Kicker Conspiracy



Kicker, Kicker Conspiracy
Kicker, Kicker Conspiracy

J. Hill's satanic reign
Ass-lickers Keegan's Team 

Kicker, Kicker Conspiracy

In the marble halls of the charm school
How flair is punished
Under Marble Millichip, the F.A. broods (3)
On how flair can be punished
Their guest is a Euro-State magnate
Corporate-u-lent    (4)

Kicker, Kicker Conspiracy 

In the booze club, George Best does rule (5)
How flair is punished
His downfall was a blonde girl,
but that's none of your business!

Kicker, Kicker Conspiracy

Football fan at the bus stop
Stretched on the balls of his feet
In the christmas rush
Had in his hands, two lager cans
Talks to himself
At the back
At the top

But in the pavement on the club unit
Plastic, Slime, Partitions, Cocktail, Zig-Zag, Tudor Bar

Pat McCat. Pat McCat, the very famous sports reporter is
talking...there. (6)

FANS! ! ! Remember, you are abroad!
Remember the police are rough!
Remember the unemployed!
Remember my expense account!

Hot dogs and seat for Mr. Hogg!
Hot dogs and seat for Mr. Hogg
And his grotty spawn!

Lurid brochures for ground unit  (7)
How style is punished

Kicker, Kicker Conspiracy
Remember, don't collect with the rough
Kicker, Kicker Conspiracy

Kicker, destroy the facilities! (8)

Kicker Conspiracy



1. If you are really interested in the song it will be necessary to read the comments below, where there is a glut of information, much of which I do not understand.

First, we have this, collected by Dan:

"From The Biggest Library Yet fanzine, #3: Morton Dunlop interview with MES, dated 28 November /1983. "KICKER CONSPIRACY Sports press, the way footballs hierarchy put their faults onto hooligans etc, the greyness of it. Also in parallel to music obviously, + G.B. And the idea of same in song- especially a single, struck me as TOPICAL, PROPHETIC + HILARIOUS."

Next, the indispensable Reformation has recorded a couple of quotes from MES about the song:

MES: "I noticed the early signs [of the middle class takeover of football] when I wrote 'Kicker' but I never imagined it'd become so cunical [sic] and anti-communual [sic]. They hike the price of tickets in order to have it for themselves." (Renegade, page 220)
MES in an interview with Adrian Deevoy in International Musician and Recording World (May 1983): " A lot of the stuff I write is like prose cut down - trying to get it down as a fraction of what I originally said. I did that with Kicker Conspiracy. I must have worked for about three months on that song. "

From the football (that's "soccer" for us Yanks) web site "When Saturday Comes":
The Fall did a song about football, Kicker Conspiracy, back in the early 1980s. What sort of reaction did it get at the time? 
You couldn’t mention football in the rock world then. We were on Rough Trade and I told them “This is about football violence” and it was all “You don’t go to football, do you?” I remember Melody Maker saying, “Mark Smith’s obviously got writer’s block having to write about football.” About five years later, the same guy reviewed something else saying it was a load of rubbish and “nowhere near the heights of Kicker Conspiracy”. And now, of course, all the old music hacks are sat in the directors’ box with Oasis.
And, from an Uncut interview in 2003 (thanks to Dan):
"It's about English soccer violence being triggered off by rubbish management and frustration that the game's been taken away from its support, that the English game is so boring there's nothing else to do. I remember thinking at the time that if Maradonna had been born in Manchester he'd've been lucky to get a game with a local pub team, being cheeky, overweight, small and sweaty. It coincided with me not going any more due to muscle-bound teams, expensive tickets and that, so there's an element of sadness too.
In a 2017 interview (Uncut, September 2017, p. 57) MES was asked about a comment by Jah Wobble:
Wobble mentioned The Fall, actually. He said "Kicker Conspiracy" reminded him of the Kickers that studio engineers used to wear in the '70s. Is that right?

It can be read like that, yeah. But it's also a big Dusseldorf/Cologne hooligans' magazine, Kicker.

According to Martin,
May I just point out that on the front cover of Hex Enduction Hour the following words appear:

"Cushy E.E.C. Euro-state goals"

prefiguring a couple of the lyrics on this song, which received its live debut a year after the release of HEH.
Bzfgt: I don't understand any of this. I told Martin as much and he replied as below, which, God willing, will be the last thing I ever add to the notes to this song:
I'm not sure what you don't understand. Cushy means comfortable, not going out of your comfort zone (don't know if the word is used this way in American English); E.E.C. means European Economic Community (if I'm not mistaken it tended to be the default way until some years ago to describe what we all now call the European Union); Euro-State is I suppose an early MES example of how he felt about European integration (or at least a reference to it); goals is perhaps a pre-cog pun (Kicker Conspiracy is about various aspects of football). Returning to the cushy bit, there's a contrast being made between the fans:

"Remember, you are abroad!
Remember the police are rough!
Remember the unemployed!"

and the hangers-on, the bigwigs:

"Remember my expense account"

The lyrics in the song ring truer than ever these days, though the fan experience, at least as far as England is concerned, has changed somewhat (all-seated stadiums, prawn sandwiches - maybe you need to google this reference! - etc.). But the sponsors, the governing bodies...these are still as pernicious and greedy as ever, as MES rightly saw and foresaw.
Martin subsequently added, in reference to the Google search alluded to above, "Roy Keene is the man you need to include in your search."
So the empowered reader can Google "prawn sandwiches Roy Keene"; Lord knows, I shall not.
2. Jimmy Hill (1928-2015) was an ex-footballer who was chairman of the Professional Footballers' Association; in 1961 he was instrumental in the abolition of the maximum wage (20 pounds at the time). In 1961 Hill also became manager of Coventry City, and introduced a lot of changes which were grouped under the rubric "The Sky Blue Revolution." According to Joseph Mullaney:

"Jimmy Hill is most famous in the UK as a former pundit on Match of the Day, the flagship football programme on BBC television. Hill is well-known for his strong and informed views on football tactics and the game in general."
3. The main entrance Highbury, Arsenal's stadium until 2006, had lots of marble and was called the "marble halls." The stadium is now an apartment complex, but the halls were preserved and incorporated in the new building.  Sir Bert Millichip was chairman of the National Football Association ("F.A.") from 1981-1996, and "Marble Millichip" may be a reference to the marble halls, although I haven't confirmed that he was ever called this by anyone save MES. The nickname may be meant to imply that Millichip was partial in his dealings; as a Manchester City fan, MES presumably has little love for Arsenal. The reference to Highbury as "charm school" is doubtless sarcastic, but it is otherwise beyond my football expertise to decipher it...see the comments below for speculation.
4. Dan: 
The sleevenotes for Perverted by Language render this word as: "CORPORATE-ULENT", with an asterisked footnote to this: "'Corporateulent' is a copy-right Fall Music Publishers"
5. The Lyrics Parade has "Blues Club," with the following explanation: "The Blues Club was the Manchester City supporters club bar at Maine Road. George Best - 60's soccer icon - played for Manchester United, City's arch rivals, but he was still revered for his style and brilliance. Mark E Smith has said on UK TV that even though he's a City fan he often went with mates to watch United just so he could see Best play." However, both the ears of my readers (better attuned than mine, usually) and the blue lyrics book have "booze club," and it seems to make more sense than the club of a rival. Indeed, Best had problems with alcohol, and admitted to stealing money from a woman's handbag at a bar, among other sordid episodes. Again from When Saturday Comes:
Funnily enough, I met George Best a few times – first was in some drinking club in London in the early 1980s. He heard I was from Manchester and went into this big rant about how he’d used to get all this stick from the crowd at United when they thought he wasn’t doing enough. It was true he did used to stand around doing nothing for 80 minutes but I thought that was all right, given that he’d still win them the game. But he’d still get stick when he was going off from Bobby Charlton and the other players. He was the type who’d just walk into his local boozer and there will always be people wanting to have a go, if you’re like that. 
6. Or, as others have pointed out, "McHat," as T.L.B. on the Fall Online Forum points out that sports reporters in the 70s "typically wore hats."  Michael F speculates that Pat McCat is a joke Irish name like "Phil McCavity" (or, one might add, "Paddy O'Furniture"--in this case, a pun on "pat my cat"). The lyrics book has "Pat McGatt," but MES sings some version of "mickatt," and on certain live versions the enunciation is particularly clear. It doesn't seem to be the case that there was ever a "very famous sports reporter" with any of these monikers. To make a bad matter somewhat worse, though, the Wester Hailes Sentinel had a sports correspondent--a Fall fan?--in the 1990s named Pat McHat. 
7. So says the blue lyrics book. However, MES seems to sing "living brochures." Ben G hears "Living brochures for brown units," i.e. walking beer ads.
8. This line is enunciated fairly clearly as "Destroy the facilities!" and numerous live versions confirm it, but the blue lyrics book has "Let's swell the facilities!"



Comments (148)

  • 1. DamianK | 23/06/2013
There is a football writer called Pat McGatt in the Manchester area. I'd never heard of him hut when I (mis) quoted the line to someone local they recognised the name straight away.
  • 2. dannyno | 14/07/2013
I've been back through a newspaper database and the only McGatt I can find anywhere is someone called "Pat McGatt" writing a letter to the Daily Star in 2009. Looks like a pseudonym to me!
  • 3. dannyno | 14/07/2013
And there's someone on using the same name.
  • 4. Graving | 02/10/2013
"The Marble Halls" refers to Arsenal's old Highbury ground

Arsenal at the time were renowned for winning by 1-0 with really dull football, devoid of flair. In 1914 they negotiated their way into the then first division despite finishing below the promotion places the season before which is possibly what 'charm school alludes to.
  • 5. dannyno | 11/01/2014
The text here originally seems to be based on the orange lyrics book. I think it's wrong in several key respects, according to the evidence of my own ears.

