Local lodetones (2)
And after dark sunset
My brother and I
We walked the path
Far from the tower
A light sea breeze
Skin is bleeding
Shoes for the dead
Shoes for lodestones! (3)
Pink dots off the Island of Wight (4)
Sails off the Island of Bergen (5)
Shoes for the lame
Shoes for the lodestones,
Shoes for the dead!
Lights out at eleven
On the lodestones and the, the parish
Revisited island (6)
1. This song began its life in 2012 live peformances under the working title "Defurbish"; Reformation has transcribed an early stab at the lyrics:
sounds like the lochs
sounds like the lochs of the islands
sounds like the sound of lost friends
why does channel 4 do that?
why does channel 4 on reptile(?)
got by reptiles(?)
sounds the lochs
sounds like the lochs of lost sand
take my hands
i'll watch that (channel?)
good evening we are the Fall of the long long days
of the corporation of the long long days hit it
why does channel 4 not like us?
and i speak to you knaves
in my black consomme
why is channel 4
why is channel like news 4?
The riff is reminiscent of Fairport Convention's rendition of "Matty Groves" (see note two below for more). County Folk on the Fall online forum finds it to be similar to the theme to the British children's television program Grange Hill, and I can see what he means. The show uses a 1975 song by composer Alan Hawkshaw called "Chicken Man," which was also used as the theme for the game show Give Us a Clue.
2. I have made a somewhat arbitrary decision to transcribe instances of this word in the body of the song with its standard spelling. This would not be unprecedented ("Frenz" is generally rendered "friends" when the lyrics are reproduced, and, in fact, in popular music there are countless instances of this sort of thing), but it does violate what is probably a pretty good principle: when in doubt, do nothing. However, it seems to me that, whatever the coinage "Loadstones" is meant to convey, the starting point for any interpretation must be its homophone; in any case, don't take the spelling here as gospel, as the "correct" spelling cannot be known, at least at this time. In fact, "loadstone" is an archaic variant spelling of "lodestone," and indeed most of the earliest instances attested to in the OED are spelled with an 'a.' A loadstone/lodestone is magnetic oxidized iron, either one that is naturally occurring or such a stone that is being used as a magnet; by metaphorical extension, anything that attracts may be referred to as a lodestone, and it can also mean something that serves as a guide or a fixed point taken as a goal. The lodestone is a central figure in Plato's Ion, a dialogue which asks about the art of the rhapsode--one who recites, but does not compose, poetry, in this instance the epic poetry of Homer. The dialogue asks whether the rhapsode's performance derives from inspiration or from craft; Socrates seems to suggest it is the former, averring that the rhapsode “dangles like a lodestone at the end of a chain of lodestones. The muse inspires the poet and the poet inspires the rhapsode.” The complex and mysterious relation between inspiration and ecstasy on the one hand, and craft and discipline on the other, is in fact one of MES's central concerns, and this theme is most directly and extensively addressed in "New Puritan." "Loadstones" itself can be seen as a song which takes up this question, not explicitly in the manner of "New Puritan," but performatively; here, the jointure between composition and execution is virtually indiscernible. The words and their utterance, that is to say, seem to be inseparable, which is a feature of many Fall songs, and seems to be an increasingly conscious feature of late-period efforts. In general, a salient feature of much Fall material is a unity of the song considered as a blueprint for performance-- think of traditional or "folk" songs, which we often do not associate with any specific performance at all--and the execution or performance of the song (which isn't to say most of the songs do not have multiple tokens, as they are performed live; I am rather making a specific point about the recordings and what I see as their aesthetic effect). As MES's lyrics, over time, have become more impressionistic and less diegetic, the vocal melodies seem to be more noticably embedded in the arrangements. While this is especially pronounced in the case of the Fall, it must be said that this is not an uncommon or unprecedented phenomenon, and it seems to be particularly characteristic of music that is (more or less) contemporary, as the recording industry has made songs more readily associable not only with the artist who recorded them, but with particular recordings. Today when we speak of a "song," it is more likely that we are referring to a recording or a particular performance (vs. a composition) than it would have been even 80 or 90 years ago. Most of us probably seldom reflect that the word "song" is ambiguous in this way, and this ambiguity is in many ways a function of changing media and the rise of music as a commodity. It is not particularly easy (although not impossible) to imagine "Loadstones" sung beside a campfire with an acoustic guitar; if this were done, the result would doubtless strike us as a kind of