Midnight in Aspen/Aspen Reprise

Lyrics

(1)

The fog sticks around
As if he were on
Soul goes higher and higher
Till the last

Even chain on jeep is bored
Hyphen
Aspen
Ute (2)

Ice mountain of Jehovah (3)

Freedom of self, town's 
6 p.m.
Rising

He aims the highest bestest powered rifle at the stars (4)
Orion  (5)
It bounces off
The satellite
He was lucky this week
Midnight

Aspen Reprise

At the constellation of Orion
It bounces back
Over imitating
But wait till next week

Hard tough believers, all
Form pure lights spiritual
But as soft 
They ascend and hit the mark
Those old Frog 18th Century Revolters (6)
never said anything about this

It bounces back over irritated
sub-
animal jackals  (7)
And the gray-red churned up roots
It misses him tonight
But wait till this time next week next midnight...

 

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Notes

1. This song, broken into two parts on Fall Heads Roll, is an homage to Hunter S. Thompson (1937-2005) who lived around Aspen, Colorado, and who committed suicide earlier in the year that the album was released. This is in part an impressionistic story of the bullet with which he shot himself, which bounces off a satellite in the present time of the narration, but it is suggested that it later hits its mark, which is here identified as the constellation Orion, the Hunter (see note 4). In a Pitchfork interview, MES talked about the song a bit:

Pitchfork: What compelled you to reprise "Midnight in Aspen" after "Assume"? [The dreamy "Midnight in Aspen" gives way to the aggressive "Assume," then picks up where it left off with "Midnight Aspen Reprise," as if two records are playing simultaneously, and we are switching between them.]

MES: I think it's a pretty sad tune. Steve wrote it, the bass player. He's quite into that sort of organic, sort of Liverpool sound, actually. But I thought I'd couple it up with, like, Hunter S. Thompson dying, and all that. That's the vague idea. Half the songs, I made the lyrics up on the spot. That's the way I work. I have half the songs prepared, and half were just improvised. What happened in New York is they got there before me, and there was that big snow drift, so they were there for like four days on their own, so they came up with all sorts of shit that was quite good. 

Dan:

In the interview broadcast with the BBC Mixing It session on 10 February 2006, MES says that the song started out with the title "Midnight Cowboy," but that the death of Hunter S Thompson is "maybe somewhere in there" (I paraphrase a bit). He says he never met Thompson.

Thompson's ashes were fired out a cannon at his funeral; although this was probably written before the funeral, Joe suggests his plans for this were publicly known. 

Steve Trafford wrote the music, and he later recycled it with Brix and the Extricated as "Moonrise Kingdom."

 

See "More Information" below for the lyrics from the Mixing It session.

^

2. We originally had "Utah." Aspen is, of course, in Colorado. But (thanks to Kiespijn) we have discovered that Aspen was originally called Ute City.

^

3. There is an Ice Mountain in Colorado, Dan has discovered, around 100 miles from Aspen. The Mixing It version mentions "Jehovah's Ice Mountain replica" (see More Information below).

Kiespijn:

"There might be an Ice Mountain in Colorado but equally there is a ski run named 'Midnight' in Aspen (which happens to intersect one named 'Deer Park'!) and I'm not sure either has any bearing on the song. Maybe it's worth refering to Isaiah 2:2-4 (American version) which talks of the mountain of Jehovah being established above all hills, above the top of mountains, a place where right-minded peeps can stream if they want to make amends for wrong turns in life and do the right thing. I think Smith had an alternative establishment in mind though - the radical, non-conformist community that Joe Edwards and Hunter S Thompson tried to establish in 1969.

^

4. Thompson was a gun afficianado, and was notorious among his neighbors for firing them at odd hours, usually, it seems, in a state of inebriation. He killed himself with his rifle.

Nutterwain points out that his ashes were fired out of a cannon...but this happened after the song was likely written.

^

5. Orion is also known as "the hunter," which is also Thompson's name.

^

6. "Frog" is a derogatory name for the French, so this would seem to refer to the French Revolution.  

^

7. From HST's platform when running for mayor on the "Freak Power" ticket in 1970 (thanks to Kiespijn):

"Change the name 'Aspen', by public referendum, to 'Fat City'. This would prevent greedheads, land-rapers and other human jackals from capitalizing on the name 'Aspen' ... These swine should be fucked, broken, and driven across the land."

