Rebellious Jukebox

Lyrics

(1)
(Martin Bramah):

I'm searching for the now (2)
I'm looking for the real thing, yeah

(MES):

Head through a blue haze (3)
Waiting for the musical craze
We gotta taxi for Mr. Nelson
Taxi for Mr. Nelson (4)

Rebellious Jukebox yeah
Rebellious Jukebox, oh

No sounds at first came out
This machine had dropped out
But it made music to itself
Made music for itself

Rebellious Jukebox yeah
Rebellious Jukebox now


(MB):

I'm looking for the home of the real
I want a happy time now

(MES):

Drinkers from the slaughterhouse
Weren't happy and went out
Noise resounds aloud
Noise resounds the lounge
 

Rebellious Jukebox yeah
Rebellious Jukebox oh

I sidled up to a fruit machine
This I was imagining:
Some drinkers dancing at the bar
Drinkers dancing for the bar (5)

Rebellious Jukebox yeah
Rebellious Jukebox now

(MB):

I'm searching for the now
I'm looking for the real thing yeah

Notes

1. The comments on this song from the Reformation site (see the link below under "more information") introduced me (I can admittedly be a little obtuse) to the idea that this song is told from the perspective of the jukebox itself, which makes things much clearer (for instance, "I sidled up to a fruit machine" is mystifying until one realizes that it is the jukebox talking, at which point one gets the joke). Thus, the jukebox is "rebellious" because it has become sentient and doesn't behave in the expected manner; instead we see "this machine had dropped out" and now "made music for itself," to the consternation of the drinkers from the slaughterhouse.  Humor aside, it is perhaps not much of a stretch to see this as in some ways an expression of the Fall's self-conception, or at least MES's (assuming he is sole author of the lyrics, which is credited to him and Martin Bramah). It must indeed be easy at times for band functioning within the popular music industry to see itself as a jukebox, doing what it is programmed to do by the record company and, by proxy, the public. The Fall were just coming out of the gate and signaling the band's intention to "drop[...] out" and "make music for itself." It is a declaration made proudly, perhaps a bit anxiously, and even a bit sheepishly, in the form of a joke. MES's thoughts on the Fall's relation to the commercial side of their vocation is complex, and I have examined it in more detail in the notes to  "C 'n' C-S Mithering." In contrast to punk posturing about not selling out and the like, MES is realistic and nuanced when it comes to the tension between pleasing himself and being an entertainer. He does not scorn his audience, and he does not deny the fact that some degree of commercial success is necessary to make the Fall a viable venture, but these things can never be the primary aim of the music, which he sees, I think, as an intrinsic good rather than a means to an end (and it may even be necessary to specify that he sees the lyrics this way even more than the music, although his vision of the relation between words and music is seemingly, like most Fall things, suitably complex). 

In a 1980 interview with Printed Noises, MES gives some of his views on the subject. Notice that here "selling out" is equated with not getting paid, even as MES rejects the idea that music is a career:

MES: It's like having your own business. I didn't join the band as another career, I mean if I'd have wanted a job, I'd have got a job. This is what people don't differentiate with The Fall. A lot of bands that are going around now are doing jobs, and as far as I'm concerned I'm not doing a job.

PN: What did you think of the music industry before you started?

MES: I thought it was pretty ridiculous, and I thought I'd never touch on it. I thought I'd just have a laugh for a while. As it is, I'm still there, so I'm using that power to still attack it.

PN: Has having records out and doing tours changed your opinion of it?

MES: I've found out a lot about it and a lot of it is very shocking. Actually I thought it was a bigger load of shit than it was, but in a lot of ways I've been shocked as well.....little details like support bands pay to go on tour with big bands, things like that.

PN: Are there any other ways you're unhappy about the music industry?

