R.O.D.

Lyrics

(1)

Maybe you haven't got everythingthat you want after all

It's approaching
600 pounds gas and flesh
Rotten, tainted
It's approaching
Lips and tongue abhorrent
Flickering lexicon
Or a stray dog pack leader (2)

Hide, hide, all good people hang out for a result
Hide, dive, hide, reasonable people in silence do exult (3)
Realm of dusk
Realm of dusk

The Northerns
Look at the North ones
Their brains are unhinged by the sun (4)

Hide, hide, all good people hang out for a result
Hide, dive, hide, reasonable people in silence do exult
Realm of dusk
Realm of dusk

Rare stone
Our faces are rare stone
It comes to take them
Root out the armies, and

Hide, hide, all good people hang out for a result
Hide, dive, hide, reasonable people, it's the realm of dusk
Realm of dusk
Realm of dusk
Realm of dusk

Hide, hide, dive!
Realm of dusk...

 

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Notes

1. R.O.D.=Realm of Dusk. Dannyno remarks on the Fall online forum:

This is a red herring, I'm sure, but I do like the symmetry of Rod Serling being behind the Twilight Zone. Rod = R.O.D.; Twilight Zone = Realm of Dusk.

MES talks about the song a bit here:

R.O.D. (from _Bend Sinister_, 1986) "Realm Of Dusk, what do you think of that one?" Smith asks. I say I like the guitar a lot. "That was Brix, brilliant. It was an instrumental at first, I added the vocals later. It reminded me of surf music. The lyrics are about approaching the mediocre." I ask him how he feels about _Bend Sinister_, because he says something different about it in each interview. "I like _Bend Sinister_, it's brilliant, but I think it's been over-reported on. I found that critics always write things like 'this is obviously the record of a dying band', and later say they always thought it was a great record." 

John remembers: "I used to know the Fall's roadie, named Colin, who was also a founder (and short-lived) member of the Junior Manson Slags. He told me that the title of this song was also a little personal dedication to himself: 'Our Roadie.'"

This is presumably Colin Burns, who was also in Ark with Steve and Paul Hanley.

^

2. As befits a creature who appears in a realm of dusk (or is what approaches here the realm itself? If so, 600 lbs seems a bit light) it is as if the words with which we can describe it are hard to descry, flickering in out of reach.  

Or, in a moment of fear, the narrator's words fail in the face of sublime terror, flickering out like a candle.

On the other hand, Dan notes that "'flickering' has another angle of meaning, only to be found in books of underground slang like Grose's Classical Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue, where 'flickering' is defined as 'grinning, or laughing in a man's face"'-- so it's a bit like jeering or laughing. A 'flicker,' in Grose, is a drinking glass, so there's an association with drunkenness, punning on flickering as unsteadiness.

Further support can be found in the better known A Dictionary of Slang and Unconventional English, edited by Eric Partridge, which also defines "flicker" as a drinking glass and "flicker" as to grin or laugh in a person's face. Again that sense of aggressive mockery.

And I'm thinking that this sense seems to fit better in the context. A 'flickering lexicon' would now be words of jeering in-you-face mockery. Whether it's what was intended or not obviously I cannot say, but it does provide us with a new reading."

On the other hand, Dan also finds that in some live versions, the word order is altered such that "flickering" does not modify "lexicon" at all, such as certain shows from the Fall of 1986 which have:


Tongue and lips flickering
Abhorrent lexicon 
A stray dog pack leader

And, from Hamburg February 13, 1987:

600 pounds of gas and flesh
Lexicon abhorrent
It's approaching
With a riding aspect
On a stray dog pack leader

And Bazhdaddy maintains that the Bend Sinister version transcribed here should read:

Lips and tongue abhorrent, flickering.
Lexicon of a stray dog pack leader

I'm not personally convinced that MES has one set meaning attached to these lines such that we would have to read it one way. Aural language has no punctuation per se, and the ambiguity only has to be resolved in the act of transcribing. Therefore, it's good to keep all these variants in mind, and to remember that the transcript is a representation of what is sung, but is not identical with it.

^

 

3. The origin of this line can probably be found in a poem by W.B. Yeats (1865-1939) entitled "To a Friend Whose Work Has Come to Nothing":

Now all the truth is out,
Be secret and take defeat
From any brazen throat,
For how can you compete,
Being honor bred, with one
Who were it proved he lies
Were neither shamed in his own
Nor in his neighbors' eyes;
Bred to a harder thing
Than Triumph, turn away
And like a laughing string
Whereon mad fingers play
Amid a place of stone,
Be secret and exult,
Because of all things known
That is most difficult.
 
On the Peel version the lyric comes even closer to the line from Yeats, as MES there sings "Be silent and exult."  
 
