Right noise. (1)

We're gonna get real speedy
We're gonna wear black all the time
You're gonna make it on your own.

Cos we dig
Cos we dig
We dig
We dig repetition
We dig repetition
We've repetition in the music
And we're never going to lose it.

All you daughters and sons
who are sick of fancy music
We dig repetition
Repetition on the drums
and we're never going to lose it.

This is the three R's
The three R's:
Repetition, Repetition, Repetition (2)

Oh mental hospitals
Oh mental hospitals
They put electrodes in your brain
And you're never the same
You don't dig repetition
You don't love repetition (3)

Repetition in the music and we're never going to lose it

President Carter loves repetition
Chairman Mao he dug repetition (4)

Repetition in China
Repetition in America
Repetition in West Germany
Simultaneous suicides (5)

We dig it, we dig it,
we dig it, we dig it

Repetition, repetition, repetition
Repetition, repetition, Regal Zonophone (6)

There is no hesitation
This is your situation
Continue a blank generation
Blank generation
Same old blank generation
Groovy blank generation
Swinging blank generation (7)

Repetition, repetition, repetition....


1. Alternate transcriptions of this line include the following: "Right, noise!" "Right...noise." "Right! Noise..." My rendition suggests that "right" is an adjective modifying "noise," but we don't really know this, do we? 


2. "The Three Rs" are, traditionally, "Reading, 'Riting, and 'Rithmetic." Sir William Curtis, an English MP ("Member of Parliament"), is often given credit for coining the phrase in 1828, although it may have been in circulation earlier.


3. In the late 1970s several of the members of the Fall were living in an apartment behind a mental hospital, and MES mentions hanging out with the patients from time to time. Kay Carroll was a psychiatric nurse, and Una Baines was soon to spend time in a mental ward as a patient.


4. As usual, when Smith's songwriting is at its most anthemic it is always particularly ambiguous. Note the declaration at the beginning "We're gonna wear black all the time," which seems to me to suggest that "repetition" can refer to an uncreative conformism. And the allies he invokes here, Carter and Mao, ought to give us pause about whom the singer thinks he's talking to, and what he is talking about, while the prior equation of a love of repetition with mental illness is hardly encouraging. Thus, while Reformation calls this song a "statement of intent," and I wouldn't go so far as to say that is exactly wrong, MES has never seemed comfortable making such declarations in any kind of straightforward way (see the notes to "Bombast" for a further discussion of this tendency). 

From Live from the Vaults: Oldham 1978 (August 21, 1978): "Sky Saxon dug repetition!" Saxon, the singer of the Seeds, is also (seemingly) referenced in "Weather Report 2."


5.Saith Dan:

The song was being performed live from May 1977. The version on Bingo-Master's Break-Out! was recorded on 9 November 1977. The version on Live 77 dates from December 23 1977.

What would be interesting is whether the lyrics were settled prior to the November recording.

Anyway, if the lyrics before November didn't include the West Germany/"simultaneous suicides" line, then I think the most likely reference would the suicides of original Baader-Meinhof group members Andreas Baader, Gudrun Ensslin, and Jan-Carl Raspe in Stammheim prison, near Stuttgart on 18 October 1977, having learned of the rescue of the passengers on the hijacked Lufthansa airliner in Mogadishu.

MES has a documented interest in the Baader-Meinhof gang.


6. Regal Zonophone was a record label, a subsidiary of EMI, formed by the merger of Regal and Zonophone in 1932 (shortly after The Gramophone Company, the parent of Zonophone, and The Columbia Graphophone Company, the parent of Regal, merged to form EMI). They released some fairly successful rock records in the 1960s and 1970s, from the likes of The Move, T. Rex, and Dave Edmunds. The Fall never worked with Regal Zonophone, and I'm not sure why MES is singling them out as an exemplar of repetition; maybe he just likes the sound of the name.


7. "Blank Generation" is a 1976 song by Richard Hell and the Voidoids. Hell wrote the song as a take-off of "The Beat Generation," a 1959 song by Bob McFadden and Dor (Rod McKuen), which proclaims "I belong to the Beat Generation/ And I don't let anything trouble my mind/ I belong to the Beat Generation/ And everything's going just fine" (the a-side of this single, "The Mummy," was, as "I'm a Mummy," covered by the Fall on 1997's Levitate). In Hell's hands this becomes "I belong to the Blank Generation/ I can take it or leave it each time." "Blank Generation" is generally considered a seminal punk song; appropriately enough, it is a roughed-up repeat of McFadden and Dor's jazzy rockabilly, helping to set the coördinates for punk's fascination with the 1950s. The Sex Pistols, told by Malcolm McLaren to write another "Blank Generation," came up with "Pretty Vacant," another early entry in the punk canon; thus, "Blank Generation" is a quite appropriate touchstone for a song about repetition. Hell has variously descibed his song as a paean to apathy and an anthem to unlimited possibility, but whatever he was on about MES probably follows the Sex Pistols in identifying the song with vapidity. "The Beat Generation" is a light-heartedly sincere cash-in on a cultural movement; Hell's version was taken, rightly or wrongly, as a founding anthem for another youth movement, while the Sex Pistols, as is their wont, manage to double down on cynicism by cynically mocking it. MES's entry in this cultural conversation is typically oblique, but it is pretty safe to say that his repetition of Hell's chorus is not an homage. The Story of the Fall takes the quote to be "an obvious sneer at the lazy self-regarding teenage clichés of the time," and this seems about right, except maybe the "obvious" part; it is undoubtedly true that the irony of many of the early punk songs was lost on a good many punks, although it is just as undoubtedly unfair to suggest that there is anything unique about punks in this respect. In any case, "continue a blank generation" adds another ambiguity to the pile, since here MES is mocking, rather than promoting, a certain kind of repetition. This attitude is exemplified by the following exchange from Totale's Turns, recounted on The Story of the Fall:

