Rowche Rumble



Rowche Rumble
Is valium
Rowche Rumble
That's rumble

Thousands of wives around the world
are given them by doctors, who think they're little girls
The doctors need prescriptions
The wives need their pill
So Rowche Rumble

Menopause wives are hard to handle
No culture or love, no gambles
The dull manage, especially smashed
on Rowche Rumble
Rowche Rumble

Physician, heal thyself  (2)

Our government's built on expense accounts
Once in, never out
A step to Rowche
Force feeding
What are the people around you taking?
Rowche Rumble

Now I've tried crazy things
Abusing my body to a quick end
But I'll never never never never do it again
I said I'll never never never never do it again (3)
Rowche Rumble

Physician, heal thyself
Physician, heal thyself

Musician, heal thyself
Hey listener, heal thyself

Loads of people across the land
Do a prescribed death dance
While condemning speed and grass
They got an addiction like a hole in the ass
Rowche Rumble
Rowche Rumble

I sent 70 pounds instead of 70 p to
pharmaceutical company Rowche AG
The lorry arrived the next day
Swiss gnomes dealing out potions
Kick your liver in
What is it there for?
To decant the beer
...the full use of your body isn't it? (4)

Rowche Rumble
Is valium
That's rumble


1. This song is quite explicitly about Valium (diazepam), in the model of the Stones' (less explicit) "Mother's Little Helper." Valium was produced by the pharmaceutical company Roche, which has presumably been altered here for legal reasons. According to Simon Ford in Hip Priest (thanks to Reformation):

"Rowche Rumble" refered back to Smith's shipping clerk days, when he did business with the Rowche Chemical Company. One day, due to a clerical error, Smith found himself with piles of barbiturates that he attempted to hide in stores across Manchester and in the bottom drawer of his desk at work.

 According to the Fall's press release: "This is a great dance number and combines a cheek-in-tongue putdown of a popular sweetie with the Fall's tribute to Racey. Dig it."

Many fans do; according to a poll, this is the most popular song on Early Years 77-79 among members of the Fall online forum. Racey was an English band in the 1970s; the drums here somewhat resemble Racey's song "Kitty" (which became a hit in refurbished form when Toni Basil recorded it as "Mickey"). 

Anita points out that the title may be an allusion to Link Wray's "Rumble."

The riff is based on "Shake Appeal" by the Stooges. From Brooklyn Vegan:

"Marc Riley, who is a BBC 6 DJ these days, told us a little about the origins of the song. 'This was the first time Craig and I saw down to purposefully write a song for The Fall,' Marc says. 'He (and Steve) had just joined the band and I remember we were sat in the front room of my house going over riffs and stuff. I came up with a sequence that (in my mind) was akin to The Stooges "Tight Pants/ Shake Appeal." Of course it ended up nothing like it...but once we all got together in the rehearsal room it came together as a pretty ferocious beast. Particularly once MES started weaving his bitter magic and the pounding drums kicked in.'"


2. "Physician, heal thyself" is said by Jesus in Luke 4:23; he claims to be quoting an already existing proverb, although there is now no older source remaining, as far as I can make out. 

The cadence here anticipates "Spectre vs. Rector."


3. It seems clear that MES must be singing in character here.

Connell brings the goods: "'I'll never never never do it again' is almost a quote of the line in 'Transfusion' by Nervous Norvus, 'I'll never never never speed again'  which of course MES & Ed Blaney covered many years later." 

According to Mark Turner, Marc Riley has confirmed that this is the source of the lyric. 

"Transfusion" is on Kenny Everett's "All-Time Worst Top 30", along with Steve Bent's "I'm Going to Spain" which the Fall covered for The Infotainment Scan (thanks to Dan).

Martin submits: "from the performance of the song at St. Helens, 20 February 1981:

I'm a real gone paleface and that's no illusion
Transfusion, transfusion"


4. Trevor Morris points out the live variant from Totales Turns runs "They're gonna kick your liver in, y'gonna treat it like a bin, beer & speed is OK, but the full use of your body isn't."

Note that similar phrases appear in the handwritten lyrics for "Underground Medicin."





