M5 #1


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




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. Somehow we neglected to note this for years until joincey boxed out ears. From "The Man in Black" by Johnny Cash:

But 'til we start to make a move to make a few things right,
You'll never see me wear a suit of white.


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?


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, but apparently they made a comeback in the early '90s, perhaps in part due to the band New Model Army (thanks to wyngatecarpenter and Dan).



Comments (67)

  • 1. Stefan (link) | 25/02/2013
I think Haywain refers to Hieronymus Bosch's painting. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Haywain_Triptych
  • 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?
  • 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.
  • 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).
  • 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?
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 8. bzfgt | 02/11/2013
What about "suit of green"?
  • 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"?
  • 10. dannyno | 02/11/2013
I can only hear "bored".

  • 11. dannyno | 02/11/2013
#1 is definitely just the song version. Nobody talks about junctions in that way.

  • 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"

  • 13. dannyno | 02/11/2013

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

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

  • 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"...
  • 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...
  • 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"
  • 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.
  • 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".
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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?
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 24. bzfgt (link) | 01/04/2017
This, on a quick search, is the only source for "Auden" I see:

  • 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.
  • 26. dannyno | 01/04/2017
Fussell, not Fussed
  • 27. dannyno | 01/04/2017
I've put a correction on the straightdope forum!
  • 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.
  • 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).
  • 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).
  • 31. rik | 04/05/2017
I always thought it was " you'll never see me wear a pseudo grin",,,,!!!
  • 32. bzfgt (link) | 13/05/2017
Shit, could be, rik.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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"?
  • 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.
  • 38. Aubrey | 29/01/2018
I don't know about modern (or 1990s) clogs, but clogs were what Victorian (and probably earlier) Manchester (and other city) mill workers wore.
Russell Richardson
  • 39. Russell Richardson | 18/02/2018
Have to say I only started really listening to this album recently, and think this s one of the best songs to point out the answer to the unasked question - Which other lyricist (after Bob Dylan) would you nominate for the Nobel Prize - there's only one possible answer... anyway... too late now... but some points in here.... I always heard it as M56, 7pm that is, rush hour at the end of the day. M56 is the mini-motorway that comes in from Knutsford, Cheshire (mos' def 'the countryside') to the heart of Manchester. It also zips around the city, making it (like the M25 in London) a kind of evil roundabout.
I'd say 'The Haywain' is also def a conscious reference to Constable, as it's a chocolate box well-know icon of that fictitious rural idyll (see also the film Ploughman's Lunch' on the manufacturing of false romantic pasts)
As for trams and clogs, that was a commonplace observation about their disappearance, but both did indeed come back. Trams, all over the city centre, and 'clogs' first as kind of Birkenstock things, from the late 70s on, and more recently, as horrible 'Crocs'.
Suit of green might conceivably be a soft reference to the idea of the Morris-dancy 'Green Man' of English folklore, which was also the name of a number of pubs going for that same 'days of yore' feeling.
And, finally, this is me being fanciful, but I read 'country man' as 'countryman' and take it to refer to a person of opposed political leanings, yet from the same culture, and wondering why even a (probably Conservative or right wing) person wouldn't see that the demonization of the city-dweller over the rural overlord hunting/horsey country person type would be a bad and untrue thing. Nothing worse than 'a bored man with idle hands'. What do you expect?!

His daddy was also right about the bloody trains.
  • 40. bzfgt (link) | 19/02/2018
Huh, good comments, I must ruminate.
  • 41. dannyno | 07/05/2018
I disagree with the "M56" interpretation, and in support of my disagreement I would point out that on official releases the song is various titled:

M5, M5 #1, and M5 6-7PM. Never "M56".

I pointed out the return of clogs in comment #13.
  • 42. bzfgt (link) | 09/07/2018
OK, OK with the ^#% clogs
  • 43. bzfgt (link) | 09/07/2018
I will never settle this M5361 issue unless there is some kind of consensus among the Brits. It's almost on the level of soccer for me.
  • 44. bzfgt (link) | 09/07/2018
Why does everyone hate Crocs? They're convenient.

The Green Man thing, I think so. It definitely rings something like that for me.
  • 45. dannyno | 09/07/2018
While I cannot speak for what associations clogs may have had for MES, objectively they are not - in England - associated primarily with rural life. They are either seen as a quaint Dutch custom, or remembered as a historical industrial footwear:

Since MES also notes the return of trams, which are also not a rural thing, I think it's the fact they've come back that MES is remarking upon, rather than intending to conjure up the countryside.
  • 46. dannyno | 09/07/2018
See comment #38 by Aubrey..
  • 47. nutterwain | 04/04/2019
Isnt it -
"You'll never see me wear a suit of grain"

As in I'm urban not rural
  • 48. dannyno | 16/04/2019
Comment #47: well, at least the first two lines would rhyme then.

