Oh! Brother

Lyrics

 

(1)

Ich hasse, die masse, die kleine, gemeine, die lahme, die zahme, mein herzblut, raubt (2)

Oh! little brother
We are in a mess
Don't look at me that way
Don't put me to the test
When I first saw you
People said:
He scrutinised a little monster
And disappeared through red door (3)

Now everyone is disinformation
Disinformation
Disinformation
He says:
Won't you give me one more chance?
Won't you give me one more chance?
I'm not a communist    
Won't you give me one more chance? (4)

Disinformation
DIsinformation
Disinformation

Ich hasse, die masse, die kleine, gemeine, die lahme, die zahme, mein herzblut, raubt

Oh! little brother
We are in a mess
Don't look at me that way
Your d-jacket's a mess (5)
There's always
Someone beside you
And there's always
Someone in your arms
Oh! little brother
If only I had known
Then I might not
Be alone (6)

Notes

1. This is a very old song, in Fall terms, dating back to 1977. The original incarnation was very similar lyrically to its 1984 revival, and where it differs I cannot make out what the words are on the horrible Live in 1977 recording. Musically, on the other hand, this changed quite a bit; in 1977 it is a Bo DIddley-type workout, whereas the later version drifts along poppily atop a repeating Steve Hanley bounce, and features syrupy "lalala" backing vox from either a multi-tracked Brix, or some combitionation of Brix and another uncredited female or two. The lyrics remind me of another song, but I can't place which; on the other hand, this may just be an illusion attributable to the fact that the lyrics are more conventionally conceived and structured than is the case with a good many Fall songs (but see below).   

^

2. "I hate the masses, the small, mean, the lame, the tame, [who] steal my heart's blood." This baffled us for a long time; MES's German pronunciation is not accurate, but once we found the lines, it was clear that this is what he is saying.

According to Dan (the remainder is his words and quotations):

According to Dave Thompson, on page 76 of A User's Guide To The Fall: "anybody seeking to ascertain how Smith himself would deal with mass popularity needed only translate the pidgin German that echoes through 'Oh! Brother': 'I hate the crowd, the impotent crowd, the pliable crowd... who, tomorrow, will rip my heart out." This translation is taken from the Fall's "Oh! Brother" press release.

The sleeve to the "Oh! Brother" single includes the following credit: "Part Text: B. von Selchow" (you must click on the image of the cover and click through to the second image, of the reverse side). 

Bogislav von Selchow, (1877-1943) was a German/Prussian author/poet, navy officer, anti-semitic activist and (although not a party member) national socialist.  One of Selchow's poems (published in Völkischer Beobachter, the newspaper of the Nazi party, in 1923, reads as follows: "[Ich hasse die Masse, die kleine, gemeine, den Nacken gebeugt, die isst und schläft und Kinder zeugt.] Ich hasse die Masse, die lahme, die zahme, [die heut an mich glaubt und die mir morgen] mein Herzblut raubt." 

Konrad Heiden's A History of National Socialism (Responding to Fascism Vol 2), published by Routledge, (freely) translates this as: "I disdain The profane, Plebeian, And mean, Servile of gait, That eat and sleep and procreate. I disdain The profane, The weak, The meek, That are loyal to-day And tomorrow will swear my life away." [I have given a more literal translation above--bzfgt] You could just as easily translate it as: "'I hate the crowd, the impotent crowd, the pliable crowd... who, tomorrow, will rip my heart out."

Where did MES read this poem? Well, Konrad Heiden's book was originally published in English translation in 1934, so maybe in a copy of that. It also appears in AL Rowse's A Cornishman Abroad, published in 1976. 

However, on the basis of the translation that appears in the press release (see above), we can conclude that the most likely source seems to be Heinz Höhne's The Order of the Death's Head: The Story of Hitler's SS, which was originally published in German under the title Der Orden unter dem Totenkopf in 1966/7, and first published in English translation by Secker and Warburg in 1969.  

The poem appears (in German and English) on p.17 of the Penguin edition of 2000 (searched on Amazon), and on p.15 of the 1972 Pan paperback edition (which I now own) with a citation to p.98 Konrad Heiden's Geschichte des Nationalsozialismus. The translator, Richard Barry, renders it as:
 

QUOTE

I hate
The crowd
The little men
The mean men
Who bow their heads
And eat, sleep and beget children

I hate
The crowd
The impotent crowd
The pliable crowd
Which believes in me today
And tomorrow will tear my heart out

 

All of which information makes you wonder there is a Nazi theme running through the song - "I'm not a communist", for example? A Niemoller quote rather than a Jefferson Airplane lyric?

