No protein protection in self-enforced exile
Does everybody talk about the same things
All the time
All the time
Doppel thingy (2)
The chimney is the chief
Can kick and jump out of the mess (3)

Out of the masses
Any time
Any time
Any time (4)

There is something to believe in
No Hubbard or husbandry or freedom or the holy terror (5)
You know it's the smell (6)
A good batter, people, sincere
In a Billy backhand
Come on! Hey! Way! (7)

Out of the masses
Any time
Any time
Any time

No protein protection or self-enforced exile
Does everybody talk about the same thing
All the time
The chimney and the chief
Can kick and jump out of the mess

Out of the masses
Any time
Any time
Any time

There is something to believe in
No Hubbard or husband or husband or freedom
Or the holy terror
You know it's the smell
A good batter, people, sincere
In a rock back Billy rut (8)

Out of the masses
Any time
Any time
Any time

Out of the masses
Any time
Any time
Any time


1. "Protein protection" names a property that is sometimes attributed to shampoo, as Russell points out and as I have confirmed via Google. And Factory Idiot assures us that Ro(w)che Pharmaceutical flogs protein protection pills. Apparently "[n]aturally occurring proteases and phosphatases can destroy proteins you spent days isolating." If anyone has the patience to figure out what this is all about, please explain it to us in the comments. Otherwise, look it up yourself, dear reader... 


"Proteinprotection" was reworked with different words and a different arrangement as "(We Wish You) A Protein Christmas."

In an interview conducted shortly after he left the Fall, Ben Pritchard gives an account of the Fall's creative process:

That album [The Real New Fall Lp] was recorded live. Y’know, there was very, very few over-dubs.  The band went in and recorded, Mark went in.  We did that in New York, that was three weeks work, that was a good session.  But as far as the writing’s concerned, sometimes we’d go in the studio and Protein Protection’s [sic] a good example.  That was on the day, just started out as a bit of a jam.  We needed a new song and that’s what came out of it. Trust In Me off FHR was done the same, but most of the songs are done individually.  I mean, we hand ‘em in, Mark has a listen to them, either he says, “Yeah, I’ll have it,” or “No, go back and give me another one”.


2. Doppemeans "double" in German; it is mostly uttered by English speakers as half of the compound Doppelgänger, which literally means "double-goer" and refers, in German folklore, to an uncanny or supernatural look-alike or duplicate of a person. In English, the word is often used to mean any kind of look-alike. If "thingy" stands in for "gänger"-- which isn't entirely unlikely since someone unfamiliar enough with German to have to replace part of a word with "thingy" is likely to have only heard Doppel as part of Doppelgänger--then it could be a reference to the alikeness of those who "talk about the same things all the time." 


3. In contrast to those who talk about the same thing all the time, we have someone who can kick and jump out of the mess, or, as we will soon see, "out of the masses." And, as we see, "the chimney is the chief"--could this be a cryptic reference to Santa Claus? In that case, there is a thematic connection with "Protein Christmas," hitherto unnoticed, thematizing St. Nick. This is doubtlessly a silly suggestion, but where would we all be without silly suggestions? And, otherwise, why would anybody, ever, decide that it's a good idea to say "the chimney is the chief"? 


4. This is one of the places in Fall lyrics where I think of Nietzsche, who questioned whether the best way to organize society was for the greatest good of the greatest number, instead proposing an inversion where the mass of people have their existence justified by the possible emergence of one or a few exceptional individuals. In general, Nietzcshe was quite contemptuous of the masses, which he likened to herd animals, and something of that distaste for the common lot or at least mass culture seems to come through in these lyrics. To come "out of the masses," here, could mean to distinguish oneself, but could, either alternately or concurrently, also mean something like coming up for air, or getting out of a surrounding sameness and dullness. Nietzsche famously wrote, "Insanity in individuals is rare - but in groups, parties, nations, and epochs, it is the rule."  So, going back to note 3, Santa Claus is the übermensch. 

A prose fragment by Walt Whitman headed "Rulers Out of the Masses"--I don't know for certain whether the title is Whitman's own or if it was supplied by an editor--calls for political leaders who come from the working class. Whitman concludes:

The facts of rank-and-file workingmen, mechanics, Lincoln, Johnson, Grant, Garfield, brought forward from the masses and placed in the Presidency, and swaying its mighty powers with firm hand—really with more sway than any king in history, and with better capacity in using that sway—can we not see that these facts have bearings far, far beyond their political or party ones?