Could refer to "Grain de poudre" - a type of fabric.

But on the versions I've listened to, "green" is closer.
  • 49. dannyno | 16/04/2019
But it's not completely clear. And the rhyme is attractive.
  • 50. bzfgt (link) | 11/05/2019
Do rural people wear clothing made out of grain?!
  • 51. bzfgt (link) | 11/05/2019
OK I guess i need to read the next comment before I respond to the last comment. The answer is apparently--shockingly, even--"yes."
  • 52. jensotto | 18/08/2019
Clogs - a German scheme? I watched a string of interviews with John Waters (Hairspray, Polyester, Pink Flamingos). He is no doubt totally wired ...

He hated clogs and had a thing for juvenile delinquents, Cry-babe was set in 1954.

BBC Genome said 24 Sep 1954 and The Chocolate Judge, Dr Holzschuh of Darmstadt. Dr Clogs ...

Even earlier, there is a Peter Holzschuh 11 Sep 1940 (+2 Mar 41) in a radio play titled "The village an the hill", supposedly by a John Marten. There is also Johann Rocker - burgermeister... Trying to establish if this is the same as "Das Dorf auf dem Berge" by Otto Bruder (Otto Salomon).

John Waters is also an Australian actor, and one l away for John Peel's producer. Walters was the one who stayed in touch with bands - his message to The Fall was "you're even worse than Siouxsie and the B", MES said in an interview.

Clogs were common in Denmark and Sweden, less so in Norway. Italians wore zoccoli (film by Olmi).
  • 53. jensotto | 18/08/2019
Clogs to clogs (in three generations) is an old expression from the area (Lancashire) https://genome.ch.bbc.co.uk/schedules/2zy/1928-12-15#at-19.45

Hobson's Choice: from a selection of one. The Harold Brighouse play is an item, taking place in Salford - H. Horatio Hobson
  • 54. joincey | 16/10/2019
Strange that no one has mentioned re "you'll never see me wear a suit of green" the Johnny Cash song , MAN IN BLACK , with its lyric

"Well, there's things that never will be right I know
And things need changing everywhere you go
But 'til we start to make a move to make a few things right
You'll never see me wear a suit of white"
  • 55. bzfgt (link) | 09/11/2019
Damn it, no shit, joincey! Criminal! IN it goes!
  • 56. dannyno | 09/11/2019
A good connection there by joincey!
  • 57. Nick | 17/11/2019
Damn, I thought it was "You'll never see me wear a pseudo grin" LOL
  • 58. wyngatecarpenter | 20/10/2020
Bizarrely, clogs had made a comeback at this time in the UK's alternative music scene due to the band New Model Army. Based in Bradford, New Model Army were very popular from the mid - 80s until the early 90s. They had a big , very loyal following that followed them for whole tours . NMA adopted clogs for some reason, and so did many of their following. This apparently saved the last clog manufacturers in the UK, at Hebden Bridge in Yorkshire, from closure. I even remember seeing a minor item on the lunchtime news in about 1990 about the NMA clog phenomenon and the Hebden Bridge factory. NMA were quite different to the Fall (a much more earnest political band) but there would have been some crossover in their audience and they would occasionally played on the same bill (eg at The Damend's 10th anniversary gig in 1986), so I've no doubt that MES with his eye for odd sartorial details would have picked up on this.
Ross Hollins
  • 59. Ross Hollins | 20/10/2020
...or even "The Damned's 10th anniversary gig"
  • 60. dannyno | 20/10/2020
Comment #58. Clogs had something of a renaissance generally, not just in the alternative music scene (see brief comment in note 10).

In the Guardian's retrospective of the year, published 24 December 1993, for example, clogs appear in the list of fashionable items of the year in a Fashion: the looks that were feature page.

And in the Guardian of 30 December 1991, also in retrospective mode, there's an article by Lindsay Baker, "That was the look that was" (p26). It's a page of quotes from fashionable types. And it includes this from Iain R. Webb, fashion director of Harpers & Queen:

The worst trend was clogs. I remember how hip I felt clomping about in them the first time around. I was young, OK, it was a mistake. Anyone over the age of 20 wearing them has no excuse.

First time around? The clue is in a Guardian piece of 20 July 1993, by Alicia Drake, titled "Chic Challenge" (section A, p.14). It begins:

This summer, as London is caught up in a 1970s retro craze of clogs, floral dresses and lipgloss...

