Shoulder Pads #1 and #2

Lyrics

Shoulder Pads #1

All these fads
It's shoulder pads (1)

On New Year's Dawn
To my surprise
All the Macca lads stayed at home (2)
Picking antiques 
and clotheses
Cosy flecked with green bits
Main undercurrent, white spermatoze (3)

My powers
Against them, half-useless
My senses,
Alive, half 'parted   (4)

Was embarrassed but stuck with them
Walked, at shoulder, down the street, ridicule
They couldn't tell Lou Reed from Doug Yule (5)
Suppressed make romance

It was like being back at school

My powers before them resound
My powers languish in time, doom

Went populace, internal defeat
Their mob had a coup d'etat
Realize what they'd always wanted
Knew I was right all along
It wasn't then a Beatles song
Superhero in harlequin kecks (6)
Dimwit lecture half read
Cursing black singers ten years dead (7)

Was a clown in victim hat
Was shouldered and spurned

Then my powers did return.... 

Shoulder Pads #2

(fade in)

Knew I was right all along
Rock to them a Talking Heads album
Superhero in harlequin kecks
Dimwit lecture, half read

Was I victim in clown hat?
Was I nearly turned?

Then my powers did return...

Watch out fakers and cads
It's MES in shoulder pads

My powers gone
Powers, said Batman

Said a twisted chill, flashes pan
It's MES in shoulder pads

Big fit deal for mamas of fads
It's MES in shoulder pads

You'd better
Line that bottom line
Against that different plan

Holding ankles, rotten kecks
It's MES in shoulder pads

 

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Notes

1. Shoulder pads were a 1980s fashion trend, mostly but not exclusively among women, which was influenced by the donning of these accoutrements by Joan Collins and Linda Evans, the female stars of Dynasty (a song MES would later admit to watching in "Bill is Dead"). The pads were initially a form of "power dressing," a term which is itself an artifact of this general time period. Shoulder pads were big in the 1940s and again in the 1980s; it was more common for women to wear them, but men did too, and particularly men who wished to appear androgynous. As Noggin points out, pop stars like Paul McCartney and David Bowie took to wearing them around this time.

On the other hand, the reference may be to superhero gear, as MES refers to himself and a superhero and talks about his "powers"...(thanks to Robert for pointing this out).

Dan finds a find:

From the pilot issue of LM magazine (given away free with Crash, December 1986), dated January 1987, p.25: "Shoulder Pads is just about a lot of different people and why I think they're twats - there's two parts to the song, one on each side of the LP, but really I could have written about nine different songs on that subject. I suppose it is an odd title; it' s an American football term and I can't stand American football. It's so boring and complicated -like a sort of moronic chess."

It has been remarked (I'm glad this isn't Wikipedia with their "by whom?" as I honestly don't recall) that the main music theme of "Shoulder Pads" sounds like the horn part in the theme song from Are You Being Served, a British sit-com that aired between 1972 and 1985.  

Dan submits:

From the booklet to the 2019 Beggars Banquet reissue of Bend Sinister:
 


MARK E SMITH: People are quite surprised when they find out I'm a halfway decent sort of bloke and I do always try to be nice to anyone I come across, but sometimes you end up being taken advantage of. That's why I wrote that new song, MES in Shoulder Pads: when someone comes down on me I'll react by coming down twice as hard. [Interview with Gavin Martin, NME, 30 August 1986]

BRIX: Mark borrowed a shirt of mine that I had borrowed from my mother and it had shoulder pads in it. This struck me as hilarious - MES in shoulder pads. I just remember (sings riff) being so irritating.

^

2. "Macca lads" may be "macc-a lads," macc lads or young men from Macclesfield. A British punk band called the Macc Lads, incidentally, released a song called "Alton Towers" years before the Fall did.  

Son of Always points out that this may also be an allusion to Paul McCartney (who also turns up in "I'm a Mummy"), as the Beatles are mentioned further down.

^

3. Yeah, those are weird lines; maybe "picking antiques" is some kind of obscure slang for masturbation, like "choking the chicken" or something; that's why those Macc-a lads are staying home. [Thanks to guest editor Mark Prindle for this note]  

^

4. I think this is the lyric, i.e. that he is saying his senses have half departed, in other words he is a little bit out of his mind. 

^

5. Doug Yule replaced John Cale in the Velvet Undergound, playing bass and singing such songs as "Candy Says" and "Who Loves the Sun?" This may be inspired by the following anecdote about David Bowie. Bowie went to see the Velvet Underground in 1971, after Reed had left the band. Here is his own account of the incident, quoted at the official Bowie website:

"I was singing along with the band, stuck right there at the apron of the stage. 'Waiting For The Man', 'White Light/ White Heat', 'Heroin'...All that kind of stuff. And then after the show, I went back stage and I knocked on the door, and I said 'Is Lou Reed in? I'd love to talk to him, I'm from England, cos I'm in music too, and he's a bit of a hero to me.' This guy said 'Wait here.' And Lou comes out and we sat talking on the bench for about quarter of an hour about writing songs, and what it's like to be Lou Reed, and all that...and afterwards I was floating on a cloud, and went back to my hotel room.