Whether or not MES is familiar with this piece--and it doesn't seem particularly likely that he is--it supplies us with another possible meaning of "out of the masses," i.e. coming from the masses but not necessarily despising them or leaving them behind. 


5. Hubbard, Mother. Probably not. Hubbard, L. Ron. Probably so. L. Ron Hubbard is very famous as the founder or Scientology and a bit less so as a science fiction writer. Here Hubbard is part of a list of things one might believe in--husbandry being the cultivation of plants and animals for food, it is less clear what it is doing on the list than Hubbard orfreedom. As for The Holy Terror, it doesn't, as one might expect, refer to a specific historical phenomenon, but is nevertheless a familiar term that has been used in a variety of ways--holy terror, rather than Holy Terror--sometimes as an epithet for a misbehaved child, and sometimes as a non-specific noun--holy terror rather than the holy terror--to describe religiously motivated violence, and also to descrice a religiously inspired affective state. In addition, it is the name of a heavy metal band, the title in translation of a novel by Jean Cocteau (actually The Holy Terrors, originally Les Enfants Terribles), a graphic novel by Frank Miller, an episode of Our Gang from 1929, a 1937 movie, an obscure 1965 TV movie, and an episode of Doctor Who among, believe it or not, other things. There's too much to choose from here, but to me the lyric connotes either religious awe or the intimidating power of organized religion, or perhaps both, since MES doesn't like to narrow things down too much.


6. Smell seems to me to be a counterpoint to abstraction, since it is one of the more concrete phenomena--concepts are far more susceptible of being visualized than of being associated with an odor, unless, of course, it is the concept of an odor, and even then conceptualization would, by definition, seem to involve abstraction away from the sensory basis. At the same time, "it's the smell" could be said metaphorically, in which case it could be abstract, and someone who is fed up with people talking abstractly could plausibly be imagined to say, in a metaphoric sense, that one knows them by their smell--again, the drive for fresh air, "out of the masses." So the phrase "you know its the smell," whatever it refers to, could cut both ways.


7. I was disappointed not to find a source for "Billy Backhand," as it sounds like a British slang epithet, kind of in the mode of "Billy No-Mates." Anyway, can one be "sincere in a...backhand way"? There are a few possibilities to be considered: one could speak words which one sincerely believes the truth of, but with a connotation unknown to one's interlocutor--"that's the best apple streudel I've ever had, when one has never had apple streudel before and didn't particularly enjoy the experience. On on level, though, we might consider that insincere, even though literally true. Another possibility is words spoken in a context where their effect is at odds with their meaning--it's hard to think of a good example on the spot, but what about this: a crime is committed that would have required a great deal of intelligence to pull off, and the speaker quite honestly compliments someone's intelligence in the hearing of a suspicious policeman. On the other hand, it's possible that MES isn't using the phrase sincerely, i.e. he may have intended "backhand" to nullify "sincere." On the other hand, what if the phrase is sincere, but in a backhand way? The only scenario I can devise for this is the following: MES doesn't intend the lyrics to mean anything at all, but is seeking to lure us down a path where we imagine all kinds of meanings that aren't there. But, if you stop and think about this possibility for a moment you may find that it leads to something like a paradox, so it's really for the best that I wrap this note up; we'll all meet again in note 8 and compare, uh, notes.


8. Backhand Billy and his blasted sincerity are back, this time as a John Hiatt song: Stolen Moments, 1990, track 9 is called "Rock Back Billy." It seems to me, speaking conservatively, to be at least less than a 50% chance that that song has anything to do with this one, but that's what I came up with Googling "rock back Billy". You can try it yourself, the web being a democratic place. If I was a hack journalist I'd end this note by saying "And I mean that sincerely" or something of that sort. But I won't do that...I'll end it by saying "I won't do that" instead. *



* You're right, I ended it by saying "instead" instead. 

