It's A Curse



It's a curse
Well, thy forsooth
Who is that interesting hack over there?
By Gad, verily
Cracked curse
It's a curse
And I am not unguilty of using it

You, your tone is...
You, your tone is...
Tone of everybody.

Trying to bolt out of 
Trying to get over  (2)
Operation mindfuck (3)

I do not like your tone.
It has ephemeral whinging aspects.  (4)

It's a curse. I am not unguilty of using it

Waiting for you to fff...   (5)
Trying to get out of
Trying to get out of
They are waiting bitterly
For you to fall over
It's a curse

Down their long egg breath
Cheap shaving lotion days
Their sandwiches stashed under their side seats
Their froglike chins ready to burst
I tell you, it's a curse
It's a burden
It's a curse
Trying to get over
bargain vampires
In shops
I tell you, it's a curse

You, your tone is...
You, your tone is...
Trying to get out of...
Trying to get out of...
It's a curse
Shafted over 
It's a curse
I tell you, it's a curse
It's a curse
It's a burden
It's a burden
Operation Mindfuck

Look back bores
It's a curse
Bach and Wagner
All you really need is a good
Spaß (6)
It's a curse
Balti and Vimto and Spangles were always crap, (7)
Regardless of the look back bores (8)

It's a curse
Shafted over
Trying to bolt out of
Waiting for you
It's a curse



1. Another swipe at nostalgia and even, seemingly, the past itself, in the vein of "A Past Gone Mad" from the same album. The song, one of the highlights of The Infortainment Scan, is sometimes dismissed as lacklustre by those who seemingly can't feel the relentless one-note riff where it needs to be felt.  


2."Operation Mindfuck" is a Discordian idea, popularized by Robert Anton Wilson, in which rigid ideas of reality are destablized for the purposes of a kind of libertarian and hedonistic enlightenment. They put this idea into practice:

Through every means available, Wilson explained in a memo laying out the plan, the Mindfuckers intended to “attribute all national calamities, assassinations, or conspiracies” to the Illuminati and other hidden hands.

So they planted stories about the Illuminati in the underground press. They slipped mysterious classified ads into the libertarian journal Innovator and the New Left newspaper rogerSPARK. They cooked up a letter about the Illuminati that Wilson then ran in “The Playboy Advisor.” When a New Orleans jury refused to convict one of the men who the conspiracy-hunting district attorney Jim Garrison blamed for the JFK killing, Garrison’s booster Art Kunkin, of the Los Angeles Free Press, got a note revealing that the jurors were all Illuminati initiates. The telltale sign: None of them had a left nipple.


Discordianism is also invoked in "New Puritan."  

On the other hand, Dan submits:

"According to fanzine writer/publisher Lee Gibson, in his book A Punk Rock Flashback, the song critiques his mid-80s fanzine, Operation Mind Fuck (his 13th and last) (p.171):

OMF received a brief mention in the song 'It's a Curse' by The Fall on their album 'The Infotainment Scan' - and a bit of a critical bashing by Mark E Smith: 'Operation Mind Fuck/I do not like your tone/it has ephemeral whinging aspects.' If MES knocks you, consider it an honour that you even crossed his radar or stepped into his rifle sights. At the end of the day, I think MES was probably right.

There's no actual explanation there of why Gibson thinks the line is indeed about his fanzine. And I'm not sure of how it all fits together chronologically. Looks like it might have been c.1984, but more research required--if it is c1984, I think this song is a bit late to be a comment on the fanzine."



3. "Trying to get over" is a quote from Curtis Mayfield's "Superfly," and is sung to the exact same melody.


4. "Whinging" (sometimes spelled "Whingeing") is British slang for impotent griping or whining.  


5. Alex Griffin points out the echo of "My Generation" here...and Richieboy very plausibly points out it's probably MES jumping the gun on the ensuing "fall over," which is how the thought concludes a few lines down. It seems likely this is correct, which to me seems to make it somewhat more likely that the "My Generation" allusion is unintentional...


6. "Bach and Wagner" phonetically echo "bargain vampires" from the previous verse. Portsmouth Bubblejet: "'Spaß' is a German word meaning 'fun' and is thus the natural response to someone who listens to the seldom humorous Bach and Wagner." However, it sounds like he may be saying "schwarze" ("Black" in German) or "schwartze" (the same in Yiddish). John Howard points out that there has been scholarly speculation for many years that Beethoven was black.


