New Puritan

Lyrics

Totale's Turns:

Hail the new puritan (1)
Maelstrom, cook one

And all hard-core fiends
Will die by me 
And all decadent sins 
Will reap discipline (2)

New puritan

This is the grim reefer
The snap at the end of the straw
With a high grim quota 
Your star karma gin  (3)

New puritan

In LA the window opener switch
Is like a dinosaur cackle 
A pterodactyl cackle 
Jet plane circle 
Over imported trees 
All the film ghosts will rise up 
With the sexually abused and the new youth (4)

In Britain the scream of electric pumps in a renovated pub
Your stomach swells up before you get drunk  (5)
Don't call me Peter I can't go  (6)
Salem's just up the road 
I've got work to do (7)

Hail the new puritan
Out of hovel-cum-coven-cum-oven 

[spoken] (right you go back to that riff)

Hail the new puritan
Out of hovel, cum-coven, cum-oven

And all hard-core fiends
Will die by me 
And all decadent sins 
Will reap discipline

New puritan

I curse your preoccupation
With your record collection
New puritan has no time 
It's only music, John (8)

New puritan

Ungodly mass 
Thick ass

Peel: 

[Mark Riley]:

New Puritan Et Domini
New Puritan Et Domini  (9)

[MES]:

The grotesque peasants stalk the land

And deep down inside you know everybody wants to like big companies

Bands send tapes to famous apes

Male slags, male slates, famous apes
 (10)
Water, cater
Now: great thoughts

The whole country is post-gramme
 (11)
(Echoes of the past)


Hail the new puritan

Righteous maelstrom, cook one



And all hard-core fiends
 will die by me

All decadent sins
 will reap discipline


New puritan


This is the grim reefer

The snap at the end of the straw

With a high grim quota

Your star karma, Jim
 

New puritan

New puritan


The conventional is now experimental, 
the experimental is now conventional
 (12)
It's a dinosaur cackle

A pteradactyl cackle

In LA a drunk is sick on Gene Vincent's star on Hollywood Boulevard (13)

Ha-ha, ha-ha 

Stripping takes off in Britain's black spots

The Kensington white rastas run for cabs

This I have seen


New puritan
 in Britain
The scream of electric pumps in a renovated pub

Your stomach swells up before you get drunk

The bars are full of male slags

At 10:35 they play "Send in the Clowns" (14)

Why don't you ask your local record dealer how many bribes he took today?
 (15)
What do you mean "What's it mean? What's it mean?" 
What's it mean? What's it mean?

New puritan 
New puritan


Hail the new puritan

Out of hovel, cum-coven, cum-oven


And all hard-core fiends
 will die by me

And all decadent sins
 will reap discipline


New puritan new puritan new puritan 

New puritan 
new puritan 
new puritan
 new puritan
New pur...it... an
 



I curse the self-copulation of your lousy record collection

New puritan says: "Coffee table LPs never breathe"


New puritan 
new puritan 
new puritan 
new puritan 

new puritan says...


New puritan 

Discordian (16)

New puritan 

New puritan 

New puritan

Notes

1. The two released versions are as different as can be, and both are indispensable. The version from Totale's Turns, which I have placed first here in deference to chronology, sounds, in spirit, almost like some kind of Lomax field recording, despite being one of two studio tracks on an otherwise live album; MES claims the song was recorded "at home during which said home was attacked by a drunk, which accounts for the tension on that track." The Peel version is the more venerated of the two, and it is a fearsomely intense performance, one of the most intense of the Fall's career, in fact. 