MES: A lot of bands are continually in debt. One thing I started The Fall out to do in that we would never pay to play. In the early days we used to turn a lot of gigs down from people who'd say "Come and play with us, we really want you to play with us, but we can only give you a tenner...." and things like that.We always turned that sort of thing down, because that sort of thing is stamping out creativity.

KC: It's `cause the musicians accept it as well... .

MES: Yes, that's what I'm saying It's very easy to say it's everybody else's fault, that the record companies are bastard, the agents are bastards. That is the case, but it's their job like, and the musicians go along with it. The new wave sold out a sight quicker than any other fucking wave. In my personal opinion they copped out a lot faster than a lot of people do in a lot of other arts and a lot of other musical waves. There's a lot of bands who, when they're asked to go on television, say yes straight away, when there were a lot of bands say ten years ago who I doubt would have done it.

Joseph Holt comments:

The Peel session version starts off with Smith saying 'Wilton jukebox'. The Wilton was a pub in the middle of Prestwich. Nowadays called the Priests Retreat I understand. It was just by MES favorite, The Foresters. Although I grew up in Prestwich and learned to drink there, I never once went in The Wilton as it was a notorious knob-heads pub where it was always kicking off. I'm taking late 80s here.

Paul Hanley has confirmed that the first two lines of each verse are sung by Martin Bramah.

^

2. Via Dan: "When Brix's band The Adult Net covered Rebellious Jukebox on the B-side of their 1985 single Incense and Peppermints, it was retitled Searching for the Now."

^

3. Dan points out that the obvious interpretation here is cigarette smoke, and, as if that information is not dazzling enough, "a cover of the song Smoke Gets In Your Eyes was a very minor hit for a band called Blue Haze in 1972 -- it reached no 32 in the UK charts." 

^

4. From the same interview as above, with MES, Craig Scanlon, and Kay Carroll: 

PN: What about `Taxi for Mr Nelson'? That doesn't suggest anything to me.

MES: You must have been in a pub when someone calls "Taxi for so-and-so"?, well ..

CS: That's all it is.

MES: Jukebox, doesn't it connect? It's a play on words, like The Fall. Well in any case it doesn't matter, `cause it really happened. I'm not going to change it to make it easier for someone to relate to.

CS: Be happy in your ignorance.

PN: But when people hear that, it's a striking line....

MES: Well then, it's scored one point already if it's a striking line.

CS: It's a striking line for you, don't worry how someone else interprets it, it depends on what you think.

KC: What do you want? Do you want someone to write a book, and then write another book to tell you what it's about?

PN: I don't want everything explained, it's just that people might be put off by the fact that they can't approach it, it's too obscure....

MES: Well they must be pretty fucking gone then, mustn't they? You're being an intellectual, treating me like an entertainer, saying "Look boy I understand everything you're trying to say, but look, the proles don't." Well it's about time they fucking did - I'm a prole, right? Nobody told me what to do, and I'm not telling them what to do. People like that aren't worth having around anyway.

I am not certain what MES means by "It's a play on words, like the Fall." However, it seems clear that the reviewer should have punctuated it "A play on words, like 'The Fall'", unless he means that the Fall itself is a play on words, a notion that might almost be too confusing to even be considered.

It seems that MES means that the phrase "Rebellious Jukebox" is a play on words. Danny helpfully suggests on the Fall online forum: "'Rebellious Jukebox' could be read two ways: literally: a jukebox that rebels, or metaphorically: it's the music on the jukebox that is rebellious."

^

5. "Drinkers dancing for the bar" seems to imply that the bar is itself sentient (I imagine that the physical bar is intended; Britishers never refer to the building in which a bar is housed as a "bar" rather than a "pub.").

A reader, Mike, responds to the above: 

"This could be seen as a fairly straightforward idea, either 'the drinkers are dancing towards the bar' or 'drinkers are dancing for the people at the bar.'
Either way, he's more likely referring to people rather than the physical 'bar.'"

