Just Step S'Ways
When what used to excite you does not
Like you've used up all your allowance of experiences
Head filled with a mass of too-well-known people
(This is an important aspect of Big Priest.
His hypnotic induction process.
His commercial last chance) (1)
Just step sideways from this world today
Just step sideways round this place today
Just step sideways round this world today
Just step outside this grubby place today
Don't ever hit that vulgar cave
The joker says: 'Go the opposite way'
Just step outside this futurist world today (2)
Just step right round this...today
The Eastern Bloc rocks to Elton John. (3)
So just step sideways from this place today
To be a celebrity you've gotta eat the past, nowadays
But who wants to be in a Hovis advert, anyway? (4)
Just step right round this futurist world today
Just step outside this grubby place today
Just skip out miss the ice bricks of Bacardi (5)
Just step outside this future world today
Don't let it beat ya
Don't let it whip ya
Jump on the back of nicotine
Hit those lung worm back rays (6)
Just step outside this future world today
Today today today today today today
Just step sideways from this place today
Jump on the back of nicotine (7)
Hit those lung worm back-rays
Just step outside this future world today
Today today today today
1. This is evidently a reference to the title character of "Hip Priest" from the same album. The words in parentheses overlap with the main vocal line. Dan reports that Paul Hanley indicates (Have a Bleedin Guess p. 55) that "Hip" in the title "Hip Priest" can be read as an acronym for "Hypnotic Induction Process."
2. This at least partly, I think, alludes to Italian Futurismo, an artistic and social movement which celebrated technology and the increasing speed and violence of modern living. The founder of the movement, Filippo Marinetti, founded the Futurist Political Party, which later merged with Mussolini's National Fascist Party. While I'm unaware of any other references to Futurism, MES was significantly influnced by Wyndham Lewis, who was a founder of Vorticism, an art movement that was in some respects similar to Futurism, parcticularly in its attempt to forge a modernist aesthetic reflective of the form and motion of a world immersed in technology, as well as, unfortunately, the admiration of some of its adherents (particularly Lewis and Ezra Pound) for fascism. While the allusion to Fututismo is probably intentional, in context "futurist world" seems to be a more general statement about the character the age; the next time the line comes around, MES associates the "futurist world" with advertisements that play on tacky rural nostalgia (see note 4 below).
Raging Ostler, however, has pointed out that there was a scene called "Futurism" in the early 80s, at least sort of, as this "history of goth" has it:
The Futurist scene, such as it was, is very hard to pin down, even more so than goth. Essentially, though, it was a short-lived media-defined musical scene centred around avant-garde electronic music. It's worth mentioning here as there was some degree of musical crossover with the emerging goth scene.
The "Futurist" tag appeared in September 1980, as follows:
From George Gimarc's Post-Punk Diary for Monday September 15 1980:
STEVO the DJ at Billy's club and general provider of the soundtrack to the new scene brewing in the electronic underground, has his top 20 current records list published in Sounds under the heading "Futurist Playlist". Top tracks are Joy Division "Isolation", Gary Numan and "I Die You Die", Bowie's "Ashes to Ashes", Bauhaus with "Terror Couple Kill Colonel" and Gina X and "Do It Yourself". At #6 is Fad Gadget and "Fireside Favourite", B-Movie with "Soldier Stood Still", Gary Numan's "Aircrash Bureau" and "Telekon", and a demo from Blancmange of "I've Seen The Word". Other groups present are Modern English, Pere Ubu, Throbbing Gristle, Human League, YMO, Iggy Pop and Last Dance. Several months from now Stevo will confess to the NME that "...the tag Futurist is a bunch of crap. I took a chart of the most popular electronic music I was playing as a DJ into Sounds and said to them 'put it in but don't call it 'Eurorock' or anything like that'. I grab hold of the paper a week later and it says 'Futurist'. I hate all this stopid tagging."
Despite Stevo's disclaimer, "Futurist" was seen by some as a useful tag for an emerging movement, and there were actually "Futurist" nights at some nightclubs. The movement was seen by some as an avant-garde version of/reaction to the "pop" New Romantic scene, with the most important bands being John Foxx-era Ultravox and Gary Numan. However, the movement seems to have suffered from the lack of a coherent identity and never became a subculture as such.
The tag, however, became popular for a while- in an interview in Sounds in January 1981, Blancmange denied being Futurist ("I'm not a Futurist. I hate that word. What we do is more like experimental new music") whilst Depeche Mode laid claim to the term in an attempt to evade a worse one ("OK, we're Futurists. We've always been Futurists. For me, Futurusts were an extension of punk rock. We never had anything to do with New Romantics. They all looked the same. Bunch of flaming sissies! But call us what you like. Ultra pop. Futurist, Disco. Anything so long as it's not New Romantic").
And, we have the following helpful comments from Dan, with the caveat that the lyric in question has yet to be dated:
"I can help with this, I think. The song was first played live on 21 October 1981. Were the lyrics more or less complete by then? Because if they were... On 20 October 1981, The Daily Mail published a review by Simon Kinnersley of Ultravox at the Hammersmith Odeon, with the heading, "Facing a bleak futurism". (p26) It begins: "Futurism is already last year's thing. It's decline is due partly to frills and brocade looking rather foolish in winter, but more to the failure of the bands to progress." It's *possible* - I put it no stronger than that - given the proximity of publication to performance, that this is the inspiration for the line. At the very least, the use of the "futurist" word in the Daily Mail does suggest that its use in a musical context was fairly established."
"On 15 March 1981, the Guardian printed a piece by Dave Gelly entitled, "Enter the electronic Futurists" (p34): "A new chart has recently made its appearance in the pop music press, alongside 'Disco', 'Reggae' and the rest. It bears the heading 'Futurist' and lists the weekly fortunes of records with a style fast growing in popularity and self-confidence." <SNIP> "Leading Futurist bands include Spandau Ballet, Visage, Ultravox and Landscape..." The article also notes that they are also known as "New Romantics" - which of course is the name that stuck."