For a start "Kicker, kicker conspiracy" actually sounds like "Kicker, kick conspiracy" throughout. MES may be swallowing the "er" bit, I suppose, but I'm hearing "kick".
  • 6. dannyno | 11/01/2014
Graving: Excellent observation on "Marble Halls".

But I'm unconvinced by the "charm school" explanation. The line is "In the marble halls of the charm school/How flair is punished". And then you have "Marble Millichip". So is "Marble Millichip" a kind of punning callback to "marble halls", or is "marble halls" intended to refer to Millichip? Is the FA the Charm School?
  • 7. dannyno | 11/01/2014
"Former fan at the bus stop.
Treads on the ball at his feet, in the christmas rush.
And in his hands, two lager cans"

I hear:

"Football fan at the bus stop
Treads on the balls of his feet, in the Christmas rush
Had in his hands two larger cans"


"What are the implications of the club unit?"

That's not it, it's something else. Can't quite get what, though.

Also, "McGatt" sounds more like "McCatt".
  • 8. dannyno | 11/01/2014
How flair is punished
Kicker, Kicker Conspiracy "

"How fair is punished" is not sung at that point
  • 9. bzfgt | 22/01/2014
Danny, I think he swallows it, and I detect the "-er" at times...I swear I do. Other times it's omitted.
  • 10. bzfgt | 22/01/2014
Danny, I also think "treads" is something else...maybe I'll decipher it with a few more listens, but probably not.
  • 11. bzfgt | 22/01/2014
I definitely hear "two lager cans, not "larger."

I can also see how I used to leave the Lyrics Parade punctuation intact...awful.
  • 12. bzfgt | 22/01/2014
Thanks for that, Damian, but it isn't enough....there should be some record of the guy's existence.
  • 13. bzfgt | 22/01/2014
Note the changes, Danny...I've got "pavement." It's nowhere near "What are the implications".
  • 14. dannyno | 22/01/2014
Lager/larger - yeah, typo by me, it's "lager"
  • 15. Tam | 08/04/2014
I'm certain I hear
How style is punished
. Although he does seem to grunt a vowel just before.
  • 16. bzfgt | 08/04/2014
Yes, I think so.
Joseph Mullaney
  • 17. Joseph Mullaney | 11/04/2014
Re. note 2: Jimmy Hill is most famous in the UK as a former pundit on Match of the Day, the flagship football programme on BBC television. Hill is well-known for his strong and informed views on football tactics and the game in general.
  • 18. bzfgt | 15/04/2014
Thanks, Joseph!
  • 19. dannyno | 12/06/2014
"Hat in his hands, two lager cans"

I think this led Dave Simpson astray.

Isn't it "Had in his hands..."?

  • 20. bzfgt | 12/06/2014
I think so, but I'm checking now. T.L.B. is right that it makes much more sense, so if it's borderline even I'll change it...
  • 21. dannyno | 21/07/2014
Some apparent mishearings can be found in the Sinister Times "newspaper". It has "McGatt" and "And in his hands", "booze club" not "blues club".
  • 22. dannyno | 28/09/2014
From Uncut magazine, October 2003:

"It's about English soccer violence being triggered off by rubbish management and frustration that the game's been taken away from its support, that the English game is so boring there's nothing else to do. I remember thinking at the time that if Maradonna had been born in Manchester he'd've been lucky to get a game with a local pub team, being cheeky, overweight, small and sweaty. It coincided with me not going any more due to muscle-bound teams, expensive tickets and that, so there's an element of sadness too."
Raging Ostler
  • 23. Raging Ostler | 25/01/2015
Worth pointing out re. Jimmy Hill, he was one of the most unpopular men in English football for years because of his prissy, condescending style as a TV pundit. Seriously, no British football fan had any time for him at all. Despite good work he did in his time at the PFA, by the 70s he was very much the face of the football establishment, universally loathed by supporters. And his famous long pointed chin and black beard did give him a Satanic air.
russell richardson
  • 24. russell richardson | 18/05/2015
and Jimmy Hill, though definitely he knew his football, once committed an unforgivable sin: on the last day of the season, when his Coventry team were in serious trouble of relegation, he relayed the result of a rival team who had just lost, and Coventry played out the remainder of the game 'by agreement' settling for a draw, not a possible desperate attempt resulting in a defeat, and stayed up. The other team, of course, went down. By using his privileged information (as a TV correspondent) he thus altered (strong potential) the outcome of a season. This was not well taken across the board. Can someone else please work out which season that was.... 72? 74?
Millichip and the old boy network which ran the FA, also controlled the selection of the England team, rigorously excluding flair (which the English pretty much lacked, anyway). 74 and 78 England didn't even qualify for the World Cups! A disgrace as we had a lot of great players who just couldn;t get into the national team. Now (2015) it's also come out that a little later (1990) the England manager was actually told by the FA not to 'unbalance' the team by putting in 'too many' black players. In a very real sense, football is/was Politics made palpable.
Paul G
  • 25. Paul G | 08/08/2015
I thought that J.Hill's satanic reign was followed by:

'Is slicker than Keegan's team.'

Kevin Keegan's last game for England was at the World Cup of 1982. Not sure how this would fit with the song-writing timeline.
Michael F
  • 26. Michael F | 19/08/2015
]I hear 'pat ma cat' I think it's a joke Irish name popular at the time (like Phil ma cavity).
Great work guys btw you've answered a few things I've been wondering about for 30 odd years.
  • 27. bFgt | 25/08/2015
Paul, I still think it's "ass-lickers," and the 's' is clear at the end. I sort of split the difference.
  • 28. bzfgt | 25/08/2015
Thanks, Michael, your comment has tipped the scales for the more phonetically evident "McCatt," although we've had to contradict an official lyrics book to do it.
Paul G
  • 29. Paul G | 31/10/2015
Re 27 - thanks bFgt - my memory clearly playing tricks!

Possibly "Arse-lickers" versus "Are slick as" - happy to go with your call on it.
Andy H
  • 30. Andy H | 11/06/2016
First up - what a brilliant resource this, I've learned such a lot. Thank you so much for what you've done here.
Just wonder, on that last line I hear "Destroy the facilities". I've checked with various live versions, it seems the same in every one. It's one of my favourite lines, and a good pay off to the song. What do you think?
  • 31. dannyno | 22/06/2016
russell richardson: it was the 1976-77 season, according to:

  • 32. bzfgt | 29/06/2016

1. Thanks for reading, and contributing.

2. Yes, I checked some live versions and I hear it too, but I don't make that out on the PBL version, so I'll add it as a note.
  • 33. bzfgt | 29/06/2016
Yes, never mind, my lyrics have it before the last "Kicker conspiracy," but as "Swell the facility." That HAS to be wrong, and I don't want to listen again, so I'll change it to "destroy, etc." as that's definitely what he says on the live ones. Thanks, good catch.
  • 34. bzfgt | 29/06/2016
Ah ha, the plot thickens; the blue lyrics book has "let's swell the facilities," but now that I had to listen to it, it's clearly "destroy" that he says. Damn it, more work for me!
  • 35. Martin | 02/07/2016
The references to Jimmy Hill can now be put in the past tense as he died in 2015
  • 36. Martin | 02/07/2016
This is one of those Fall songs where the studio version lyrics are completely (or almost completely) in place from the very first live performance, which is in this case at Leeds on 16 January 1983. And "Destroy the facilities!" are very much the words sung by MES.
  • 37. Martin | 02/07/2016
Right, various comments to make about the lyrics as reproduced here, as I believe there have been some mislistenings over the years. I'm going on both the studio version and various live versions I've been listening to:

1) "Corporate-u-lent": the "lent" bit doesn't sound like this to me, but I don't know what it does sound like, if you get my drift.

2) "In the Blues Club, George Best does rule": the blue lyrics book has "booze club" and this is what I hear too. Manchester City are known (among other nicknames) as the Blues, so why should their supporters, given the rivalry in the city, revere the Irishman? And George Best was known for his liking for alcohol (indeed he died of an alcohol-related disease) so the logic would seem to fit in this case.

3) "Former fan at the bus stop": "football fan", surely. This is what I hear and it makes more sense as well.

4) "But in the pavement of the club unit": I think that instead of "in the pavement" I hear "in occasions" (gramatically, of course, it should be "on occasions" but I'm just putting my theory out there, as it were).

5) "Lurid brochures for ground unit": doesn't sound like "lurid" to me, but something more akin to "living". Which doesn't convince me either, but this is where others can maybe lend a hand...
  • 38. dannyno | 02/07/2016
1. I still hear "lent", but it could possibly be "late" to rhyme with "magnate". Though quite you would do that, I don't know. I tend to take it as an exaggerated and punning pronunciation of "corpulent".

2. Tricky. I always here "blues", and I took it that this was a reference to a blues-type bar - blues as in music rather than football. But because "blues" has a football meaning, that might be an argument for it not being that.

