No Bulbs

Lyrics

I'm hunting and I'm tryna find
A belt in the early morn
When your home is a trash mount
Look all over but you're right out

In need of black strap
In need of black strap
In need of black strap
No belts in this flat (1) 

No belts in this flat
The former tenant was anti-corporal-punish (2)
Meant well, but it came to nothing
A light has just gone out
A bulb has just gone out

No belts in this flat
No bulbs in this flat

In need of white lamp
In need of white lamp

At the end of my tether
I destroyed years of hippy craft
Cut up a mad ship
Of a string wooden chandelier or something (3)

No belts in this flat
Give me a black strap
Give me a black strap
No belts in this flat


 

a bulb has just gone out and the only light I have found
is the original with a set square neck

Laying out cool dwellings,
For the next Britain in the evening
The apartments he has made
He is genius in allocation of space

In need of white lamp
In need of white lamp
In need of white lamp
No lights in this dump

Not like this place, you need light here,
even in the morning,
Compared to this, St. Petersburg was nothing (4)

In need of white lamp
In need of white lamp
In need of white lamp
No belts in this flat

In need of black strap
In need of black strap
In need of black strap
No belts in this flat

I'm hunting and I'm tryna find
A belt in the early morn
When your home is a trash mount
Look all over but you're right out

In need of black strap
In need of white lamp
No belts in this flat
No lights in this dump

They say damp records the past (5)
if that's so I've got the biggest library yet
the biggest library yet.

 

Notes

1. This mighty number is lyrically, much like "My New House" (and Dylan's "Clothes Line Saga" before it), a paean to mind-numbing banality. This is perhaps about the flat MES left for his "New House" (and which sometimes tempts him to "ring Swine-Tax"). 

In the comment section, Steve propounds an interesting theory that the song is a about a heroin addict (see below). 

According to Brix's account, the lyrics are autobiographical:

Dan: "According to Brix Smith-Start's autobiography, The Rise, The Fall, and The Rise:
 


'No Bulbs'... was about the squalor of our apartment... you couldn't find anything. One morning, Mark got up and started looking everywhere for a belt to hold his trousers up, because he was so skinny. He couldn't find the belt. He couldn't find the black strap. Then the light bulb went out... everything was breaking."

^

2. Apparently MES supplies his wardrobe with leftovers from the previous tenant; since that person was opposed to corporal punishment, s/he naturally didn't keep any belts around, lest they fall into less enlightened hands.

^

3. Hiccup Percy speculates that this line refers to a homemade dream catcher suspended from the ceiling. As Lanark26 points out, it could be a macrame lamp hanger, or something of that sort.

^

4. Possibly a reference to the almost three year long (1941-1944) siege of Leningrad (St. Petersburg) during World War II, during which the city was blacked out.

Also, according to CEC:

"Having been to St. Petersburg I can tell you it's bright there past midnight in the summer and incredibly dark during the winter. So perhaps the line about 'compared to this St. Petersburg was nothing' refers to how it's so dark that 'even in the morning' there's just no light getting into this dingy pit of a flat?"

^

5. According to dannyno on the Fall online forum, the British parapsychologist T.C. Lethbridge (1901-1971) propounded the theory that so-called magnetic fields of water could act as a medium for recording strong emotions. This is reminiscent of the idea of the "akashic record," common among occult practitioners. The idea is that there's a non-physical medium, "akasha," upon which ordinary events leave a kind of impression, and are thus recorded. This notion is ultimately derived from Vedic thought; "akasha" means either "space" or "aether" in Sanskrit. In ancient Hindu thought, akasha is a fifth element, i.e. aether or void. In the 19th Century, Theosphists (an occult organization originated by Helena Blavatsky, who did not herself use the term) developed the idea of "akashic records," which contain an impression of all mundane events, as well as a compendium of mystical knowledge. The totality of such records is sometimes referred to as a "library" or "Hall of Records" in occult literature, and the idea retains currency, in one form or another, among occultists to this day.    

^

 

Comments (23)

Steve C
  • 1. Steve C | 24/12/2013

While I have no particular basis for this inference, I think the song is actually about living in a hellhole, strung out on heroin. The belt (or "black strap") is instrumental in injection, obviously... but that's not the only reason this feels like a song about addiction. It has something to do with his obsessive instance on finding a belt... the lack of lights... cutting up the hippiecraft in some kind of rage... blaming his state of mind on the former tenant, the builder or the flat itself... and the exaggeration (e.g., "compared to this, St. Petersburg was nothing.)

I don't really think it makes sense that he stocks his wardrobe with items that previous tenants leave. But... it does make sense (in a way that only an addict can understand) to blame the former tenant for not leaving a belt behind when he's desperate for one. And the little wisecracking about corporal punishment is exactly the kind of thing a doper would say. Like... "Great... couldn't the guy have at least left behind the belt he whipped his kids with?" That KIND of thought, if you follow.

Dope addicts have funny relationships with their tenements. They're part of the aesthetic and part of the joke... but they're really annoying when you can't find what you need to even shoot up.