7. Balti is a Pakistani curry dish; Vimto is a British soft drin made from raspberries, grapes and currents; and Spangles were a hard candy, discontinues in the early 1980s, which seem to symbolize nostalgia for MES like nothing else; love of Spangles also comes in for opprobrium in "Paranoia Man in Cheap Sh*t Room" and "A Past Gone Mad."


8. "Look Back Bore" has become a common term among Fall fans to describe those who focus on the band's older material; it is equally likely to be ruefully self-applied as it is to be used as a criticism.  


Comments (44)

  • 1. Ted | 11/07/2013
I wonder if the lyric "Trying to get over" is a lift from Curtis Mayfield's "Superfly". It's said with the same phrasing.

Also: VIMTO is an anagram for VOMIT. Just pointin' that out.
  • 2. bzfgt | 12/07/2013
Ha, I said the same thing about Superfly on the FOF...I can't believe I forgot to put it in the notes! I was sure I did. Thanks for pointing that out...
  • 3. Martin | 26/09/2015
"You, you tone is...." (the last time in the song) should be:

"You, your tone, your tone is"
Portsmouth Bubblejet
  • 4. Portsmouth Bubblejet | 29/01/2018
I always thought he was singing 'All you need is a good Spaß' - there's a definite 'p' in the initial consonant cluster.

'Spaß' is a German word meaning 'fun' and is thus the natural response to someone who listens to the seldom humorous Bach and Wagner.
Alex Griffin
  • 5. Alex Griffin | 30/01/2018
Could the 'ffff...' be a reference to the famous stutter in 'My Generation' by The Who?

why don't you all just f.f.f.f.f.ade away...
  • 6. dannyno | 01/02/2018
It could be a reference to The Who, although quite why he would be referencing them I do not know. It could also be "Fall" - he does occasionally bury such references - he does it with Manchester in Marquis Cha Cha, for example - "from a town called mmmm".

"Waiting for you to Fall", rather than "fade away" or "fuck off".
  • 7. bzfgt (link) | 12/02/2018
He says "Spass," you're right. I corrected a few more things too and got rid of the quotation marks which I must have kept from the Lyrics Parade.
  • 8. bzfgt (link) | 12/02/2018
Alex, I think that should probably be mentioned.
  • 9. dannyno | 09/03/2018
I'm not so sure about "Spass". I listened to the pronounciations at and I'm not hearing the "shhh" sound we get in the song. Now, if it is "spass", that might make sense because of the musical link - Mozart's A Musical Joke, or Ein musikalischer Spaß ( But I don't quite hear it like that.
  • 10. Zack | 29/04/2018
"Just Waiting" on Oswald Defence Lawyer was likely recorded live in 1992 and includes some extemporaneous lyrics:

"Hey Wagner and Bach / Just give us a good Spaß"

"And look in the streets in Deansgate and Oxford Street / Vampire bargain hunters and people shouting..."
  • 11. gizmoman | 19/06/2018
"All you really need is a good schwarze". Is what i've always heard, not convinced about "balti" either, vimto and spangles are what kids would eat and drink, hence the nostalgia, sounds more like balteen or balting or something rather than balti.
  • 12. gizmoman | 20/06/2018
Got it! It's "Ball Tig" not Balti, Ball tig (also known as tag) is the kids game where you throw a tennis ball at someone and they become "it" they then have to hit another player. Mark was right it was crap!
  • 13. dannyno | 27/06/2018
Amusing. But it is "Balti".
  • 14. gizmoman | 04/07/2018
But balti makes no sense, he is clearly referencing things people are unduly nostalgic about, balti isn't a thing of the past that you don't now have, the other two things are associated with childhood/youth, balti isn't. Ball tig makes more sense and it sounds more like it to me too.
  • 15. dannyno | 05/07/2018
Incorrect. People are nostalgic about balti.

Secondly, while it is true that balti is "not a thing of the past that you don't now have", nor is Vimto, which is also still available.

Thirdly, the other two items in the list are things you eat. Bit of a theme. Ball tig doesn't fit that.

Fourthly, even if you were right about whether or not balti is an appropriate subject for nostalgia, who says MES has to be accurate in his targets? And why does he mention Bach and Wagner, eh?

In A Past Gone Mad, the targets include Spangles, again, soccer books, and serial killers. Are people "unduly nostalgic" for serial killers?

