Ludd Gang

Lyrics

(Ludd gang, Ludd gang...) (1)
Ports, Jap, fella, missed, film, swiz, quartz, lorry, back, tread, damn, Ludd gang (2)

The housing association (3)
The MacDonald's seat (4)
Have prefixed him on "frustration"
I'll stick with the gang of one (5)

I'll make a stand with the Ludd Gang

Carve a hole in the rain for ya (6)
Carve a hole in the rain for ya

Courage my sweet
Courage my sweet
Courage my sweet (7)
It's the quiet like death
It's the choir-ette of death (8)

Carve a hole in the rain for ya
Carve a hole in the rain for ya

I hate the guts of Shakin' Stevens
For what he has done
The massacre of "Blue Christmas"
On him I'd like to land one on (9)

But I'll stick with the gang of one

Carve a hole in the rain for ya
Carve a hole in the rain for ya

Courage my sweet
Courage my sweet

Courage my sweet
It's a quiet like death
It's a choir-ette of death

Carve a hole in the rain for ya
Carve a hole in the rain for ya 

(The housing association foiled the reign of the rain
For this, MacDonald is truly grateful)

Cab driver asks why I'm not at home with my feet put up 
(Campaigns run amok, brick a window, run amok)

Ports, Jap, lorry, back, feather, next, bishops, Ludd gang

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Notes

1. The Luddites were English textile workers who, in the early 19th century, banded together and fought against the loss of jobs resulting from the mechanization of the industry. They were known for destroying machines, but they also got into numerous skirmishes with milll owners and British military and law enforcement. The Luddites were named after a (probably mythological) character called Ned Ludd, whom they often referred to in their missives as "King Ludd" or "General Ludd." Various stories about Ludd have it that he broke some stocking frames, or his needles, in a pique; Ludd's act was not portrayed as a politically or socially informed deed, and his adoption as the fictional leader of the Luddite movement was probably meant to be humorous. The Luddite movement was an early attempt by workers to deal with the conditions of their employment collectively, and, despite the modern use of the term to describe someone who is mistrustful of technology on principle, their actions were undertaken to improve their lot and preserve their jobs, not to object to technological innovation in general. In response to Luddism, the British Parliament made the destruction of stocking frames a capital crime. At least thirty Luddites were hanged during the period from around 1811-1817; by some accounts the number was about twice that amount.  

^

2. A list that is particularly recalcitrant to interpretation; "swiz" (short for "swizzle") is a British slang term that means cheat or swindle. "Fella" (fellow) could possibly be "fellah," an Arabic term denoting a peasant or agricultural laborer (the two words are etymologically unrelated).  

^

3. In the UK, housing associations are private, non-profit organizations that are intended to provide low cost housing. They currently account for a majority of new rentals in England. Housing associations fate from the late 19th century, hence they post-date the Luddite movement.  

^

4. "MacDonald's seat" may refer to the seat (usually a castle) of one of the Scottish Macdonald clans (it could also be a joking secondary reference to a seat at the fast food restaurant). 

^

5. One of the most important aspects of the Luddite movement is that it was an early case of collective action being taken by workers in order to improve their condition, so "gang of one" would be an inapt term to describe the historic Luddite movement (and in any case it is a contradiction in terms).  

However, at least one live version (cf. Rotterdam 1983-10-02) has MES singing "I'll take a stand versus Ludd Gang," which certainly casts things in a different light. Of course, MES could arguably be called a Luddite in the modern sense of the word, with titles like "Quit iPhone" and "Laptop Dog"...

Some readers have suggested the line may be a dig at the contemporaneous British band Gang of Four. Zack makes the connection:

 From SPEX Magazine, 1981:

S: Why don't you like the Gang of Four?

Mark: Because their songs are about politics. They preach the leftist ideas. They went to University and belong to the privileged class. The problem is that they pretend to know what the working class wants. But they haven't got a clue. Sham 69 however knew what they were talking about and they were good. The English working class (including myself) find the music of the Gang of Four offensive, insulting, hurtful. I listed to their first singles a lot in those days. Later on I saw them live, too and then you could tell they lacked the feeling when they got to the heart of the matter. I mean, how could they talk about problems and changes in the world when they play like that. Maybe I am being cynical but it's more important to me to be honest to myself. I don't like the music of the Gang of Four. I prefer rock'n'roll bands.

