M5 #1

Lyrics

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)

But you'd think a country man would understand
The devil makes work for idle hands. (6)
M5 6-7 pm (7)

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

 

 

Notes

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. 

^

2. Dan:

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.

^

3. In Britain a slip road, commonly called an on-ramp in the USA, is a road by which motorists enter a controlled access highway. 

^

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.

Oh really?

Yeah.

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?

No.

^ 

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. 

^

Comments (37)

Stefan
  • 1. Stefan (link) | 25/02/2013

I think Haywain refers to Hieronymus Bosch's painting. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Haywain_Triptych

dannyno
  • 2. dannyno | 11/03/2013

The Hay Wain is also a painting by Constable: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Hay_Wain.

The scene is of Flatford Mill, on the River Stour, which is in Suffolk. It's not near the M5, unfortunately.

Perhaps its's a pub?

dannyno
  • 3. dannyno | 04/04/2013

You'll never see me trying to raise Cain


There is a 1992 Brian De Palma film with the title "Raising Cain": http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Raising_Cain, but of course the phrase is proverbial: http://www.phrases.org.uk/meanings/raising-cain.html:

To be 'raising Cain' is to be causing trouble or creating an uproar.

Cain was the first murderer according to scriptural accounts in the Bible - Genesis 4 and in the Qur'an - 5:27-32.

Huckleberry
  • 4. Huckleberry | 23/08/2013

I assume "M5#1" means junction 1 on the M5, though the roads leading off the M5 at junction 1 go to North West Birmingham and West Bromwich, neither of which can be described as agrarian. But perhaps the lyric means that if you are travelling down from Manchester to rural south west England, the country seems (to MES anyway) to start when the M6 ends and the M5 begins.

I think John Peel may have taken his "mighty Fall" accolade from the line "Bang fucking bang, the mighty Fall" in the Intro at the beginning of "Totale's Turns", which in turn was derived from the line "Bang bang! The mighty fall" in BA Robertson's song "Bang Bang" (which was a big hit in the UK just before the Totale's Turns gigs).

Mike
  • 5. Mike | 31/08/2013

And you'll never see good trains again - I think the word good should be goods (plural) as in freight trains.

You'll never see trams and clogs again.
Now they roam the city

M5 was released in 1993, trams were reintroduced to Manchester in 1992, so I suspect that is the origin of that line ; don't know about clogs mind - were they a fashion item then?

bzfgt
  • 6. bzfgt | 02/11/2013

Damn it Huckleberry, I just made the BA Robertson connection and I see you neat me to the punch.

Thanks for the good stuff, all, I am now updating.

bzfgt
  • 7. bzfgt | 02/11/2013

Thanks for the Cain stuff Danny, sometimes I fail to recognize when something warrants a note; in this case the saying is so common as to be invisible to me. I teach 18-year-olds many of whom may well be ignorant of the story of Cain and Abel; I will never forget the day I asked them what the first sentence of the Bible is and none of them new (one ventured "In the Beginning was the Word"!). That really shocked me to my boots, I thought everyone in Christendom knew that.

bzfgt
  • 8. bzfgt | 02/11/2013

What about "suit of green"?

bzfgt
  • 9. bzfgt | 02/11/2013

Mike, I can't hear the 's' on either version, but if you're right at least your comment is recorded here.

Any objections to "bald"?

dannyno
  • 10. dannyno | 02/11/2013

I can only hear "bored".

Dan

dannyno
  • 11. dannyno | 02/11/2013

#1 is definitely just the song version. Nobody talks about junctions in that way.

Dan

dannyno
  • 12. dannyno | 02/11/2013

"Idle hands" proverb. Both the Yale Book of Quotations (the best researched quotations dictionary), and the Oxford Dictionary of Quotations cite Isaac Watts' 1715 hymn "Against idleness and mischief" as the origin of this version:

"For Satan finds some Mischief still
For idle Hands to do"

Dan

dannyno
  • 13. dannyno | 02/11/2013

Clogs.

There was an early 1990s return to fashion of clogs.

See for example: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clog_(shoe)#Fashion_clogs

Dan

Stephen
  • 14. Stephen | 26/02/2014

Rather than 'M5' referring to a Southern motorway, isn't it more likely to be referring to the M5 postcode of Manchester (i.e. Salford)? I always took the "M5 6-7pm" bit to basically be meaning "This is about Salford during rush hour"...

bzfgt
  • 15. bzfgt | 11/03/2014

Stephen, maybe, but funnily enough I just added an interview quote from MES saying it's a motorway earlier tonight...

Tom
  • 16. Tom | 09/06/2016

Funny, I always heard "You'll never see trams and clogs again" as "You'll never see tramps in clubs again"

Tom
  • 17. Tom | 09/06/2016

I'd imagine he means The Haywain by Constable, and if the song is about the myth of farms and the countryside then that fits too, as the painting had become a kind of shorthand for an English idyl -good solid country folk (cheery peasants) at work and gamboling in the fields, etc. And the road leads to that (not the exact location Constable's painting depicts). Of course it might be a pub or the Bosch painting, but that's my reading of it.

