Mess of My
Inadequate writers, methadone stubbies
You got energy vampires (2)
More hands on the tranquillisers
An unholy alliance
And jokes about faith
Oh, give me another drink!
You're as strong as your weakest link
A mess of my age
A mess of my youth
A mess of our radio
I remember the times
This was a beginning
Of a permissive new age
But it's the same old cabbage (3)
A mess of my age
A mess of my race
A mess of our, our, our, our...
The dream was about taking some terrorists out, y’know, bombs etc.
But the targets could well be your own
There are no graves
There is an end to nutriments and retribution. (4)
A mess of my age
A mess of our race
A mess of our our our our
I don't look at myself
I have no health
Take no notice of me
I probably work for a record company
A mess of our age
A mess of my taste
A mess of our nervous systems
The company money's ran out
No longer hot properties
Get back in their closets
A mess of my age
A mess of my race
Fill the rest in yourself...
1. The only studio recording of this is the Peel version, and musically it is very much in the distinctive style of the Live at the Witch Trials band. Lyrically it is a vague jeremiad, and it is unclear exactly who the narrator is, but it is at least in part the music industry in MES's sights. His shot pattern is wide, however; some live versions contain the following lines:
I dream about taking some terrorists out for a quiet drink
You know, and getting them to stick a bomb up the TV man's arse
The hedonist slide show bullshit arse.
From Marc Riley's page on the BBC 6 website:
A record you'd like played at your funeral?
Mess Of My Age perhaps... the best track I played on when I was in The Fall.
It's an odd choice for a funeral, and also for the best track with Riley (not that there's anything wrong with it)...
According to Riley, it was written by sometime bass player "Eric the Ferret."
Note that Riley calls it "Mess of My Age," the first line of the refrain. According to Dan:
"Marshall McLuhan, "Counterblast" (1969/1970, inspired, of course, by Wyndham Lewis' "Blast"), p23:
'The medium is the mess age means the sensory effect of the environments created by innovations, for example the effect of writing on speech.'"
McLuhan is here punning on his most famous phrase, "The medium is the message," from Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man (1964).
Public Enemy may have been inspired by the same pun when they named their 1994 album Muse Sick-n-Hour Mess Age.
According to the Fall Online Gigography, MES introduced this song at the Deeply Vale Festival on 22 July 1978 with the words,
This one's about radios, videos, a signal...
JS points out that the bass line resembles "Transdance" by Night Moves (1983).
2. Sumsiadad points out that "Energy Vampires" is the name of a track on Peter Hammill's Future Now, which we know MES to have been familiar with. However, The Future Now was released in September 1978, and the phrase appears in this song at least as early as August of that year (and possibly as early as May).
Wikipedia has this to say:
"The term 'psychic vampire' was popularized in the 1960s by Anton LaVey and his Church of Satan. LaVey wrote on the topic in his book, The Satanic Bible, and claimed to have coined the term. LaVey used psychic vampire to mean a spiritually or emotionally weak person who drains vital energy from other people. Adam Parfrey likewise attributed the term to LaVey in an introduction to The Devil's Notebook.
The English singer-songwriter Peter Hammill credits his erstwhile Van der Graaf Generator colleague, violinist Graham Smith, with coining the term 'energy vampires' in the 1970s in order to describe intrusive, over-zealous fans. Hammill included a song of the same name on his 1978 album The Future Now."
Dan finds that Colin Wilson, a reference point for both Hammill and MES, uses the phrase "energy vampires" in his 1967 Lovecraftesque novel Mind Parasites:
Colin Wilson, "The Mind Parasites"For more than two centuries now, the human mind has been constantly a prey to these energy vampires.
It is also used several times in Wilson's The Space Vampires.
"From Hegel's Philosophy of Right (originally published 1820): 'Some, who are thought to be taking a profound view, are heard to say that everything turns upon the subject-matter, and that the form may be ignored. The business of any writer, and especially of the philosopher, is, as they say, to discover, utter, and diffuse truth and adequate conceptions. In actual practice this business usually consists in warming up and distributing on all sides the same old cabbage.'"
This is from the 1798 translation by S.W. Dyde. The German is "Wenn man nun betrachtet, wie solches Geschäft wirklich betrieben zu werden pflegt, so sieht man einesteils denselben alten Kohl immer wieder aufkochen und nach allen Seiten hin ausgeben" (so "same old cabbage"--denselben alten Kohl--is a literal translation, but "warming up" deviates a tiny bit--immer wieder aufkochen, to boil up, or reboil, again and again ).
"According to Hans Schemann's German/English Dictionary of Idioms, 'kohl' is used in several German phrases to indicate rubbish, nonsense or boring crap (I paraphrase). So 'so ein Kohl' ("such a cabbage") means 'what a load of rubbish.' And 'aufgewärmter Kohl' means 'a boring old story' (literally, I guess, 'reheated/warmed over cabbage')."
This certainly seems related, conceptually if not historically, to the English expression "I don't chew my cabbage twice," which is better-attested than the way I first heard it as a lad, "I don't cook my cabbage twice" (when asked to repeat oneself). And this role for cabbage in our discourse is of ancient origin, as Dan has discovered:
"Crambo, earlier crambe, comes from the Latin phrase crambē repetīta 'cabbage reheated, re-served,' a phrase in Juvenal’s 'Seventh Satire' ('Reheated cabbage kills teachers') referring to unimaginative writing. The Latin crambē is a borrowing from Greek krámbē, a kind of cabbage. Crambo, the rhyming game, entered English in the mid-17th century; crambe, inferior rhyme, in the early 17th." As Ramsay (1918) has it, Juvenal goes on to say "Served up again and again, the cabbage is the death of the unhappy master!" And Juvenal identifies as a Greek proverb, “Dis kramb thanatos" (twice-cooked cabbage kills us).
More from Dan:
"Cassell's Dictionary of Proverbs, by David Pickering (2001).
cabbage twice cooked is death[b] (Greek) Some things, like cabbage, should be discarded if not consumed or otherwise dealt with at once....
Pickering quotes John Lyly, "Euphues: the anatomy of wit" (1578):
Which I must omitte, least I set before you, colewortes twice sodden.
[b]The Oxford Dictionary of English Proverbs, 3rd edition 1970, rev by F.P. Wilson:
Cabbage twice cooked (sodden) is death
gives the Greek, cites Juvenal and the English language citations also cited by Pickering."
So what it all boils down to is "the same old nonsense."