This is a good point, and suggests the line should be taken more straightforwardly than my perhaps fanciful interpretation. My thought was that since the jukebox is arguably portrayed as conscious ("made music for itself"), the "fruit machine" and the bar may also be intended as having some sort of agency or consciousness. 

^

Comments (13)

Joseph Holt
  • 1. Joseph Holt | 06/07/2015
The Peel session version starts off with Smith saying 'Wilton jukebox'. The Wilton was a pub in the middle of Prestwich. Nowadays called the Priests Retreat I understand. It was just by MES favorite, The Foresters. Although I grew up in Prestwich and learned to drink there, I never once went in The Wilton as it was a notorious knob-heads pub where it was always kicking off. I'm taking late 80s here.
Herr Bloedel
  • 2. Herr Bloedel | 03/12/2015
The 'Taxi for Mr Nelson' is surely just a contrast with the idea of 'I'm looking for the real thing, yeah' and fits in with Smith's constant lambasting of middle class kids in bands acting like they're from the streets and then travelling home in the relative luxury of a taxi as opposed to a bus etc.
bzafgat
  • 3. bzafgat | 06/12/2015
That seems plausible, although I'm not sure if it's what he had in mind. Could be, though...
dannyno
  • 4. dannyno | 12/10/2017
The opening "searching for the now" lines are apparently sung by Martin Bramah.

Paul Hanley posted to "The Mighty Fall" Facebook page that,


i know it's Martin because when we did the song in Factory Star he said 'I'll be Mark and you be me'! Quite an honour!
bzfgt
  • 5. bzfgt (link) | 04/11/2017
We have a small problem here. If the first two lines are sung by Brahmah I am pretty sure that the "home of the real"/"Home of the now" lines are Bramah throughout, as now sounds obvious; it would be more helpful if it were reported that way, because it is hard to cite as it is. What were Hanley's exact words?
dannyno
  • 6. dannyno | 04/11/2017
Comment #5: His words are exactly as quoted in comment #4.
bzfgt
  • 7. bzfgt (link) | 11/11/2017
Yes of course but what are those words responding to? That just says "I know it's Martin."
dannyno
  • 8. dannyno | 14/11/2017
Comment #7:

Right, so William Foisy asked "Anyone else think Martin Bramah sounds like a punk-rawk Ringo Starr in the first few lines of "Rebellious Jukebox"?", to which Barrie Reilly replied, "Marc Riley sings the "Im searching for the now......" lines". Foisy then thanks Reilly, but then Paul Hanley pops up to say, "It's Martin B". Foisy then thanks Paul Hanley, to which Hanley replies, "yw! i know it's Martin because when we did the song in Factory Star he said 'I'll be Mark and you be me'! Quite an honour!", as quoted above.
dannyno
  • 9. dannyno | 14/11/2017
"Head through a blue haze"

Cigarette smoke? Is that even worth noting?
dannyno
  • 10. dannyno | 14/11/2017
... in which connection it may or may not be relevant to note that a cover of the song Smoke Gets In Your Eyes was a very minor hit for a band called Blue Haze in 1972 - it reached no 32 in the UK charts.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Smoke_Gets_in_Your_Eyes
dannyno
  • 11. dannyno | 14/11/2017
"I'm searching for the now".

When Brix's band The Adult Net covered Rebellious Jukebox on the B-side of their 1985 single Incense and Peppermints, it was retitled Searching for the Now.
bzfgt
  • 12. bzfgt (link) | 02/12/2017
Blue haze--yeah, why not? And good intel on Brix's cover; even though we all prefer notes that antedate the songs, again, what the hell.
bzfgt
  • 13. bzfgt (link) | 02/12/2017
You just pretend it's the best note ever--watch and learn.

2. Dan points out that the obvious interpretation here is cigarette smoke, and, as if that information is not dazzling enough, "a cover of the song Smoke Gets In Your Eyes was a very minor hit for a band called Blue Haze in 1972 -- it reached no 32 in the UK charts." 

^

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