Printhead

Lyrics

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 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! (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
Regularly

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)

 

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Notes

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'." [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.

^

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')."

^

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Comments (10)

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

You need to add a space
Rema999
  • 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").

RIP MES
bzfgt
  • 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.
Rema999
  • 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 : )
bzfgt
  • 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."
bzfgt
  • 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.
dannyno
  • 7. dannyno | 18/05/2018
So it seems that Printhead was originally titled I Go To Pieces, see https://www.tapatalk.com/groups/thefall/i-go-to-pieces-t43027.html. 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.
bzfgt
  • 8. bzfgt (link) | 15/07/2018
What about the claim that it was Rowche Rumble? I realize the lyric matches this one.
dannyno
  • 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.
bzfgt
  • 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...

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