I don't know if the wider clogs revival can be attributed to New Model Army, but it is true that clogs were a thing for them.

Here is Phil Sutcliffe writing in Q magazine, May 1989 (article titled, "Join the Professionals: New Model Army"):

Onstage at the venerably stone-built St George's Hall in their adopted home town of Bradford, New Model Army go about their business with a formidable earnestness, volume and speed. They are a picture of uncool inelegance. A blur of faded T-shirts, old but not ripped jeans, pony tails, wooden clogs; singer Justin Sullivan opens wide to reveal front teeth gone cavernously missing; bassist Jason "Moose" Harris flaunts a mop-head so convincing it's probably on loan from the broom cupboard; drummer Robb Heaton strips down to black Bermudas and boots which pre-date the Piltdown Man: Everything about them declares that this is a band who have no truck with appearances.


Ever since the band took to wearing clogs, their sole fashion accessory, the fans have loyally followed suit. And when a veteran craftsman and two apprentices from Walkley Clog Mill set up their clog clinic in one corner, the impecunious took their old pairs in for on-the-spot refurbishment while the more prosperous bought the new designer models which the band-inspired youth market has stirred this traditional workshop to produce.

So for Sutcliffe, the clog revival was linked to NMA.
  • 61. dannyno | 20/10/2020
Also this from the Independent, 31 May 1990:

"Walking roughshod over the shoe", by Mark Handscombe, p.14:

At Walkley's Mill near Hebden Bridge in West Yorkshire, Nelson Rush makes clogs much as they did 140 years ago, when the company first started production. He has been nailing them together for more than 50 years, crouched on his stool, a clog clamped firmly between his knees. ''The most popular clog is the Sunday clog, with all the eyelets down the side and fancy pattern on the front and overlapping tongues.''

The 12 clog-makers and their apprentices work seven days a week to turn out 20,000 pairs a year. But when Mark Clyndes bought the five-storey mill complex in 1986, staff such as Nelson Rush were coming to the end of 90-day redundancy notices and closure seemed imminent.

Mr Clyndes has realised the tourist potential of the factory in the picturesque Pennine town and increased orders from abroad to put the factory back on its feet. But his proudest moment was when he started exporting his clogs to the Dutch.

Now the same style of wooden-soled boot with brass-tipped toes that factory workers wore in the local textile mills is rapidly turning into a fashion accessory. For teenagers, the clog now has the same cult status as Dr Marten's famous airsole boot. Mr Clyndes says this classic alternative shoe of the 1980s has become too mainstream to please elitists. ''The sort of people who used to wear Dr Marten's as an alternative shoe are now more likely to wear clogs.''

Thanks in part to popular bands such as New Model Army, a different tribe of clog wearers has emerged with its own distinctive youth sub-culture. Black leather jackets, New Model Army T-shirts and unwashed hair complete the young clog-wearer's style. Like Levi's jeans, which were originally produced as American workwear, clogs score high in terms of street cred because they were worn in northern factories.

Glenys Sadler, at the Leeds-based alternative clothing shop B.A.D., sells increasing quantities to the 16-25 age group who are dedicated to the clog's no-nonsense, straightforward image. ''Customers like the fact that they look good and never wear out,'' she says. ''The waxy clog, with a shiny finish on the leather, and copper or steel toecaps, is our best-selling line.''

They are very different from the Scandinavian open-backed clogs popular with Kaftan-wearing hippies in the mid-1970s. They come as a lace-up shoe or a high-backed boot. There are special dancing clogs - like those worn by the prancing satyrs in the National Theatre's recent production of Trackers by Tony Harrison - which are the traditional wear of northern Morrismen and clog- dancers.

They come in all the colours of the rainbow and some people have a different pair for every day of the week, while others who come to watch Nelson work ask him to modify existing boots and shoes.

''People spend £70 on a brand new pair of boots, come in here, and ask us to put a clog sole on them,'' he says. A tailor-made pair of clogs does not cost a fortune. Prices start at about £30 and the design can be personalised to suit individual tastes.

Many people have memories of grandparents wearing clogs and believe they are better for the feet than ordinary shoes. ''People buy clogs because they see them as being good and wholesome,'' says Mr Clyndes. ''They're made out of natural materials like wood and leather, they're handmade and fit that desire for a quality product.

''Unlike synthetic fabrics and plastics, they allow feet to breathe and give plenty of support so that feet do not become tired wearing them all day,'' he explains.

The curved wooden soles, covered in thick rubber or shod with metal runners, traditionally kept wearers' feet above the permanently damp floors in mills where the cotton had to be kept pliable.