3.Definitely "football"

4. I've got "But implications". Which doesn't seem very likely.

5. Another difficult one. Could be livid. I have lurid in the concordance at the moment.
  • 39. bzfgt | 15/07/2016
Well that's weird, I just copied what the Lyrics Parade had, but the blue book has "booze club" as it happens. Nobody's singing the "blues" then. And Pat "MacGatt," although I was talked into "McCatt" a while back there.
  • 40. bzfgt | 15/07/2016
OK, when I changed it to McCatt I see I noted that the lyrics book has McGatt. But tonight I felt uneasy and changed one of them to McGatt, which is probably unacceptable long term. But my reasoning is 1. the lyrics book, and 2. I've seen it quoted numerous times on the FOF as "McGatt," that seems to be in the popular consciousness, and I am unsure whether to go against all that or not. I don't know that I would leave it that way long term, but it needs a little pondering, I think.
  • 41. bzfgt | 15/07/2016
This one's a mess and I can't even process all the soccer information. One day I will pay a lot of attention to straightening this out and seriously consider all the comments above, but for now they are all recorded down here where they'll be read anyway.
  • 42. --MC | 17/11/2016
I always imagined the "marble Millichip" reference was imagining the FA meeting under a heroic statue of the man.
  • 43. bzfgt | 24/11/2016
Yeah could be --MC, I have a vague idea it's something like that, with a kind of pun on "--chip." This one overwhelms me, I don't know how to sort through everything in the comments so I just let it all live down here...
  • 44. dannyno | 23/01/2017
I'll buy that - the image of a self-aggrandizing football administrator's statue looming over meetings of the FA feels just right in context. --MC's interpretation seems to make some sense of the line.
  • 45. dannyno | 23/01/2017
I've been worrying away at these lines:

"In the marble halls of the charm school
How flair is punished"

... which surely must refer to something or other in the real world.

So here's one my famous over-thought ideas.

The debut of this song was January 1983.

In September 1982, BBC1 broadcast a documentary fronted by Barry Norman titled "The Rank Charm School". This was the name given by a journalist to the J.Arthur Rank organisation's training centre for budding film stars from 1945-1951. It's formal name was "The Company of Youth" It was supposed to replicate Hollywood's studio system, but young actors assigned to it were exploited to turn up at garden parties, grand openings etc. It is widely judge to have been a waste of time.

Might there have been a soccer/FA equivalent of this? Did The Company of Youth punish flair just as the football establishment did? Did MES take the lines from the documentary?
  • 46. bzfgt | 04/02/2017
OK, I just listened to a live version where it is so blindingly clear that it is "Pat McCatt" that the vestigial 'G' can no longer stand. So, the last "McGatt" has been purged from the lyric. For "McGatt" aficionados, he survives in a note, but alas, there is no place for him in the lyrics anymore. We must all be prepared to change with the times...
  • 47. Martin | 07/02/2017
The question of flair being punished surely derives from the way that certain English footballers in the 1970s, players such as Tony Currie, Stan Bowles, Duncan McKenzie and others were not picked for the national team as often as some fans would have wanted due to them not fitting the establishment standards of hard work and discipline. Mavericks were not wanted in the teams and one result of this (in my opinion) was the steady decline of the England football team in this era.
  • 48. dannyno | 20/02/2017
Martin #47. I think that has to be the right interpretation. But given the existence of the movie industry "charm school", the subject of a contemporary documentary, I was wondering if MES is linking football to nascent exploited film stars.
  • 49. bzfgt | 25/02/2017
Sorry, I may justly be accused of dropping the ball on this one; all this soccer talk makes my head spin and rather than trying to sort it all out, I just let most of it live in the comments down here...
Ben G
  • 50. Ben G | 17/05/2017
''Lurid brochures for ground unit'....I always thought this was 'Living brochures for brown units.' Meaning - beer companies sponsoring teams so that with their logos on the players shirts, so that they literally become 'Living brochures' for 'Brown units' (ie. pints of beer.) The point seemed to be underscored in the video when these specific lyrics were emphasised with a quickly flashed series of adverts in the ground, which included beer adverts.
  • 51. bzfgt (link) | 18/05/2017
It's definitely "living," not lurid. The lyrics book has it as above, though.
  • 52. bzfgt (link) | 18/05/2017
I added a note.
  • 53. Robert | 21/05/2017
"But in the pavement of the club unit" ... I'm hearing "But in occasions of the club unit" on the studio and live versions. Not that it makes any more sense.
  • 54. dannyno | 23/05/2017
"But in the pavement of the club unit"

I've listened to some live versions too, and I'm hearing it very clearly as "Modifications on the club unit". I'm in no doubt that that's right.
  • 55. dannyno | 23/05/2017
"Lurid brochures for ground unit "

Nnng. I've not quite hearing it so clearly as "living" myself. Could be "lurid", which makes sense. Could be "Livid" which would be more poetic.
  • 56. dannyno | 23/05/2017
From The Guardian, 9 July 1981:

City plan new-look Maine Road

The Manchester City chairman, Peter Swales, yesterday announced plans for £3 million worth of improvements at Maine Road to be completed within two years.

Work will start immediately after next season on a new cantilever roof for the main stand, and the following year City will build 36 executive boxes and improve facilities for the media. The boxes, which will seat eight people each, will cost £15,000 for three years.

Mr Swales also revealed a model of a completely renovated Maine Road sporting new roofs all the way round...


  • 57. dannyno | 23/05/2017

His downfall was a blonde girl,
but that's none of your business!

I've always assumed this was about George Best, but of course his downfall wasn't actually a blonde girl.

However, in February 1983, a month after the live debut of this song (were the lyrics intact?), Manchester City manager John Bond resigned, with everyone being very tight-lipped. It was then revealed that he had had a year-long affair with a 35-year-old divorcee called Margaret Doodson, who worked at the club and seems to have been promptly suspended. It was denied that this was the reason Bond resigned.

Not that football was short of such scandals (Peter Shilton was involved in a car crash with a married nursing auxiliary in 1980), but this one is pleasingly close to home for MES. But the timeline might not work out, and it might be entirely irrelevant.
  • 58. dannyno | 24/05/2017
Oh, and Peter Swales' 1980s redevelopment plans never got any further than the roof.
  • 59. Martin | 24/05/2017

"I've always assumed this was about George Best, but of course his downfall wasn't actually a blonde girl.

However, in February 1983, a month after the live debut of this song (were the lyrics intact?), Manchester City manager John Bond resigned, with everyone being very tight-lipped"

The "blonde" reference was indeed there in the debut performance of the song.
  • 60. dannyno | 24/05/2017
  • 61. Hexen | 25/05/2017
It's definitely arse-lickers not ass-lickers.
I'm hearing football fan rather than former fan as well.
Upvote for Living brochures for brown units
  • 62. bzfgt (link) | 27/05/2017
Fuck, I hate this one. I just want it to die and never have to amend it again.
  • 63. bzfgt (link) | 27/05/2017
Sounds like "pavement" on PBL to me still...
  • 64. bzfgt (link) | 27/05/2017
I want to just have one note which says "See comments." All this soccer shit just makes my head swim, I can hardly follow it. It's making me hate the song even.
  • 65. dannyno | 25/06/2017

The sleevenotes for "Perverted by Language" render this word as: "CORPORATE-ULENT", with an asterisked footnote to this:

'Corporateulent' is a copy-right Fall Music Publishers
  • 66. dannyno | 19/07/2017
From Uncut, September 2017, p. 57 (the interviewer, Tom Pinnock, had previously interviewed Jah Wobble):

Wobble mentioned The Fall, actually. He said "Kicker Conspiracy" reminded him of the Kickers that studio engineers used to wear in the '70s. Is that right?

It can be read like that, yeah. But it's also a big Dusseldorf/Cologne hooligans' magazine, Kicker.
  • 67. bzfgt (link) | 22/07/2017
I hate this song more every time someone adds something to the comments. I wish I could give this one away, it's hard for me to even follow the comments sometimes with all the soccer talk and obscure names etc.

What are Kickers? The same as what we call Kicks here, sneakers? Or something else?

Hopefully I can keep asking clarification questions indefinitely, and I won't have to update the notes....

What was that you said about Wobble dissing Trafford?
  • 68. dannyno | 22/07/2017
I don't think the Wobble/Trafford thing is relevant to this song.... you're not getting out of this that easily.

"Kickers" is a brand of footwear, yes: There's even a section of the wiki site headed "Music industry popularity" (though the specifics are a late for the lyric, I think it's safe to say that they were well-liked previously):

It was in the late 1980s and early 1990s that Kickers really gained popularity when Kick His were heralded by icons on the Manchester music scene. The Kick Hi then became popular in the rave scene, first with acid house and then later with trance music. Many fans of the shoe came from diverse and contemporary musical backgrounds including UK garage, RnB, pop and hip hop.

But anyway MES only says the lyric could be read this way...
  • 69. dannyno | 22/07/2017
There is a long-lived German sports magazine called "Kicker", but it seems unlikely it's what MES has in mind. It's not a "hooligan" magazine, though maybe it was commonly read by them.