3. Elton John had played in Leningrad in 1979, and this is as likely as anything to have been in MES's mind when penning this lyric, although for all I know he may have had other reasons to suspect the Blocsters of digging the plumed piano plunker. Danny has rightfully chastised me for leaving an incorrect note here for so long, in which I mistakenly claimed that John hadn't rocked the Bloc until after the release of Hex Enduction Hour. But don't despair, pre-cog lovers: MES predicted 9/11, after all, didn't he?
4. Hovis (see also "That Man" and "H.O.W.") is an English brand of bread. A 1973 television advertisement (directed by Ridley Scott) depicting a boy delivering Hovis on a bicycle accompanied by Dvorak's New World Symphony is one of the most famous spots of all time in Britain. The ad played on nostalgia for rural and village life to move bread, and MES seems to have taken notice.
5. Bacardi is of course rum, but I'm unsure what "ice bricks" means exactly.
6. Lung worms are parasites that attack the lungs, although here they are perhaps a metaphor for cigarette smoke.
A Voyage to Arcturus, an early (1920) science fiction classic by David Lindsay, mentions "solar back rays" which can be captured, and which fly back to the sun when released. There are also "Arcturian back rays" that return to Arcturus (thanks to djbawbag!).
"On the line 'Jump on the back of nicotine' I always thought, because of the way he sang 'nic-o-tine', that he meant the character Nick O'Teen from the Public Health Info films that ran on British TV from 1980 - 82. These short animations featured the sleazy villain Nick who would creep around wholesome kids and offer them cigs, trying to get them hooked, and his enemy Superman, who would swoop down and grab him by the scruff of the neck and save the day. He'd then explain how he could 'see the harm cigarettes do inside your body' using his x-ray vision."
Given the mention of adverts later in the song, I always presumed it was "flicks" in the sense of "films". Bacardi adverts have lots of ice in them, you know.
He actually played in Leningrad in 1979: http://russiapedia.rt.com/on-this-day/may-21/, and http://www.takepart.com/article/2011/05/21/retro-action-may-21-1979-elton-john-peeks-behind-iron-curtain, and http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0245509/, and http://www.eltonography.com/cgi-bin/find_concerts.cgi?LOC=Russia
He played Leningrad in May 1979.
Any idea what it means? Danny had a theory for "flicks," but I found it unconvincing so I'm not too concerned about changing it...but it still is a mysterious line, to me.
The song was first played live on 21 October 1981. Were the lyrics more or less complete by then? Because if they were...
On 20 October 1981, The Daily Mail published a review by Simon Kinnersley of Ultravox at the Hammersmith Odeon, with the heading, "Facing a bleak futurism". (p26)
"Futurism is already last year's thing. It's decline is due partly to frills and brocade looking rather foolish in winter, but more to the failure of the bands to progress."
It's *possible* - I put it no stronger than that - given the proximity of publication to performance, that this is the inspiration for the line.
At the very least, the use of the "futurist" word in the Daily Mail does suggest that its use in a musical context was fairly established.
"A new chart has recently made its appearance in the pop music press, alongside 'Disco', 'Reggae' and the rest.
It bears the heading 'Futurist' and lists the weekly fortunes of records with a style fast growing in popularity and self-confidence."
"Leading Futurist bands include Spandau Ballet, Visage, Ultravox and Landscape..."
The article also notes that they are also known as "New Romantics" - which of course is the name that stuck.
I like this because it brings it closer to the first appearances of this song.
Caveat time: in the version supposedly played at Groningen, we have the familiar cry "We are The Fall" (almost always included in the first song, or occasionally the second one). It doesn't seem to me that it comes from the same gig. And why go through a whole German followed by American followed by half a British tour without playing it again? Apart from some missing lyrics, the song appears fully formed musically, and not one of those rehearsed in concert (as it were). But maybe I'm mistaken. (I have a similar problem with the so-called Groningen version of I'm Into CB, by the way). Any thoughts?
Problem time: due to a complete failure of computer and standalone CD systems I am unable at present to check the lyrics on the versions starting from the 21 October 1981 gig. But watch this space...Unless anyone gets there before me, that is!
As far as I can make out, that is. Ageing ears, dodgy recordings, Smith's accent.
Hovis is always there, though.
1982 gigs to listen to still...
"'Lie-Dream' 80% of 10% OR 6% over no less than 1/4 = ??????"
So that clears THAT up.
Back rays: surprised no one has mentioned A Voyage to Arcturus.
He'd have been causing a stir around this time.
The former is pretty clear and the meaning is interchangeable but the former seems to me a comment on lousy celebs living off past glories or ripping off past forms. E.g. mod revivalism, cod-50s lookback artists. (we know MES took issue with Shakin' Stevens etc.)
to me the other sounds like "eat"
Might be worth watching the documentary in case there's anything relevant. It's on youtube now:
It refers to self-hypnosis. Stuff like this :
Smith's pronunciation is problematic however.
Sounds more like He-mAtic or HermAtic.
Yes, not sure if it's relevant.
The sleeve notes reference seems pretty explicit to me, it looks like some sketch of what Rough Trade were offering them for ‘Lie Dream’, hence they left and went to Kamera. It opens the song up immensely if you see it in those terms – it becomes crystal clear and uncharacteristically direct. He’s demob happy, pointing out the bad guys, and imploring us all to follow suit.
Given we have the Joker in the next line, could perhaps the "vulgar cave" be Batman's Batcave?
After all, the Bacardi logo is:
These were on telly all the time, and the org behind them ran for years (its not the Californian outfit).