In conservatory
I looked at him
He was adjacent to me
I thought about my debts
He was talking about his house
In the Lake District (1)
Come levitate

In the greater hospital
My friends said HMO times three (2)
To the nurse that's what you think
The transfer mess that took two hours
Had to levitate from a grey of my pate (3)
The snazzy japes of a Basingstoke shot
Basing in stocks
Under the green frock
Below the granite complex
Needed true grit (4)
To levitate
Levitate with me
Levitate with me
Levitate with me


1. The Lake District is a large mountainous region in North West England, most of which is a National Park. It is nevertheless continuously inhabited, with some swanky homes; MES also mentions the Lake District in "So What About It?"

The second verse is set in a hospital, and Dan suggests "Levitate" could in part be referring to one of the hospital beds, which are raised and lowered.


2. Probably a hospital in Greater Manchester. I take HMO to be "Health Management Organization." However, according to Dan, "I'm not really buying 'HMO' as an acronym for Health Management Organisation (or Health Maintenance Organisation), although its proximity to 'hospital' might suggest that. I just don't think it's a phrase you hear much in the UK, where HMO is much more likely to mean 'houses in multiple occupation.'"


3. The Lyrics Parade says "From a grey map-PAID." I imagine the theme of the song to be "levitating" out of oneself in a dull and frustrating situation. There is some debate about this, with "grey matte paint" suggested.


4. A granite complex is an assemblage of various strata of granite, one such being the Eskdale and Ennerdale in the Lake District (thanks to dannyno). 

True Grit is a Western novel published in 1968 by Charles Portis, and followed a year later by the famous movie rendition starring John Wayne and the girl who played Miri on Star Trek. The Coen brothers made another film version of the book in 2010 (so, this is obviously pre-cog). 


Comments (54)

  • 1. nairng | 16/08/2013
Sounds like he says "dick-strict" to me, telling us what he thinks of the place and its inhabitants in a rather efficient manner, reminiscent of Peter Tosh saying "shit-stem" instead of system
  • 2. dannyno | 16/09/2013
"granite complex", by the way, is a geological feature. There is the Eskdale and Ennerdale granite complex in the Lake District.
  • 3. dannyno | 21/02/2014
I'm hearing "In conservatory", not "In a conservatory".

  • 4. Martin | 11/04/2016
HMO presumably stands for Health Management Organisation, or does it?
  • 5. bzfgt | 19/05/2016
Yes, I should work in a note I suppose...
  • 6. dannyno | 22/05/2016
Hm, I'm not really buying "HMO" as an acronym for Health Management Organisation (or Health Maintenance Organisation), although its proximity to "hospital" might suggest that. I just don't think it's a phrase you hear much in the UK, where HMO is much more likely to mean "houses in multiple occupation".
  • 7. dannyno | 22/05/2016
I think "HMO times three" might also make some kind of sense in a multi-occupancy context, possibly.
  • 8. Rik | 17/06/2016
I hear...

" had to levitate from the grey in my pate"
  • 9. bzfgt | 24/06/2016
Huh, that's amazing if so with all the "hospital" talk here.
  • 10. bzfgt | 24/06/2016
Maybe so, it seems like a really sloppy line but it's never wise to assume that.
  • 11. bzfgt | 29/06/2016
Rik, that's an attractive option, I always like it when a line suddenly makes sense because we've been hearing it wrong. I'm listening now (time passes)...

...I am thoroughly convinced that what he says is exactly "Had to levitate from a grey in my pate" or, more likely, "Had to levitate from-uh grey in my pate." So I think the solution is "Had to levitate from grey in my pate."
  • 12. dannyno | 10/09/2016
Note 1: "maybe somebody will do a Fall concordance someday."

  • 13. bzfgt | 15/10/2016
Ah! Thanks for the reminder, Dan (old note, of course)!
  • 14. bzfgt | 15/10/2016
And, there is only those two. But we no longer have to wonder, so it is a victory for science, if not for the Lake District.
  • 15. dannyno | 16/10/2016
This could be one of my infamous red herrings, but "The Conservatory" is a restaurant at Central Manchester University Hospitals - Manchester Royal Infirmary:
  • 16. Zack | 25/01/2017
In 1992 MES kicked a band called Levitation off a tour with The Fall (http://thefall.org/gigography/gig92.html). This probably has nothing to do with the song, but it is a curious choice for a song/album title.
  • 17. dannyno | 28/01/2017
Could it be something mundane like those hospital beds that rise and fall?
  • 18. dannyno | 29/01/2017
"In the greater hospital
My friends said HMO times three
To the mirth that what you think"

Could everyone have had this completely wrong? I've listened to these lines several times now, and I'm hearing this, more or less:

"In the greater hospital
My friends said H and O times three
To the mirth that what you think..."

The third line feels a bit mangled, but the word "mirth" is the clue to unlocking the second line, or at least putting a new twist on our hearing of it.