"Kicker" is German slang for someone who plays soccer.
  • 70. bzfgt (link) | 29/07/2017
OK but notes aside, what is the Wobble/Trafford thing about?
Derek Reekie
  • 71. Derek Reekie | 19/09/2017
so who was Mr Hogg..?
  • 72. Martin | 28/11/2017
May I just point out that on the front cover of Hex Enduction Hour the following words appear:

"Cushy E.E.C. Euro-state goals"

prefiguring a couple of the lyrics on this song, which received its live debut a year after the release of HEH.
  • 73. bzfgt (link) | 02/12/2017
Thanks Martin. I really hate this one...this is a perfect example, I have no idea what any of that means.
  • 74. Martin | 09/12/2017
Re comment no. 73 (what?! So much to say about one song!): I'm not sure what you don't understand. Cushy means comfortable, not going out of your comfort zone (don't know if the word is used this way in American English); E.E.C. means European Economic Community (if I'm not mistaken it tended to be the default way until some years ago to describe what we all now call the European Union); Euro-State is I suppose an early MES example of how he felt about European integration (or at least a reference to it); goals is perhaps a pre-cog pun (Kicker Conspiracy is about various aspects of football). Returning to the cushy bit, there's a contrast being made between the fans:

"Remember, you are abroad!
Remember the police are rough!
Remember the unemployed!"

and the hangers-on, the bigwigs:

"Remember my expense account"

The lyrics in the song ring truer than ever these days, though the fan experience, at least as far as England is concerned, has changed somewhat (all-seated stadiums, prawn cocktail sandwiches - maybe you need to google this reference! - etc.). But the sponsors, the governing bodies...these are still as pernicious and greedy as ever, as MES rightly saw and foresaw.
  • 75. Martin | 09/12/2017
Sorry, screwed up the sandwich reference above; it should have been to prawn sandwiches, not prawn cocktail sandwiches. Roy Keene is the man you need to include in your search.

In any case, the theme of ordinary football fan vs. rich football fan/hanger-on/bigwig supporter is one which was revisited in Theme From Sparta FC., in that the reference to "ground boutique" could be implying a stadium store with high prices and supposedly superior products, whereas (I speak from personal experience) the items on offer back in the late 70s/early 80s - scarves, bobble hats etc. - wouldn't look out of place in cheap "everything for a pound" stores nowadays.
  • 76. dannyno | 11/12/2017
in the Kicker Conspiracy video, the "very famous sports reporter" is played by the Fall's manager Richard Thomas. He is not wearing a hat.
  • 77. dannyno | 11/12/2017
Referring back to my comment #69, there is after all evidence that MES was aware of "Kicker Sportmagazin" - a copy is seen in the Kicker Conspiracy video. (2 mins 35 secs)

The headline reads "4:2 gegen Jugoslawien: Jetzt ist Schuster der Chef."

This would seem to refer to the 4-2 West German win over Yugoslavia on 7 June 1983, which helps us approximately date the paper - and the video!

"Schuster" would be Bernd Schuster, who scored in the 79th minute.

It is worth noting that The Fall played the following gigs in June 1983:

5 June 1983 - Arena D, Vienna, Austria
10 June 1983 - Loft Club, Berlin, Germany
13 June 1983 - Markthalle, Hamburg, Germany
15 June 1983 - Odeon, Muenster, Germany

So it seems reasonable to assume that MES (or someone in the group) picked up the paper while on tour in Germany, at the time it was published, and brought it back to the UK.
  • 78. dannyno | 11/12/2017
And while we're doing approximate dating, the Fall's touring activities I think date the video to some time after August 1983. The next image in the video is of a press representatives card stamped with a 13 September 1983 date, which is Burnley's match against Crewe

And there's a "Remote men are in control" headline over a Sheffield Wednesday, 3 - Leeds United, 1 scoreline. Which is the Sheffield Wednesday - Leeds match on 8 October 1983.
  • 79. dannyno | 11/12/2017
7 June 1983 was a Tuesday. "Kicker" is published twice a week, usually on Monday and Thursday. So we can take an educated guess that the edition of "Kicker" featured in the Kicker Conspiracy video would be dated 9 June 1983.

<goes to check>


Here it is:
  • 80. bzfgt (link) | 16/12/2017
Yes, just to satisfy your curiosity, I understood "cushy" but nothing after. I didn't remember the E.E.C. and it just gets worse from there.
  • 81. bzfgt (link) | 16/12/2017
Pat McCatt/McHat/McGatt is now "Pat McCat," as the extra 'T' seems more activist than the alternative.

The very first comment in the very first note is now "If you are really interested in the song it will be necessary to read the comments below, where there is a glut of information, much of which I do not understand." My earnest prayer is that this will render nugatory any further revisions to the notes. All the talk of football-related things just makes my head swim and I now officially despise the very thought of this song.
  • 82. egg | 20/12/2017
sorry to add another thing, but this isn't (really) about football...
"But in the pavement of the club unit" should in my opinion be "Fortifications of the club unit" (makes more sense too, as they are described in the next line: partitions and (presumably exclusive?) bars).

(this is a terrible song for mondegreens. for years and years I thought it was "his downfall was oblong goals" and "head in his hands".)
  • 83. egg | 20/12/2017
whoops, I meant to type "Fortifications on the club unit".
  • 84. bzfgt (link) | 23/12/2017
Reason number...a lot why I hate this song: how the hell could there be doubt between "fortifications" and "pavement"?
  • 85. bzfgt (link) | 23/12/2017
It's actually a pretty good song, though...
  • 86. bzfgt (link) | 23/12/2017
OK, in my mind there isn't...I clearly hear "but in the pavement." Others?
  • 87. bzfgt (link) | 23/12/2017
I mean, do other people want to check and weigh in?
  • 88. dannyno | 23/12/2017

How flair is punished

There's no "How flair is punished" at that point.
  • 89. dannyno | 23/12/2017

Former fan at the bus stop

Listening to this on the Singles box set - sounds like "Football fan..."
  • 90. dannyno | 23/12/2017
Right on to this:

"But in the pavement of the club unit"

It's definitely not "But in the pavement of..." Doesn't sound anything like it, to my ears.

A while ago I said I heard it as "Modifications on the club unit".

Listening again to the Singles box set version now, I'd be willing to support "Fortifications on the club unit." There's certainly more of a "-ort" sound than an "-od" sound there. "Fortifications" wouldn't have occurred to me before, but it makes perfect sense in terms of architectural changes to a football ground, in the context of football violence etc.
  • 91. dannyno | 23/12/2017
It's "on the club unit" rather than "of the club unit", note.
  • 92. bzfgt (link) | 23/12/2017
Crap, I swore i heard it. I'll check again tomorrow.
Joseph Holt
  • 93. Joseph Holt | 03/03/2018
I’m the person who, back in the day, suggested ‘Blues Club’ and I still stand by that! :)
Anyway, surely it’s ‘lurid brochures for brand new nets’ that is, nets for the goals.
  • 94. dannyno | 09/03/2018
"But in the pavement on the club unit" - I'm now hearing, like others, "Fortifications on the club unit".

Joseph Holt comment #93: I agree with Blues Club. I could buy "brand new nets", feels like a plausible line but I'm hearing a "gr" sound at the beginning. So I don't know.
Joseph Holt
  • 95. Joseph Holt | 10/03/2018
@dannyno ‘grand, new nets’ then? I could buy into that.
  • 96. dannyno | 16/06/2018
From The Biggest Library Yet fanzine, #3: Morton Dunlop interview with MES, dated 28 November /1983.


Sports press, the way footballs hierarchy put their faults onto hooligans etc, the greyness of it. Also in parallel to music obviously, + G.B. And the idea of same in song- especially a single, struck me as TOPICAL, PROPHETIC + HILARIOUS.
  • 97. dannyno | 28/05/2019
From Obsession fanzine, interview with MES at Reading University, 15 October 1983, reproduced here:

MES describes this song (or actually perhaps the writing connected to it on the cover of the single) as "the science fiction rant of a football supporter's trip abroad", which I like.
  • 98. Ivan | 15/11/2019
Looking again at the video I noticed two pretty intriguing moments of ancient black and white film:

At 1.17 in the video - the crowd at the match are looking up at the sky. Why?

At 1.20 - there is a clip of a player receiving the FA Cup, but it has been so tightly cropped that you can't see who is presenting the Cup, nor who is receiving it. Why?

Well, the first bit is from the 1930 FA Cup Final when, famously, the German Graf Zeppelin flew over the ground. That's what the crowd are looking up at. In the following video you can see the full context, from 0.23.

But why did the The Fall leave out the Graf Zeppelin part leaving only the shots of the fans, when the German connection is a key part of the track?

Now the second bit - the identity of the person presenting the Cup? It's The Queen Mother (though she wasn't known as that in the 30s, of course). The person she is handing it to is Dixie Dean, Everton captain, and the occasion is the Cup Final from 1933, when Everton played Manchester CIty, Mark E Smith's club. You can see it non-cropped here, at 3.28.

But why did The Fall crop the shot so brutally, so the Queen Mother's identity is concealed?

(By the way, the clip just after this, at 1.23, is from yet another 1930s FA Cup Final - the 1931 game between West Brom and Birmingham. It's West Brom's Ginger Richardson, who scored both their goals, that we see getting the hug and kiss from the fan).

It's possible I am reading too much into this, but Mark E (if it was him who chose these clips) seems to playing a little game with the viewer here, seeing if we can join the dots, and see what the 'conspiracy' really is. A few seconds after the clips mentioned, we see two football teams giving the Nazi salute:

At 1.31 - this is the German team that played England at White Hart Lane in London in December 1935. You can read all about the occasion here:

And at 1.33 - this is the England team itself giving the Nazi salute in Berlin in 1938.