^

3. Compare "Impression of J. Temperance": "Scrutinized little monster/Disappeared through the door." The line seems to have originated, however, in the 1977 version of this song (thanks to Antoine below).

^

 

4. "Out of Control" by the Jefferson Airplane may be a source of inspiration here (thanks to Dan):

He said, "You better get with it"
She said, "With what?"
He said, "I'm not a Communist"
She said, "Well, you better get with it"

He said "I am not out of control"
She said, "I tried to warn you
I tried to warn you"
He said "I am not Jesus"

"I am not radiation
I am not a commando
This is not Romper Room
I am not responsible, I'm going to Hollywood"

Shut up!!

The original "Oh! Brother" predates this 1982 song, but it does not have the "communist" lyric yet. 

Although the Jefferson Starship is an unlikely source of inspiration for a Fall lyric, it must be remembered that, in Fall lyrics, unlikely sources of inspiration are likely...however, see the very end of note 2 above.

^

5. A donkey jacket is a garment associated with British manual laborers. From Dan:

It's possible to read some of the lyrics - those which don't appear in the 1977 version of the song - as referring to the 1983 UK general election, or early 1980s politics. If d-jacket is "donkey jacket" rather than "dinner jacket", then it is worth noting that Labour Party Michael Foot was vilified for wearing a donkey jacket at the wreath-laying ceremony at the cenotaph on Remembrance Sunday 1981. It wasn't a donkey jacket at all - "disinformation"?. This also makes sense of the "I'm not a communist" line, and also "won't you give me one more chance", perhaps.

^

6. The lines from "There's always/Someone beside you..." until the end are taken from "Little Baby" by the Blue Rondos, with "little brother" standing in for "little baby" (big thanks to John in the comment section).

^

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Comments (38)

Robert
  • 1. Robert | 03/05/2013
I've always heard this as "Your e-jac it's a mess" and mentally connected it with the cover picture for the Creep single.
John
  • 2. John | 02/08/2013
The last verse? Totally a cover of this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fAmexbix9es
John
  • 3. John | 02/08/2013
I case that goes away, that's Little Baby by The Blue Rondos
dannyno
  • 4. dannyno | 17/02/2014
Note 1: "This is a very old song, in Fall terms, dating back to 1997"

Typo - 1977, surely.
dannyno
  • 5. dannyno | 22/04/2014
re:

"He says:
"Won't you give me one more chance?"
"I'm not a communist" "

No he doesn't. What he says is this:

"He says, "won't you give me one more chance? Won't you give me one more chance? I'm not a communist. Won't you give me one more chance?"