representation or interpretation of "Loadstones" rather than the song "itself." Yet at the same time, "Loadstones" resembles "old-time" music more than perhaps any Fall song since "The N.W.R.A."; the repetitive riff is reminiscent of "Lord Randal" aka "Matty Groves" (and to a lesser extent "Little Sadie"); although that song seemingly only dates back to 1920 or so, the riff is probably older than that, and is in the tradition of 'D' tuned banjo songs. Thus the song itself, whether or not it is an explicit source of "Loadstones," is a kind of reference point for a certain kind of "old-time" playing that "Loadstones" quite explicitly evokes. The folk tradition, particularly in old-time and mountain music, exemplifies a kind of music that emphasizes the endless repeatability, and at the same time mutability, of songs, and de-emphasizes their association with a particular composer, performance, or performer; again, this should certainly be considered a reflection of economic, social, physical and logistical factors rather than of conscious aesthetic preferences--unlike "revivalist" iterations of traditional music which are often in large part motivated by a disaffection with the contours and constraints of music that is recorded and commodified. The Fall, on the other hand, have always made music that embraces the conditions of its own production: by this I do not primarily mean the market for recorded music, which has always kept them at arm's length (a situation with which MES has always seemed remarkably content), but rather the technolgies and techniques of modern recorded music. The lyrics seem to be saying their own saying as much as conveying a semantic content; somewhat paradoxically, this is not a contradiction of the song's close kinship with folk lyrics but rather an attestation of this relationship, as traditional songs derive much of their character from the reuse and repurposing of their lyrics in the form of floating verses and the attendent misprisions that result from transmission. What we now call "eggcorns" were a source of creativity in their own right: by the time "Wildwood Flower" got to the Carter Family, the lyrics "And the myrtle so bright with its emerald hue/ The pale emanita and the hyssop so blue" had become "And the myrtle so bright with the emerald dew/ The pale and the leader and eyes look like blue." Fall fans certainly know the difficulty of figuring out lyrics, and the above transcription of "Loadstones" is no doubt itself a testament to the continuing transformative capacity of folk transmission in the absence of official lyric sheets. Like the imbrication of inspiration and discipline, the dynamic interplay of intentionality and accident is another fascination for Mark Smith, as it is for so many artists considered outré or avant garde. When MES releases a song into the world, sometimes it seems as if he is detonating an aesthetic-semantic bomb rather than conveying a message; for MES, the force of words is their power of combination and recontextualization, and one gets the sense that what he dislikes about Left activists and political crusaders is, above all, their pedantry and literal-mindness, rather than their politics per se. Thus, a lodestone is a perfect image for the Fall and, despite its ambiguity, a very precise one, insofar as it serves to precisely convey a certain ambiguity: whether or not it is intended, the connection to Plato's Ion is instructive, as the latter takes the figure of a lodestone to convey inspiration and ecstasy (always, in Plato, associated with madness). However, at the same time a lodestone, in its modern metaphorical usage, is a very strong and direct force that pulls one in a particular direction and corrects any deviation from the path one is on. Thus, if we consider the song as a unity--not merely the lyrics or the music but the song "itself," as indeed it demands to be considered--"Loadstones" is a powerful return to the themes and concerns of "New Puritan," and thus to the central logic, or the central myth of the Fall (indeed, the ambiguity between logic and myth is itself a central Fall theme).
3. Here is perhaps a clue to the nature of the loadstones/lodestones (and see note 4 below): the paradox of the dead who, in the form of ancestors, spectres, heroes, gods, or models for behavior have at all times been lodestones for the living. Thus, the way to the future lies not through, but in, the past, as the lodestones that draw us forward lie behind us, and this is expressed as much by the the forging of old-time or folk lyrics and music into an entirely modern phenomenon as by anything that appears on this page. Thus if my interpretation seems fanciful or overworked--and I am admittedly not concerned for a moment with whether it is one MES himself would endorse--I can only insist that I am not trying to give an account of the meaning of the lyrics, but trying to say what it seems to me the song shows, or, better, does. I am aware that this is ultimately an impossible task, by its nature.
As always, MES is an avid scavenger, and the line "Shoes for the dead" quotes an old spoof advertisement from the Firesign Theater, which ran as follows:
Shoes for Industry! Shoes for the Dead! Shoes for Industry!
Hi, I'm Joe Beets.