Because "H and O" is "Ho." and "Ho" times three is "Ho ho ho".

i.e. Laughter.
  • 19. dannyno | 29/01/2017
"Under the green frock"

Hospital gown?
  • 20. dannyno | 29/01/2017
"I looked at him
He was adjacent to me
I thought about my debts
He was talking about his house"

This is written quite carefully, isn't it? The narrator is looking across as someone next to him, who is talking. Is this person talking to the narrator, or talking to someone else and the narrator is listening in or overhearing? "He was adjacent to me" quite cleverly emphasises the disconnection. And "he was talking about" not "he was telling me about" or anything like that. And no indication that this has been a two-way conversation.

This matters to our understanding of the situation. If the narrator and the Lake District house bore (landlord? holiday home?) are speaking, then the narrator drifting off and thinking about his financial problems (wryly, perhaps?) is one thing. But if the narrator is only listening to others speaking, and reflecting on their own position, then that's another thing.
  • 21. bzfgt | 11/02/2017
This ("H and O") puts us in a quandary, as I can hear it either way, as is the case maddeningly often. You got any live versions? All I have from this (general) era is the Touch Sensitive set, which has not this song. Here's one from Youtube but as you can hear it's not very clear:

  • 22. bzfgt | 11/02/2017
And he says something different entirely, can you make it out? It may be a clue, depending on which it is consonant with, but it sounds like "Gee EN ?"
  • 23. bzfgt | 11/02/2017
"Could it be something mundane like those hospital beds that rise and fall?"

Dan I really, really like that idea.
  • 24. dannyno | 12/02/2017
bzfgt, comment #22.

I listened. You're right, it's a different lyric. But what the lyric is, I cannot make out. I have listened quite a lot, again and again, and now my head hurts and I am giving up. Possibly forever.
Waldo Jeffers
  • 25. Waldo Jeffers | 14/04/2018
I thought HMO was actually H and O times three, giving HO3, I thought it might be reference to chemical used in a hospital but it's actually a home insurance policy, which kind of makes sense in the context of conservatory/ house conversations
  • 26. dannyno | 07/05/2018
Comment 25: "HO 3" - and I don't think "HO 3" is intended - seems to be an American thing.

DP Mnculty
  • 27. DP Mnculty | 14/05/2018
I've long understood this to be a song about the Natural Law Party;a fringe political party who stood various candidates (unsuccessfully) at the 1992 and 97 general elections. Their UK base was in the Lake District.
They campaigned on the issue of Transcendental Meditation, which entailed 'yogic-flying' , the titular Levitation.
  • 28. dannyno | 20/05/2018
Other than the word "levitate", there's not much textual support for that interpretation, but I like it anyway.

Their 1997 election broadcast is here:

  • 29. dannyno | 20/05/2018
Also, their address was actually Mentmore Towers, Buckinghamshire - nowhere near the Lake District.


[clipped from full page advert launching the party, Guardian, 20 March 1992, p14.]
  • 30. dannyno | 20/05/2018
Although, the Maharishi Foundation does have a TM centre in Ambleside...

  • 31. bzfgt (link) | 04/07/2018
Yeah also I'm not sure why it would be about the Natural Law Party and not the TM movement in general, if it were about that.
  • 32. bzfgt (link) | 05/07/2018
Hmm, I like "H and O times 3" better since it would seem to make sense the way Waldo has it. Too bad we can't corroborate at this time, if it's a Yank thing that does seem to make it less likely.
Autolytic Enzyme
  • 33. Autolytic Enzyme | 27/04/2019
He clearly sings "grey matt-paint!"

and he sings it with such contempt.
  • 34. Autolytic | 01/05/2019
So the transfer at the airport has messed up and he is stuck in a grey painted waiting lounge bored out of his mind - wants to levitate - rise above the present situation.
  • 35. bzfgt (link) | 21/06/2019
Matte it would be, no? But I hear no "-tte" or "-n-" although you could be right if he doesn't enunciate quite so clearly as you say...yours does work better, I like it better, but I'm not hearing it
  • 36. BB | 07/11/2019
Some corrections/cpnjecture

In the conservatory
I looked at him
He was adjacent to me
I thought about my dad
He was talking about his house
In the Lake District
Come levitate

In the greater hospital
My friend said HMO times three
To the nurse that's what you think
The transfer mess backed up two hours
Had to levitate from a grey matte paint

The snazzy japes of a Basingstoke shop
Basing in stocks
Under the green frog
Below the granite complex
Needed true grit
To levitate
Levitate with me
Levitate with me
Levitate with me
  • 37. bzfgt (link) | 09/11/2019
Thank you, BB. I'll check those against my ears....could someone else do this too, though? My ears aren't great...
Hunter S Thompson
  • 38. Hunter S Thompson | 17/02/2020
HNO times 3 is HNO3, nitric acid, one of the components of adrenochrome, see fear and loathing
  • 39. bzfgt (link) | 14/03/2020
Good intel, HST!
  • 40. Dave | 27/12/2020
Corrections -


-To the Nurse that's what you think


-The snazzy gepsof a Basingstoke shot
Basing in stock

I believe Geps was slang for specs in the north of England.
  • 41. Dave | 28/12/2020
To be more precise, geps for example was used in Viz in the 1990s.