Lyrically, this is the single most foundational song for my interpretations as far as getting at whatever it is that makes the Fall what they are; everything else they have done before and since seems to me to emanate from this like spokes from the hub of a wheel. This song is also the perfect examplar of the kind of lyrical subtlety that has always set the Fall apart from the vast majority of bands associated with punk. This is the case despite the fact that the lyrics, on the face of it, seem to consist largely of the kind of hectoring cant which is common in punk songs and which is not, to say the least, distinctive for its subtlety. The fact that MES fashions this style of discourse into such a nuanced artifact is not only impressive, it is tempting to say that this blend of fury and ambivalence is itself the message of the song, although of course there's much more to it than that. But the form of the song is by no means incidental to its meaning, as though the form were merely there to comvey some sort of message. The idea of the New Puritan is elusive because, like all genuine Fall themes, the theme of the song exceeds its idea; the song does not have a message that could be paraphrased and explained away. Rather, the song is excessive: it says more than it says, and thus it clearly says more than my commentary will be able to say. One way to put it is that "New Puritan," like many of the best Fall songs, isn't content to say something, it must also be something, even as what it says and what it is present a dizzying running commentary on one another. I don't mean that MES says something and then Scanlon plays a lick, or something corny like that, but that when we analyze the song, which otherwise functions as a unified whole, this running commentary emerges. But that will also mean that the commentary, as opposed to the song itself, will only be able to appear in another medium--in this case, my words: I aim for my comments to be a way in which the song (as opposed to just the lyrics) comes to speak. This shouldn't be taken to mean that I will contribute nothing, however, or that I can somehow presume to speak for the song; what I do mean here will only become clear, if at all, in the course of the comments below. 

"New Puritan" is riddled with ambiguity; MES seems not to ever fully decide whether Puritanism is his credo or his target. While the song is narrated by the Puritan in his role as witch-hunter and avenging angel, some of the characters who have aroused his wrath seem fairly Puritanical themselves. On the one hand, MES has no patience for vegan, "straightedge" (although the term was not yet coined in 1980) and/or anarchist punks, or, for that matter, people who take their record collections too seriously. The Puritanical tendencies of such people are derided (actually, that's too mild: judged is better, with "jury and executioner" implied); at the same time, the primary strategy of the lyrics is to insist on a stern Purtitan work ethic in the face of punk decadence and dissolution (see also my remarks on "Live at the Witch Trials.") In fact, as we will see, the basic philosophy of the Fall, if I can put it that way, is expounded in this song, in which Puritanism is sublated--both negated and preserved in modified form--in a kind of ecstatic vision that can only be attained through rigorous discipline. This is one of the few songs, perhaps the only one, that I feel confident in interpreting according to the principle that the narrator, rather than a character, even if I have to hasten to add that it is a hyperbolic version of the former (and, thus, fictionalized--and, thus, a fictional character; as we will see, saying things and then taking them back is something I've found unavoidable in my discussion of this song). Although it is at times difficult to see what is Puritanical about the New Puritan, aside from a kind of austere indignation, the song is neither a rant nor incoherent, but a richly thought out statement of purpose. At the same time, it is a statement that is probably not entirely clear to anyone apart from MES himself--actually, even that's wrong, it is most certainly not entirely clear to anyone but the New Puritan himself. It is the kind of statement that could only be clear to someone whose knowing and whose being are identical; hence, it must be God or at least a fictional character. 

Here I must pause and ask the reader's forgiveness for continually saying wrong things and taking them back: my strategy for approaching the excessive essence of this song is, in part, to present a list of incorrect things. But a list, of course, is inert, so that isn't what you will get here after all; if my interpretation is in any way successful, there must be some kind of movement toward the heart of the matter, even if it seems maddeningly indirect. We will soon see that sin is a path toward transcendence for the New Puritan, but sin that reaps only more sin (rather than discipline--see note 2 below) is to be condemned. Let us hope, then, that my interpretve sins are of the former variety rather than the latter.

^

2. On the face of it, the point seems to be not that discipline is the reward of decadent sins, but that it is their punishment. Thus, the titular "Puritan" very clearly seems to be MES himself, witch-hunter extraordinaire. However, there is a second way to take this line: the point could also be that, as Blake has it, "The road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom." Excess in itself, however, yields nothing without the New Puritan ethic. The Puritan's targets, in that case, are those whose sins reap nothing but more sin, whose excess is meaningless and cannot be appropriated for the purposes of creativity.

Smith has always praised the virtue of work, both in songs and interviews. At the same time, if he does identify with the Puritan ethic (again, see "Live at the Witch Trials"), the goal is nevertheless what seems to be the opposite of discipline: the singer strives toward ecstasy, laboring to reach the point where language runs away with him, as it often does in this song. If a certain tense complementarity between discipline and ecstasy is one of the major themes of Smith's work, nowhere is it more richly exemplified than in his ambiguous treatment of the figure of the Puritan. Excess itself is a form of work, which must be undertaken in a disciplined manner, and the resulting ecstatic vision is neither work, insofar as it leaves the strictures of the latter behind, nor merely excess either, to the extent that it could not have arisen from a lazy or random indiscipline. Fall lyrics often seem to walk a fine line between recondite and nonsensical, but what they aim at is, ultimately, neither. It is a shimmering vision that rises from the song, but this vision cannot be paraphrased or explained, which means that you must do the work yourself or the song will not speak to you, and the vision will appear as a senseless haze.