 

^

 

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More Information

Midnight in Aspen/Aspen Reprise: Fall Tracks A-Z

The Story of the Fall: 2005

 

Lyrics from the BBC 3 Mixing It Session, 2006-02-10(thanks to Fit and Working Again for the transcription):

The portaphone rings over as he ascends the red mud
Higher and higher
Even the chain on the jeep double tyres is bored
He goes higher and higher to Aspen
6 p.m. rising
An altered state of clever-dicks who think they can shut down
They go higher and higher into Aspen 
He was very unlucky this week
Jehovah’s ice mountain replica
He takes his biggest bestest rifle out and fires at the stars
It flashes off, off the stars and the satellites, so Orion
He was very unlucky this week
Maybe next Saturday
Maybe next Saturday when he can shoot as they descend into the marl
The frogs never told me this he said, neither did the group, thank you very much

Return to Note 1

Comments (23)

dannyno
  • 1. dannyno | 18/09/2013
"iover mitating self"

Got a bit mangled there... the line is "over imitating self".

Dan
bzfgt
  • 2. bzfgt | 07/10/2013
Thanks for catching that.
Martin
  • 3. Martin | 18/09/2015
The "Mixing It" 2006 session performance of this song is mostly faithful (though the order of lines is changed a fair bit) to the studio version, but there are a few additions. We have the line "Even the chain on the jeep's double tyres is bored", and the reference to being "lucky this week" is altered each time to "unlucky this week". Mark E Smith sings "maybe next Saturday" which I thought might be a reference to the day of Hunter S Thompson's death, but it turns out he died on a Sunday. The line continues "maybe next Saturday, when he can shoot and descend into the mall. The frogs never told me this, he said. Neither did the group."
dannyno
  • 4. dannyno | 23/04/2017
In the interview broadcast with the BBC "Mixing It" session on 10 February 2006, MES says that the song started out with the title "Midnight Cowboy", but that the death of Hunter S Thompson is 'maybe somewhere in there' (I paraphrase a bit). He says he never met Thompson.
Fit and Working Again
  • 5. Fit and Working Again | 18/05/2018
I think the mixing it version is different enough to merit transcription;

The portaphone rings over as he ascends the red mud
Higher and higher
Even the chain on the jeep double tyres is bored
He goes higher and higher to Aspen
6 p.m. rising
An altered state of clever-dicks who think they can shut down
They go higher and higher into Aspen
He was very unlucky this week
Jehovah’s ice mountain replica
He takes his biggest bestest rifle out and fires at the stars
It flashes off, off the stars and the satellites, so Orion
He was very unlucky this week
Maybe next Saturday
Maybe next Saturday when he can shoot as they descend into the marl
The frogs never told me this he said, neither did the group, thank you very much

the beginning here suggests spiritual ascent rather than just the bullet, from the red mud where the body lies
Fit and Working Again
  • 6. Fit and Working Again | 18/05/2018
I hear a few differences throughout;

Midnight;

Soul goes higher and higher

U-turn, ice mountain of Jehovah

Freedom of self-towns

Reprise;

Hard tough believers all
Form pure lights spiritual
But as soft
They ascend and hit the marl

It bounces back over irritating sub-animal jackals
bzfgt
  • 7. bzfgt (link) | 15/07/2018
Thanks FAWA; you've been killing it here recently by the way, and it's really appreciated...
bzfgt
  • 8. bzfgt (link) | 15/07/2018
Wow I never heard this Mixing It thing, this is great!
bzfgt
  • 9. bzfgt (link) | 15/07/2018
Could it be "even the chain...is bald? It would make more sense in context but I can't tell if this is how he pronounces "bored," it seems like the latter even though there's no real 'r'
bzfgt
  • 10. bzfgt (link) | 15/07/2018
That is I don't think it makes "more sense," just a certain kind of sense...I think it's "bored," though
bzfgt
  • 11. bzfgt (link) | 15/07/2018
I concur with most of those revisions
nutterwain
  • 12. nutterwain | 28/01/2019
Bit tenuous but Hunter S Thompson's ashes were fired out of a cannon.
Aims highest bestest rifle...
dannyno
  • 13. dannyno | 02/02/2019
Comment #12 - he killed himself with his rifle, which is the likely reference.

Because, in fact, Thompson died on 20 February 2005, but the funeral at which his ashes were fired out of a cannon did not take place until 20 August 2005.