Comments (33)

  • 1. haydn | 13/11/2013
wyndham lewis backreading
  • 2. chedditor | 05/11/2014
i don't know but 'protein protection makes me think of condoms
  • 3. bzfgt | 08/11/2014
Maybe so although the context isn't helpful.
russell richardson
  • 4. russell richardson | 08/05/2015
protein protection
  • 5. TES | 22/11/2015
Its about refraining from masterbation/sex, me thinks.
  • 6. bzfgt | 23/11/2015
That seems plausible but I'm not sure why...
Factory Idiot
  • 7. Factory Idiot | 06/04/2016
Google search shows protein protection pills being available from Roche Pharmaceuticals.
Kevin Laughlin
  • 8. Kevin Laughlin | 21/07/2016
I think the 2nd chorus is "Out of the matters"
  • 9. bzfgt | 23/07/2016
Yeah the first two sound like they could be that. I am having doubts about some of these lyrics, "A goodbye to people" both times sounds more like "A good batter people" too. And I'm not sure about "No Hubbard or husband or husband." I need to listen to this about 500 times closely. Unfortunately there is no lyrics book text for this or anything.
Factory Idiot
  • 10. Factory Idiot | 27/02/2018
I wonder if “Protein” is a play on the word “protean”, which means “tending or able to change frequently or easily”. It makes sense given the second line in the song. It jumped out at me just now, as I’m reading Going Clear, the book about Scientology, and this line in particular- “...there was a larger wheel turning inside Hubbard’s protean imagination.” A Hubbard reference in this song also, though the album came out ten years before this book. Weird.
  • 11. bzfgt (link) | 10/03/2018
Protean protection? Would you want protection from something/one who is protean? People say of their protectors "you're my rock," not "thank the heavens for your inconstancy"...I don't know...
  • 12. dannyno | 11/03/2018
No, I think it's about protein protection.

See for example this from New Scientist newswire, 25 March 2000:

Some people with HIV who remain symptom-free for decades without treatment
have an unusual immune system to thank for staying healthy—rather than a
mild strain of the virus, say researchers. A team from the National Institute of
Allergy and Infectious Diseases found that 11 out of a group of 13 “long-term
nonprogressors” had a peculiar form of the HLA protein on the surface of their
immune cells. This form was missing from the cells of people whose disease
progressed at the expected rate. The team hopes these results will eventually
lead to better treatments...
  • 13. dannyno | 11/03/2018
Well, referencing that, if not "about".
  • 14. dannyno | 11/03/2018
And you get stuff like this:
  • 15. Basmikel | 20/06/2018
Sincere in a Billy Backhand "Come on; hey!" way - sounds peppy but means you're a bore?
(A backhand from a billy club?)

Rock-Back-Billy - nostalgic rockabilly?
  • 16. nutterwain | 28/01/2019
I always thought this was about the school system and indoctrination in exchange for daily milk ('any time') for the 'masses'
  • 17. nutterwain | 02/05/2019
Definitely hearing "a good batter, people sincere" rather than "a goodbye to people sincere"
  • 18. bzfgt (link) | 28/06/2019
Why "batter"? Or is it just what you hear?
  • 19. nutterwain | 15/02/2020
Guessing but it might follow on from the smell..

You know it's the smell
A good batter; people sincere
  • 20. bzfgt (link) | 14/03/2020
Yes it sounds much more like "batter" I think although we'll hear if others disagree. Always sounds like "Billy Beckian" whatever the hell that would be
  • 21. joincey | 14/07/2020
there are probably famous batters named Billy , cricket? you'd have thought more likely than baseball but , well a 'billy club' looks more like a baseball bat, hey maybe "it" - the club - is just a truncheon / nightstick - whatever you want to call it, but a sportsman is more like to be called a 'batter' and to use a backhand ( - or forehand or whatever kind of stroke)
  • 22. Steve (link) | 08/09/2020
Just noticed your reference to 'Timmy No-Mates' in note 7. Nobody ever says that. When I was at school, it was 'Norman No-Mates', but the common iteration, almost universally used, is 'Billy No-Mates'.

Not the most crucial point ever, but I know you strive for accuracy!
  • 23. bzfgt (link) | 13/09/2020
I knew an English guy who always said "Timmy," maybe he wasn't representative...
  • 24. dannyno | 13/09/2020
Definitely not!

"Billy No Mates" is the standard.

