Janet, Johnny + James



What if the world crashed down
Refolding behind your eyelids
Cracked your mind
Cracked your mind

Janet and Johnny and James
Crash your mind
Behind your eyelids

The people behind you
With nepotism
All that rubbish you create
In the lock
Suddenly cranking

Janet and Johnny and James
Janet and Johnny and James

Dearest Lord, hear me now
Janet and Johnny
Coming over the mountain
From New Guinea
They see the star
From you, our creator
A startling vision of a future that didn't happen
Ian and Eric
The stars trace
Over Janet and Judy
And James
And Susan and Johnny
The skies reflect
Dear Lord, help them in their abject search
From the Guineas and the bearded man
From the hills
Never seen again
Janet and Johnny and James
Reflect on your life


Janet vs. Johnny (The Fall vs. 2003 EP):

What if all the world
Carroted and mashed
Into your eyelids


It's me and Him
Through your collar
Janet and Johnny

And James

Crash your mind
Crash your mind

Eager, smug and positive

With appointment

You never make it

Janet and Johnny

And James

Crash your mind
Crash your mind

I, weak man

With too much power

Droop out the door

A weakened person

The discarded columns

Form a circle

On your rubbish throwout

What if all the world
Carroted and mashed
It happens all the time

Janet and Johnny
And James

Crash your mind
Crash your mind


1. My first impression of this song was that it seems to me to be about an apocalyptic event where disaster is almost, but not quite, avoided. It is possible that JJ and J (and Ian and Eric) are indeed survivors, but it seems equally likely that the song describes their last moments. It is either a dumbfounded moment before disaster envelops them, or a shocked and traumatized limp away from a smoking crater toward an uncertain future (one that is no longer the one they expected). I hear "a startling vision of a future that didn't happen" as quite possibly suggesting that the song is describing a sort of flashing-before-one's-eyes moment before death, however. 

At the same time, it's possible that all the action takes place "behind" the "eyelids," and that the track is about a conversion, inner vision, or drastic shift in consciousness undergone by one or more of the title charcters. At this point, they either passively wake up to the petty and crass nature of their usual reality, or perhaps even undertake some drastic action. All of this seems possible, and it's also possible there's an interpretation I'm missing that would prove to be a better one.

Harley points out that there is a UK children's book series from the 50s called "Janet and John."

According to Wikipedia, "Janet and John were portrayed as average English children, living a typical middle-class life that reflected many of the stereotypes of the time, and the books consisted of stories that progressively incorporated key words needed in the development of reading skills."


PJ Harvey performed this song 12 times in the Fall of 2004. 


Comments (6)

  • 1. dannyno | 31/12/2013
Might be worth checking out "wantokism", which is a form of nepotism, as practiced In Papua New Guinea .
  • 2. dannyno | 31/12/2013
References to the bearded man in the hills, in relation to New Guinea and the region make me think of cargo cults such as that of John Frumm/Frum. Again, google it!
  • 3. dannyno | 08/09/2014
Typo in currently transcribed Janet vs Johnny version of lyrics: it's "nepotism", not "neopotism"
  • 4. harleyr | 15/04/2016
Two thoughts -

1) Most of the song takes place outdoors - a cranking lock, a mountain, the stars, the skies, the hills
2) Janet v Johnny: as in the Janet and John series of children's books? https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Janet_and_John. Janet and John have grown up, and are now at odds with each other.
  • 5. bzfgt | 19/05/2016
Thanks, harley. Incidentally, could someone transcribe Janet vs. Johnny? If no one volunteers I'll get to it eventually, but I'd be grateful if you guys would let me farm it out...
Paul G
  • 6. Paul G | 18/05/2018
Rather than 'cranking' I hear 'kranken' - a german word which means to suffer from or sick.

The lock could be a water lock rather than one opened with a key - there is no need for it to crank.

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