At this point, we may (in fact must) be tempted to ask, is that really what's happening in this song? Am I making all of this up? But also, at this point, it must be becoming clear that the reassurance of that distinction is beginning to recede for us. To properly throw that distinction into doubt, however, we must also insist upon the patent truth that the song doesn't give us license to make up whatever we want to about it, anymore than it will allow us to definitively explain it or reduce it to a paraphrase. What the song aims at, its essence, is neither straighforwardly within nor outside of the song itself. That distinction is one between one sort of message and another, and the song is not a message at all. There is a very simple reason for this: "New Puritan" is an experience rather than a message, which means that the lyrics cannot just be extracted, explained, and returned to the song. More, it is a song that insists on its status as an experience rather than a message. It does so simply and directly; if anything is difficult or abstruse here, it is the commentary rather than the song, which cannot survive its translation into this other medium without a certain amount of alteration or even distortion. The commentary, accordingly, will be as simple and straightforward as I am able to make it (which is why I have revised it so many times). 

^

3. Here in the second stanza, it seems like the avenging Puritan is associated with drugs in one way or another, and is perhaps expressing contempt for those who are too fastidious or teetotalling about their lifestyle for Smith's taste (see also, for instance, "Sons of Temperance" and "(Jung Nev's) Antidotes"). At the same time, "the snap at the end of the straw" could be seen as cutting off someone's supply of cocaine or meth before it reaches their nose. In that case, "the grim reefer" could be emphasizing the grimness rather than the reefer. 

Here we have an opportunity to consider the ethos of the New Puritan, which is a kind of ironic contempt. The chief irony in the New Puritan's contempt is the fact that it is ironic or ambiguious at all, as comtempt usually eschews irony and ambiguity in favor of extra large portions of sound common sense. That is to say, if the object of contempt cannot even understand what it is about itself that inspires contempt, the attitude risks the worst kind of failure: becoming incoherent or even ridiculous in the eyes of its intended target. This is especially so even in the case of contempt that is hurled from an elitist or supposedly intellectually superior position: the ignoramus knows all too well what she is ignorant of, even if she couldn't say the first thing about it. If not, contempt becomes at best an object of amusement. In fact, contempt cannot allow itself to become objectified at all in the eyes of its target; it cannot become the passive partner in the relationship or it becomes a cartoon Oxford don, an out of touch patrician, or an inept politician. In other words, even if contempt is motivated by a supposedly superior intellect, possessed of powers of subtlety denied to the vulgar, as contempt it is almost always utterly simple and transparent. For this reason, the New Puritan's position, a subtle contempt, is the most dangerous position a contemner can put himself in. And who's to say it is successful? This can't be an automatic assumption, but can only be earned, again and again, every time the needle drops, so to speak. The only way to do this is to demand that the listener vacate the position of the victim and scale the heights of contempt herself. Failure to do so also requires the recognition of this failure on the part of the one who fails, which is necessary in order for the contempt to strike its target. To have such a recognition, however, is already to begin to climb out of the hole. Thus, the ethos of the New Puritan is a surprisingly compassionate contempt, since it frees those that it strikes to the heart of, and leaves the rest of us free to laugh it off. 

^

4. It is Interesting that the "sexually abused" are lumped in with the "new youth"; the former seem an odd target for a puritanical attack, but "new youth" could never be a postive epithet in MES's lexicon, so we probably have to assume that the lyric is expressing contempt. For some reason the sounds of technology are waking the dead and provoking quite a disparate horde. It's never easy to interpret passages like these, and again, there seems to be a will to let language and imagery run riot that keeps even MES's most virulent Jeremiads from revealing an easily grasped agenda. 