Fifthly, I'm still not hearing "ball tig" at all!
  • 16. Gizmoman | 09/07/2018
Well the link you supplied makes "balti" even less likely IMO it's a relatively recent (regarding Infotainment scan) invention and certainly not something people of Mark's age grew up with. I don't remember Balti as a dish at all in northern curry houses. Also to state "They were always crap" could be a fair personal opinion of Spangles and Vimto as they are a standard product. A balti curry will vary tremendously depending where you get it from so the "always crap" comment wouldn't be logical. I may well be wrong about Ball tig but i'm even more sure now balti is wrong. BTW I suspect the Bach and Wagner mention is something to do with the nazis but I haven't got a presentable theory as yet!
  • 17. dannyno | 09/07/2018
I don't think there's any particular cut-off point for nostalgia, is there? And I don't see why MES' targets should necessarily be something he personally grew up with, specifically. Or indeed where logic comes into it.

Balti, as the article says, dates back to the 1970s. That seems plenty old enough for people to start reminiscing. There was a balti "craze" from the 1980s. Restaurants will have opened and closed in that time.

I'm still hearing balti. Doesn't sound like anything else.

What would be good is to find an interview where he talks about it specifically. Haven't found one.

Just to note that has "smarties", which is obviously wrong.
  • 18. bzfgt (link) | 15/07/2018
I'm not sure about any of this. "Ball tig" seems like a stretch, but he deifnitely could be saying it, from the way it sounds, if he's swallowing the 'g'.. "Schwartze" does sound more like what he's saying tonight I think. Now all I can feel sure of is everything is in doubt...
  • 19. bzfgt (link) | 15/07/2018
I;m assuming I didn't have a good explanation for "schwarze" though, or I'd have saved it somewhere...
Mark G.
  • 20. Mark G. | 24/08/2018
Hi. Great site you have here. I admire your work. I believe he's saying "schvartze" which is a derogatory racial term of Yiddish / German origin for "housekeeper" or "maid" which ties in with the Bach and Wagner reference in that both were German and have been accused by historians as being anti-Semitic. When I hear the lyric sung the sense I get is that he's observing "upper class" types who he assumes listen to classical (Bach) and go to the opera (Wagner) and converse about topics such as the importance of having a good housekeeper.
  • 21. bzfgt (link) | 25/08/2018
Thanks, Mark. Yes, a slur for a black person, in general, but I didn't think it was necessarily a maid. "Schwarz" simply means "black" in German, and I thought that's what the Yiddish meant. Not sure about all this.
  • 22. dannyno | 28/08/2018
I don't see any evidence in Yiddish books/dictionaries that it means "maid" etc at all, perhaps the connection is just that historically home servants would have been black. It's the Yiddish equivalent of the "n" word, to many commentators. It's used meaning "black" in other phrases, i.e. "Shvartze Shabbos", meaning "Black Sabbath", referring to the Sabbath before Tisha b'Av (
  • 23. undigest | 14/09/2018
I hear it as "All you really need is a good Sparta"...
  • 24. bzfgt (link) | 13/10/2018
What would that mean?
  • 25. undigest | 14/10/2018
Maybe it's a call for "Spartan" (self-)discipline against nostalgia and greed. There's some (pretty unpleasant) praise for Sparta in this essay by Wagner: . I can hear Schwarze too, though...
  • 26. bzfgt (link) | 21/10/2018
Yeah, that's really interesting but too speculative to go up top. It's very much worth recording here, though. That's the beauty of the comments, it's all there under the song whether I go anywhere with it or not...
  • 27. Richieboy | 30/01/2019
Infotainment Scam has been a fave since it came out. I was surprised to learn recently that it’s a dud for my Fall-lovin’ pal Tom (who hipped me to this jam and may lurk here yet). I gather others here agree? Interesting, if true, as the man used to say.
1) The “ffff” is MES almost jumping the “for you to fall over” line at the end of the verse, whether intentionally or not.
2) I hear “all you really need is a good schfart-ah.” He never really makes it to the final z sound, as in schvartze. I’ve always thought it was just some mangled corruption of German and took the meaning of the word from its sound. Of course, I’m frequently disabused of those kinds of notions on my visits here.
3) Yeah, I’m firmly in the fanboy camp for this song. Great guitar riffing across this album, showcased to full effect here. A terrific head-nodder.
  • 28. bzfgt (link) | 16/03/2019
I agree with you, not Tom; TIS is a fantastic album, I think it's the best one of the 90s (Dan will say Levitate), and I love this song too. I love everything on this album. Good catch with "fff.." it has the ring of truth! Don't be disabused of anything, I think we're all a bit unsure about "schvartze" or whatever, your guess is as good as anyone's. "Schfart-ah" doesn't mean anything, does it? So you think it's a fumble of "schwartze"? I see I have Spass and now I'm going to have to re-read the comments and see how I was talked into that...
  • 29. Barnet | 14/04/2019
All you ever need is a good starter?
  • 30. bzfgt (link) | 27/04/2019
Maybe, Barnet. I'm pretty worn out on thinking about this one as it's just one (equally good or bad) theory after another...
  • 31. Barnet | 28/11/2020
Nah, I always misheard it as starter.