See the entry in the Oxford Dictionary of Contemporary Slang

Link to, Oxford Dictionary of Contemporary Slang, 3rd ed.

Also the entry in the The New Partridge Dictionary of Slang and Unconventional English, which is in google books but may not be universally accessible.

Which isn't to say that someone might not whimsically use a different name for some reason. And the Oxford Dictionary records "Norman No-Mates" as synonymous. But Billy is the common usage.
Brian Cooper
  • 25. Brian Cooper (link) | 30/11/2021
+1 to Factory Idiot for Protean Protection.

1. If it's your granny and a potential secondary double-meaning or non-meaning, it's the Fall.
2. Re: 1, *being* protean is a form of (self) protection. See above.
3. Alternatively, someone's wonderful and frightening protean nature is something you might need to be protected against. If so, you've come to the wrong place. Unless this is exposure therapy.
  • 26. rik | 02/12/2021
I always thought the batter was referencing fish batter breading. aka fish and chips ...the smell of it too
Diallo Antoine
  • 27. Diallo Antoine | 09/10/2022
My apologies to everyone, but i have to share this to help one or two people out there. What else can I say about him, today am equally very grateful to Dr.Water as I am finally cured of HIV disease that have been eating me up for over a year and 6 months. After searching for different means to get my self cured but nothing seems to work out, behold today i can boldly stand and testify to the world at large that with the help of herbal medicine, I have found myself back to my feet and healthy again in just after few weeks after i got in contact with a great herbalist, through help on a blog which talk about HIV cure. Few weeks ago, i saw an article of a lady eplainning how she was cured after using some herbal medicines which was sent to her by Dr.Water. So i decided to give this great man a try by contacting him via his email and mobile number. I explained to him what my problem was, and he promised me that all would be fine and well by the time i finish using his remedy. I just had to believe in him, which i did. Low and behold, today i am very happy. It was just all like a magic when my blood sample tested negative. That is why i have come here to testify to the world at large and also to share my experience because I know there are many people out there who are also searching for a cure to one disease or the other. You can as well get in contact with DR.WATER now for his herbal medicines, through his WhatsApp +2349050205019. Write him today, I fully believe he will be able and capable to cure your own HIV/AIDS and can also cure all of these diseases as well: HEPATITIS B, HPV WARTS, CANCER, HERPES SIMPLEX VIRUS, ALS, DIABETES TYPE1&2, INFERTILITY IN BOTH MALE AND FEMALE
  • 28. Bobbins | 15/10/2022
Always reminds me of Iggy's 'Five Foot One'
  • 29. Joincey | 21/08/2023
I’m not really familiar enough with the film ( it’s pretty crap ) but in the Jeff Bridges film “K-PAX” there’s a line about how on the Spacey character’s planet “there are no husbands” - the character’s name is “Prot”. • just before he says this he addresses the Bridges character - a doctor ( psychiatrist or whatever ) - “Mark , Mark , Mark …”
  • 30. Joincey | 21/08/2023
And in the same film there’s another character, a patient in the hospital who goes on about “smells” all the time and asks “Prot” how he could do the “light travel thing” - how he could “kick and jump out of the mess”?
Mark Oliver
  • 31. Mark Oliver | 30/09/2023
Is it me, or does the entry by Diallo Antoine read like a pitch by a snake oil salesman? Curing HIV by some kind of herbal remedy? It just doesn't ring true. Speaking of untrue things, I can't let the reference to the third-rate Science Fiction hack L.Ron Hubbard pass without pointing out that ''Scientology'' is an evil and dangerous organised scam which preys on vulnerable and gullible people.
  • 32. dannyno | 30/12/2023
Note that "The Plouty" (i.e. Elena Poulou) is credited with "Organ + text" for this track on The Real New Fall LP.
  • 33. dannyno | 26/01/2024
From the booklet with the 2024 Cherry Red box set of The Real New Fall LP, formerly 'Country on the Click':

Eleni Poulou: Proteinprotection is about me living in a foreign country. England, which was then changing. Remember, those were difficult days. I'm not saying it's easy now. I miss the UK, but it's different now. Back then I was an immigrant; I was married, of course, and I helped Mark in many different ways, running the business, helping him with lyrics.

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