The rising of the "film ghosts" in LA reminds me of the mob scene at the end of Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Day of the Locust, when Tod Hackett and Homer Simpson are swarmed by an angry mob outside the premiere of a movie. The mob at the theater has gathered in the hopes of seeing movie stars in the flesh, not satisfied with their "ghostly" appearance on the screen. A remarkable passage from the Wikipedia entry for the book could almost be a description of the Fall:

"As some critics point out, West's novel was a radical challenge to modernist literature. Modernists set themselves up in opposition to mass culture; West depicts it and makes it an integral part of the novel. West's use of grotesque imagery and situations establishes the novel as a work of Juvenalian satire. His critique of Hollywood and the mentality of 'the masses' depicts an America sick with vanity and the harbor of a malignant sense of perversity."

According to the Encyclopedia Britannica, "Juvenalian satire: in literature, any bitter and ironic criticism of contemporary persons and institutions that is filled with personal invective, angry moral indignation, and pessimism."

The proximity in which the "New Puritan" places himself to the subjects of his wrath is consonant, to me, with Wikipedia's description of West's adoption of mass culture as a topic of literature; even as he satirizes it, West elevates mass culture to the status of art by creating art that makes itself complicit with mass culture by writing in its idiom. The voice of a satirist is also the voice of his target, rendered grotesque (compare MES's diatribes about plagiarism, for instance, a topic which is addressed in the notes to "C 'n' C-S Mithering," and which is one of many instances where MES is in some ways very close to his own description of the target of his invective). 

 ^

5. From davedeath on the Fall online forum:

This line is all about how the breweries of Britain were at the time taking old pubs, with their gravity (read hand-pull) pumps selling real ale, ripping out what made these pubs unique, and replacing them with a generic one-size-fits-all lager palace, hence the "stomach swelling" line. 

See also Joseph Holt's comments below.

^

6. This is, of course, a near-quote from "Sixteen Tons," originally recorded and perhaps written by Merle Travis (the authorship is disputed), and turned into a number one song by Tennessee Ernie Ford. The original line is "Saint Peter don't you call me 'cause I can't go, I owe my soul to the company store." Notably, this song also seems to take an ambiguous attitude toward work: the original recording by Travis contains a recited passage after the first chorus that proclaims: "Yes, sir, there's many a Kentucky coal miner that pretty near owes his soul to the company store. He gets so far in debt to the coal company he's a-working for that sometimes he goes for years without being paid one red cent in real honest-to-goodness money. But he can always go to the company store and draw flickers or scrip: you know, that's little brass coins that you can't spend nowhere, only at the company store. So they add that against his account, and every day he gets a little farther in debt. That sounds pretty bad but even that's got a brighter side to it." Unfortunately, Travis never makes clear what this brighter side is, and one's imagination struggles to fill in the blanks. Nevertheless, the miner is portrayed not as bitter, but as hardened and proud (Ford's version omits this interlude altogether). Like "New Puritan," "Sixteen Tons" closely identifies the discipline of work with a kind of righteous violence: "Well, If you see me comin', you better step aside/A lotta men didn't, and a lotta men died/One fist of iron and the other one of steel/If the right one don't get you, then the left one will." The life of a miner is portrayed as brutal and unfair, but it has shaped the narrator's character in a way of which he is quite proud. This attitude is as common as it is hard to explain--I think that for most of us, the mere fact that we are what we are is seen as a source of pride, even as we despise the hardships that have made us this way. Those who brag (even if only implicitly) about being "working class" exemplify this phenomenon. 