MES's refusal to look back philosophy is reflected on the 1980 live version [of "In My Area"] in his response to a punter requesting (presumably and neatly) 'Repetition'. 'Are you doing what you did two years ago? Yeah? Well, don't make a career out of it.'

It is impossible for me to tell from the recording what request MES is actually responding to, but one understands the impulse to make it "Repetition," even if this isn't historically accurate. In any case, making a career out of repetition--the "statement of intent" reading--is not exactly what MES has in mind here. At the same time, it's undeniable that "we've repetition in the music and we're never going to lose it" makes a nifty slogan and captures a key part of the Fall's aesthetic. And if John Lydon's assessment of the band-- "Pretty damn relentless, that fellow, isn't's almost perpetual motion with the same song..."--seems overblown, nobody who has ever listened to "And This Day" while coping with a hangover can deny that there's something to it.



Comments (19)

  • 1. dannyno | 11/05/2014
"Simultaneous suicides"

I feel there should be a real world reference here. The obvious one, the Jonestown mass suicide, happened in 1978, but too late.
  • 2. dannyno | 11/05/2014
The song was being performed live from May 1977. The version on Bingo-Master's Break-Out! was recorded on 9 November 1977. The version on Live 77 dates from December 23 1977.

What would be interesting is whether the lyrics were settled prior to the November recording.

Anyway, if the lyrics before November didn't include the West Germany/"simultaneous suicides" line, then I think the most likely reference would the suicides of original Baader-Meinhof group members Andreas Baader, Gudrun Ensslin, and Jan-Carl Raspe in Stammheim prison, near Stuttgart on 18 October 1977, having learned of the rescue of the passengers on the hijacked Lufthansa airliner in Mogadishu.

MES has a documented interest in the Baader-Meinhof gang.
  • 3. dannyno | 11/05/2014
"We're gonna get real speedy
You gotta wear black all the time"

No, I don't think so. This is what I hear:

"We're gonna get really speedy
We're gonna wear black all the time"
  • 4. dannyno | 25/06/2014
"There is no hesitation"

I've been haunted by the feeling that I've heard this line before. A lyric borrowed from a different song?

Well, I found it. Kylie Minogue, "I Should Be So Lucky". Which means that it's a red herring, unless Stock, Aitken and Waterman were influenced by this Fall song and quoted this line in their pop hit (possible but vanishingly unlikely).
  • 5. Lloyd | 24/03/2017
Black generation in the final line?
  • 6. bzfgt (link) | 01/04/2017
Lloyd it's totally possible and it sounds like it as much as the other but I don't know the change is warranted without some evidence (since it sounds like the other as much as it + Richard Hell)
  • 7. GLochin | 27/01/2018
I've heard speculation that the whole 'simultaneous suicides' might be tied to some perplexing bit MES wrote in early '79:

"Did you know?
That when the Russians took Berlin in '45 they found 2000 hari-karied Buddhist monks in German uniforms?"

from here:

Of course, this snippet bears more than a passing resemblance to one of MES' reveries in "Hotel Bloedel":

Gregoror, satiated walking thru' capitol
Stumbles on two thousand dead Thai monks in SS uniforms
Then fled to Hotel Bloedel, outside Nuremberg
A long way south, to a reasonable smell of death

Note that earlier in that song, MES discusses the 2013 (!) Confederate graves in Phillipsburg, PA "sparking a repeat" ("repetition in West Germany, repetition in America")
  • 8. dannyno | 29/01/2018
Comment #7. How does such speculation look in the light of the Baader Meinhof connection? The song does reference contemporary political events/figures rather than historical ones. I mean, the connection is not impossible, but would seem out of place (which again is not impossible!).

The SS/monks this is discussed in a few places on the FOF, but particularly in the thread about the book The Morning of the Magicians:
  • 9. GLochin | 30/01/2018
Thanks for the link!