^

6. If "Luddite" in current usage denotes someone who is anti-technology, the refrain presents a sort of mirror image insofar as it suggests someone defacing an entirely natural phenomenon. See note 7 for more on the rain.

^

7. This seems like it would be a quote from somewhere. It is reminiscent of Murder, My Sweet, the movie adaptation of Raymond Chandler's Farewell, My Lovely.

The identical wording, on the other hand, is found in Frederick Lonsdale's 1925 play The Last of Mrs. Cheyney:

ARTHUR: I won't! (JOAN exits. ARTHUR looks at the parcel, examines it,
appears very serious. He shakes it, turns it over in his hand, looks
round to see if anyone is about and opens the parcel, which contains an
empty 100 cigarette box. Turning it about to see what is inside, he sees
written on the lid 'Courage, my sweet!' He reads it aloud) 'Courage, my
sweet!'

And Roderick Plething reports:

From an online write up of the 1939 Tex Avery cartoon "Dangerous Dan McFoo":

"Dan McFoo calls over for the referee and makes a complaint: 'I'm not the one to complain but he's got something in his glove'. The referee then walks over towards the stranger and asks him to empty the gloves. He pulls out his glove where a couple of horseshoes fall out..but all of a sudden: a horse flies out. Now, the thought and even exaggeration of the cartoon is just hilarious - except Avery pulled out the gag similarly enough in Lonesome Lenny but he had a much better sense of comic timing by that point. Afterwards, Lou confronts McFoo and asks him to be brave: 'Have courage my sweet, have courage'. She pecks him on the lips."

Less convincingly, from Shelley's 1819 tragic drama The Cenci, Act II, scene 1: "[Lucretia]: Nay, Beatrice; have courage my sweet girl." Lucretia is the wife of the wicked Count Francesco Cenci. Beatrice, the Count's daughter, goes on to murder him with the collusion of her stepmother. 

^

8. Choir-ette (or choirette) is not a standard word, but I have found it sometimes used to mean "small choir," logically enough.

Sir Walter Scott's "Dance of Death" tells the story of a Scottish soldier named Allan who, on the battlefield of Waterloo, sleeps during a rainstorm and dreams of a phantom "choir of death" dancing and marking soldiers for the grave. The poem juxtaposes the rainstorm to the violence of war:

Burst, ye clouds, in tempest showers,

Redder rain shall soon be ours -
 
See the east grows wan -

Yield we place to sterner game,

Ere deadlier bolts and direr flame

Shall the welkin's thunders shame,

Elemental rage is tame
To the wrath of man.

If there is indeed any intentional connection to this poem (which is very uncertain), note the Scottish provenance of the soldier and the "MacDonald's seat" in verse one. 

^

9. Shakin' Stevens is a Welsh rock and roll recording artist who released a version of the holiday chestnut "Blue Christmas" in 1982 which went to Number Two in the UK (the song was later included as the B-side of "Merry Christmas Everyone," which went to number one in 1985). His rendition of the song doesn't seem particularly reprehensible, and to these ears is no more schmaltzy than Elvis' version--in fact, it is arguably less so, taking into account the backing vocals on the latter. Perhaps realizing that violence doesn't really solve anything, MES took his polemic with Stevens in a more constructive direction when the Fall covered the song at a gig in 2011.   

^

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Comments (11)

dannyno
  • 1. dannyno | 24/02/2014
"Shakin' Stevens is a Welsh rock and roll recording artist who released a version of the holiday chestnut "Blue Christmas" in 1985. The song was the B-side of "Merry Christmas Everyone," which went to number one in the UK. "

This is true as far as it goes, but it would of course have been pre-cog to refer to a future record in the lyrics to Ludd Gang!

In fact, Stevens' version of Blue Christmas also appears on his Special Edition EP (sometimes just called the Shakin' Stevens EP), released in 1982 and reaching no 2 in the charts for Christmas. He performed it on Top of the Pops.