Steve C
  • 2. Steve C | 24/12/2013

"Damp records the past"... I feel like this is far simpler than the interpretation in (5). Dampness/dankness come from age. It is the mark of something that has been sitting around for a bit. One might even think that it traps a bit of the past in it.

He's living in a musty shithole, with no light and endless dampness.

While I don't doubt MES' genius or his ability to reference the things you list in (5), I doubt he'd write that way, which is a bit heavy handed and had nothing to do with the core meaning of the song.

dannyno
  • 3. dannyno | 21/04/2014

You're missing a verse.

After the St Petersburg line, you have the white lamp verse, but then there's this:

In need of black strap
In need of black strap
In need of black strap
No belts in this flat

Then it's back into the "I'm hunting" verse.

After that, you've got white lamp twice in the next verse, but I think it alternates, like this:

In need of black strap
In need of white lamp
No belts in this flat
No lights in this dump

Finally, I'm not hearing

"Of a string and wooden chandelier or something"

I'm hearing this:

"Of a string woollen chandelier or something"

dannyno
  • 4. dannyno | 21/04/2014

Steve C

Colin Wilson refers to Lethbridge, so MES would have encountered him in Wilson's books. But also, MES writes like you say he doesn't write quite often!

HiccupPercy
  • 5. HiccupPercy | 24/06/2014

I've always thought this verse:

At the end of my tether
I destroyed years of hippy craft
Cut up a mad ship
Of a string and wooden chandelier or something

is referring to a homemade dreamcatcher hanging from the ceiling.

bzfgt
  • 6. bzfgt | 24/06/2014

Im not sure what you mean by "heavy-handed," Steve--the line is the line whether it alludes to Akasha or is vaguer as you suggest. I can see how a lyric can be heavy-handed, but it's beyond me how the range of things a lyric alludes to can be heavy handed...

bzfgt
  • 7. bzfgt | 24/06/2014

Danny, you may be right...but I don't hear "woolen" clearly enough to want to change it. There is no "and," for sure.

Mark
  • 8. Mark | 30/06/2014

"When your home is a trash mound", makes more sense, perhaps?

dannyno
  • 9. dannyno | 01/07/2014

Perhaps, but it does kind of sound more like "mount". And "mount" could be short for "mountain". But it might just be about how he's pronouncing the word.

Dom
  • 10. Dom | 17/07/2014

I think the heroin angle makes a lot of sense but I've always wondered if he's looking for a belt to hang himself aswell.

dannyno
  • 11. dannyno | 02/09/2014

Reginald Blomfield is referred to in note 4. I'm not actually convinced he's the correct reference, but I would like to point out he did in fact do something in the Manchester area: Bury War Memorial.

CEC
  • 12. CEC | 25/11/2015

Having been to St. Petersburg I can tell you it's bright there past midnight in the summer and incredibly dark during the winter. So perhaps the line about "compared to this St. Petersburg was nothing" refers to how it's so dark that "even in the morning" there's just no light getting into this dingy pit of a flat?

dannyno
  • 13. dannyno | 06/12/2015

Note 4 is still incorrect, see my comment #11!

bzfgt
  • 14. bzfgt | 13/12/2015

Thanks Dan, that's valuable info, sorry I missed it at first.

dannyno
  • 15. dannyno | 04/05/2016

According to Brix Smith-Start's autobiography, The Rise, The Fall, and The Rise:


'No Bulbs'... was about the squalor of our apartment... you couldn't find anything. One morning, Mark got up and started looking everywhere for a belt to hold his trousers up, because he was so skinny. He couldn't find the belt. He couldn't find the black strap. Then the light bulb went out... everything was breaking.

dannyno
  • 16. dannyno | 07/05/2016

Brix also has "Your home is a trash mount" though whether from memory or from having read it here or on the Lyrics Parade is unknown.

Martin
  • 17. Martin | 02/06/2016

The first ever live performance of the song definitely has MES sing "trash mount" (11 June 1884; Heaven Ultradisco, London).

bzfgt
  • 18. bzfgt | 24/06/2016

Damn it, I forgot the Oxford comma in the title of Brix's memoir in a recent note, I clearly recall, but I can't recall which one...sloppy work.

Lanark26
  • 19. Lanark26 | 07/07/2016

I might posit that the "hippy craft" "string woolen/wooden chandelier or something" destroyed might refer more to some terrible macrame hanging lamp.
Macrame had a brief and awful resurgence in the early 70's among the arts and crafty hippy type set.

jholv
  • 20. jholv | 13/02/2017

a bulb has just gone out and the only light I have found
is the original with a set square neck

dannyno
  • 21. dannyno | 17/02/2017

"A bulb has just gone out, a neon light I have found
Here is Reginald with the set square neck"

Post #20 by jholv - yes, that's it! I can hear this clearly now, and you're bang on the money. A breakthrough!

bzfgt
  • 22. bzfgt | 18/02/2017

Well, so long to Blomfield...a Wittgensteinian development, it's sometimes better to dissolve a problem than to solve one.

schlep
  • 23. schlep | 14/04/2017

I always thought it was a match ship. Mind shattered

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