The New Puritan, unlike the miner, is hardly concerned with the coercion of others--with what Isaiah Berlin called "negative liberty"-- at all, but is occupied entirely with the pursuit of a kind of "positive liberty," the emancipation work brings not from financial servitude but from "mind forg'd manacles," to quote Blake. For Travis' miner, work is a burden that frees him and delivers him to his truest nature--a nature that, however, is only meaningful in terms of the imposition of others and the triumph over this imposition by an identity that is largely formed by this struggle. Take away the company store, unfortunately, and there is nothing left of the miner, and however much we admire his independence, this independence is thoroughly ironic insofar as it is itself a form of dependence. Perhaps despite himself, then, MES has something like a communist notion of work--in other words, work is seen as a source of freedom rather than a means to an end (see also "Blindness"). Whatever the limitations of this latter notion of work, they are of an entirely different kind than the limitations that make the miner what he is. While the miner, in Loverboy's memorable phrase, is working for the weekend, for the New Puritan the weekend itself is work. In the case of the miner, work defines himand for that very reason he is alienated from his work--which is to say, from himself. But the New Puritan least of all seeks work for work's sake--he remains in his deepest essence separate from it and, paradoxically, this is his triumph over alienation. To again retract what I have said, work is after all a means to transcendence for the Puritan, but it is not an instrumental means, if such a thought is even possible, because it does not lead to an end that is separate from itself; means and end, if the distinction holds, occupy the same space without remainder, whereas the illusory weekend of the miner and the decadent sinner is a cold iron prison from which there is no escape. For the New Puritan, work can mean taking drugs and drinking oneself into a stupor as much as it means anything else: these activities seem to be part of the New Puritan's job description, but this type of work isn't confined to any single identifiable process and, in fact, the details are perhaps almost indifferent. But for the New Puritan, only in the process of working is there freedom, but work is not the goal. The goal is (and here I recognize I am at the limits of my power of explanation, and perhaps also of my understanding, and can only ask indulgence for any obscurities in my account) the ecstatic moment of realization that cannot be separated from the work because it can be found nowhere else but in the work--it is not modular, it cannot be removed or dissassembled, it happens as it were alongside work, but it does not have an independent meaning separable from work. It is what happens as I do what I am now doing, and perhaps what you are now doing as you read this--in other words it cannot be paraphrased or explained but only enacted. I hasten to add, with pre-emptive defensiveness, that what I am saying here is not some pet theory I am grafting onto the song, which is precisely what makes it so hard to articulate: I am trying to say what the song is saying to me, but to do so I must say something entirely different from the song. The song's meaning cannot be stated but must be, so to speak, put to work, because it is not a conceptual content but an ethos which stands in relation to any attempt to articulate this ethos in precisely the way that the taste of food stands to a cookbook. If I were trying to explain the song, then, there would be no point in what I am writing; instead I am trying to put myself to work in the manner the song prescribes. When you read this, or when I read this tomorrow, these words will be something entirely different than what they are now if the work is not resumed and reënacted. This would be cause for despair or a reason to stop writing were it not for the fact that this is precisely the point of the song. Finally, then, we have an explanation of sorts--I just said what the point of the song is, and that's something, no matter how tortuously prolix my explanation is. But my explanation can only be what Heidegger called a formal indication--it is a recipe, to return to the cookbook metaphor, rather than a paraphrase.

^

7. Once again, the title character dons the black hat of a witch-hunter, heading to Salem to clean up the trash. A possible inspiration is Robert E. Howard's Solomon Kane; although he's no witch hunter--theologically, he seems a bit confused, as one of his allies is an African witch doctor, whose methods Kane gladly adopts--Kane is a black-clad Puritan who grimly stalks the land, avenging various wrongs. Kane's adoption of heathen methods for Puritanical aims is quite consistent with the type of Puritanism proclaimed by MES in this song (see particularly notes 2 and 4 above).

^

8. This is another instance of the song's ambiguity, as one can imagine it is at least in part the po-faced seriousness of the puritanical record collector that raises the Puritan's ire. It isn't certain who "John" the record collector is; John Peel would be an obvious candidate if this remark were from the Peel version. As it is, I have not uncovered any clues, and it is possible that "John" is intended as a generic form of address like "Mac." The line is also reminiscent of the David Bowie song "John, I'm Only Dancing."

^

9. This is from Marc Riley on Twitter:

david cavanagh ‏@davidcavanagh24h

@marcrileydj Settle an argument. What exactly do you sing on New Puritan? 'New Puritan will dominate'...? 'New Puritan has come of age...'?

marc riley ‏@marcrileydj2h

@davidcavanagh2 Et Domini !


Domini is either the genitive form of the nominative Dominus or the nominative plural, hence "New Puritan Et Domini" is either the ungrammatical "New Puritan and the Lord's..." or the grammatically correct but perhaps polytheistic "New Puritan and the Lords" (although Dominus doesn't have to mean God, but has all the connotations of the English "Lord"). 

^

10. "Male slags, male slates" echoes "Slates, Slags, Etc."  