More Information

Comments (25)

  • 1. Mark | 21/05/2014
"Physician, heal thyself" possibly comes from Luke 4,_heal_thyself
  • 2. Mark | 21/05/2014
Is there a link between "Your Heart Out" and "Your liver in"?
  • 3. Connell | 30/06/2014
"I'll never never never do it again" is almost a quote of the line in "Transfusion" by Nervous Norvus, "I'll never never never speed again" which of course MES & Ed Blaney covered many years later.
  • 4. Anita | 08/09/2014
My guess is that Mark E. Smith knows Link Wray's very influential 1958 "Rumble" which was banned from radio play although it was an instrumental. A rumble was a gang street fight.
  • 5. Sumsiadad | 25/01/2016
I'm surprised no-one has pointed out that the main riff in this song is a sort of shambling homage to the Stooges' "Shake Appeal".
  • 6. bzfgt | 12/03/2016
Good call, Sumsi, it is the same riff.
  • 7. dannyno | 10/08/2016
Note: Nervous Norvus' "Transfusion" appeared on Kenny Everett's "All-Time Worst Top 30", along with Steve Bent's "I'm Going to Spain".
  • 8. dannyno | 12/08/2017
The similarity of the riff to The Stooges' Shake Appeal is also noted in Rob Waite's article "Notebooks Out", in the Fall fanzine, "The Biggest Library Yet", issue #18, January 2000, p.6.
mark turner
  • 9. mark turner | 17/01/2018
marc riley confirmed recently that "I'll never never never do it again" is from nervous nurvus transfusion.
Trevor Morris
  • 10. Trevor Morris | 25/01/2018
Pretty sure the outro is
"Kick your liver in
What is it there for?
[To decant the beer]
...the full use of your body isn't?"
The Dudley live version from September '79 (and others around the time) condense it to, "kick your liver in, treat it like a bin, what is it there for? the full use of your body isn't", plus some Underground Medecin lyrics. And, of course, Totale's Turns captures another memorable variant "They're gonna kick your liver in, y'gonna treat it like a bin, beer & speed is OK, but the full use of your body isn't."
John Kedward
  • 11. John Kedward | 28/01/2018
I thought the rumble was a pun on stomach cramps when you take them, and rumble meaning find out, uncover the government expense account which was not widely known.
  • 12. Csonic (link) | 25/02/2018
Marc Riley also confirmed that the riff on "Rowche" is indeed a flawed* attempt to play "Shake Appeal".
  • 13. bzfgt (link) | 10/03/2018
Damn, he tweets a lot and you can't search Twitter timelines. I scrolled back to the beginning of the year looking for "Shake Appeal," and that's as far as I'm willing to go because that in itself took forever. If you remember around when the tweet was, could you please find it? This needs confirming.
  • 14. dannyno | 11/03/2018
The story starts with this Tweet I just found from Vic Godard:

Vic Godard, Twitter, 11:13 AM - 15 Nov 2016@marcrileydj thinks his guitar riff on rowche rumble is like shake appeal!
stick to the dj job mate !

And there's a reply from Paul Hanley:

Paul Hanley, Twitter, 11:41 AM - 15 Nov 2016Replying to @vic_godard @marcrileydj
sounds more like 'Tight Pants' to me

A couple of days later, Godard says:

Vic Godard, Twitter, 8:26 AM - 17 Nov 2016To b honest havent heard Shake Appeal since 1976 and was windin him up- hope u got paid the nite u did Rowche Rumble !!!!!!!

I haven't found a Tweet from Riley about this. Could be that it was a comment he made on his show.
  • 15. dannyno | 11/03/2018
By the way, Twitter does have an advanced search option that allows you to specify accounts and dates:
  • 16. dannyno | 16/06/2018
Note 3, live variant noted by Trevor Morris in comment #10.

A version of the line appears in a lyric sheet for Underground Medecin posted on Facebook by Graham Duff. See the Fall Online Forum

  • 17. Ben | 06/04/2019
'A Letter From Mark E Smith' - April 18th 1983 (soundcloud interview)

Dear Andy,

Here is some stuff you may like...

Rowche is a ridiculous perversion of Swiss depressant making company Roche AG, valium etc.