The song debuted live in September, but the album was recorded earlier in the year, and probably prior to August.
bzfgt
  • 14. bzfgt (link) | 16/02/2019
Hmm, still slightly noteworthy, but the suicide part--I can't believe I missed that, thanks.
Joe
  • 15. Joe | 31/07/2020
While Hunter S. Thompson's funeral and the firing of his ashes out of a cannon might have happened after MeS wrote the song, I seem to recall it being semi-public knowledge that this was what Hunter S. Thompson was planning for his funeral. It seems the sort of thing he might say in a TV or magazine interview. So the fact that the event happened after the song doesn't necessarily preclude the association of the cannon funeral and some of MeS's lyrics.
dannyno
  • 16. dannyno | 04/08/2020
Comment #15: yes, possibly true that the cannon thing was public knowledge before it happened. I'll check. However, the song doesn't refer or mention cannons or funerals at all. It mentions a rifle (with which Hunter killed himself), and hitting Orion (i.e. the hunter).
dannyno
  • 17. dannyno | 05/08/2020

Ice mountain of Jehovah


Ice Mountain is a a peak in Colorado: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ice_Mountain_(Colorado)

It's >2 hours from Aspen, which I suppose is nearby in American terms
https://www.google.co.uk/maps/dir/Aspen,+Colorado+81611,+USA/Ice+Mountain,+Colorado+81210,+United+States

What the significance is of Jehovah in this context I have no clue, or why the Mixing It version talks about "Jehovah's Ice Mountain replica".
dannyno
  • 18. dannyno | 05/08/2020
Note #1, Pitchfork interview:


I thought I'd couple it up with, like, Hunter S. Thompson dying, and all that. That's the vague idea.


It's not entirely clear, but this does seem to be something of a warning against interpreting the entirety of the song as being simply and straightforwardly Thompson-related. MES may have combined the Thompson theme with another text or texts (a common strategy, as annotation scholarship shows).
dannyno
  • 19. dannyno | 05/08/2020
Oh, I previously commented that in the Mixing It interview, MES said the title was originally Midnight Cowboy, which may not have been Thompson related at all.

Trafford recycled the tune for Brix and Extricated's Moonrise Kingdom:



No idea if that was his original title, or a retitling.
dannyno
  • 20. dannyno | 05/08/2020
I'm going over old ground a bit, with my comment #4 quoting MES saying that Thompson was "maybe somewhere in there." Of course, MES would not want to be pinned down on meanings, but even so I feel the need to emphasise taking care when reading Thompson into the text too literally.
bzfgt
  • 21. bzfgt (link) | 16/08/2020
Yeah all that's in note 1. Good idea to mention Moonrise Kingdom, which I also like a lot
Kiespijn
  • 22. Kiespijn | 26/09/2020
A few thoughts on this song:
1. I'm really bugged by the "chain on Jeep" because what excitement can a chain expect? I used to think it was a hanging about issue, but in the mixing-it version chains are on the wheels, so probably not.
2. I reckon Smith is in fact saying "Ute", the original name for the town, Ute City renamed Aspen in 1880 for it's abundant Aspen trees.
3. "Ice mountain of Jehovah" - well there might be an Ice Mountain in Colorado but equally there is a ski run named 'Midnight' in Aspen (which happens to intersect one named 'Deer Park'!) and I'm not sure either has any bearing on the song. Maybe it's worth refering to Isaiah 2:2-4 (American version) which talks of the mountain of Jehovah being established above all hills, above the top of mountains, a place where right-minded peeps can stream if they want to make amends for wrong turns in life and do the right thing. I think Smith had an alternative establishment in mind though - the radical, non-conformist community that Joe Edwards and Hunter S Thompson tried to establish in 1969 - see the feature 'The Battle of Aspen': https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Battle_of_Aspen
Freedom of self!
That feature talks of "human jackals" which comes up later in song.
4. "Over imitating" ..well, I have turned this over in my head for years, wondering if it's not an indigenous name for a local landmark or constellation, something like "ima'tey'tee" but nothing much has ever turned up. One lead is that the Blackfoot word for dog is imitáá(wa), and imitaisski (dog-face or dog..lover) is one of the worst possible insults in the Pikuni language, as I learned from Fools Crow by James Welch (1987) - I wonder if Mark E Smith or Hunter S Thompson ever read it.
5. "They ascend and hit the mark" - I like
geological 'marl' which could be consistent with the grey red, churned-up roots, but I've always thought it was 'Mall', hence the disappointment of radical forebears who had more inspired hopes for Aspen - not just a playground for soft-minded moneyed types.
6. Not sure about "those old Frog 18th century Revolters" except that French explorers were the first to make inroads in Colorado before the Spanish Empire shouldered them out. Aspen might also have been one of many disputed areas of the Louisiana purchase in 1803.
bzfgt
  • 23. bzfgt (link) | 27/09/2020
Kiespijn

2. "Ute City"--Eureka!

And lots of other great stuff there, thanks.

Need to listen and consider that "Mall"

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