Ol' Gang



Walking down the street
Just the other night
I turned the corner to a fist fight (2)
And I look a-
I look a-
I look around
Old Gang
Old Gang
Not around
Old Gang
Pretty short
Old Gang
Wants to get off home
Old Gang
Old Gang
I was walking down the street (3)
Just the other night
Old Gang
Old Gang
Walking down the street
Give me small bottle
Went around the corner
Anyhow, Feeling pretty Manc
Where the God damn is the Old Gang?




1. "Old Gang" is a common trope, perhaps most famously deployed in the barbershop song "Wedding Bells are Breaking Up That Old Gang of Mine," which was published in 1929, and which MES favorite Gene Vincent recorded in 1956. Here, the blandishments of a straight job ("management programme") rather than the lure of matrimony is blamed for breaking up the gang, but the basic idea is the same.  According to MES: "I call it 'married, two kids.' Got married, got a mortgage, can't afford to take risks. I've seen it in the Manchester scene, groups trying to do what someone else has done because it's safer."  See also "My Ex-Classmates' Kids."


2. The previous song on the album is a cover of Hank Mizell's "Jungle Rock." That song begins:

I was walking through the jungle just the other night
A-well I heard a big a-rumble and I thought it was a fight

Jon Wayne's "Texas Funeral" also begins similarly:

"I went into a bar just the other night Boy, I got into one hell of a fight"

MES paraphrases Wayne's "But I've Got Texas" in "Greenway"  ("I had to jack off the dog just to feed the goddamn cat," only the animals switch positions the first time and "goddamn" becomes "fucking").

John Reardon submits:

"'Sunglasses After Dark' by the Cramps includes the lines: 'Went out last Saturday night/Got myself in a knife fight.' The pause before 'knife fight' is distinctly simillar to MES's before 'fist fight.' The Fall supported The Cramps for a couple of weeks on their 1980 UK tour so maybe this got lodged in MES's skull."


3. This is a favorite line of MES's, who also uses it in "Blindness" and "Jerusalem," and variants pop up elsewhere. The following anecdote is told by Stewart Lee about seeing comedian Ted Chippington open for the Fall:

Ted took the stage to a crowd that weren't expecting him, rooted to the spot in Teddy Boy regalia, scowling and supping a beer. He spent half an hour delivering variations on the same joke, each of which began with the phrase "I was walking down this road the other day," in a flat Midlands monotone, interspersed with listless interpretations of pop hits. A typical joke would run like this "I was walking down the road the other day, this chap came up to me. I said to him, 'Haven't seen you for a while.' He said 'Well, I've just got back from Nam.' I said, 'What, you mean Vietnam?' He said 'No, mate, Chelt'nam.'"

According to Lee this happened on October 28th, 1984, at a place in Birmingham called the Powerhouse. The gigography confirms this date and time, and various sources on the web mention Chippington opening for the Fall. Anyway, it's possible MES's frequent use of the line is a kind of homage to Chippington.


Comments (26)

  • 1. dannyno | 22/04/2014
Song title notwithstanding, what I'm hearing him song at each point in the actual lyrics is "old gang", not "ol'" The "d" is sound is definitely there.
  • 2. dannyno | 29/09/2014
According to the gigography, at the Planet K, Manchester gig on 20 August 1999, MES inserted this line into the lyrics of Ol' Gang:

"I was on a field with Adam, we were looking for Coleridge's birthplace"

Now, Coleridge was born in Ottery St Mary, Devon. But that's a region that this incarnation of The Fall had not visited.

However, is is notable, if not significant, that Coleridge, Wordsworth and the Hutchison sisters, and others, have been referred to as "The Gang" (http://yalepress.yale.edu/yupbooks/book.asp?isbn=0300088191, though this book post-dates the song).

However, see this quote from Coleridge's "A soliloquy of the full moon":

"A Night or two after a worse Rogue there came,
The head of the Gang, one Wordsworth by name"


I think I'm sailing off on a wild goose chase with this, but still. Noted.
  • 3. Zack | 19/11/2014
The opening lines of "Ol' Gang" seem to be derived from..... waaait for iiiiiit......... the preceding song on Levitate, Hank Mizell's "Jungle Rock" - "I was walking through the jungle just the other night / When I heard a big rumble and I thought it was a fight."
  • 4. bzfgt | 23/11/2014
Shit, of course. Thanks for pointing that out, Zack.
  • 5. Rik | 17/06/2016
I hear...

"Give small bottle...feelin pretty mange"
  • 6. RIK | 24/06/2016
meant to type..." give ME small bottle....feelin pretty mange"
  • 7. bzfgt | 29/06/2016
Could be "mange" or "bottle", I can't tell conclusively either way. This will have to be considered for a while longer, and any second, third, fifth opinions will be helpful.

