The step goes down (2)
I hope you are alright
I am alright

There's a letter marked 'urgent'
I have not yet read it
Rose (3)

I hear you are in Hampstead (4)
I hope you can get married

Hear that wah-wah going?
Remember you started it

It is now all the rage
With the younger set (5)
Your replacement
He is a good man, Rose (6)

I've got a good woman
Sometimes  (7)


1. This may be about Brix, as Simon Ford suggests in his biography of MES; from a listener's perspective, I don't think it really matters much. The riff is basically the same as "Flat of Angles," which in turn may have been derived from "His Latest Flame" by Elvis Presley. Aubrey the Cat on the Fall online forum suggests the title may be inspired by "The Sick Rose," by WIlliam Blake:

The Sick Rose

O Rose thou art sick. 
The invisible worm, 
That flies in the night 
In the howling storm: 

Has found out thy bed
Of crimson joy:
And his dark secret love
Does thy life destroy.

If that were the case, the "invisible worm" may be Rose's new love interest, or perhaps MES himself. Blake's poem is open to various interpretations; the worm could be love itself, in a sexually repressive culture (a common interpretation), or it could be envy or a kind of posessiveness, and othe readings are possible that would lead us beyond the proper scope of this note. 


2. The Lyrics Parade has "the scarecrow's down." The line as I have it comes from one of the Lyrics books; I'm unsure what the reasoning behind the Lyrics Parade version is, but it sounds like "the step goes down" or "the store closed down" to me.


3. The song is one of those "we broke up but I wish you all the best" benedictions, and MES mostly plays it very straight; unlike, for instance, Dylan in "If You See Her, Say Hello," I don't sense a lot of bitterness in this song, but this line may be an exception, depending on who the letter is from or what it is about.


4. Hampstead is in London. Here biographical details might perhaps be sleuthed out to determine who the song is about; again, I don't think the question is all that important, unless it were to change the way one interprets the meaning of the lyrics.


5. According to The Story of the Fall, this statement was true at the time. I'm not sure if this is so; U2's "Mysterious Ways" did come out in 1991, but otherwise I am drawing a blank, although I'm sure in any given year there are a handful of songs with wah-wah. Readers are invited to set me straight in the comments below. As for "you started it," this may lend credence to the notion that the song is about Brix, who can be heard playing wah-wah on such Fall songs as "Squid Lord" and "Hot Aftershave Bop." (See Hippie Priestess's comment below, however.)


6. The Lyrics Parade has "He is a good man, Rose?"


7. The most straightforward read is that MES (or the narrator, if they aren't the same) sometimes has a good woman. Although the grammar suggests this first interpretation, it is also possible that he means a woman who is good, sometimes.


Comments (16)

  • 1. Martin | 29/07/2013
The first line, according to the lyrics book v11, is:

"The step goes down."
  • 2. Mark | 23/05/2014
I think there's some live versions of "Carry Bag Man" that descended into a huge wah-wah throb.
  • 3. thehippriestess | 08/01/2016
I'm not convinced the song is solely about Brix. The wah-wah part will almost certainly be played by Bramah given his similar turn on "Telephone Thing". He was the group's first guitarist and therefore could be said to have "started it". Bramah also replaced Brix in the line-up in 1989 so "your replacement, he is a good man" could logically refer to Bramah also. As for being all the rage with the younger set, The Fall were being very positively reviewed and talked about around the release of "Extricate", with "Rose" (very probably) being recorded not long after that. Given that MES's life and The Fall are effectively the same thing, it's likely that, as the song goes on, it drifts gently towards a broader picture.
  • 4. bzfgt | 19/01/2016
Yeah, good comments, I hadn't thought of it as a band thing. You must be right about Brahmah playing it, given, as you say, TT...
  • 5. dannyno | 07/03/2017
It's not unreasonable for the song to be about Brix. There are reasons to think so, as mentioned in the notes. But there is a tendency to assume that every song with any hint of female love interest must be about Brix, as though MES never had any other relationships that he might want to write about. (Of course we know he did and we also know that he did write about some of them - Lori Kramer for one)
  • 6. bzfgt (link) | 19/03/2017
I am not assuming any such thing, as "this may be about Brix" should indicate. I don't even lean strongly in that direction.
  • 7. dannyno | 20/03/2017
I'm speaking generally, don't worry.
  • 8. bzfgt (link) | 23/03/2017
Oh it's that easy is it? "Don't worry"?
Joshua Ross
  • 9. Joshua Ross | 11/03/2019
I always assumed, and still do, that the letter marked urgent is an unpaid bill.

So Mark always needed a Brix (or a Kay or an Eleni) to keep him in check. Make sure he brushed his hair, his teeth, didn't piss off the record label too much.

So Rose/Brix brought the commercial peak of the Fall from 84-87, was this the creative peak? It depends whether you think two heads are better than one. Brix and Mark were both, and remained with later projects, brilliant minds. But they expressed that differently. So Mark's lyrics post-Grotesque and particularly Frenz Experiment onwards became more sparse and spaced out, whereas Brix is very intricate and dense with The Extricated.

So this is like a response song to himself from the tongue in cheek Bill is Dead 'greatest times of my life' line. He's left the wife fucked a bunch of random girls got remarried and now the bills have mounted up he hasn't released a record in 3 years he looks 10 years older.... if she's the Rose he's the thorn, but that's ok because he's honest with himself, if deceitful with his ex-wife, soon to be ex-band mates and ex-fan base who never bought anything after This Nation's Saving Grace. Fuck em, he'll make better music and find better fans (which he did)
  • 10. bzfgt (link) | 27/04/2019
Well I guess that also potentially gives new meaning to "BIll is Dead"...
Mining the shit
  • 11. Mining the shit | 14/11/2020
It's been said a lot of songs from 'Extricate' that they were about
Brix. 'Rose', from 'Shiftwork', does seem to be about her.

"It does, doesn't it, everybody's thinking the same, yeah. Still, it's
not true. No, and on 'Extricate' too, none of them were about
that. Sorry to disappoint you, it's the truth. According to a lot of
critics, the last two LPs have been all about Brix. (laughs) It's
funny. I can see why people think that, but..."

Well, I didn't think it of the songs of 'Extricate', but with 'Rose' I

"'Rose' is a bit of it, half, maybe. It's got the wah-wah in it and
all that, yeah. I always find it funny, though, when people read these
things in it."
Vox 1995
  • 12. Vox 1995 | 14/11/2020
"I write about ex-girlfriends, roadies, the milkman... but never Brix. It's funny, you'd think I would, but I don't feel the need to."
  • 13. 433322 | 14/11/2020
Doesn't Nige Kennedy live in Hampstead heath?
  • 14. dannyno | 15/11/2020
Comment #13: It seems he was registered in Hampstead for electoral purposes c.2013, because he was accused of allowing a friend to vote with his wife's voting card at the time. But he was settled in Malvern, Worcestershire c.1998. And when Brix first met him, he was living in Kensington (according to Brix's book).
  • 15. dannyno | 15/11/2020
... But she also says that when the lease came up on her Holland Park apartment, she moved in with him at Rosslyn Hill (which is in Hampstead). It seems, according to her book, that after they split up, she still stayed there when visiting London.
  • 16. dannyno | 15/11/2020

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