Hey badges tinkle
T-shirts mingle

Hey you horror-face!

I'm a printhead (1)
I go to pieces  (2)
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 in creases
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! (3)

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 (4)

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 (5)




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


2. It appears this song was originally titled "I Go To Pieces"; the name was perhaps changed because around this time, Rachel Sweet released a cover of the Del Shannon song of that name. See this discussion at the Fall Online Forum.


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


4. 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'." 

(Dan) The full text of the review of It's The New Thing from Melody Maker, 18th November 1978, by Ian Birch (p17):

Current darlings of (some of) the press, the Fall simply haven't delivered the goods to match their drooling coverage. I'm delighted for them to be radical nomads on new wave's frontier, but symbolism will backfire if the music isn't also up to scratch. "New Thing" is a marginal improvement on the grossly overrated "Bingo Master's Break-Out" E.P. and sees a slightly more accessible move. Nevertheless, it's little more than a big, thrashing beat with instruments colliding and everyone getting drunk.

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.


5. 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 (26)

  • 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.
  • 8. bzfgt (link) | 15/07/2018
What about the claim that it was Rowche Rumble? I realize the lyric matches this one.
  • 9. dannyno | 15/07/2018
So the facts are:

Dave McCullough discusses the song I Go To Pieces in his review of The Fall at the Nashville Rooms on 1 March 1979. His piece is published in Sounds dated 17 March. He says the song "could be" a "worthy 45". Which is not quite the same as saying it was a worthy 45.

I Go To Pieces is also mentioned in Ian Wood's review of the 26 February Warrington gig, published in NME dated 24 March, p.49.

McCullough also describes the song as "new". According to the Reformation! site, Printhead was first played on 14 February 1979, and the information suggests the Nashville gig would have been only its fourth outing. Rowche Rumble, on the other hand, does not seem to appear in Reformation!'s set lists until 14 June 1979, at a gig at Ajanta Cinema, Derby.

However, the Fall online gigography has an earlier Ajanta gig dated 26 April, supported by a flyer. And an attached review mentions Rowche Rumble. However, it also mentions a poor turnout, which is something also said about the later date. So were there two dates, or is the review actually about the June date and did the 26 April date not go ahead, despite the flyer?

The Fall Online gigography reports that in the wake of Bramah leaving, several gigs were cancelled including the Ajanta one. But the gigography says that it happened. I believe this to be an unsafe conclusion.

The April date is not listed on the Prefects gigography - other support slots are.

The issue of Xpert I which carries the review (#5) is dated 1980. Which suggests the later date is more likely. Would be good to have more publication information for this fanzine though.

In his book, Hanley describes finding out that Bramah had left The Fall on the night of an Iggy Pop gig at the Russell Club - this was on 20th April 1979. He describes a few days passing before Kay rings up drafting him into The Fall - specifically referring to the group's first Scottish gigs. The first of these was on 9th May in Aberdeen.

In other words - no April Derby gig.

Rachel Sweet's I Go To Pieces was released on 16 May 1979.

In the FOF thread cited, user Blue Jam says that "a few months earlier" (earlier than what?), one of the music papers had announced that The Fall's next single would be I Go To Pieces. This remains unconfirmed by documentary evidence, and may be a mistaken memory. But if true, that single would be Printhead not Rowche Rumble. Blue Jam says: " it turned out to be 'Rowche Rumble'". But that doesn't necessarily mean they are claiming that Rowche Rumble was renamed.

Rowche Rumble appears as a single released on 30 July 1979, recorded on 11 June. This is a close enough match to Steve Hanley's account in his book:

Mark and Kay decide to record ‘Rowche Rumble’ as a single, a song Marc and Craig have written the music for. It’s not a song about skinning up, it’s about housewives getting addicted to valium. Ugh. Ugh. It’s drum-led, but I’ve been weaving my own ideas for the bass through it. We spend a day in Rochdale recording and two months later it’s in the shops

At the time of the Nashville gig, Scanlon and Hanley were still playing with Staff 9 (they supported that night). The song is therefore most likely a post-Bramah song, and he left in April 1979.

