A plate steel object was fired
And I did not feel for my compatriots
Hated even the core of myself
Not a matter of ill-health
It was fear of weakness deep in core of myself
The fact attainment was out of...
To be humbled in Iceland
Sing of legend, sing of destruction
Witness the last of the god-men
Hear about Megas Jonsson (2)
Cast the runes against your own soul (3)
There is not much more time to go
Work fifteen hours for the good of the soul
And be humbled in Iceland
Sit in the gold room
Fall down flat in the Cafe aisle (4)
Without a glance from the clientele
Good coffee black as well,
Hair blond as hell
Cast the runes against your own soul
Roll up for the underpants show
And be humbled in Iceland
And the spawn of the volcano
Is thick and impatient
Like the people around it.
See a green goblin redhead, redhead
Make a grab for the book of prayers.
Do anything for a bit of attention
Get humbled in Iceland
From Melody Maker: The song was recorded in Iceland when the Fall played three gigs there in 1981. "'Right, no dicking about, let’s get set up - we’ve wasted enough money already,' Mark Smith yells at at his 'lads' as we shamble into the recording studio.
'What’s he going to do, then?' asks Tony, the English engineeer 'Don’t ask me - he never tells anyone what he’s doing.' says Kay, watching assorted Falls tinkling abstractly on various instruments.
The Fall eventually rattle out two tracks - the mildly funky “Look Know” and the weird haunting 'Hip Priest'- both on first takes. Everyone holds their breath on playback and looks expectantly at Mark, who’d been pacing the floor outside. Mark just mutters 'it’s okay', and we all start grinning.
Mark then announces they will try a new song. Craig patters out a tune on the piano, Marc Riley starts to play banjo, making it sound like a sitar, and you suddenly recognise the abstract tinkering they’d done earlier. 'Is he going to sing?' asks the engineer. Kay didn’t know. Grant goes to find out. 'He’s going to play a cassette first, and then he’s going to sing,” says Grant. The engineer scarcely blinks. “I see,” he says. “A cassette. I do like these easy sessions.'
Mark plays his cassette - of the wind howling against his hotel room window - and launches into the verbals... 'To be humbled in Iceland ... sing of legend sing of destruction...witness the last of the Godmen...hear about Megas Jonsson...to be humbled in Iceland...sit in the gold room...fall down flat in the Cafe Iol...without a glance from the clientele...the coffee black as well...and be humbled in Iceland...'
'No, we didn’t know what he was going to do either,' says Riley in a state of euphoria later. 'He just said he needed a tune, something Dylanish, and we knocked around on the piano in the studio and came up with that. But we hadn’t heard the words until he suddenly did them. We did "Fit And Working" on "Slates" in exactly the same way.Yeah, I suppose it is amazing really...'"
The song sounds nothing like Dylan (although Scanlon claims to have been trying to play the melody of "The Times They Are A'Changin'" on the piano, I can't hear it). Apparently MES was incensed with Riley for spilling the beans about the "Dylanish" directive (see Paul Hanley's Have a Bleedin' Guess, page 45).
Rip It Up : Smith: "'Sixteen track. It was ... er ... it's funny,'cos all the walls
were lava, y'know, so you could play really quiet and you didn't
sound weedy. You could actually hear what you were doing
while you were doing it, which is really unusual. Expensive,
but it was worth it.'"
According to Paul Hanley (Have a Bleedin' Guess) MES is playing two guitar parts at the end of the track.
The sleevenote to this song reads:
Valhalla brochure bit White face Finds Roots, boys don't even notice & look for games machines
2. Melody Maker : "Our hosts play us tapes of a man with a cracked voice and a Dylanish air and describe him as 'the father of Icelandic rock’n’roll.' And they tell us the story of Megas, who ridiculed the sacred Sagas of the land, wrote scathing, surreal lyrics, got heavily into booze and drugs, was barred from radio and shunned by society. In 1979 he released a double album called 'Plans For Suicide' announced his retirement, and hasn’t performed in public since he’s now a dock worker.
Mark Smith is entranced by the story, and rivetted by the music. The following day Megas, a pale, gaunt figure, turns up at The Fall’s concert at the Austurboejarbio and shakes him by the hand. Mark will return to England clutching a parcel of Megas records under his arm."
It's not clear whether Jonsson indeed became a dock worker; Dan found a report that in 1981 he enrolled in the Icelandic School of Fine Arts and Crafts to study as a visual artist, although one doesn't preclude the other.
On the other hand, in a 2013 interview MES says:
"[H]e was a big deal back when I was there, and I got some of his LPs. But I’ve never met him or anything."
In his book Have a Bleedin Guess, however, Paul Hanley says that they did meet.
Clay contributes re: "Last of the god men": I think that MES is making reference here to the speculative historical/anthropological idea that modern day Scandinavians are the descendants of a "godlike" Hyperborean race that supposedly existed around the Arctic Circle at some point before the dawn of civilization as we know it. The fact that MES mentions "the Thule group" in "Gut of the Quantifier" strengthens this interpretation (Thule and Hyperborea being viewed, more or less, as equivalent).
3. Joseph Mullaney reminds us that "Casting the Runes" is a story by MR James, in which a researcher for the British Museum is cursed by a character thought to be based on Aleister Crowley...James is also referred to in Spectre vs. Rector.
And Dan points out that the incident that inspired this line can be found in the contemporary Melody Maker article I cited above (cf. note 1):
"Mark decided to go for a coffee in the cafe across the road. He tripped, and tumbled across a pile of tables. Nobody laughed. Nobody got upset. Nobody blinked. They thought he was a drunk. It happens all the time in Iceland…"
Note that the article from Melody Maker also has the lyric as "Iol." But according to Dan:
"Despite extensive searches I've found no evidence of any 'famous' Icelandic hangout of that name. It was the Hotel that attracted scenesters, not really the cafe across the road. Negative evidence only, mind you."
Since there is no record of a Cafe Iol ever having existed, I'm going with "aisle."
And what is that branch?
What branch is it
That has the pipe
Sprawling underneath it?
6. A kraken is a legendary sea monster, sometimes thought to actually refer to a real sea monster, the giant squid. Memorex was a brand of cassette tape--people of my age or older will remember the advertising slogan "Is it live, or is it Memorex?"
Krakens are also mentioned in "Winter," also on Hex Enduction Hour.