Hey badges tinkle
T-shirts mingle

Hey you horror-face!

I'm a printhead (1)
I go to pieces
I'm a printhead
I go to pieces yeah

End of catch-line
End of hook-line

We had a two page
It's what we needed
I'm an ill head
My face increases
How my head increases
Real problems, biz

So how is it, yeah
That I've reached here
I thought this game
Would do me good

How could printed vinyl bring you out to here?

We laughed with them
When it was take-the-piss time
I'm no egghead
But I'm an ex-worker man
W.C.-hero friend - and not water closet! (2)

There's a barrier between writer and singer
Uh-huh he's a good man
Although a lazy one
The singer is a neurotic drinker
The band little more than a big crashing beat.
Instruments collide and we all get drunk (3)

The last two lines
Were a quote, yeah
When we read them
We went to pieces

We went to pieces, yeah
We went to pieces, yeah

One day a week
I'm a printhead, yeah
Twenty pence a week
Dirty fingers

Printhead X 3

With print you substitute an ear
For an extra useless eye (4)



1. The song is a fairly straightforward dig at music journalists, a common target for MES, especially in interviews.


2. Evidently "working class" is what the initials are actually meant to stand for.


3. From Reformation

An attack on the music press of the time. According to Simon Ford in his book "Hip Priest" (Quartet Books, 2003; page 72) "part of the inspiration...was a review of 'It's The New Thing' by Ian Birch with his, 'Nevertheless, it's little more than a big thrashing beat with instruments colliding and everyone getting drunk' becoming in Smith's version,'The band little more than a big crashing beat, instruments collide and we all get drunk'." [The review in question was published in Melody Maker; 18 November 1978.]

MES, in a combative interview from early 1980, is merciless on the subject of reporters:

Printhead is like that - a lot of people don't realise about print, and what the papers do. A lot of bands live by the papers, y'now they get stomach upsets in the morning. I went through it for a short while but I think it's very funny. I've met loads of people who were crying their eyes out because they'd jut had a bad review from someone that's just learned to write. In my mind it's just pathetic. They get away with loads of things because they think journalism is a subculture,which it isn't. I've read reviews of our gigs which are just reiterations of what I, or somebody else has said. It's disgusting that people can get L100 a week for doing that. The Fall don't get many bad reviews, we've noticed, because a lot of journalists have sussed we'd know exactly what they were up to. I could tell you so many journalists who've copped out on The Fall, they've just fucking broken. They've come down to do something very good or very bad on us, we've pushed `em to do it, and in the end they couldn't.


4. This line is probably inverted: I think (perhaps wrongly) it would make more sense to say "substitute an extra useless eye for an ear." On page 293 of Under The Volcano (a book MES has mentioned approvingly in interviews), Malcolm Lowry writes of a mirage or vision of a train that it has "a single useless strange eye." Further afield from any probable MES connection, Hölderlin, in his poem "In Lovely Blue...", writes "Perhaps King Oedipus had an eye too many" (Der König Oedipus hat ein Auge zuviel vielleicht)

Rema999 submits: "I think the last two lines are a smart pun meaning the printhead does not listen to music ('substitute an ear') and instead puts himself--or his self, meaning ego--and his opinion before everything else ('an extra useless eye'= extra useless 'I' as in 'me')."


Comments (7)

  • 1. Titfordshire | 30/07/2014
My face in creases
My head increases

You need to add a space
  • 2. Rema999 | 27/01/2018
I think the last two lines are a smart pun meaning the printhead does not listen to music (substitu an ear) and instead puts himself - or his self, meaning ego - and his opinion before everything else (an extra useless eye-> extra useless "I" as in "me").

  • 3. bzfgt (link) | 12/02/2018
Yes, good thought. Note though that if it means that, it still should say "substitute an extra useless eye/I for an ear," not the other way round.
  • 4. Rema999 | 27/02/2018
@bzfgt I don't get it sorry. Why should it be the other way around?
If I were to paraphrase the verse: "with print you replace an ear and you put an extra useless eye in its place"
Note this is not a rethoric question nor I am trolling: I'm not a native English speaker, maybe I'm missing something : )
  • 5. bzfgt (link) | 10/03/2018
In English to substitute X for Y is to replace Y with X, as in a substitute teacher who replaces the teacher who is sick. So it would literally mean "with print you take an extra useless eye and put an ear in its place."
  • 6. bzfgt (link) | 10/03/2018
You could possibly substitute X with Y--its awkward but it may work, I don't know--but "for" doesn't leave us any wiggle room.
  • 7. dannyno | 18/05/2018
So it seems that Printhead was originally titled I Go To Pieces, see It may have been changed because Rachel Sweet released a cover of the Del Shannon song of the same title on Stiff Records in 1979.

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