See: http://www.discogs.com/Shakin-Stevens-Special-Edition-EP/master/544298

Tracks on the EP were: Lawdy Miss Clawdy, Que Sera, Sera, Blue Christmas, Josephine.

http://www.officialcharts.com/artist/_/shakin%20stevens/

Dan
dannyno
  • 2. dannyno | 25/02/2014
Somethings gone wrong with the verses after the bit about Blue Christmas.

This is what I'm hearing:

"But I'll stick with the gang of one
Carve a hole in the rain for yer

Courage my sweet
Courage my sweet
Courage my sweet
It's a quiet like death
It's the choir-ette of death

Carve a hole in the rain for yer
Carve a hole in the rain for yer

Cab driver asks why I'm not at home with my feet put up
(Campaigns run amok, brick a window, run amok)

Whats, Jap, lorry, back, feather, next, bishops, Ludd gang"

i.e. the housing association doesn't appear again, and there's too many "carve a holes" after the first post-Blue Christmas "gang of one" bit.
dannyno
  • 3. dannyno | 17/07/2016
Under those final two "carve a hole in the rain"s before the cab driver bit, there's some undertracked MES vocals:

"The housing association foiled the reign of the rain
For this, MacDonald is truly grateful"

Don't know why I missed them out originally, but they're in the lyrics parade version.
bzfgt
  • 4. bzfgt | 19/07/2016
Got it. That's rather strange that it was in the LP version but I didn't have it, I wonder if I got this transcription somewhere else (and, if so, where and why).
bzfgt
  • 5. bzfgt | 19/07/2016
Dan, I have one of the "carve a hole" under the lead vocal after Blue Xmas, I get the same tally as above then. The housing association seems to have been straightened out.
Zack
  • 6. Zack | 08/12/2016
The Fall massacred "Blue Christmas" at a gig in Chester on November 28, 2011.
Zack
  • 7. Zack | 10/01/2017
I believe Gang of Four were still active in 1983. MES's thoughts on Go4, from SPEX Magazine, 1981: (http://gcoleman.tripod.com/fourteen.html)

S: Why don't you like the Gang of Four?

Mark: Because their songs are about politics They preach the leftist ideas. They went to university and belong to the privileged class. The problem is that they pretend to know what the working class wants. But they haven't got a clue. Sham 69 however knew what they were talking about and they were good. The English working class (including myself) find the music of the Gang of Four offensive, insulting, hurtful. I listed to their first singles a lot in those days. Later on I saw them live, too and then you could tell they lacked the feeling when they got to the heart of the matter. I mean, how could they talk about problems and changes in the world when they play like that. Maybe I am being cynical but it's more important to be to be honest to myself. I don't like the music of the Gang of Four I prefer rock'n roll bands.
dannyno
  • 8. dannyno | 22/01/2017
On the FOF the Gang of Four connection is mentioned by me: http://z1.invisionfree.com/thefall/index.php?showtopic=36881

Zack is correct: GoF were not on hiatus in 1983: they were touring, for a start: http://gang-of-four-gigography.blogspot.co.uk/
bzfgt
  • 9. bzfgt | 04/02/2017
Hold the presses--on 10/2/83, he sings "I'll make a stand versus Ludd Gang"!
dannyno
  • 10. dannyno | 09/04/2017
"Carve a hole in the rain".

I was reading Alice Oswald's poem, "The Glass House", which I think is from 1997. It begins:


The glass house is a hole in the rain,
the sun's chapel,
a bell for the wind


Obviously this can't be a source for the lyric, but it did make me look at the lyric from a different angle. I've kind of interpreted "carve a hole in the rain" to indicate a determination to reach someone, or else to help someone achieve something against the odds, in a romantic sense.

But actually, it could indicate that the narrator is building something for the person they are addressing. A house, a home, something like that. And carving might mean it's a wooden or stone structure.
bzfgt
  • 11. bzfgt (link) | 06/05/2017
Right although a glass house would literally appear to be a "hole in the rain," particularly if one couldn't see the walls.

I wonder if MES is a source for her? If so it would be noteworthy of course...

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