So the video is very explicitly reminding us of these controversial moments from the 30s. One of the big talking points at the time, and ever since, was the British Royal Family's attitude to the Nazis. Did Mark want to allude to this in the video by using a shot of the Queen Mother? Did he get a bit coy and decide just to use the cropped shot? Was he sensitive to the potential reaction from the press? And if you think that an obscure Mancunian indie group were unlikely to recieve such scrutiny, recall that this (1983) was the very period in which The Sun newspaper was waging a campaign against the then unknown Smiths over the group's Moors Murders related lyrics. Indeed, Mark E refers explicitly to this in an interview that The Fall gave at this time with the fanzine Obsession (thanks to dannnyo for the link above): 'Once you get people like 'The Sun' coming down on you like that, your chance is over'.

(Coincidentally, It was The Sun that, many years later, broke those amazing pictures of the Royal Family (including the future Queen and Queen Mother) giving the Nazi salute in the 1930s:

But if MArk was being coy with the Queen Mother clip, why do the same with the Graf Zeppelin moment? Was he just seeing if people could spot the link?

Either way, it looks like he spent a lot of time thinking about this, their first video, just as he had with the lyrics, which he said he spent several months on.

On the lyrics - I hear 'modifications on the club units' rather than 'fortifications...', and I always thought he said 'stripes on the balls of his feet' (some kind of adidas reference?).

One final note - I still have a press pass from Burnley in 1991 - exactly the same as the one featured in the video (at 2.38). I was there in the press box sending match reports down the phone just like Pat McCatt.
  • 99. dannyno | 21/01/2020
Well, if the aim of the video was to get people thinking, then to judge from Ivan's comment #98 it worked!

I'd just point out that the video was not necessarily wholly MES' work or unmediated or unadulterated vision.

From The Big Midweek:

Rough Trade have just spent seven grand on a witchdoctor and a tree house for Aztec Camera’s ‘Oblivious’ video, and are reluctant to spend several more on whatever zany ideas their press officer might come up with once he dons his film-director hat. Claude does actually have a hat for this purpose, a large black bowler. Geoff Travis finally coughs up five hundred quid for us to spend a week making three short art-house films.

Claude loves being a film director. Clearly, out of all of his roles – singer, journalist, promoter, DJ, VJ, and press officer – it’s his role as film director he covets the most. ‘I have created ze most amazing storyboard for “Keeker Conspiracy”! We are going to be filming on location using props and special effects and guest stars. I will be giving you your scripts as soon as I have had zem photocopied.’ A resourceful man and very convincing, it’s not implausible that he might have stretched this meagre budget out to blag Maine Road football stadium and even George Best.

‘Don’t worry! Before long, ze entire world will see for zemselves, not just hear it, but zey will see ze demise of football for ze working Englishmen. Soon, everyone will know that ze British bourgeoisie, in its infernal stupidity, are turning it into a rich person’s day out at ze races! Like American baseball!’ He pauses for further dramatic effect, his eyes desperately searching the ceiling for a more acute simile. ‘Like motor racing!’ he finishes, at last finding something fully worthy of his contempt.
  • 100. dannyno | 21/01/2020
Claude being Claude Bessy of course.
  • 101. dannyno | 21/01/2020
By the way, good analysis of the origin of the clips. An annotator after my own heart.
  • 102. Sumsiadad | 03/07/2020
I very much doubt 'marble halls' has anything to do with Arsenal FC, I can't imagine a football club MES would be less interested in than Arsenal! Marble halls strikes me as a metaphor for somewhere ornate and a grand, like 'gilded palace', for instance in the song, "I Dreamt I Dwelt in Marble Halls":

"I Dreamt I Dwelt in Marble Halls", or "The Gipsy Girl's Dream", is a popular aria from The Bohemian Girl, an 1843 opera by Michael William Balfe, with lyrics by Alfred Bunn. It is sung in the opera by the character Arline, who is in love with Thaddeus, a Polish nobleman and political exile.

Not only that but, as pointed out, that verse of the song is clearly about the Football Association and the tendency of England football managers to go down the route of dependable hard working players (yer Alan Balls) ahead of potentially flakey flair players (yer Tony Curries) - after all it worked for Alf Ramsey!

A charm school, of course, is where young ladies of a certain class went to polish up their rules of etiquette before entering society - that might refer to boring England players or boring England managers (take your pick) being schooled to act properly around the press and not say or do anything too controversial, i.e. not to act like Brian Clough for instance.
  • 103. Sumsiadad | 18/07/2020
... and, by the way, "ass-licker Keegan" is, of course, Kevin Keegan, exactly the sort of obedient manager/player who would never rock any boats and do exactly what was expected of him.
  • 104. dannyno | 07/08/2020
  • 105. dannyno | 03/09/2020
From the fanzine Grim Humour #4, June/July 1984, p.9 (but based on an interview dated to the Electric Ballroom gig on 8 December 1983) (spelling preserved unless I've made some accidental typos of my own!):

G.H.: 'Kicker Conspiracy' is about football hooliganism - do you enjoy writing about controversial subjects?

MARK: Yeah, well if your going to do a single it's got to be either a dance tune or very interesting, and the idea of, like, writing a song about football hooliganism appealed to me... like, in a rock song, it made me laugh. The idea behind it was to sorta question whether it's so bad anyway, y'know... question why everyone gets so worked up about it... I don't see the point, if you send English people abroad, it's an obvious thing that they're going to fight, it's talking about England in a way. I think it's good to put stuff like that in a song, y'know... It's not like people like ABC who think that getting serious is talking about fucking egg on toast and stuff... that sort of thing really makes me sick.
Joseph Holt
  • 106. Joseph Holt | 15/10/2020
Listening to this fabulous song for the first time in a good while reminded me of this great discussion.

Re #93 & #95 - I'm still stanning (as the kids say) for "Blues Club" and "grand new nets"

A new one I just realised is that I've always thought it was "Had in his hands two lager cans, supped to himself". Certainly sounds that way to me and makes a lot more sense than "talks"
  • 107. dannyno | 18/02/2021
Note #5 currently records the old Lyrics Parade explanation of "blues club" - i.e. the Maine Road or supporters club bar (if that is indeed what it was called, because I haven't found documentary evidence of that yet). Doubt is cast on the plausibility of the scenario.

Firstly, it should be said that while it might seem superficially strange that George Best would "rule" in the bar of a competing club, MES actually provides an account of how that might work. In Renegade MES talks about chatting to George Best in Stringfellows:

I told him about being a Blue and how I used to go and watch him with my dad. People did that in those days – one week City; the next week United.

So perhaps we can imagine the Maine Road bar nonetheless thick with admiring conversation about Best. I have no idea, I know nothing about football really, but it doesn't strike me as inherently wrong in the light of MES' comment (albeit he is talking about years previous).

Secondly, I can't speak for all advocates of "blues club", but I am not committed to the Maine Road/Supporters' Club interpretation. There may be other explanations of "blues club" that would fit better. It might refer to a literal blues club - a nightclub, in other words.
Ernest Jebson
  • 108. Ernest Jebson | 19/03/2021
Pat Me Cat.
Mark was a cat lover.
Like ' pat my cat '
Obviously ffs.
  • 109. bzfgt (link) | 20/03/2021
Right I guess I thought it was too obvious to need noting but now you've pointed it out, it should be made explicit that's what the pun is
  • 110. Ivan | 03/06/2021
Interesting that this was released as a Double A side with Wings in 1983, and the historical perspective in both can be traced to around the same time. Wings has him going back to the 1860s, with references to the US Civil War and the Manchester Martyrs. Kicker Conspiracy is a critique of the Football Association (among other things), the video especially focusing on the history of English football (including the England team's Nazi salute in the 1930s). That's a history that goes back to 1863, when the FA was formed. So on the two tracks there are two parallel histories side by side (or A-side by A-side).
  • 111. Ivan | 09/06/2021
Back to the video - there's a clip of the famous moment in the 1966 FA Cup Final when Everton fan Eddie Cavanagh is rugby tackled by a policeman when he runs on to celebrate. That would have personal associations for Mark E. Here he is in a When Saturday Comes interview.

Prestwich Heys were the local non-League team and I went to see them in an Amateur Cup tie against Sutton United. I was on the pitch celebrating a goal and got arrested by my neighbour, who was a part-time policeman

I know there are some great detective minds round here. Can anyone discover more about this? I found out it was in the second round in 1969/70, Prestwich Heys 3 Sutton United 1. Can anyone find an exact date, and even a report from the Prestwich newspaper? Who knows, maybe there's a photo of the young rascal, aged 12, running onto that pitch and being arrested by his neighbour (ooh - bit of a New Face In Hell vibe there).
  • 112. Ivan | 09/06/2021
By the way, the clip I refer to above is at 2.32 in the video. And I've found the date of Mark's 'arrest' (if that's really what it was, rather than just being hauled off the pitch by the scruff of the neck). It was January 17th 1970 - the programme is reproduced in Excavate! - Tessa Norton and Bob Stanley's book - which also reproduces the When Saturday Comes interview.

There really should be a whole site devoted to Mark's love of footy.
  • 113. Ivan | 14/06/2021

Should have realised this years ago but Jimmy Hill (referred to in the lyric) appears in the video, in the Fulham team group at 1.28. Blink and you'll miss it. Hill, one of the easiest players of his era to spot, is one from the left in the front row.