Which I'm sure you'll agree is a very different kettle of fish.
dannyno
  • 6. dannyno | 22/04/2014
"I'm not a communist" is also a line in the Jeffferson Starship song "Out of Control", from their 1982 album, "Winds of Change". If the line is in the earlier versions of The Fall song, then obviously I'd be mistaken in thinking this significant.
dannyno
  • 7. dannyno | 22/04/2014
I've listened to the '77 version. Nothing about not being a communist there.
bzfgt
  • 8. bzfgt | 23/04/2014
That is indeed an entirely different kettle of fish, and you're definitely correct since it is wrapped in "give me one more chance"s, and also the falsetto part is a clue. I abolished the quotation marks altogether, I don't think they provide any clarity here.
Mark
  • 9. Mark | 21/05/2014
The last two "Disinformation"s at roughly two minutes in, sound more like "Dissolve-formation" to me.
Cathal
  • 10. Cathal | 21/01/2015
The "scrutinised a little monster" bit is of course shared with the end of Impression Of J Temperance.
dannyno
  • 11. dannyno | 25/06/2015
It's possible to read some of the lyrics - those which don't appear in the 1977 version of the song - as referring to the 1983 UK general election, or early 1980s politics. If d-jacket is "donkey jacket" rather than "dinner jacket", then it is worth noting that Labour Party Michael Foot was vilified for wearing a donkey jacket at the wreath-laying ceremony at the cenotaph on Remembrance Sunday 1981. It wasn't a donkey jacket at all - "disinformation"?. This also makes sense of the "I'm not a communist" line, and also "won't you give me one more chance", perhaps.
WmPerry
  • 12. WmPerry (link) | 17/07/2015
my hearing:
"...Hey! Scrutinize the little monster
disappearing throught the red door.
And now what they want is information
(then aftr 'give me one...etc.)
disinformation, this old formation, this old formation
Also the fist chanty word i hear is "enhance, the mass..etc" and swear i remember "heart throb, lob" and the word 'clang' in there somewhere. second go round has "land, sand, hot spots, lots"
I'm totally amazed by the blue rondos thing. You wouldn't believe the tortured meaning I'd developed for this song about the alienated labor of the worker or even casual handler of an object haunting and animating that object, and then i had some shit about grave robbing a la 'the doctor and the devils' Ridiculously overwrought, but i was in art school then, so what do you expect?
Antoine
  • 13. Antoine | 24/10/2015
In the interest of academic rigour, I was going to echo the comment I made on the J.Temperance page and have just realized that Cathal has beat me to it. Cheerio!
bzfgt
  • 14. bzfgt | 16/11/2015
Does anyone know if the line is on the 70s version of Oh! Brother, or did it appear in J. Temperance first?
Antoine
  • 15. Antoine | 16/11/2015
Just listened to the Live '77 version, and indeed, it is there - just before the one-minute mark. Sounds like he says "he scrutinizes a monster, disappears through red door," this time around, to be precise. Hadn't gone back and checked that version for the line actually, good call.
dannyno
  • 16. dannyno | 09/03/2017
note #6 - error! The numbered annotation against the lyric is a second "5"...
dannyno
  • 17. dannyno | 25/03/2017
Obviously the German isn't quite right. However, I've made a discovery.

[Mecass, the mass, decline, domain, relan, drazan, my heart's blocked, rout]


and note 2:


according to Dave Thompson's Users Guide to The Fall translates thus: "I hate the crowd, the impotent crowd, the pliable crowd....who, tomorrow, will rip my heart out."


The Thompson quote comes from p76 of A User's Guide To The Fall:


anybody seeking to ascertain how Smith himself would deal with mass popularity needed only translate the pidgin German that echoes through 'Oh! Brother': 'I hate the crowd, the impotent crowd, the pliable crowd... who, tomorrow, will rip my heart out.'


The sleeve to the Oh! Brother single (see https://www.discogs.com/The-Fall-Oh-Brother/master/186247) includes the following credit:


Part Text: B. von Selchow


Bogislav von Selchow (1877-1943) was a German/Prussian author/poet, navy officer, anti-semitic activist and (although not a party member) national socialist. https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bogislav_von_Selchow

One of Selchow's poems (published in Völkischer Beobachter, the newspaper of the Nazi party (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/V%C3%B6lkischer_Beobachter) in 1923) reads as follows:


Ich hasse
die Masse,
die kleine,
gemeine,
den Nacken gebeugt,
die isst und schläft und Kinder zeugt.

Ich hasse
die Masse,
die lahme,
die zahme,
die heut an mich glaubt
und die mir morgen mein Herzblut raubt


Konrad Heiden's A History of National Socialism (Responding to Fascism Vol 2), published by Routledge (at Google books: https://books.google.co.uk/books/about/A_History_of_National_Socialism_Respondi.html?id=CkdZBwAAQBAJ), translates this as:


I disdain
The profane,
Plebeian,
And mean,
Servile of gait,
That eat and sleep and procreate.

I disdain
The profane,
The weak,
The meek,
That are loyal to-day
And tomorrow will swear my life away.


But a more literal translation would be:


I hate
The masses,
The small,
Mean,
Common (mean?),
Bent necked (bowed heads?)
Who eat and sleep and bear children (breed?)

I hate
The masses,
The lame,
The tame,
Who believe in me today
And who will rob my heart's blood tomorrow


But you could just as easily translate it as:

"'I hate the crowd, the impotent crowd, the pliable crowd... who, tomorrow, will rip my heart out"
dannyno
  • 18. dannyno | 25/03/2017
So now we know that, we can reconstruct the "pidgin German":


[Mecass, the mass, decline, domain, relan, drazan, my heart's blocked, rout]


I can now hear it more clearly as:


Ich hasse, die masse... die lahme, die zahme, mein hertzblut, raubt


Where I have the elipsis is a couple of lines which don't appear to be in the original.. will listen again.
dannyno
  • 19. dannyno | 25/03/2017
Ah, wait, he's going back to the first verse, isn't he?