Simon
  • 18. Simon | 26/11/2016

"I'm city born and bred" may contain a hint of "I'm City [as opposed to United] born and bred".

bzfgt
  • 19. bzfgt | 21/12/2016

Of course, a soccer reference! I think it's safe to assume that he's talking about soccer 96% of the time, being from England and all.

dannyno
  • 20. dannyno | 27/03/2017

Stephen, comment #14. We have MES's comments, but it's also worth noting that MES is not a parochial lyricist. His songs do not confine themselves at all to just Manchester references. Also, any band touring Britain is likely to spend a lot of time running up and down motorways, not least the M5.

petey
  • 21. petey | 28/03/2017

"What about "suit of green"?"

prison outfit? seems an unlikely color, but he just said he won't raise cain.
some uniformed service? the parks department and the sanitation department here in NYC ee.gg. have green uniforms.
he saw a guy in a green suit that day and thought it was attention-seeking?

dannyno
  • 22. dannyno | 28/03/2017

There's a WH Auden line:


A gentleman never wears a green suit


Won't be able to nail the source until tomorrow.

bzfgt
  • 23. bzfgt (link) | 01/04/2017

Yeah that one is bothersome because it doubtless means something specific, but we don't know what. The Auden line is suggestive though, although we'd never know if that was the source unless he said so some time.

bzfgt
  • 24. bzfgt (link) | 01/04/2017

This, on a quick search, is the only source for "Auden" I see:

http://boards.straightdope.com/sdmb/archive/index.php/t-292076.html

dannyno
  • 25. dannyno | 01/04/2017

There are some ambiguous snippets in Google books too. But from some library research I think I've established that the full quote should be attributed to Paul Fussed, and that the specific Bellini one is the only one attributable to Auden (in comes from a book of Auden reminiscences edited by Stephen Spender, quoted in an essay by Orlan Fox. It's not from Auden published work. The gentleman/green line, in other words, is not Auden.

dannyno
  • 26. dannyno | 01/04/2017

Fussell, not Fussed

dannyno
  • 27. dannyno | 01/04/2017

I've put a correction on the straightdope forum!

dannyno
  • 28. dannyno | 13/04/2017

Let's close the circle on the Fussell quite noted above.

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 American 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.


So it's clear than only the Bellini line in quotes is attributed to Auden, not the entire illustrative list. And the Bellini line was first attributed to Auden in the essay "Friday Nights", by Orlan Fox, which appeared (p.173- ) in the Stephen Spender-edited volume "WH Auden: a tribute" (London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1974):


His collection of records of serious music was heavy on opera. Lucia di Lammermoor is the acid test for anyone who thinks he likes opera, he would say. Or: 'No gentleman can fail to admire Bellini.' (p.178)


Orlan Fox is identified in the book as "a close friend of Auden's in the poet's later years." He was more than that. In the winter of 1965-1966 they shared a New York apartment, Fox having become Auden's friend and "occasional lover" since the winter of 1959-1960. They remained friends after Fox moved out. (according to Early Auden, Later Auden: A Critical Biography By Edward Mendelson,2017 edition p.776; this edition compiles two volumes - Early Auden (1981) and Later Auden (1999). The info on Fox is in Later Auden.)

None of which helps us with the lyrics, but is satisfying to sort out properly.

dannyno
  • 29. dannyno | 13/04/2017

"In American" should have been "In America" in the Fussell quote.

And Fussell's essay, "Notes on Class", has been reprinted several times other than in the anthology I'm citing, including in The Writing reader: short essays for composition, by Carolyn B. Raphael (1986); Reading for Difference: Texts on Gender, Race, and Class, edited by Melissa E. Barth, Thomas McLaughlin, and James A. Winders (1993); and Writing Today: Contexts and Options for the Real World, by Donald Pharr and ‎Santi V. Buscemi (2005).

bzfgt
  • 30. bzfgt (link) | 29/04/2017

Thank you Dan, you've done yeoman's work here and straightdope is shoddy! It all adds up to an excellent note (for which the credit is entirely yours, of course).

rik
  • 31. rik | 04/05/2017

I always thought it was " you'll never see me wear a pseudo grin",,,,!!!

bzfgt
  • 32. bzfgt (link) | 13/05/2017

Shit, could be, rik.

dannyno
  • 33. dannyno | 13/05/2017

50/50, I'd say, having listened to various versions. The Peel session version does sound more like "suit of green", I feel like I can hear a clear "v" type sound in there.

dannyno
  • 34. dannyno | 13/05/2017

"punk peasant"

This seems to be a bit of a phrase. It's used, for example, in Pamela Brandt's 1990 novel, "Becoming the Butlers", and I think it has application in the fashion world too. "Well-read peasant" is used in various places as well.

bzfgt
  • 35. bzfgt (link) | 18/05/2017

Interesting, it's nothing I've ever heard although "peasant" was a kind of insult word for some people when I was a kid, and probably had a vogue.

bzfgt
  • 36. bzfgt (link) | 18/05/2017

Also sounds a bit like "pissant," which with MES's diction is something I probably shouldn't even mention...although I haven't heard it in a while, maybe he pronounces it in such a way that precludes "pissant"?

dannyno
  • 37. dannyno | 23/05/2017

If it was "pissant" he should be pronouncing it very differently, I think. But what he should be doing and what he is doing are often some distance from each other. So. I'd still go with "peasant" myself.

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