 
4. The North (of England?) is not usually associated with overexposure to the sun; perhaps the "north ones" have wandered South and, unused to the amount of sunlight there, have become unhinged.
 
Goylito comments:
"Possibly a reference to the Hyperboreans, a supposed lost race similar to Atlantis, Mu, Lemuria kinda stuff. Definite possibility that MES came across them from various literary sources. Personally seem them referenced in Nietzsche and various occult/horror style fiction." This is the sort of thing MES goes in for... 
 

More Information

R.O.D.: Fall Tracks A-Z

The Story of the Fall: 1986

R.O.D.: The Fall Online Forum  includes an interesting interpretation of the song by Dktr Skagra, whose hypothesis is that the song is about the Fall.

Comments (43)

dannyno
  • 1. dannyno | 04/05/2014
The last lines after "move out the armies" go like this, to my ears:

Hide, hide, all good people hang out for a result
Hide, dive, hide, reasonable people exult realm of dusk
Realm of dusk
etc

i.e. not "in silence to exult"
marc balance
  • 2. marc balance | 16/05/2014
...in the peel session version it is loud and clear ' reasonable people, it's the realm of dusk...' ... same, but not so loud and clear, in the album version..
Joseph Mullaney
  • 3. Joseph Mullaney | 27/05/2014
It doesn't sound like `robes in tatters' to me. Could well be `Robson tainted', which I believe has been pointed out elsewhere.
bzfgt
  • 4. bzfgt | 28/05/2014
Does "Robson tainted" mean anything? Or is it purely about phonetics?
bzfgt
  • 5. bzfgt | 28/05/2014
I agree it sounds more like that, by the way; I'm just now listening to the Peel version and it seems definitely to be "...tainted." But who the hell is Robson?

OK, I rewound it a few times and am changing it to "Rotten, tainted" unless there's a good argument for "Robson" ("rotten" actually sounds clearish to me right now). It's kind of a shame, since "robes in tatters" is evocative in a kind of trashy way...the fact that it would be wearing "robes" is kind of amusing.
Joseph Mullaney
  • 6. Joseph Mullaney | 29/05/2014
The England football team's manager in 1986 (when this song was released) was Bobby Robson. Their captain was Bryan Robson of Manchester United. Either one of these Robsons seems to be referenced in the programme for the `Hey Luciani' stage play: http://www.visi.com/fall/news/luciani.html

Of course it may not be Robson he's saying, I'll listen again.
bob stevens
  • 7. bob stevens | 04/08/2014
I think I remember reading in an 80's article Smith talking disparagingly of Robsons England. (They had failed to qualify for the 1984 Euros, and the song was written presumably after this and before the 1986 WC)
Robsons reputation had presumably took a dip since his Ipswich days and was now tainted? But I have no idea why this observation would go into this song.
The word result is in the song however.
bob stevens
  • 8. bob stevens | 04/08/2014
This has got me thinkin!
"The lyrics are about approaching the mediocre." (MES) - Mediocre is a very apt word for English football since 66
josephmullaney85@gmail.com
  • 9. josephmullaney85@gmail.com | 23/09/2014
Having listened to this again I'm certain that it is Robson.
Karl B.
  • 10. Karl B. | 27/10/2014
Just to share some thoughts on this one.i think the Realm of Dusk is describing Marks penchant for unsavoury watering holes.hes known to frequent these types of establishments soaking it up and scribble lyrics on fag boxs and beer mats.A hide or a dive is common slang for early house type bars located in old dock or market areas to cater for the working man on night shift.he too was entitled to a beer after work.they are usually shuttered from the street and can be dark grimy holes,often times hard to tell what time of day it is from withinin,its a realm of perpetual dusk but thts probably agreeable to the clientele.in the modern era they are frequnted by alcoholic derelicts,lonely old men and the racing news hard men types.verse 1 i think describes the latter type of clientele.and i think the word is rupsitating,one of marks made up words with a Lovecraftian vibe.like hes describing one of H.Ps elder gods.pure malevolence.rupturing and pulsating.simultaneously.the psycho gangleader.verse 2 describes the unsettling re-emergence from one of these establishments.verse 3 i think describes the old war veteran contingency,chiseled features,looks that are precious.still at war or in war time.anyway these are just my feelings about the song.
dannyno
  • 11. dannyno | 26/06/2015
I hear "Rotten", not "Robson". However, the song is not without potential nods to soccer.

The first live performance of the song was apparently 12 July 1986. The World Cup took place in Mexico 31 May to 29 June. Argentina won, having knocked out England 2-1 in a quarter-final notorious for Diego Maradona's "hand of God" goal.

"Hide, hide, all good people hang out for a result" sounds like it could refer to football results.

"Their brains are unhinged by the sun" could refer to Northern European teams coping with the Mexican heat.