By the way, Manc music lovers, the keeper in the back row in that photo is Tony Macedo, cover star of the original release of Sit Down by James.
  • 114. Ivan | 14/06/2021
Mark started going to football matches in 'early1965' (WSC interview). He'd go with his father, sometimes to watch City, sometimes United. Something that may have made a deep impression on his eight year old mind was the reconstruction of United's ground that started at exactly that time, early 65, with the introduction of executive boxes, the first at any European football ground. United's 55 boxes were 'five-seaters, with loudspeakers to relay the crowd noise, telephone and television sockets, central heating and their own bar and meal service, all for an annual rent of £250 or £300'. That's where the whole gentrification of the game, which he critiques in the song, began.

Those boxes appear in a scene in the film Charlie Bubbles, in which a father takes his son to watch United play Chelsea in March 1968. The father is played by another famous straight-talking northerner, Albert Finney (to whom Mark has been likened), and while watching the game from one of the boxes he gives a hot dog to his son. Any connection to the line 'hot dogs and seat for Mr. Hogg - and his grotty spawn'? Mark was certainly a fan of the film - he cited it as one of his favourites in an NME profile (Portrait of the Artist as a Consumer) in 1981. There's actually a good chance that Mark was at that game in 1968 (three days before his eleventh birthday), and there's an intriguing (though admittedly remote) possibility that he's there in the background during the crowd scenes in the film. No doubt when he saw the film (anyone know when it was on TV in the early 80s??) he would have identified with the boy, not only for being taken to see United by his dad, but also in his attitude to the whole experience. Far from being impressed by the new executive boxes, we see him get more unhappy as the game progresses, pressing his nose against the glass separating him from what's going on below, as though he longs to be out there in the cold, watching from the terraces and close to the action.

Someone who definitely took inspiration from the film was Stephen Morrissey, another regular at United games in the 60s (another intriguing possibility - Mark and Stephen alongside each other on the terraces). On the cover of the reissued William It Was Really Nothing is an image from the film of actress Billie Whitelaw (who played the boy's mother). Morrissey would also noticed another part of the story. The boy disappears after the game, and the father goes to the police to report him missing (in the end he turns up safely). The unspoken context is the Moors murders, imagery of which played a huge part in The Smiths' early songs I'm not sure how much (if at all) Mark E ever spoke about those murders, but they would have loomed large in the consciousness of any child in mid 60s Manchester, and the last victim of Brady and Hindley, Edward Evans, was abducted on his way home from a United game in October 1965.

Just to complete the circle (or whichever irregular polygon it is I'm constructing here) - the film ends with an extraordinary scene in which Finney floats up into the sky in a hot air balloon above the hills of Edale. They are the very hills where RAF pilot Ted Croker's plane crashed on a freezing night in December 1945. Barely able to walk, Croker somehow crawled for hours through the snow to find help. He was in hospital for three months but eventually made a full recovery. Who on earth is Ted Croker? He was a footballer, and later became the secretary (equivalent to Chief Executive) of the Football Association in the 80s - the man with the real power, much more so than Chairman and colleague Bert 'Marble' Millichip at the time Kicker Conspiracy was written.
  • 115. Ivan | 14/06/2021
Apologies for the unreadability in part of the above post - it should read:

Morrissey would also have noticed another part of the story. The boy disappears after the game, and the father goes to the police to report him missing (in the end he turns up safely). The unspoken context is the Moors murders, imagery of which played a huge part in The Smiths' early songs. I'm not sure how much (if at all) Mark E ever spoke about those murders, but they would have loomed large in the consciousness of any child in mid 60s Manchester, and the last victim of Brady and Hindley, Edward Evans, was abducted on his way home from a United game in October 1965.
  • 116. Ivan | 15/06/2021
Nice how the lyrics help you pin down when the track was written. Mark says he 'must have worked for about three months' on this one (see note 1 above). They performed it for the first time in Leeds on January 16th 1983, nine months before its release, at the first post-Riley gig. So, perhaps that three month writing process was at the end of 1982, with that line about the 'Christmas rush' being inspired by a December trip to the Arndale Centre.

Look at the other bits of the lyric, though and the date gets pushed further back:

'Arse-lickers, Keegan's team'.

Kevin Keegan was England captain for several years, up to and including the 1982 World Cup in Spain. But new boss Bobby Robson took over in July and caused quite a sensation when he left Keegan out of his first squad, announced on September 14th. He was never selected again. 'Keegan's team' is surely a reference to England (rather than Newcastle, his club side), so that strongly suggests the 'arse-lickers' line was written before that September date (after which it was the team of Ray Wilkins, the new England captain).

If you look at the band's schedule for that year there is an interesting six week blank. That was from May 19th, when they played their last British gig for several months (at the Social Club of Burnley FC, where the video was of course recorded) to the start of July (when they recorded Room To Live - the precise dates of that I think are unknown but the wiki entry for the album says it was recorded 'in the two weeks before the Australia / NZ tour' (which began on July 22nd). Were they rehearsing Room To Live in the six weeks prior to that? It's well known that they did very little rehearsing for that album - most of it was put together in the studio.

So what happened in those six weeks? It a period that overlaps broadly with the dates of the World Cup (June 13th - July 11th) - and this is surely no coincidence. There was huge anticipation for that tournament - the first time England were taking part for 12 years. I can picture Mark and Kay sitting down at the start of the year to plan tours and recording sessions and Mark saying 'leave June free'. He and the other footy lovers in the group no doubt planned to spend those weeks sat in front of the TV (a typical day's schedule would be an early match kicking off at 16.15 and an evening game at 20.00).

Given all the above, I think it's a fair assumption that the song was written at least partly with the World Cup as a backdrop. But how could such a cynical lyric emerge from the excitement of a major tournament? Well, that combination of emotions sums up the typical experience of every England supporter over the last 50 years (compare, for example, the line 'how flair is punished' with 'we're not creative enough, we're not positive enough' from Three Lions, a song that struck home partly because it accurately encapsulated those mixed emotions). Plus, of course, the standard major tournament narrative is the replacing of heady anticipation by disillusionment. In England's case, the 1982 World Cup ended with two drab goalless draws, with the 'flair' players either not 100% fit (Keegan and Trevor Brooking) or not selected (Glenn Hoddle).

Of course, more than a year later when the track was finally released, the tournament was ancient history and the track was uncoupled from this context, the one constant come September 83 being the uninspiring performance of the England team (witness the newspaper headline we see in the video the day after yet another let down - the home defeat to Denmark that led to the failure to qualify for Euro 84).

Well, a lot of the above is speculative, but the main point is that the Keegan reference makes the summer of 1982 the most likely date for the lyric's composition.
  • 117. Ivan | 16/06/2021
I've been doing my nut in trying to work out what he says at the end of the track. I'm pretty sure it's not 'Remember, don't collect with the rough' as suggested at the top. Live versions are pretty helpful, where he sings the line more slowly (especially the Elephant Fayre and Hacienda 1984 versions). From those it seems very likely the last line is 'rot', and that before that he says something like 'condition' or 'conditioned'. So that gives us:

Remember, _____ conditioned ____ rot.

Is this something to do with decaying English grounds? (A notorious 1980s problem in the UK prior to Hillsborough). Or is the rot, continuing the German language theme, a socialist allusion? (rot = red of course).

Then I went to dan's concordance site (only discovered it last week - how could it have taken me so long?) and looked up 'rot' and got a shock. In 'Solicitor in Studio' he says:

He inadvertently proved the point that his profession was rot.

Ah! The songs were written within a few months of each other. So had he just carried that line through to Kicker Conspiracy? Well, listening very closely again it seems like he's not saying 'profession' but has altered the sentence to something like

He's conditioned to rot. (who would he be? Millichip? Keegan? Hill?)

I still can't pin it down. But I'm sure it's 'rot'.
  • 118. Ivan | 17/06/2021
Well, presuming you're not feeling punch drunk (like an audience member 12 minutes into a never ending version of And This Day), let's continue.

Pat Nevin has just released a wonderful autobiography called The Accidental Footballer, one of the chapters of which is titled 'Kicker Conspiracy'. Nevin was that rare thing in 1980s professional football, an NME reading indie music lover. Originally from Glasgow, he came to London in the summer of 1983 to play for Chelsea. His used to take the NME on the team bus, and his team mates would grab it and rip it to shreds. He always secretly bought two copies so he had a spare.

He made his Chelsea debut on September 13th 1983 against Gillingham in the League Cup. Coincidentally, that's a date that features in the Kicker Conspiracy video - in that same competition that same evening, Burnley were playing Crewe, and the press pass for the game is shown at 2.37 in the video.

He talks in the book about his first trip to the Rough Trade shop in London. The people in the shop are impressed when he tells them the record he wants - yes, it's Kicker Conspiracy.

In December that year, the NME do a feature on him, headlined The First Post Punk Footballer. He got on so well with journalist Adrian Thrills that they become flat mates. He also became great friends with John Peel and would sometimes go into the BBC to help him with his programme.

The book is full of stories like these. It's one of the best football books I've ever read.
  • 119. bzfgt (link) | 19/06/2021
I should give editorship of this song to someone else, I've long since given up in despair
  • 120. Ivan | 19/06/2021
Don't despair, mate, you're doing a fine job. Must be tough if you've no interest in football - I'll help you out with the editing if you want.
  • 121. dannyno | 21/06/2021
Admirably detailed posts, there, Ivan!

I've already got the date of MES' alleged arrest on my list to check out on my visits to the British Library. Just hasn't got to the top of the list yet.