Is "feeling mange" meaningful in some dialect of English?
  • 8. Martin | 12/12/2016
I think manky and mangy are both colloquialisms which can describe things which are poorly done, worthless, or inferior in some way. They sound northern English to me but I'm very ready to be put right on this.
  • 9. bzfgt | 27/12/2016
I'm not sure about "give me small bother," although in context it seems to make more sense than "small bottle." I'm going to leave it for now.

"Feeling mad" sounds right but it could be "mank/mange". I always think of "mange" as the scabrous dog condition, and never heard "mank/manky."
  • 10. bzfgt | 27/12/2016
On the other hand, it is a small victory, but I have established that it is definitely "Management Programme" in the singular (that is the Brit spelling of 'program,' right?). He puts esses at the end of words that don't even have them, so its sonic absence here is dispositive.
  • 11. Zack | 28/12/2016
Could it be "Feelin' pretty Manc?" Makes sense to me.

This song, like most songs by The Fall, is about The Fall. "MES is a pre-cog" theorists might say that "Ol' Gang" predicted the onstage breakup of The Fall at Brownie's in 1998. But you didn't have to be Nostradamus to know that the group was falling apart in the late '90s and some of the ol' gang wanted to get off home.
  • 12. bzfgt | 04/01/2017
Yeah, "Manc" at least would recognizably mean something to me, I never heard of "mank."
  • 13. MandrakeAnthrax | 31/01/2017
The opening lines of Texas Funeral by Jon Wayne:

"I went into a bar just the other night
Boy, I got into one hell of a fight"
Ian Edmond
  • 14. Ian Edmond | 24/01/2018
It's only a couple of hours since the news of MES's death has broken, but if I don't do this now, I'll forget.

As part of the MES tribute, Marc RIley has just played Beefheart's Tropical Hot Dog Night. There's a big similarity between the way that Beefheat delivers "Like two flamingos in a fruit fight" and MES delivers "I turned the corner to a fist fight". Marc says that Mark played him that album in his flat in Prestwich when he'd just bought it.

Back to the general sense of numbness.
  • 15. bzfgt (link) | 04/02/2018
Thanks, Ian. This sucks.
  • 16. Nairng | 03/06/2018
Minor suggestion...I think it's "Where the god-damn is old gang?" for the final line.
  • 17. bzfgt (link) | 15/07/2018
I'm trying to hear it but the emphases don't seem right.

"Small bother" is I think "small bottle"

Could "pretty mad" be "pretty Manc"? It sounds like it but it seems a big semantic shift so I want to check what other people hear.
  • 18. bzfgt (link) | 15/07/2018
OK, I hear it. And definitely "bottle" and "pretty Manc."
Paul Go
  • 19. Paul Go | 03/12/2018
Always enjoy a 'walkin down the street' line.
Never around when you need one.
John Reardon
  • 20. John Reardon | 18/12/2019
Re the opening - Sunglasses After Dark by the Cramps includes the lines:

"Went out last Saturday night
Got myself in a knife fight"

The pause before "knife fight" is distinctly simillar to MES's before "fist fight".

The Fall supported The Cramps for a couple of weeks on their 1980 UK tour so maybe this got lodged in MES's skull.
  • 21. dannyno | 16/05/2020
Comment #20

Just to note that The Cramps played fourteen gigs (including matinee and evening performances at Erics) on that tour. The Fall played with them six times.

Research here: https://www.tapatalk.com/groups/thefall/gigographical-research-the-cramps-tour-march-1980-t43743.html
  • 22. dannyno | 29/06/2020
The "Old Gang" was British fascist Oswald Mosley's name for the established political parties in the 1930s. Don't see any direct connection in the lyrics.
  • 23. dannyno | 14/02/2022
Eleni told the Hanley brothers on their Oh! Brother podcast, that she was taken into the studio, just with MES, for the recording of Ol' Gang. She says she had to write the lyrics.
  • 24. dannyno | 14/02/2022
Ol' Gang was debuted in January 1997, several months before Levitate was recorded, but on the early bootlegs I have it was an instrumental.
  • 25. dannyno | 14/02/2022
At the Dingwalls gig on 24 September 1997, it sounds like "computer programme" rather than "management programme".
Mark Oliver
  • 26. Mark Oliver | 29/08/2023
Ted Chippington used to bill himself as 'the funniest man in Stoke-on-Trent' and his Wikipedia entry confirms he was born there, but I saw his show at Liverpool Poly and, as a fellow Stokie, said hello and had a chat with him..in the course of this, he said he was actually from Stone, Staffs., so maybe born S-o-T and migrated five miles South?

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