See you soon or not

Regards MES,

PS Apologies for scribbles on the back, vandals abound in NYC.
MES Sage
  • 18. MES Sage | 25/04/2019
Hey listener heal thyself not hey mister - good advice!
  • 19. bzfgt (link) | 28/06/2019
Sounds like it, I'm going with it
Martin Peters
  • 20. Martin Peters | 18/05/2020
Re note 3: from the performance of the song at St. Helens, 20 February 1981:

I'm a real gone paleface and that's no illusion
Transfusion, transfusion"

These are the full lyrics of the Nervous Norvus song:

"Tooling down the highway doing 79
I'm a twin pipe papa and I'm feelin' fine
Hey man dig that was that a red stop sign-
Transfusion transfusion
I'm just a solid mess of contusions
Never never never gonna speed again
Slip the blood to me Bud

I jump in my rod about a quarter to nine
I gotta make a date with that chick of mine
I cross the center line man you gotta make time-
Transfusion transfusion
Oh man I got the cotton pickin' convolutions
Never never never gonna speed again
Shoot the juice to me Bruce

My foot's on the throttle and it's made of lead
But I'm a fast ridding daddy with a real cool head
I'ma gonna pass a truck on the hill ahead-
Transfusion transfusion
My red corpsuckles are in mass confusion
Never never never gonna speed again
Pass the crimson to me Jimson

I took a little drink and I'm feelin' right
I can fly right over everything everything in sight
There's a slow poking cat I'm gonna pass him on the right-
Transfusion transfusion
I'm a real gone paleface and that's no illusion
I'ma never never never gonna speed again
Pass the claret to me Barrett

A rollin' down the mountain on a rainy day
Oh when you see me coming better start to pray
I'ma cuttin' up the road and I'm the boss all the way-
Transfusion transfusion
Oh doc pardon me for this crazy intrusion
I'm never never never gonna speed again
Pump the fluid in me Louie

I'm burning up the highway early this morn
I'm passing everybody oh nothing but corn
Man outa my way I don't drive with my horn-
Transfusion transfusion
Oh nurse I'm gonna make a new resolution
I'm never never never gonna speed again
Put a gallon in me Alan

Oh barnyard drivers are found in two classes
Line crowding hogs and speeding jackasses
So remember to slow down today
Hey daddy-o
Make that type O huh
  • 21. GLochin | 13/03/2021
Primary source for Riley's admission re: Shake Appeal/Tight Pants might be this:

Riley RTs it on Jan. 8:

Can anybody tell who it is MES is calling a jerk in the Totale's version? (around 1:38)
  • 22. bzfgt (link) | 20/03/2021
Good catch! No idea about the "jerk"
  • 23. bzfgt (link) | 20/03/2021
Huh...I had no note for "Racey," nor for "Physician, heal thyself..."
  • 24. deems | 23/03/2021
pretty sure mes is saying "the promoter is a jerk" in the TT version (came here to see if there was any story behind the line)
  • 25. dannyno | 25/03/2021
Comment #24: Yes, I think it's "the promoter is a jerk".

Part of the story is in the Totales Turns back cover annotation by R. Totale XVIII:


Was one of the shower-cum-dressing room comments The Fall received after completing their 'turn' which makes up side one of this record, along with 'Everybody knows best groups cum fromt' London' and 'You'll never work again'.

The gig in question was at Bircotes Leisure Centre (often mistakenly described as "Doncaster", including on the cover of TT!).

There is an eyewitness account of the gig in The Biggest Library Yet fanzine #9, August 1997 (pp.20-21), by ST Parkin.

Parkin writes:


These words, as any fule kno, were spoken by the promoter of the concert featured on the first side of Totale's Turns. He had once managed Suzi Quatro, he said, so he should know. 'The promoter is a jerk,' MES sang during Rowche Rumble, and he should know as well.

Parkin notes that the promoter may have been annoyed by The Fall's lateness, attributed to their misunderstanding the location of the venue, driving around under the impression it was indeed in Doncaster. Google maps, directions from Doncaster to Bircotes

The group were supported by a punk band called the Kickstarts.

Parkin continues:

Once the support had finished we snuck into the dressing room ourselves in search of badges. This turned out to be a regular sports centre changing room, with rows of clothes pegs over wooden benches. We found an argument going on between the promoter - who also seemed to be the Kickstarts' manager - and Kay Carroll. MES was there, but apart from backing up Kay's arguments with the odd word every now and then, I don't remember him saying a great deal.

I remember the 'professionals' comment and being amazed that anyone could criticize the band we had just seen.

And so on.

What this account tells us is that the on-stage comment was made before the backstage argument from which "call yourselves bloody professionals?" derives.

Another account of the gig can be found in The Biggest Library Yet #17 (p45) by Alan Savill, but it doesn't include anything about the dispute with the promoter.

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