Thanks for identifying the date of the game, saves me some time!

I think it's unlikely that he was really arrested, or that it would have made the papers if he was, but it would be good to get hold of a report.

I think you're right that the 1982 World Cup may have been something of a catalyst for the song.

Also worth noting that "CUSHY E.E.C. EURO STATE GOALS" appears on the cover of Hex Enduction Hour (released of course in March 1982 - cf "Euro State magnate" in the lyric here.

Charlie Bubbles wasn't shown very frequently on TV. The nearest to the composition of this song is:

BBC 2, Sunday 18 January 1981.

It doesn't seem to have been shown in 1982 or 1983.

MES specifically cited the movie in the 15 August 1981 edition of the NME. I don't think the relative proximity of that piece to the last TV showing of the film is a coincidence.

RE "rot", I think a close analysis of the words of Fall lyrics would tend to show clusters of language in particular time periods. Which is what you'd expect. "Rot" is not a very commonly used word, so it's interesting if it does turn out to be used in more than one song written in around the same time period. As I say, I think we'd find this happens quite a bit.

The match reports of the Prestwich Heys/Sutton match 17 Jan 1970 that I've seen so far suggest that Prestwich played rough, but no mention of any pitch invasions. But I need to check the local newspapers.
  • 122. Ivan | 21/06/2021
Comment #121.

Yes, I'm realising that more and more - that sometimes the best guide to his lyrics is not necessarily what was going on in the world, or Mark's life, at that moment in time, but what was going on in other Fall songs. It makes this whole annotation process all the richer.

I just wish I had your research skills - if you have a link to something like 'your step by step guide to researching old newspapers' I'd really appreciate it. I'm such a novice.
  • 123. Ivan | 21/06/2021
Here's something to ponder for all those interested in the Riley-Smith dynamic.

As noted above, Kicker Conspiracy was first played live at the first gig without Marc Riley, which is a real shame as Marc was, like Mark E, a big Man City fan. I'd be fascinated to know what Riley might have contributed to the track. It's intriguing that Mark E's favourite player, Harry Dowd (the City keeper when he first started watching them in the 60s), was never mentioned in any Fall track, but was the subject of an early Marc Riley and the Creepers track - Earwig O'Dowd.

What was going on there? Why did Marc write a tribute (of sorts) to Mark E's hero, just after he was kicked out?? (Marc, four years younger than Mark E, may also have seen Dowd play, it's very unlikely if you look at Dowd's career timeline, that he would have been a hero figure to him too).

Here's part of the lyric:

The first I encountered Harry O'Dowd
His suit didn't fit him, his fashion was loud
I noticed both trouser legs were full, they were wide
It seems there were more than two legs inside
In the Temple Inn I sat and stared
At the gloved hand of Harry O'Dowd
With a black leather finish, flesh didn't start
Instead I saw a black hairless arm part
I heard the story, the lie sounded so big
Of the local man, well, half-man half earwig.

Weird that there's no online discussion of this topic (well, none that I could find).
  • 124. Ivan | 28/06/2021
Is it 'Lurid brochures for ground units' or 'Living brochures for brown units'? (both have their supporters above). I think it might actually be a combination - Living brochures (which is a nicer idea and sounds just as likely) for ground units (it just doesn't sound like he's saying 'brown' - and the 'club units' he refers to earlier in the song are probably a reference to the same thing ).

Why do I say 'living brochures' is a nicer idea?

Well, I think it's useful to see that line as an extension of the previous one - 'Hot dogs and seat for Mr. Hogg, and his grotty spawn'.

So the 'living brochures' are the horrid spoilt children.

Why? The timing is important here. The song was most likely written in the summer of 1982 (see comment 116) - and the commercialization of the game that Mark is highlighting took a decisive step at precisely that time, especially for fans in Manchester. City's historic light blue shirt, for the first time, was to have the name of a commercial sponsor printed in large letters across the chest.

The announcement about the sponsorship would have been made in the close season - most likely in July 1982. And replica shirts bearing the Saab name would, shortly afterwards, have been on sale in the club shop so that Mr. Hogg could buy them for his grotty spawn - the kids in replica shirts are living brochures for Saab motor cars - which were also advertised on the 'ground units' (sponsorship boards) at Maine Road (this shot from November 82):

City's shirt history is here:

The FA had changed the rules about sponsorship in the late 70s, and Liverpool and Everton were the first to sign shirt sponsorship deals, in 1979. Man United's first deal, with Japanese firm Sharp, was signed at the same time as City's, in mid-82.

So is that the answer to the lyrical conundrum? Well, maybe it's still just a theory. I think the living brochure idea fits in perfectly with the song, and it sounds like he might be saying that, but why would he say a brochure for ground units? The unit (if it is a reference to an advertising hoarding) is not the same as the company written on the unit.

Hmmm. Are we getting closer?
  • 125. Ivan | 28/06/2021
The inserts in the above post went a bit skew-whiff.

The historical Man City kits link will hopefully appear here properly:
  • 126. Ivan | 28/06/2021
OK, now I'm glad I hedged my bets in comment 124 and said it was just a theory. Because here's a competing one.

The signing of their first shirt sponsorship deal was not the only big news at Manchester City in the summer of 1982. There was another key step in the club's 'modernization'.

In the close season, between May and August, the club's Main Stand was given a shiny new roof - and this was planned to be the first stage of a massive redevelopment of the ground.

Here's what Simon Inglis wrote in 1983 about the new roof:

The canopy is composed of 16 barrel-vaulted sections of glass-reinforced plastic panel, joined together to resemble a huge piece of corrugated iron...Supporting this structure is a huge steel cross beam...along this cross beam, high over the seats, new executive boxes are planned.

(From The Football Grounds Of England and Wales - an absolutely groundbreaking book, published in the same month that Kicker Conspiracy was released - September 1983. Always thought that was a nice coincidence).

So nearly 20 years after Man U installed the first private boxes in the UK, Mark's club were set to follow. The corporate sector was invading his beloved Maine Road. So the question is, were these boxes the 'ground units'??? (And did Mark see any brochures for them?)

In the end, City's master plan fell through. At the end of the following season, 1982/83, they were relegated, and the financial implications meant that the club abandoned the redevelopment of the rest of the ground, boxes and all.
  • 127. dannyno | 28/06/2021
Comment #126 - I think this must be on the right lines, see my comments #56 and #58.
  • 128. Ivan | 29/06/2021
I had another of those forehead-slapping moments a while back. The lyric contains two passages of direct speech! It's there in plain sight.

1) The football fan at the bus stop talks to himself.

2) Pat McCatt, the very famous sports reporter, is talking there.

Whadideesay? Whadideesay? (To quote Bugs Bunny. Or was it Daffy Duck?).

Well, we know what they said! Mark tells us in the very next lines. That's how direct speech works:

1) The football fan says "Modifications on the club unit. Plastic, slime, partition, zigzag, cocktail, tudor bar".

The song is about football violence being triggered by the commercialization of the game (see comment #22). This is what our football fan is plotting, as he sits on the top deck of the bus, on the back seat (where all the hard nuts sit). He's going to take his revenge on these corporate types and destroy the facilities - the plastic slime executive facilities.

Mark's use of language here is very subtle. It's like the old station announcement joke - 'This is a platform alteration', as gangs of hooligans trash the waiting room and rip the timetable off the wall while waiting for the British Rail football special. For 'alteration' read 'modification'.

This reading also helps in another way. Mark has sometimes referred to the song as being 'about football hooliganism' (see comments #22, 96, 105). So why is there only one hooligan reference in the whole lyric?? (Destroy the facilities, right at the end). Well, here's another one, and I think there may be a third, which I'll leave to the next comment).

2) OK, so how about Pat McCatt? He says:

Remember, you are abroad!
Remember, the police are rough!
Remember, the unemployed!
Remember, my expense account!

Yes, those are Pat McCatt's words, an interpretation supported by the video, where each of those four pronouncements has a rather too literal visual rendering (well, maybe not the third one). As he says 'expense account' we see the press pass for the Burnley v Crewe game.

nb: 'improved media facilities' are mentioned in the Guardian report of the Maine Road redevelopment - see Dan's link at post#1458 on the annotated fall megathread, Fall Online Forum.

The question is, how long does the McCatt quote extend? Should we also put the following line in his mouth: 'Hot Dogs and seat for Mr Hogg - and his grotty spawn'? Was Pat entertaining Mr. Hogg and putting it on his expense account? Seems plausible.

So yes, Pat is a bad guy, too (added to the list like the boxing writer in Dylan's 'Who Killed Davey Moore'). Pat's 'remember...' tirade does resemble a typical tabloid moralization editorial plastered on the front page after yet another example of police over reaction to England fans throwing a few lager cans in a fountain in Mittel Europa. With the fourth line, Mark scrunches up the paper and stuffs it back in Pat's face. (Once again, the 'unemployed' reference is a bit of a head scratcher).

So there it is. The structure of the lyric is simple. Two conspiracies (we'll get to that later) followed by two quotes.
  • 129. Ivan | 29/06/2021
So what about that third reference to hooliganism I said I'd get back to?

He says the word 'kicker' more than 50 times in the track. As some have commented above (eg, Dan comment #4, bzfgt comment #9), his pronunciation of the word seems to vary. Now this is not surprising for any singer, really. It's not cut and paste. And for Mark it's something he often does, playing with words that are repeated in a lyric.