So yes, for all those reasons I think I Go To Pieces is Printhead. And whether or not the Rachel Sweet single was the reason for a change of plan re: singles, it does seem to have coincided, at least, with a change of song title.
  • 10. bzfgt (link) | 22/07/2018
Thank you, Dan. I almost feel guilty because the upshot of all that is, no further alteration to my notes is necessary...
  • 11. dannyno | 24/04/2019
The full text of the review of It's The New Thing from Melody Maker, 18th November 1978, by Ian Birch (p17):

Current darlings of (some of) the press, the Fall simply haven't delivered the goods to match their drooling coverage. I'm delighted for them to be radical nomads on new wave's frontier, but symbolism with backfire if the music isn't also up to scratch. "New Thing" is a marginal improvement on the grossly overrated "Bingo Master's Break-Out" E.P. and sees a slightly more accessible move. Nevertheless, it's little more than a big, thrashing beat with instruments colliding and everyone getting drunk.
  • 12. bzfgt (link) | 28/06/2019
"Symbolism with backfire" is that (sic)? Or "symbolism will backfire"?
  • 13. dannyno | 30/06/2019
My typo, is is "will backfire" in the original.
  • 14. dannyno | 30/06/2019
"It is", obviously. Tsk.
  • 15. Jasom | 07/09/2019
I always thought "the singer is a neurotic preacher" or am I just thimking wishfully?
  • 16. bzfgt (link) | 14/09/2019
Sounds pretty clearly "drinker" to me...
  • 17. westpier | 15/12/2020
Worth noting that 'I Go To Pieces' is probably one of the best known songs on the northern soul scene. It was originally released in 1971 by Gerri Granger. It was played every week at the Wigan Casino (I'm guessing right through from 1973 to 1981) as part of the '3 before 8' ie. the same three songs were played just before the club closed at 8am. With MES liking the genre he would have probably known of the song.

Regarding the use of it as a title in the review, that could easily just be the journalist hearing it as the most prominent words in the song then assuming it's the title.
  • 18. dannyno | 18/12/2020
Comment #17

Wouldn't be surprising if the Northern Soul link were intended.

There were two references by different authors, though, which makes it less likely it's a mishearing.

And since I wrote comment #9 a couple of years ago, I found a third reference, in McCullough's "The Famous Five Fight On", from Sounds 21 April 1979. The article refers to the Eric's gig of 30 March.

'I Go to Pieces' follows, second only to "Steppin' Out' in the set as The Fall's complete mastery of the accepted r 'n' r style (re 'Anarchy in the U.K.'), an achingly 'commercial' topsy turvy r 'n' b flavoured rocker that's scheduled for the next single choice.

As I commented on the FOF when reporting this,

So the title change likely happened after that date and well after Sweet's single. And of course, it wasn't the next single choice.


Rachel Sweet's song was released 16th March.

Rowche Rumble came out 30th July.

So Printhead was still being touted as the next single, under the "I Go To Pieces" title, well after Sweet's song came out - but of course it wasn't the next single.
Sports Fan of the Year
  • 19. Sports Fan of the Year | 14/01/2021
'My face increases' = 'my face in creases'. So proud of myself for noticing this pun
Sports Fan of the Year
  • 20. Sports Fan of the Year | 14/01/2021
oh, I see this was already covered and I'm just taking up space, but I think the line is based on duality of meaning
  • 21. GLochin | 20/02/2021
I'm listening to the March 1979 Nashville Room set rn and it really sounds like MES is singing "I'm a pill head" instead of "print head" there so it strikes me as v likely that the song came to life under a different, provisional title
  • 22. dannyno | 27/02/2021
Comment #21: he also changed (or re-interpreted) lyrics on an ad hoc basis in order to comment on a recent event, though.
  • 23. Muptonian | 30/09/2021
Substitute with/for explained.

In conventional English English you would say:

Substitute an extra useless eye FOR an ear


Substitute an ear WITH an extra useless eye

I never heard of this band but it seems to me that they frequently play with language, sometimes to make you think or laugh, and that this line is in the lower quartile of their majestic crypticness.
  • 24. dannyno | 10/01/2022
"How my head increases"

A bit like the Man Whose Head Expanded?
  • 25. dannyno | 10/01/2022
"Dirty fingers"

Because newspaper and music press ink would come off on your fingers as you turned the pages.
  • 26. dannyno | 25/04/2022
According to Craig Scanlon on the Hanley brothers Oh! Brother podcast (Season 2, episode 7, 25 April 2022), this song was based on The Stooges' "Not Right".

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