Iceland

Lyrics

(1)

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...

Mounting orations
..populations
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
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 Iol (3)
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

What the goddamn fuck is it?
That played the pipes of aluminum
A Memorex for the Krakens (4)
That induces this rough text
And casts the runes against the self-soul
And humbles in Iceland

 

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Notes

1. 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...'"

Melody Maker

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.'"

Rip It Up 

^

2. "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."

Melody Maker 

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."

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. (Lyrics Parade): "Cafe Iol is a famous meeting spot in Reykjavik where MES hung out when in Iceland."

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 2):

"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…"

^

4. 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.

^

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More Information

Comments (28)

Robert
  • 1. Robert | 01/05/2013

Is it really "Cafe Iol"? Or just "cafe aisle"?

Seems it got reported somewhere as "Iol" (I first read it in the Brian Edge book) and has been repeated as such ever since.

Has a Cafe Iol ever existed? Searching for it online reveals reference only to these lyrics.

dannyno
  • 2. dannyno | 30/12/2014

For a famous cafe, even one in Iceland, the "Iol" is proving elusive. Articles and books about the early 1980s punk scene in Reykjavik mention places like the Hotel Borg/Berg, where everyone seemed to hang out.

bzfgt
  • 3. bzfgt | 01/01/2015

Could have spelled it how he heard it? Maybe widen the spellings?

clay
  • 4. clay | 06/01/2016

"the 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).

Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hyperborea

dannyno
  • 5. dannyno | 25/01/2016

"Sit in the gold room".

I mentioned Hotel Borg above. Apparently the Hotel Borg has a "gold room": a restored banqueting suite:
http://www.oyster.co.uk/reykjavik/hotels/hotel-borg/

Don't know if it was called that when the song was written...

dannyno
  • 6. dannyno | 25/01/2016

Fall down flat in the cafe Iol.

This article has been cited already, but I can't believe this bit hasn't been quoted:
https://icelandicmusic.wordpress.com/category/bands-on-stage-in-iceland-the-fall-mark-e-smith-melody-maker-hotel-borg-austurb%C3%A6jarbio-1981-1983-q4u-megas-einar-orn-benediktsson-purrkur-pillnikk-reykjavik-iceland-icelandic-music-i-love/


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…

Robert
  • 7. Robert | 27/11/2016

"Sing of legend, sing of destruction"

I'm sure this is "Saga legend, Saga destruction".

Sagas are stories mostly about ancient Nordic and Germanic history, about early Viking voyages, the battles that took place during the voyages, about migration to Iceland and of feuds between Icelandic families. They were written in the Old Norse language, mainly in Iceland.[1]

bzfgt
  • 8. bzfgt | 21/12/2016

That would fit but he pretty clearly says "sing of..."

Mark
  • 9. Mark | 09/01/2017

Intrigued by the line "A Memorex for the Krakens".

A Kraken is a sea monster: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kraken

Memorex are an electronics brand. Presumably in the early-80s, they were dealing with cassettes and tapes?

dannyno
  • 10. dannyno | 18/01/2017

Note 9: yes absolutely, Memorex made cassette tapes. So presumably "memorex for the krakens" is either something to record the krakens with, or something you give to the krakens to record with.

dannyno
  • 11. dannyno | 18/01/2017

That first line: "A plate steel object was fired"

What's going on there? Fired as in gun? Or put in a furnace? If the former, would "plate steel" indicate a tank or cannon?

dannyno
  • 12. dannyno | 18/01/2017

"aluminium pipes"

Iceland is well known for aluminium, which is used for piping hot water around - geothermal energy is big business due to the volcanic geology.

dannyno
  • 13. dannyno | 19/01/2017

Note 10: or, indeed, a tape to be played to the krakens. if the aluminium pipes are a musical instrument - or used as a musical instrument - maybe that would be a sound that krakens would appreciate.

dannyno
  • 14. dannyno | 19/01/2017

Oh for heavens sake. In my comment 13 I say "note 10" when I mean comment 10, and in my comment 10 I say "note 9" when I mean comment 9. I'm clearly too tired to be posting here.

bzfgt
  • 15. bzfgt | 04/02/2017

Thanks, Mark. It didn't occur to me to explain "Memorex for the krakens" but it can't hurt, and in particular "Memorex" may be a fading memory or unknown to some of our youth. Is it live, or is it Memorex?

bzfgt
  • 16. bzfgt | 04/02/2017

Dan, I imagined that he recorded a gig for the kraken, who were unable to be there in person due to not being air-breathers. If the ads were to be believed, this was practically just as good, though, so we should not pity the kraken.

dannyno
  • 17. dannyno | 04/02/2017

I imagine pity is the kind of thing that really gets up the nose of the kraken. They do have noses, right?

bzfgt
  • 18. bzfgt | 04/02/2017

Well, if they lacked noses I would pity them. How would they smell?!

(Awful, I imagine...)

dannyno
  • 19. dannyno | 04/02/2017

We're here all week.

dannyno
  • 20. dannyno | 08/02/2017

In the John Wyndham novel "The Kraken Awakes", an ultrasonic weapon is developed to combat the kraken invasion. Might the "Memorex for the Krakens" then be a hostile weapon rather than a friendly mix-tape?

bzfgt
  • 21. bzfgt | 11/02/2017

Right, we assume it's the Fall, but what if it's Elton John?

dannyno
  • 22. dannyno | 25/02/2017

Or it could be The Fall but the kraken are Elton John fans.

bzfgt
  • 23. bzfgt (link) | 03/03/2017

It's like Noriega, I think they blasted him with Van Halen's 1984. Actually I think I'm mixing it up because there's a song called "Panama" on that album, I'm not sure what they played him.

dannyno
  • 24. dannyno | 04/03/2017


Reportedly the song "I Fought The Law" by The Clash was played repeatedly along with "Welcome to the Jungle" by Guns N' Roses;[another song in the line-up was "Too Old To Rock 'n' Roll: Too Young to Die" by Jethro Tull.


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

dannyno
  • 25. dannyno | 14/03/2017

Note 2: so the story has always been that Megas turned up and met MES. But in this 2013 interview, MES denies having met him (perhaps he forgot):


he was a big deal back when I was there, and I got some of his LPs. But I’ve never met him or anything.


http://grapevine.is/culture/music/2013/06/25/welcome-to-the-fall/

lloyd
  • 26. lloyd | 25/03/2017

The pronunciation of "myself" in the opening lines is presumably a reference to Marcel Proust?

dannyno
  • 27. dannyno | 25/03/2017

lloyd, comment #26: er, how so?

bzfgt
  • 28. bzfgt (link) | 01/04/2017

Lloyd, please explain?

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