At times, I hear him vary the 'kicker' in a specific way. Especially at 1.09 and 3.06, a vowel specialist might comment on how different the second syllable sounds. What is that 'o' sound doing there?

I always used to hear it as 'kick off'. A football phrase, of course - in several ways. The common meaning being the start of the match. But the in-joke is a reference to violence. Fans used to (and still do) say 'It's kicked off', meaning 'violence has broken out'.

So when Mark says 'Kick off!', it's as an exhortation (Tabloid Headline: Outrage As Cult Manchester Band Leader Encourages Fans To Fight).
  • 130. Ivan | 29/06/2021
I mentioned above that the whole lyric can be summarised as two conspiracies and two quotes. So now the conspiracies.

It's worth spelling them out in simple English.

Verse 1: The FA has a cozy relationship with European finance, and they all have a vested interest in the marginalization of flair players (who stand in the way of efficiency) and working class supporters (who stand in the way of the corporate takeover of the game).

Mark spoke of how he lost interest in the game around this time because of the way it was going (and how sad that made him feel). The lyric is saying that this is no accident.

Verse 2: George Best was forced out of the game by a scandal involving women - but that's none of our business. The suggestion is he was set up, or that a real incident was used, once again, by those with a vested interest in clamping down on the flair players, the ones unwilling to lick arses. (Mark is using 'none of your business' in the same way as Morrissey in the track 'World Peace Is None Of Your Business - the little people have no right to meddle in, or even know about what their rulers are up to).

Those who think Mark had some kind talent for predicting the future can look at the state of the game today and say 'He warned us'. And there is one scandal, involving the FA's top brass and their European connections, where he seems to have really hit the nail on the head, a scandal that received so little attention that hardly anyone is aware of it. This really was none of our business. The men at the top of the FA, who pushed for all stadiums in England and Wales to be made all-seated in the wake of the Hillsborough disaster, also had some lucrative links with companies that profited most from stadium seat manufacture.

You can read about it here.
  • 131. Ivan | 29/06/2021
Most of the themes in the last few comments are encapsulated in that poignant moment that ends the video. Mark walks down the players' tunnel towards the pitch, but when he gets there he sees the sign 'Please Keep Off The Pitch'.

At that moment, he is embodying several characters:

1) Flair players omitted from the England team.

2) Traditional working class supporters, increasingly marginalized and with no say in the running of the game.

And of course,

3) Mark E Smith, football fan, recently disenchanted with the game and not even going to watch City anymore.

(Plot twist: Add Marc Riley, the footy lover brooding at home as this track was played live for the first time just after he was kicked out of the band).
  • 132. bzfgt (link) | 02/07/2021
Thanks, Ivan. I am going to wait a year, then ask you guys to summarize your conclusions.
  • 133. gizmoman | 06/07/2021
Not given this one much attention before but there's a few words incorrect, it's not ass-lickers, he sings "as flickers kick a scene" (or maybe our scene) or something very similar, it's clearly a reference to subbuteo (flick to kick) the football game.
It's "former fan" not "football fan", I'd go with "modifications of the club unit", pavement doesn't make any sense.
I've always heard "grubby spawn" rather than "grotty" but that won't change the meaning any. Finally I've always thought it was "living brochures for brand new nets" which i suppose refers to the players advertising and the resulting improvements made with the cash.
  • 134. gizmoman | 06/07/2021
Just thinking about the "flickers" line, if it is "as flickers kick our scene" he could be saying that football is being ruined by people who don't have any connection to the game other than playing subbuteo, in other words they are not real fans or have any understanding of the real game or it's social significance.
  • 135. dannyno | 06/07/2021
Comments by Ivant #111 and 112,and my 121.

Ive just looked at the Prestwich and Whitefield Guide coverage of the match on 17 January 1970 (issue dated 23 January, it being a weekly paper).

Neither the match report nor the rest of the paper mentions a pitch invasion, let alone any arrests. I went through a few more weeks, still nothing.

Which doesn't mean it didn't happen, but it does mean MES' claim remains undocumented.
  • 136. dannyno | 06/07/2021
  • 137. Ivan | 07/07/2021
Great pic that. If you have the whole report that would be lovely.

I notice that the goal in the picture was scored by one 'Duncan Smith'. Their manager in the 60s was the ex Man City player George Smith.

No doubt Mark would have said if either of those were close relatives.

Good article here about the club at that time:

It says that the man who ran the club's committee at the time also worked for the Manchester Evening News and made sure the club got a lot of coverage. I wonder if that was read in the Smith household?
  • 138. gizmoman | 08/07/2021
Comment 71 Derek Reekie asks "who was Mr.Hogg" It's clearly a joke name like Pat McCatt, Hogg is the stereotypical fat businessman, The line is repeated, "Hot Dogs & seat for Mr. Hogg" it is clearly a command to someone to provide him with preferential treatment, of course regular fans stand on the terraces and eat pies, hot dogs are an american invention (at least as far as sports ground sales go) so they represent the incoming commercialisation of the sport.
Mark may well have been influenced for the name by the character "Boss Hogg" in the TV series The Dukes of Hazzard which was popular at the time, Hogg was a fat, corrupt rich businessman.
  • 139. dannyno | 08/07/2021
#137 - check your pms on the FOF.
  • 140. dannyno | 08/07/2021
Michael Horovitz, whose death was reported this week, wrote The Wolverhampton Wanderer (1971). It includes this:

Ice-cream men, hot dogs, oompah bandolineers
Motley tipsters, majorettes, gawky- gracious peers

I don't suggest this as an influence, but to naturalise hot dogs to some extent. gizmoman is right I suppose to say that they are an American thing originally, however they were obviously not new to English terraces in the 1980s. Of course that doesn't mean that they didn't have the meaning to MES that gizmoman suggests they might have.

I do agree with gizmoman that "Mr. Hogg" is named to represent greed - we've looked for real Mr. Hoggs and haven't really come up with anyone particularly plausible. Also hog and dog rhyme, which might be the important thing.

By the way, I notice the lines indicate that Mr. Hogg is demanding a seat and hot dogs. The former singular and the latter plural. However, he has his "grotty spawn" with him. So is Mr. Hogg going to be sharing the hot dogs but expecting his spawn to stand?
  • 141. dannyno | 15/08/2021
Gizmoman, comments #133, #134.

I've had a listen, including to a whole lot of live versions.

The blue lyrics book is typically unhelpful as it merely reproduces the inaccurate transcript from the Sinister Times 'newspaper'. But it has has "ass-lickers, King O'Team".

I think "ass lickers" is right. The doubt is over the next bit.

Some of the live versions do sound like "King O'Team".

I'll have to come back to this later.
  • 142. dannyno | 13/09/2021
Just to note, re comments 99 and 100, that although Bessy had input into the video, it was confirmed on the Fall Online Forum that the director was the late Malcolm Whitehead.
  • 143. gappy | 15/08/2022
I've had a skim through the epic comments thread, and I don't think this is covered, but apologies if I missed it. It struck me that the "cocktail zig-zag Tudor bar" with "plastic slime partitions" (yes, I hear this as an description of a location, not a series of separate unconnected words as is presented above) is a reference to the "bogus Tudor bars" in John Betjeman's famous poem "Slough" (

It seems feasible that MES is describing a soulless drinking establishment much as JB was...and, of course, for MES a horrible pub would be the worst indication of a homogenous world, see also the "renovated pub" in "New Puritan", or the "new bar" (also "plastic") used a a simile for a tired life in "Living Too Late".
  • 144. John | 06/12/2022
The timing of when this song is written is crucial to understanding some of the content. It must've been written around the time of the 1982 world cup in Spain. I remember The Sun newspaper making a big deal about unemployed fans being in Spain, evidence that the 'culture wars' that we describe in 2022 have been raging for a long time and consistent with the demonisation of football fans that culminated after Hillsborough, especially so in The Sun. "Remember the unemployed", as the headlines screamed at the time contrasts with reporters (hypicritically) living it up on expense accounts during the tournament.

Consistent with the newspaper them 'Smith the Teutophile - evokes the institution that is the German football paper Kicker. If you were travelling in Germany in those days, the main ways to get City scores would be: world service radio, a heavily marked up UK newspaper from a major railway station, or Kicker.
  • 145. dannyno | 10/12/2022
John, comment 144.

The World Cup gets quite a bit of attention in the comments here; some the lyrics do seem to link back to it. As I say in comment 121 from last year: "the 1982 World Cup may have been something of a catalyst for the song." While perhaps the main focus is the national game, much of the lyric points back to the world cup experience.

gappy, comment 143. I think the Tudor Bar is a real location, but I think it refers to stadium developments rather than just a pub. There is some discussion of the possibilities in the comments I think.
Mark Oliver
  • 146. Mark Oliver | 28/08/2023
To the list of 1970s flair players who got short shrift when it came to international appearances (Stan Bowles, Tony Currie, etc.) I'd like to add the Stoke City pair of Jimmy Greenhoff and Alan Hudson. Just because.
  • 147. dannyno | 02/09/2023
Kickers, advert in NME 24 November 1979:
Xyralothep's Cat
  • 148. Xyralothep's Cat | 23/01/2024
Ass-lickers Keegan's Team = Arse-lickers Keegan team
But in the pavement on the club unit = Fortifications on the club unit
Lurid brochures for ground unit = Living ...
Remember, don't collect with the rough = Remember who commissioned the runt
(this last one clear here at 3.30

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