I just read the "Hotel Bloedel" entry and saw that this passage had been discussed at length there (& that the connection to Morning of the Magicians had also been noted). The same person who suggested the connection between the two songs also mentioned that book as a possible source for the trope. Is there anything else in the song that points to Baader-Meinhof, besides (somewhat rough) contemporaneity? Afaict, the only thing that seems to argue against this being a Morning of the Magicians reference is the "West Germany" line, as obviously that didn't exist until 1949...
  • 10. GLochin | 30/01/2018
Okay now I'm listening to the Live 1977 version and at about 2:25 it sounds almost like he might be singing "Baader Meinhof, Baader Meinhof" but maybe I just need to log off

("Simultaneous suicides" lyric is notable in its absence here, replaced by a nice Doors reference: "come on people take a chance with us...")
  • 11. dannyno | 01/02/2018
GLochin: I think the intentional references in the song are contemporary ones, that just seems plain. However, the historical-mystical - if you like - significance of the word "repetition" in this song and Hotel Bloedel can't be completely dismissed. It could be that there is a link intended between the Baader Meinhof suicides and the supposed "Thai Monk" suicides. And even if there isn't, meaning isn't constrained by the intentions of the lyricist, and so the connection is there anyway.

And after all, it's not like anyone is going to tell us what it is "really" about.

However, note that the lines about "repetitious history" in Hotel Bloedel were, according to Brix's book, written by Brix. Which somewhat disrupts the idea that there is any simple intentional "repetition" of ideas between Hotel Bloedel and Repetition itself. In other words, MES doesn't appear to have any lyrical commitment to the word "repetition" as having historical-mystical significance - that's Brix.

By the way, I don't see anyone in the Hotel Bloedel article or comments linking that song to this song? Have i missed it? Or is the "same person who suggested" the link someone you know rather than someone commenting here? It's not quite clear?
  • 12. GLochin | 10/02/2018
Sorry, it was on ILX. 2nd half of the thread (which I'd forgotten about) actually brings up Baader-Meinhof as the probable explanation of the lyric.

After thinking about it for a while, I feel like there's no way "repetition in America" refers to the Vicksburg passage in HB, since iirc that was mostly inspired by MES & Brix's honeymoon, so I now fully concede the point...
  • 13. bzfgt (link) | 12/02/2018
That's interesting though GLochin, I have sometimes thought of Hotel Bloedel/the monks on hearing that, even though I didn't make the connection in the notes....something to keep in mind, anyway.
  • 14. Basmikel | 21/06/2018
Adding to the ambiguity is the fact that they're losing the repetition in the music before the song is over, i.e. the Blank Generation bit.
  • 15. bzfgt (link) | 15/07/2018
Ha yeah, great point
  • 16. dannyno | 06/06/2022
From "No hip-ocrisy, no Clash registers", by Mick Middles, Trick, #2, December 1977, p.16. Review of The Fall at The Band on the Wall, Manchester (presumably the 13 November 1977 gig).

The Falls classic "Repetition" finally arrives. It's a slow drawn out, massive song. "This song's gonna last for three hours" based around Siren, combine guitar, Mark spits out his slurring vocals. "All you shithead creeps who are into Mozart music better clear cos we'll show you how to do it, we dig repetition, repetition, repetition".
  • 17. Rod | 13/07/2022
I understand MES was known to love repetition and expect it of players in the band. But I think this song is about the negative repetition. Things just being done over and over again. 'The kids' who think they are doing something new (at the time) playing fast, wearing black are just following in the footsteps of other 'rockers'. You're gonna make it on your own - is a sneer. They are just following in the footsteps of others, I think the Velvet Underground are the reference point here. See later the reference to 'They put electrodes in your brain, and you're never the same' - VU 'Heroin' When I put a spike into my vein, and I'll tell ya, things aren't quite the same'. Another reference to rock music of the past is 'Repetition on the drums, and we are never going to lose it'. See Chuck Berry 'Rock and Roll Music' - 'It's got a backbeat, you can't lose it'.
I would pass on the mental hospitals section except to say that perhaps MES saw people there as outside the society not seeing the way we do, so not susceptible to repeating our mistakes – maybe.
The link to Carter and Mao and the Baader-Meinhof, (which I think is a great pickup) seems to me to be MES noting that its all the same. Things just repeating. ‘This is your situation…same old blank generation’. And then, of course, the brilliant MES sneer – ‘Groovy blank generation, swinging blank generation’.
  • 18. Yonner69 | 29/07/2022
Always thought he was saying “ white noise “ not “ right noise”
John E.
  • 19. John E. | 03/10/2022
Rod, your idea about the Velvets makes sense to me, and this is supported by the fact that Lou Reed underwent electro-shock therapy in the early Sixties. So if there is a lyrical allusion to “Heroin” and the information was out about LR’s shock therapy, that’s a natural segue. And that’s not to deny the connotations of the group’s connections to the facility they lived near.

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