyno | 21/12/2013
This song was first played live, apparently, in San Francisco. So are we to take the "city" as an American city, given the "dollar bill" references?

Are they all even MES lyrics? Because when Ed Blaney did it live he missed out the stuff about dollar bills: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=32HjEf56Pok. Is that significant?

By the way, I don't think it's "euro came out backwards" but "new note" or "you know"
  • 2. Martin | 30/01/2014
dannyno: "This song was first played live, apparently, in San Francisco. So are we to take the "city" as an American city, given the "dollar bill" references?"

Well, maybe, but the first live playing of the song was about three months after its official release, so a bit of a red herring?
  • 3. bzfgt | 15/02/2014
Danny, I just put "new note" in last week, and I neglected to read the comments here so I heard it independently (which adds credence to it, I think). I left some "euros" in but now I'm going to listen again and maybe dump them. But my impression last week was that he doesn't say the same thing every time--maybe I was being influenced by seeing "euro" on the page, though, we'll see.

I'm not sure how many of the lyrics MES wrote or if some are Blaney's. Is there a studio Blaney version?

The lyrics remind me of Bob Dylan a little, with all the God, Jesus, Custer, Deputy Collector, Commander in Chief stuff.
  • 4. bzfgt | 15/02/2014
You're right, "euro"'s gone now.

Man, I don't know why this song isn't more widely praised. The chord change at "I got glasses under my skin/I don't know how thin I been..." That is rock and roll right there.
  • 5. bzfgt | 15/02/2014
If Blaney did write a lot of the lyrics, that is very impressive. I think the lyrics to this one are superb.
  • 6. dannyno | 22/02/2014
Martin: "the first live playing of the song was about three months after its official release, so a bit of a red herring?"

Good point, well made.

  • 7. dannyno | 23/04/2014
The radio snippet, with reference to "two hours" of curriculum time. I think it's talking about the requirement for two hours Physical Education per week.

  • 8. dannyno | 23/04/2014
Ah, https://sites.google.com/site/reformationposttpm/fall-tracks/i-wake-up-in-the-city mentions Kate Hooey, Minister of Sport 1999-2001. If it is her talking, then my note above about the subject being P.E. lessons would fit nicely.
  • 9. dannyno | 23/04/2014
Hoey was sacked in June 2001, and the Flitwick 7" version of the song came out in August. So the interview will therefore have been broadcast prior to June, which perhaps gives a clue about when it was recorded, or at least finalised.
  • 10. dannyno | 23/04/2014
Listened to some other recordings of Hoey speaking now: it's definitely her.
  • 11. Martin | 24/04/2014
Kate Hoey's presence in the song was noted in a review of the 2+2G album in City Life magazine (26 June - 11th July 2002):

"Of the new stuff, the amusingly raucous 'I Wake Up In The
City' features a lengthy Kate Hoey sample."

(I found this information on Fallnet, by the way.)
  • 12. dannyno | 25/12/2014
"Even Jesus had a tale". Some have insisted that this is "tail", but Blaney himself says it is "tale": http://z1.invisionfree.com/thefall/index.php?showtopic=15909&view=findpost&p=10477306
  • 13. bzfgt | 24/06/2016
I guess it's a thin connection, hence the placement, but "Commander-In Chief: always puts me in mind of:

Well, John the Baptist, after torturing a thief
Looks up at his hero, the Commander-in-Chief
Saying, "Tell me, great hero, but please make it brief
Is there a hole for me to get sick in?"

The Commander-in-Chief answers him while chasing a fly
Saying, "Death to all those who would whimper and cry"
And, dropping a barbell, he points to the sky
Saying, "The sun's not yellow, it's chicken"
  • 14. dannyno | 24/09/2016
"The Deputy Collector is the Commander Chief"

'Deputy Collector' is, or was, a Customs & Excise rank:

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