You'll never see me trying to raise Cain (1)
You'll never see me wear a suit of green (2)
There's a slip-road up right ahead (3)
Leading to the agragarian (4)
But I'm city born and bred
Too many car-fumes in my head
Just a well-read punk peasant (5)
And the man who pretends he knows it all
Is destined to a mighty fall (8)
Gets into your house with cheer,
then proceeds to take all you've got to offer
This is not an autobahn
It's an evil roundabout
That leads to the haywain (9)
And you'll never see good trains again
In late 60s, my daddy said to me,
You'll never see trams and clogs again (10)
Now they roam the city
Can these people not understand
The devil makes work for idle hands
M5 6-7 pm
The devil makes work for idle hands
M5 to the country straight ahead
It's stuffed to the gills with crusty brown bread
Can they not understand
there's nothing worse than a bored man?
M5 6-7 PM
1. To "raise Cain" is to raise hell, if it's permissable to define an idiom with another idiom. Essentially it means either to cause trouble or discord, or to enjoy oneself in an unseemly manner (to offer up another idiomatic phrase, to paint the town red). "Raise the devil" is substitutible in most instances, whereas "raise the roof" can be substituted a little less neatly for the second sense I've indicated, despite the different meaning of "raise" in the latter phrase. It can also mean to complain vociferously about something, a usage for which "raise hell" can also serve but "raise the devil" usually does not. In the book of Genesis Cain and Abel were brothers, respectively a farmer and shepherd. Cain killed Abel (perhaps out of jealousy) after the Lord was pleased with Abel's sacrifice of a lamb, but was not as excited about Cain's offering, which consisted of some of his crops. Cain is usually credited with being the first murderer, although vegans may be inclined to give Abel the nod.
After the murder God appears and asks Cain where Abel is, to which Abel gives the famous reply, "I don't know; am I my brother's keeper?" God curses Cain and commands him to wander the earth. Cain protests that he will be murdered when people discover what he did (which implies there are other people somewhere, incidentally, although Cain and Abel were the first children of Adam and Eve), and God's solution is to mark Cain in an unspecified manner so people will know that they will be cursed if they kill him.
The mysterious mark of Cain was commonly interpreted by many Christians in the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries as dark skin, and this interpretation, which may have some scant roots in older traditions of Biblical interpretation but doesn't seem to have gotten much momentum until racialist ideology became ascendant in the era of black slavery, was often used as a justification for slavery. The Mormon Church also held this theory, and blacks were banned from the Mormon priesthood until 1978.
I've now got in front of me Paul Fussell's anthology, "The Boy Scout Handbook and Other Observations" (1982). His essay, "Notes on Class" is on pages 46-60, and was originally published in The New Republic, 19 July 1980.
Here's the full quote (p.53):
This American class system is very hard for foreigners to master, partly because most foreigners imagine that since America was founded by the British it must retain something of British institutions. But our class system is more subtle than the British, more a matter of gradations than of blunt divisions, like the binary distinction between a gentleman and a cad. This seems to lack plausibility here. One seldom encounters in the United States the sort of absolute prohibitions which (half-comically, to be sure) one is asked to believe define the gentleman in England. Like these:
A gentleman never wears brown shoes in the city, or
A gentleman never wears a green suit, or
A gentleman never has soup at lunch, or
A gentleman never uses a comb, or
A gentleman never smells of anything but tar, or
"No gentleman can fail to admire Bellini" - W.H. Auden.
In America it seems to matter much less the way you present yourself - green, brown, neat, sloppy, scented - than what your backing is - that is, where your money comes from.
The WH Auden quote about Bellini comes from the essay about Auden, "Friday Nights," by Orlan Fox, which appeared (p.173- ) in the Stephen Spender-edited volume "WH Auden: a tribute" (London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1974). As a result of the above quote, The Internet has sometimes attributed the "suit of green" part to Auden, but this is evidently Fussell.
4. "Agragarian" is a corruption of "agrarian," as in an agricultural district. MES commonly uses words wrong, mispronounces them, and puts them through all sorts of unseemly contortions. He even pronounces the word this way in an interview, if Mark Prindle's transcription is accurate:
What is that song about? What is that song to you? `Cuz I just hear it say "M5, 6, 7 PM".
Yeah well, M5 is like a motorway route in England. It's like into the country from the industrial part. And that's the way Britain is trying to go in a false way, you know. Like an agragarian way.
Hmm. I don't -
It's all, it's all a fallacy, this farm stuff, isn't it? A bit of hype. It's like whole brown bread and all that. It never existed anyway, did it?
5. On the Peel version, it's "just a well-read peasant." Peasants and punks both get plenty of airing in Fall songs, although this is the only time they are combined into one personage. Peasants appear in "Hey! Luciani," "C 'n' C-S Mithering," "Dktr Faustus," "Impression of J. Temperance," "Kurious Oranj," "New Puritan," and "Wrong Place, Right Time." "Punk(s)," which seems to usually skew a bit negative, can be found in "Behind the Counter," "Sons of Temperance," "Deer Park," "I Feel Voxish," and "Jazzed Up Punk Shit," and also appear in the MES-ified lyrics of the Fall's cover of Deep Purple's "Black Night" ("it's a black night for all this punk schtuff!").
In an off-the-cuff remark from MES's interview with Mark Prindle that may not be signicant at all, Smith gives his assessment of punk rock:
Did you like punk?
6.The origins of this proverb probably go back to the statement of St. Jerome (c. 347-420) "Do some kind of work that the devil may always find you occpied." However, common as the form of the proverb given by MES above is, I was unable to find the origins of that specific wording.
7. The M5 is a major motorway in southern England. "#1" may indicate, as Huckleberry suggests below, Junction 1, or it may just be a way to distinguish the song from the Peel version, which was recorded a few months prior to the release of Middle Class Revolt (the release is too close to the Peel session to guess which version was recorded first).
8. The Fall's first live album, Totale's Turns, begins with a "Crap Rap" (here dubbed "Intro") in which MES proclaims "Bang Fucking Bang: the Mighty Fall!" This phrase is the refrain of a clever but slight 1979 hit by BA Robertson entitled "Bang Bang," which peaked at #2 two months before first half of Totale's Turns was recorded. John Peel subsequently dubbed the band "the mighty Fall," and journalists and fans often use his sobriquet for the group, analogously to the way Grateful Dead fans say "The Good Ol' Grateful Dead." The line echoes the proverb "Pride goeth before a fall," a condensation of the biblical "Pride goeth before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall" (Proverbs 16:18).
9. A haywain is a wagon for carting hay. The Lyrics Parade has the word capitalized, and I have left it so; it could possibly be a proper name here (such as a pub), which would make more sense in context. In the comments below, Stefan points out a possible reference to Hieronymous Bosch's Haywain Triptych, which depicts both the casting out of Satan and his legions from heaven ("cop out, cop out, as in from heaven") and the Fall of Adam and Eve. Danny points out that there is also a 19th century painting by John Constable entitled The Hay Wain which shows a rural English scene that is, unfortunately, not located anywhere near the present day route of the M5, but may have been at the back of MES's mind as a generic depiction of an agrarian idyll.
10. Trams began running in Manchester in 1992, about two years before the release of Middle Class Revolt. Clogs may just be associated with rural life in Smith's mind, or there may be some contemporary point of reference of which I am ignorant. Dan says they came back in the early 90s.