Supposedly a hallmark of the nineteenth-century Pennine mill town, the typical clog-wearer was more likely to live in London than in Leeds. Mr Clyndes says: ''More clogs were worn down south than in the northern industrial towns. Our records show that the majority of clog-wearers worked in London's fish docks or in the fruit markets and the coal mines in Kent.''

Beechwood was used to manufacture the wooden soles and demand was so great that timber had to be purchased by the acre, instead of the traditional cubic foot. Over a million pairs of clogs a year were made until the 1950s.

Strong regional styles developed, and in nearby Colne, Lancashire, one family of clog-makers was crafty enough to put a very strong curve on its wooden clog sole. Children who grew up wearing them were unable to bear wearing any other form of clog because their feet grew to match the shape, guaranteeing the clog- maker a lifelong customer.

The client list at Walkley's Mill today reads like the top 100 bluechip companies. Fireproof and armoured clogs continue to be worn in heavy industry as a durable protective boot and are now being exported to Saudi Arabia. Mr Clyndes has recently had enquiries from both the Iranian and Iraqi petrochemical industries.

More than three quarters of a million visitors to the picturesque Pennine town file through the doors of the mill each year, and they buy more than pounds 300,000 worth of clogs.

''Production is on the verge of a big upturn,'' says Mr Clyndes. ''Our industrial markets are increasing because companies are looking for a form of footwear that lasts longer than a boot and is considerably cheaper. And our fashion clogs now sell to those who want a no-nonsense shoe.

''Three shiploads were dispatched to The Netherlands last year. Clogs are at their best in extremes of temperature or water and the all-wooden Dutch clog was clearly inferior to our own when used in wet fields, because it leaked. In November the Saudi Arabians took receipt of 300 pairs to try in their developing steel industry.''

Other clients include Sadler's Wells Royal Ballet as well as dance companies in the north of England. Surgeons wear anti-static clogs in operating theatres to prevent electric shocks, while transcontinental lorry drivers seen at Dover docks seem to have a penchant for fluffy grey ones. It is this diversity that accounts for the clog's rising popularity. As Mr Clyndes explains, ''If you went into a shoe shop on the high street and asked them if they would modify a pair of shoes you saw in the window, they'd laugh you out of the shop. Here in the clog mill, there are no limits on the style or shape of our clogs.''
  • 62. NewFallFan | 28/12/2021
Always found it curious that in all the MES lyrical output he only mentions his father in this rather odd, incidental line about clogs and trams. (That I've been able to pinpoint anyway.) For awhile I took this as a sign his father didn't play such a huge role in his life or whatever but then I read the autobiography and learned MES was quite fond of his father and the common sense working class values he embodied. (Though I believe he died fairly young, maybe younger than MES himself.)
  • 63. NewFallFan | 28/12/2021
Lol "This is not an autobahn/It's an evil roundabout" yet another reference to those treacherous English traffic curiosities [ "I hate roundabouts!" from Way Round on Unutterable]...maybe one reason MES only had an American driver's license and always took taxis back home?? Cracks me up.
  • 64. dannyno | 08/07/2022
New Model Army on clogs, from the NME, 22 September 1990:

  • 65. dannyno | 13/07/2022
NewFallFan, comment #62. MES said somewhere that he hated his father, mind you, so I think his feelings were complex, or evolved over time. Renegade is definitely respectful. Jack Smith was only 59 when he died, so MES wasn't much older when he died.

Re: lines apparently about or referencing MES' father, how about this (there are other lyrical references to dads or fathers, but probably not autobiographical):

"tales of terror which my father told me" - A Figure Walks

I would also suggest this, but it's third person so who knows. I mean, who knows anyway, right?:

"Get some pics off your old dad" - C'n'C Hassle Schmuck
  • 66. Rob | 16/08/2023
The first two lines seem correct, but may still be worth noting that 'raise Cain' can also be heard a 'raise cane', which would suggest farming ( also rhyming with a suit of grain, which is also on topic even if it's not a thing). Even if those aren't the literal words, the sounds of those two lines always bring to mind farmwork, and a declaration that MES will never do it.

A personal anecdote for no good reason: The first time I heard this song, we had been driving from Manchester to see The Fall in Bath The Hub, and were stuck in traffic for an hour on the M5 near Birmingham, between 6-7 pm, getting worried we would miss the start of the gig. We didn't, but when The Fall came on they opened with this. We couldn't make out most of the lyrics, but the main hook was obvious, and so utterly on point it was spooky.
  • 67. Jono | 02/10/2023
‘Aggregarian’ I always thought this was a portmanteau of ‘aggregate’ and ‘agrarian’ and that he was expressing the idea that the countryside idyll had either been built over (using aggregates!) or was a false construction (using aggregates!)

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