I suppose it must be from the north east and the 1990s.
  • 42. dannyno | 22/02/2021
Definitely used in Geordie/Tyneside slang/dialect, it seems, but "Gep" was also a verb in Yorkshire dialect to mean "pry" or "eavesdrop" - so you could accuse someone of "gepping". See The English Dialect Dictionary by Joseph Wright (1905).

Some other sources in Google Books have it meaning "gawp" or "gape" or "lie in wait".

You can see how that might end up meaning "spectacles".

It's not in the [i]New Partridge[/i or Jonathan Greene's dictionaries of slang.

Whether it's the word we have here I'm not sure. It would sort of fit if it was, I suppose.
  • 43. bzfgt (link) | 27/02/2021
I like "grey matte paint," it seems right.

Also nurse, also "transfer mess that took two hours"

I want to go with HNO3 since I don't like HMO...but I'm not sure about it, need more ears to see if that's happening
  • 44. rik | 02/03/2021
there is no T sound for matte??
its...from the grey...my pate
Xyralothep's cat
  • 45. Xyralothep's cat | 04/03/2021
nearly there! -
Had to levitate
from the grey o' my pate
  • 46. SSS | 06/03/2021
It's grey matte paint

He has no teeth and it's really badly recorded.

With the miracles of audio enhancement you can clearly see (listen to the file):

  • 47. SSS | 07/03/2021
Some different clues from the London forum may 24 2000 show.

It is - 'The Greater Manchester Northern Hospital'

Something about transferring hospital?

The granite complex seems to be the 'Lizard Bay Building in Basingstoke'

Modern stocks?
  • 48. Noname | 08/03/2021
Basingstoke is distinguished by its roundabouts and banal brutalist architecture (the granite complex).
Also mentioned in the song Rainmaster it seems to have occupied a peculiar place in Mark's mind as a hated symbol of middle-class British mediocrity.

On 31 May 1994 The Fall played a show at The Anvil, Basingstoke (doesn't exactly look like a granite complex).
(All right, all right, let's get off. Go on. Right, sorry about that kids, we've just come from Lithuania and we got treated better there than we did here. It's a fucking shit-hole!")

Adlib from "Levitate" at Ashton:

'At the greater roundabout in Basingstoke
After Worthing, sort of
They said, You don't get paid tonight

Basing is a village adjacent to Basingstoke containing Basing House - a major Tudor palace and castle.
  • 49. SSS | 09/03/2021
There is a live version from Bristol but it's even more unclear.

'In the greater garden hospital my friend said GN7...
And the hospital transfer took 2 hours.'

'Under the green frog and pocket'
  • 50. SSSS | 09/03/2021
Bristol 1997 Live outing:

In the conservatory he something sandwiches something
He was talking about his house in the Lake District
I was thinking about my debts
I had to levitate

In the Greater Garden Hospital my friend said GN7
Went to the something something debt equals stress
And the hospital transfer took 2 hours

Come levitate with me

Under the green frog and pocket
Under the Granite stock complex in Basingstoke
In (the) stocks
Needed true grit something something something something something grey something
  • 51. SSS | 09/03/2021
Having listened to every live version of the song every recorded (not sad honestly)

He said:

'Had to levitate from the surrounding paint'

And 'Had to levitate from the grey paint'

But one time he seemed to say clearly

'From the grey of my pate'

And also

'Under the green frog and apple.'

So this is a pub? (variously, Frog and Apple, Frog and Pocket, Green Frog, Lizard)

The drug seems to differ sometimes (GN7, Q2N2E, HNHNH, HNO3)
Xyralothep's cat
  • 52. Xyralothep's cat | 11/03/2021
Washington 1998
whoever filmed this was helpful in zooming in on the old fella for this bit at 10:15, definitely "grey o' my pate"
Also on this version - "in the Greater Manchester hospital my friend said H and H and H plus 0 that equals P, the hospital discharge that took true grit" which probably confounds more than it helps.
Are these live versions available anywhere? The Unnuterable era line-up did a great take on this song (and Past Gone Mad) would love to hear again.
  • 53. sssgfs | 11/03/2021
It's a good video that. And that pullover.

There's a bunch on soulseek - I have New York, Stoke, Bristol, Astoria...I am sure there are more.
  • 54. bzfgt (link) | 13/03/2021
Yeah I'm far from confident about "grey matte paint," although it would make sense. This needs more study.

It does seem like "grey o'my pate" in the video, in any case definitely not "grey matte paint"


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