^

11. A reference to speed, as with the album Grotesque: After the Gramme and the song "Gramme Friday." Again there is ambiguity: how much MES identifes with his narrator is in question, since it is the singer's own documented drug habits that ought to spring to mind at the mention of speed. At the same time, the New Puritan ethic seems to be about a way of doing things (such as drugs) rather than containing a proscription of, or a prescription for, drug use. 

^

12. This line also turns up in "C'n'C-S Mithering."

^

13. The rockabilly pioneer Gene Vincent is one of MES's most frequently-mentioned musical heroes. Songs Vincent recorded that were covered by the Fall include "Rollin' Dany," "Say Mama," "Race With the Devil," and "White Lightning."  

^

14. "Send in the Clowns" is a song by Stephen Sondheim, from the musical A Little Night Music (1973), and later recorded by Judy Collins, Frank Sinatra, and Barbra Streisand, among others. Sondheim has averred that the "clowns" in question are intended to be garden-variety idiots rather than circus clowns. MES actually sings "Send in the Clow....ones," or something like that. The Lyrics Parade opts for "'Send in the Clowns' once," but this doesn't seem right to me. The vocal track seems to cut out in the middle of the word, and it doesn't cut back in on "wns" but rather something like "one."

According to davedeath on the Fall online forum

[A]t the time this was written, all pubs in the UK had to stop serving alcohol at 10:30pm, Monday to Thursday, 11:00 on Friday and Saturday, and 10:00 on Sundays; the customers were allowed 10 minutes drinking up time and then they had to leave. Had to. The police checked. A lot of pubs had "goodbye" songs to indicate to the customers it was time to bugger off. In this case it was "Send In The Clowns".

^

15. From dannyno in the comments below:

"The Peel session version was recorded 16 September 1980. 

On 18 August 1980, Granada TV's World in Action programme alleged that some record companies were falsifying the charts, by obtaining faked sales returns from record shops.

According to The Times of 19 August 1980, bribes of free records, satin jackets, and bottles of wine, among other things, were being offered to shops.

WEA were among the companies accused of this."

John Fruin, the head of both WEA (Warner Music Group's manufacturing division) and BPI (British Phonographic Industry, the British record industry's trade accociation), had to resign as a result of the scandal, which mostly involved directly bribing the chart compilers. At the time, however, it seems to have been common for record dealers to overreport sales in exchange for free or discounted merchandise. Although I have not tracked down the original Times report cited by dannyno, I have found ample corroborating anecdotal evidence on the internet; whether or not these are reliable, what is important is that MES was presumably aware of the perception that these practices were widespread when he included this line in the recording. 

^

16. DIscordianism would seem, at first blush, to be more or less the opposite of Puritanism. Based on the text Principia Discordia, or How the West was Lost by Malaclypse the Younger (Gregory Hill) and Omar Khayyam Ravenhurst (Kerry Wendell Thornley), and (somewhat) popularized by Robert Anton WIlson, Discordianism claims to venerate the goddess Eris, Greek deity of chaos and discord, although how seriously the whole thing is meant to be taken is an open question. Indeed, the Puritan arguably resembles one of the sect's primary cosmic villains, "Greyface," who preached the virtues of order and taking life seriously. At the same time, however, if we examine the targets of the narrator's Puritan rage, it is arguable that the New Puritan does indeed resemble a Discordian character. For instance, "A Discordian is required to, the first Friday after his illumination, Go Off Alone & Partake Joyously of a Hot Dog; this Devotive Ceremony to Remonstrate against the popular Paganisms of the Day: of Roman Catholic Christendom (no meat on Friday), of Judaism (no meat of Pork), of Hindic Peoples (no meat of Beef), of Buddhists (no meat of animal), and of Discordians (no Hot Dog Buns)" (Wikipedia). This sort of antinomian ritual, which imposes form on excess, is right in line with New Puritanism as I understand it. It is a testament to the song's subtlety (much more subtle, it must be noted, than Principia Discordia) that New Puritanism is difficult to pin down ideologically, and yet the picture that emerges is by no means incoherent; rather, it is the mystery of the Fall itself that is propounded here, and many of MES's half-serious screeds in interviews and lyrics over the years should be referred back to this song. Any time one is tempted to dismiss him as a self-parodying pub ranter, go back and look at the blueprint, which is indeed what we have here--the song is nothing short of a manifesto, but it is one that, like most good Fall lyrics, refuses to be translated into slogans or principles to put into practice: it is the polysemous and beating heart of the Fall, both the ecstasy of discipline and finally, above all else, the discipline of ecstasy, that one encounters here. While the song insists that genuine illumination is denied to the lazy, the illumination it promises is by no means grim. And here we also see the limits of annotation and commentary: paraphrase and explanation can never cross the final threshold of genuine Fallness. Here, then, I must leave you.  