But it all seems a bit forced.
harleyr
  • 12. harleyr | 22/07/2015
Move out the armies...

Isn't this...
Roots out the armies?

I took it to mean the giant creature who thinks our faces look like rare stones deliberately flushes out the human armies, so it can stamp on them and get on with its stone collecting.
bzfgt
  • 13. bzfgt | 24/07/2015
Could be, I am listening to it now and considering it.

Anyone up for transcribing "Pledge" or "Stout Man"?
bzfgt
  • 14. bzfgt | 24/07/2015
I think so based on Peel. I'm going to listen to BS now and check that though. I changed it for now, I like your interpretation, it ties it together nicely. I never knew what the fuck any of this thing was about.
bzfgt
  • 15. bzfgt | 24/07/2015
Oh yeah, based on BS it's definitely "root." A pleasing result.
Martin
  • 16. Martin | 04/11/2016
I've listened to a few early live performances of the song (including the debut) and every time it's sounded like "rotten" and not "Robson" to me.
bzfgt
  • 17. bzfgt | 19/11/2016
Yes, I am right now listening to Peel and I hear very clearly and distinctly "rotten, tainted," not "Robson," although it's an interesting suggestion. I'm sticking with this but Mr. Robson is now, of course, in the record.
bzfgt
  • 18. bzfgt | 19/11/2016
Oog, I don't know about the other variants, I'm going to leave it for now. What a great song!
bzfgt
  • 19. bzfgt | 19/11/2016
Not sure about "root out," Peel sounds more like "move" to me but it doesn't seem definite. Maybe I'll listen to the 1% slower version next.
bzfgt
  • 20. bzfgt | 19/11/2016
I'm still not sure, but it definitely sounds 1% slower...and BS definitely sounds more like "root"! Changed.
John
  • 21. John | 26/01/2018
I used to know the Fall's roadie, who was also a founder (and short-lived) member of the Junior Manson Slags. Can't remember his name now, it was so many years ago during mad times in London. But he told me that the title of this song was also a little personal dedication to himself: "Our Roadie".
John
  • 22. John | 26/01/2018
Come to think of it his name was Colin.
bzfgt
  • 23. bzfgt (link) | 04/02/2018
Ha! Good one!
bzfgt
  • 24. bzfgt (link) | 04/02/2018
John, are you sure about Colin? I can't find a record of a Colin in JMS, although maybe he left before they recorded or something?
bzfgt
  • 25. bzfgt (link) | 04/02/2018
Wait--from a Rate Your Music review:

"More recently, Colin Burns (founder member of the JMS) has joined the band ARK - created by two ex-members of The Fall, Steve and Paul Hanley."
bzfgt
  • 26. bzfgt (link) | 04/02/2018
OK, confirmed Colin Burns in Ark, it must be he.
Bazhdaddy
  • 27. Bazhdaddy | 27/09/2018
There's a barely audible whispered chant at the beginning, slightly clearer on Peel version;
"Maybe you/ haven't got/ everything/ that you want /after all" starts at 00:09
dannyno
  • 28. dannyno | 02/10/2018
Re: Colin Burns. I'm skeptical, but could be so.

Importantly, the dates check out. R.O.D. debuted live in 1986, and in Hanley's biography is this passage, in the context of talking about the play of Hey! Luciani, which of course was later that year.

Colin, our roadie of six months, is a genuine superstar


It's the same Colin.
bzfgt
  • 30. bzfgt (link) | 13/10/2018
Bazhdaddy: Yes, I hear it! Excellent.
Goylito
  • 31. Goylito (link) | 13/11/2018
'The Northerns
Look at the North ones
Their brains are unhinged by the sun'
Possibly a reference to the Hyperboreans a supposed lost race similar to Atlantis, Mu, Lemuria kinda stuff. Definite possibility that MES came across them from various literary sources. Personally seem them referenced in Nietzsche and various occult/horror style fiction.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hyperborea
dannyno
  • 32. dannyno | 28/01/2019
"Lips and tongue abhorrent
Flickering lexicon"

What does "flickering lexicon" mean? Well, "lexicon" would seem to represent a dictionary or glossary or vocabulary - by poetic extension, a style of expression. I don't think we are to take it that it's about a literal word-book of any kind.

Note 2 currently, and admirably, sets out what I think has been the general opinion - in this realm of dusk, we are to think of a "flickering lexicon" as one that flutters like a candle, perhaps insubstantial or unreliable. So the narrator's words are failing him, confronted by this abhorrent apparent beast/creature. Failing either through fear, or inability to do it descriptive justice in faint or stuttering speech.

But I wonder.