Sounds like Späße (joke) to me.

Maybe he was confused with the term Scherzo.

My kleine theorie.
  • 32. Seanchai | 14/02/2021
Am I the only one getting stroooong 'Isolation' vibes off that riff?
  • 33. dannyno | 16/02/2021
According to fanzine writer/publisher Lee Gibson, in his book A Punk Rock Flashback, the song critiques his mid-90s fanzine, Operation Mind Fuck (his 13th and last) (p.171):

OMF received a brief mention in the song 'It's a Curse' by The Fall on their album 'The Infotainment Scan' - and a bit of a critical bashing by Mark E Smith: 'Operation Mind Fuck/I do not like your tone/it has ephemeral whinging aspects.' If MES knocks you, consider it an honour that you even crossed his radar or stepped into his rifle sights. At the end of the day, I think MES was probably right.

There's no actual explanation there of why Gibson thinks the line is indeed about his fanzine. And I'm not sure of how it all fits together chronologically. Looks like it might have been c.1984, but more research required.
  • 34. dannyno | 16/02/2021
Sorry, "mid-90s" in my first sentence should have been "mid-80s", obviously. But I'm not really sure of the dates of the fanzine at the moment. I have Gibson's book so will see if I can piece it together from that.

Going mainly on at the moment.

if it is c1984, I think this song is a bit late to be a comment on the fanzine.
  • 35. luke | 20/06/2021
I always thought it was Bunty, the 60s girls comic, rather than Balti
John Howard
  • 36. John Howard | 30/06/2021
I took the "schwarze" line to be about Beethoven, who has always been rumored to be black. as in "forget Bach and Wagner, all you need is Beethoven".
  • 37. dannyno | 02/07/2021
"Cracked curse"

I am, belatedly, reminded of Tennyson, The Lady of Shalott (1832):

The mirror crack'd from side to side;
'The curse is come upon me,' cried
The Lady of Shalott.

Having pointed that out, though, I cannot at this time provide any explicit connection to any other element in the lyric. Which isn't very good, is it?
  • 38. dannyno | 05/07/2021
Don't forget the "musical joke" meaning of "spass" as noted in comments #9 and #10. I feel that's much more likely than "schwartze", but ears first of course.
Terry Bucknell
  • 39. Terry Bucknell | 10/08/2021
I agree with Luke (20/6/2021) that it’s Bunty not Balti. Bunty was a comic aimed at working-class girls - see - so like the Beano or Dandy but firmly aimed at girls. I can imagine MES finding it lying around his childhood home and finding it as disappointing as the tube of Spangles boiled sweets in his Xmas selection box of Mars chocolates. Balti curries really became popular in the late 80s and early 90s and were very much centred in Birmingham - So maybe MES had been promised a Balti on tour in Birmingham but the other items in the list seem to fit childhood. Oh, and it sounds like Bunty too! (Dunno what MES has against Vimto. We still drink it! Now Tizer, that WAS crap).
  • 40. dannyno | 14/08/2021
It doesn't sound like "Bunty" to me.
Palmer Eldritch
  • 41. Palmer Eldritch | 16/04/2022
There's also the 1988 album by the US metal band Queensryche - Operation Mindcrime
  • 42. John (link) | 16/12/2022
I thought he was sort of going for "schvantz" (Yiddish for penis,dick,prick), and then it came out more like schvartze. It's hard to know if the "Uh" at the end of the phrase is the last syllable of schvartzE or the usual MES "Uh". If the latter, then the "actual" word might not end in "Uh", making it closer to "schvantz". Anyway, "all you really need is a good" seems to want to end in "dick/lay/etc" more than it seems to want to end in "black person".
Look Back Bore
  • 43. Look Back Bore | 09/02/2023
He's definitely not saying 'Balti' before Vimto and Spangles. It's something like 'bolting'...
  • 44. CHRISTIAN BLACK | 16/11/2023
I always heard "Bounty" not Balti, and that's plausible, Bounty being a British chocolate bar that still exists but was heavily promoted and present in the 70's as were Spangles and Vimto. But I'm not certain and I am not tying myself to that mast.

Add a comment