^

Comments (12)

1. Martin 13/04/2013

Maybe the record dealers might have been taking bribes because the charts were based on the sales of certain (randomly selected?) record shops whose sales formed the basis of said charts? I dunno, but while one way to get your records in the charts would be to buy records in these particular "chosen" shops would simply be to buy them there, a simpler (and maybe cheaper( method would be to bribe the shops to send back false sales figures to the people who were responsible for those charts? Or that record dealers were bribed to put certain records in prominent positions in their shops, or to discount them?

2. bzfgt 13/04/2013

Thanks, Martin; that all sounds really plausible, even likely--I hope I can find some kind of corroboration of it, or something like it.

3. dannyno 14/04/2013

Why don't you ask your local record dealer how many bribes he took today?



The Peel session version was recorded 16 September 1980.

On 18 August 1980, Granada TV's World in Action programme alleged that some record companies were falsifying the charts, by obtaining faked sales returns from record shops.

According to The Times of 19 August 1980, bribes of free records, satin jackets, and bottles of wine, among other things, were being offered to shops.

WEA were among the companies accused of this.

4. Joseph Holt 10/07/2013

I always took "It's only music, John" as a play on "John, I'm only Dancing" by Bowie.

5. Joseph Holt 10/07/2013

Forgot to add...

... Electric pumps bit is a reference to the growth of keg beer that was very prevalent around the late 70s early 80s. Basically, pubs were replacing hand drawn beers with those that could be dispensed quickly and easily under pressure via electric pumps. Needless to say, the 'new' beer was nastier and gassier. Hence the stomach swelling. The UK's Campaign for Real Ale sum up the objection pretty well,

CAMRA's Internal Policy document states that real ale can only be served from cask without the use of additional carbonation. This policy means that "any beer brand which is produced in both cask and keg versions" are not admitted to CAMRA festivals or supported by CAMRA

6. bzfgt 20/07/2013

Great stuff, Joseph, I'll move some of that up to the notes when I get the chance, but I hope my visitors read all these comments anyway.

That line always made me think of the Bowie line too, but for some reason I didn't think to put it in the notes...

7. Martin 30/09/2013

Listening now to the last (known) live performance of New Puritan, in Manchester on 11 May 1982. Riley definitely sings either "et/est domini". It sounds to me more like "est", but that's not to say that I'm right!a

8. bzfgt 07/10/2013

Martin,

That may be so, but listen to the first time Riley says it (before MES comes in) on the Peel version, and it seems very clear he is saying "Et Domini," just as he claims on Tweeter. I'd be surprised if you listened to it and did not agree. "Est Domini" may be more grammatical (could it mean "New Puritan is of the Lord"?) and hence make more sense. Maybe not, though, I don't really know Latin.

In any case, here we have--probably for the first time ever (as opposed to "Guest Informant" and "Cyber Insekt," at least) a band member telling us what was sung and it actually sounds exactly like that on the recording, so "Et Domini" would be hard for me to want to change. However, your comment is now also on the record, which is a very good thing since we can never be 100% sure of these things.

9. Paul 02/12/2013

Et domini. Domini can also be the the plural nominative, so it could mean 'and the lords'.

10. Joseph Mullaney 20/03/2014

Re. note 8. The fact that MES doesn't say `John' on the Peel version could alternatively suggest that it is Peel being referred to here, and that MES preferred not to risk offending him on the version recorded for his show. Who knows though.

11. Ann Kittenplan 05/05/2014

MES seems not to ever fully decide whether Puritanism is his credo or his target.


Well, blimey. That's articulate. I see what you mean about the notes to New Puritan capturing the general approach to these lyrics.

Your credo or your target?

It's about being intolerant of intolerance, puritanical about puritanism.

Thanks for this.

12. bzfgt 13/05/2014

Thanks for the comment! I often revise this one to try to say things more clearly, but I'm glad you found that formulation successful.

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