And the reason I wonder is that "flickering" seems like an understated way of describing that situation. And maybe that's it. Maybe MES liked the phrase, and felt it kind of fits here. And yet somehow this has been nagging away at me.

Now, it just so happens that "flickering" has another angle of meaning, only to be found in books of underground slang like "Grose's Classical Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue", where "flickering" is defined as "grinning, or laughing in a man's face" - so it's a bit like jeering or laughing. A "flicker", in Grose, is a drinking glass, so there's an association with drunkenness, punning on flickering as unsteadiness.

Further support can be found in the better known "A Dictionary of Slang and Unconventional English", edited by Eric Partridge, which also defines "flicker" as a drinking glass and "flicker" as to grin or laugh in a person's face. Again that sense of aggressive mockery.

And I'm thinking that this sense seems to fit better in the context. A "flickering lexicon" would now be words of jeering in-you-face mockery. Whether it's what was intended or not obviously I cannot say, but it does provide us with a new reading.
dannyno
  • 33. dannyno | 28/01/2019
More support, from Cassell's Dictionary of Slang, by Jonathon Green (1998, pb ed 2000):

[quote]
flicker v. 1. [late 17C-early 19C] to grin, to laugh in someone's face. 2 [late 19C-1930s] (US Und.) to faint or pretend to faint. to die.
dannyno
  • 34. dannyno | 28/01/2019
Some live versions have a different word order which give the lines a different meaning.

I-Beam San Francisco, 21 Oct 1986 (not same as gigography?) and Bristol University, 06 Nov 1986, and Sheffield Polytechnic, 26 Nov 1986 have this:


Tongue and lips flickering
Abhorrent lexicon
[of?] A stray dog pack leader


Woolwich Coronet, 08 Nov 1986 follows the Bend Sinister word order.

But then this: Markthalle, Hamburg, Germany, 13 Feb 1987:


600 pounds of gas and flesh
Lexicon abhorrent
It's approaching
With a riding aspect (?)
On a stray dog pack leader


Or something like that.

The Peel Session version sticks with the flickering lexicon version.

Anyway, so there's a common live variant (original? revised?) in which the lexicon is abhorrent rather than flickering, and in which lips and tongue are flickering rather than abhorrent. More straightforward, I think. But not what is on record.
dannyno
  • 35. dannyno | 28/01/2019
... and which also suggests that my attempts to force a different meaning on the word "flickering" may be moot. On the other hand, that reading is still there even if not intended (and we don't know it wasn't, as MES experimented with word order, if that's what he was doing).
Bazhdaddy
  • 36. Bazhdaddy | 04/02/2019
Heard here as;
"Lips and tongue abhorrent, flickering.
Lexicon of a stray dog pack leader"

He/it has a physically repulsive mouth and a limited animal vocab.

Peel version is "kids, lips and tongue"
Sea Bee Blue
  • 37. Sea Bee Blue | 08/02/2019
This song bespeaks an army of the apocalypse. M. E. is a Balaam prophet, and he mocks those that understand in his song "Powder Keg". "Flickering lexicon" a reference to conlangs. "Stray dog pack leader" a reference to a warrior form. Not "rotten, tainted" but "robs imitating", a game in the final battles, wherein property is abolished as a power and now a mockery for play. Peel version, "kids, lips and tongues" an echo of "from the mouths of babes".
Sea Bee Blue
  • 38. Sea Bee Blue | 08/02/2019
Shit, it's not Powder Keg. What's the song where he says "believed we were inspired by The Holy Spirit"? Never liked the track much, so I don't remember the title.
bzfgt
  • 39. bzfgt (link) | 16/02/2019
Great stuff with the "flickering." Check out my new Note 2; given my verdict at the end, I am quite satisfied with both the transcription and the note.
bzfgt
  • 40. bzfgt (link) | 16/02/2019
On the other hand, you might think my verdict a pusillanimous cop-out...Paul Go would never stand for it!
dannyno
  • 41. dannyno | 16/02/2019
Comment #36. I disagree with the punctuation here. As sung on the album and Peel Session it is not as straightforward as that, because there are relatively long gaps between the words "abhorrent", "flickering" and "lexicon".
dannyno
  • 42. dannyno | 16/02/2019
Comment #38: You're thinking of Hostile. The lyric you cite comes from a newspaper article.
dannyno
  • 43. dannyno | 03/03/2019
The "lips and tongue abhorrent" bit is vaguely reminiscent of the opening pages of Swedish painter Carl Larsson's autobiography.

He writes about a dream involving a cobra:


Now it approached my face, I felt its tongue as if it were fluttering against my lips, but I smiled and remained courageous. Ah, but I was petrified, and so was my wide smile. Now, now it stole its narrow, thin, thin tongue between my lips. I felt it against my tongue. Now I could take it no longer.

I... woke up.


Dan

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