What chance does a returning deceased war veteran have for that good paying job, more sugar, and the free mule you've been dreaming of? Well, think it over. Then take off your shoes.
Now you can see how increased spending opportunities means harder work for everyone, and more of it too. So do your part, Joe. Join with millions of your neighbors and turn in your shoes. For Industry!
4. Here we must mention the band The Legendary Pink Dots, who were apparently named after a piano in the studio that had pink dots on some of the keys (splattered nail polish or something). For these two lines as a whole, see note 5 below.
5. This could just possibly be "Island of white sails/off the Island of Bergen." If it is "Wight," could the song obliquely refer to the legend of Lucy Lightfoot? On 13 June 1831, after a solar eclipse that lasted for a half hour or so ("after dark sunset"), her horse was discovered tied to the gate of St. Olave's church in Gatcombe, on the Isle of Wight, but Lucy was nowhere to be found. Apparently she had for some time been fixated on an effigy of a knight which stood in a recess in the church, representing one Edward Estur, a 13th-century Crusader whose family had built the church. Despite being what is invariably known in stories like this as a "great beauty," Lucy did not have an eye for any of the young men of the region, saving her affection for the wooden statue. On the day in question, she had entered the church to moon over the wooden knight, as was her wont, when a violent storm broke out, which was followed by the eclipse. When the storm abated and the sun returned, Lucy was nowhere to be found. Supposedly, it was later discovered that Estur had had a girlfriend named Lucy Lightfoot; after receiving a head wound on one of his Crusades, he forgot she existed and began dating again, while Lucy wound up marrying a fisherman and living a long life on the Isle before she died.
The effigy clutched a dagger which had a lodestone set in its hilt. After the disappearance, it was discovered that the dagger was shattered and the lodestone was missing. James Evans, erstwhile rector of St. Olave's, has suggested that elemental forces released by the storm and the eclipse interacted with the lodestone to warp time and transport Lucy back to the Crusades, where she carried on with the flesh and blood version of the wooden knight until he was conked on the head and she took up with the fisherman, living out the rest of her days in the 13th century. Odd theologians, these Wightan rectors...
Evans, in fact, made up the story in the 1960s for a pamphlet sold by the church to raise funds. The identity of the knight, who still occupies the alcove, is not known, and Lucy herself apparently never existed. The pamplet was presented as history, or at least in the format of historical writing with footnotes & c., although the rector's intent was probably not to deceive, but merely to entertain. In any case, the story was picked up by a few pulp magazines and is still making the rounds on the internet. "Local lodestones" could perhaps be meant to invoke the phrase "local legends," like the one about Lucy Lightfoot. And a few phrases in the song could possibly be construed as referring to the legend; besides the aforementioned "dark sunset," "The lodestones and their parish/ Revisited island" may refer to the parish on the Isle of Wight that Lucy revisited. If MES did know of the legend, however, it seems more plausible to think that it has inflected some of the lyrics, rather than taking it to be the theme of the song.
Manchester band and Fall contemporaries Spherical Objects wrote and recorded a song called "Lucy" about the legendary Wightian maid. This, along with MES's taste for weird tales and crackpot pseudohistory, makes it plausible, if not likely, that he is familiar with the legend.
Big thanks are in order to dannyno for drawing my attention to this story.
Bergen, if it existed, was an island that is thought to have stood between where Scotland and Norway now stand, directly at the boundary between the North Sea and the Norwegian Sea. It is conjectured that it was destroyed by the same tsunami which separated Britain from continental Europe. Thus, the island of Bergen could be said to mark the precise point in time and space from which Britain emerged.
"My two cents on this song: lodestones were used by Vikings and Chinese sailors as a primitive compass, and it is believed that the Island of Bergen was also used as a visual reference point for navigating the coastal waters of the North Sea. Bergen is thought to have been located off the submerged landmass called Doggerland, which formed a land bridge between Britain and continental Europe. Doggerland was named by geologists after the Dogger Bank, 'the shallowest, largest sand bank in the North Sea today.' Thus perhaps the 'lochs of lost sand' from 'Defurbish' [the original working title of "Loadstones"]? That's my bleedin' guess."
And Dan points out that the word "wight" can also mean a spirit or ghost.
6. See note 5 above. ^
7. Both transcribers on the Fall online forum hear "thought police" here; I am pretty sure that is not the lyric, but I am unsure what the lyric actually is; suggestions, as always, are welcome. I'm not entirely sure "police" and "badges" are correct at all.