So what he says is:


Ich hasse, die masse, die kleine, gemeine, die lahme, die zahme, mein hertzblut, raubt


Sorted!
dannyno
  • 20. dannyno | 25/03/2017
Where did MES read this poem? Well, Konrad Leiden's book was originally published in English translation in 1934, so maybe in a copy of that. Or it also appears in AL Rowse's A Cornishman Abroad, published in 1976. The former seems more likely, given MES' interest in the history of Nazism.
dannyno
  • 21. dannyno | 25/03/2017
Oops, comment #20, Konrad Leiden should be Konrad Heiden, as in previous comment.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Konrad_Heiden
dannyno
  • 22. dannyno | 25/03/2017
A tidier version of the above is posted at http://z1.invisionfree.com/thefall/index.php?showtopic=39570&st=100#entry40048724.

I also wonder aloud, there, if Thompson knew the source of the lines, since he includes the word "tomorrow", which is not present - as far as I can hear - in what MES recites in the song.
dannyno
  • 23. dannyno | 25/03/2017
Turns out that the translation provided by Thompson in fact comes from the Oh! Brother press release:


Translation of the pidgin-German on track reads: 'I hate the crowd / The impotent crowd / The pliable crowd / Who tomorrow will rip my heart out.'


http://thefall.org/news/980118.html#ob
dannyno
  • 24. dannyno | 25/03/2017
Most likely source for the poem I now think is Heinz Höhne's The Order of the Death's Head: The Story of Hitler's SS. The translation has the same English version of the poem as the press release (albeit the press release doesn't match what MES actually says)/
dannyno
  • 25. dannyno | 27/03/2017
All of which information makes you wonder there is a Nazi theme running through the song - "I'm not a communist", for example? A Niemoller quote rather than a Jefferson Airplane lyric?
bzfgt
  • 26. bzfgt (link) | 01/04/2017
Dan, the Discogs link has not the text you quote, is it different in the US or something?

Kudos for this, I doubt anyone thought what we had was accurate. You did a typically superb job with this.
dannyno
  • 27. dannyno | 01/04/2017
You've picked the wrong line for the German bit.


Ich hasse die Masse, die kleine, gemeine die lahme, die zahme, die heut an mich glaubt und die mir morgen mein Herzblut raubt​


That's the text of the original German poem. But what MES says is:


Ich hasse, die masse, die kleine, gemeine, die lahme, die zahme, mein hertzblut, raubt
dannyno
  • 28. dannyno | 01/04/2017
Comment #26: discogs? You mean google books?
bzfgt
  • 29. bzfgt (link) | 01/04/2017
I used the link you gave. What remains to be fixed?
bzfgt
  • 30. bzfgt (link) | 01/04/2017
Aside from the link, that is.
dannyno
  • 31. dannyno | 01/04/2017
Looks good job, thanks.

Still a bit of a puzzle about MES's source, since Höhne has "tear" where the press release has "rip". But the poem can be translated so many ways that this seems close enough and probably just a transcription error, or deliberate alteration. At any rate I have found any other source.
dannyno
  • 32. dannyno | 01/04/2017
With discogs, click on the image and there's a second one comes up, of the reverse of the sleeve. That's where Selchow is cited.
dannyno
  • 33. dannyno | 01/04/2017
Note #2, "Oh! Brother press release".

This ought to link to http://thefall.org/news/980118.html#ob
dannyno
  • 34. dannyno | 01/04/2017
Image
bzfgt
  • 35. bzfgt (link) | 29/04/2017
Thanks Dan, all sorted. I had to include instructions for that Discogs image, since you can't link directly to the image. I had half a mind to omit it, but we must make hay while the sun shines...one day I'll have to begin the arduous task of going through and culling dead links.
dannyno
  • 36. dannyno | 29/04/2017
Unfortunately, you've attached the instructions to the Oh! Brother press release link, rather than the Discogs image link, which is on the next line. Oops!
bzfgt
  • 37. bzfgt (link) | 29/04/2017
Fucking fuck. Thank you, Dan, and thanks for your patience.
dannyno
  • 38. dannyno | 05/07/2017
Comment #22: An even tidier version of my Selchow research can be found here: http://z1.invisionfree.com/thefall/index.php?showtopic=42183&view=findpost&p=40052571

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