"I said to this guy that I knew in New York: 'I've just seen the Velvet Underground and I got to talk with Lou Reed for fifteen minutes,' and he said, 'Yeah? Lou Reed left the band last year, I think you've been done.' I said, 'It looked like Lou Reed' and he said 'That's Doug Yule, he's the guy that took over from Lou Reed.' I thought what an impostor, wow, that's incredible. It doesn't matter really, cos I still talked to Lou Reed as far as I was concerned. Coming back to England, one of the memories I brought back with me, was all that. So I wrote Queen Bitch as a sort of homage to Lou Reed.'"

Both Yule and, at times, Bowie tell a more plausible version where Yule himself disabuses Bowie before the two part ways.

 

There are references to Bowie in "Mere Pseud Mag. Ed.," "Hard Life in Country," He Pep!", and "Get a Summer Song Goin'."

 

Also, from Dan:

"In a letter to Tony Friel (briefly online on Friel's site years ago), dated 6 October 1976, MES writes:

'The Velvet Underground EP I received on Friday is excellent/dynamite. Good drumming good playing. Distinctive Velvets atmosphere. The papers claimed it was from post third album time, with John Cale. As a fellow Velvets aff--drat forgot the spelling FAN, you will know this is the proverbial bullshit. 1968 more like-with Doug Yule.'"

Cale was already gone by the third album, replaced by Yule in 1968.

^ 

6. "Kecks" is northern British slang for pants (i.e. what in England are called "trousers"); Harlequin kecks are checked or multicolored trousers.

^

7. Without more information it is hard to determine whom this might be, as I assume MES may be rounding up or down with "ten years."  

^

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More Information

Comments (85)

SonofAlways
  • 1. SonofAlways | 28/04/2013
I think "Macca" probably refers to Paul McCartney, since he references the Beatles later in the song.
Stephen Parkin
  • 2. Stephen Parkin | 10/10/2013
Isn't the Lou Reed/Doug line a reference to David Bowie? He is supposed to have talked to Yule for a time thinking he was talking to Reed, telling him how much he liked his songs etc. Didn't find out till afterwards. This was in 1970 I think - something like that.

I don't mean that the song is directly about Bowie, but it does fit in with the fashion - costume - theme of the rest of the song.
Robert
  • 3. Robert | 05/11/2013
I think "Shoulder Pads" is less a reference to 80s fashion and more specifically to do with superheroes (and their powers) as mentioned elsewhere in the song. And thematically connected with "Riddler". I can't remember if any of Bend Sinister's other songs mention superheroes/villians.
Robert
  • 4. Robert | 05/11/2013
You're missing #2 of the song, where Smith paints himself as superhero:

Watch out!
Makers of fads
It's MES in shoulder pads


etc.
bzfgt
  • 5. bzfgt | 22/01/2014
Good points, Robert, and I'm tackling #2 right now...
bzfgt
  • 6. bzfgt | 22/01/2014
...and floundering. Anybody who has a better ear for lyrics, please bail me out.

(I realize I changed your "makers" to "fakers"; that's what I hear but I'll check it again and perhaps capitulate.)
bzfgt
  • 7. bzfgt | 22/01/2014
capitulated
Mark
  • 8. Mark | 21/05/2014
"Kecks" = men's underwear. What British people would call "pants".
Mxyzptlk
  • 9. Mxyzptlk | 18/02/2015
Lines 12/13 should be "my senses are like of putty" - a kind of cliched comic book parlance usually spoken by, for example, Superman when his powers have been diminished by Kryptonite
bzfgt
  • 10. bzfgt | 28/03/2015
That might be right but I can't be sure, it seems like either "half" or "have"...the "putty" seems plausible though...I'll keep trying to decipher it, and maybe others will weigh in....for now I made it "are like half-putty." "Alive" is definitely wrong, and makes no sense, but I'm less sure about everything else.
bzfgt
  • 11. bzfgt | 28/03/2015
OK, "half-putty" is nonsense so I went with your idea but I am uneasy about it.
bzfgt
  • 12. bzfgt | 28/03/2015
I got it--"are like hard putty!" Now, "hate romance" in the next verse is definitely wrong...anyone have ideas?
bzfgt
  • 13. bzfgt | 28/03/2015
And what Beatles song wasn't it?
russell richardson
  • 14. russell richardson | 05/05/2015
Macca lads?
immediately think of Joy Division (though only 2 of them from Macc. )
what MES says about lack of communication, or difference in style certainly fits.
dannyno
  • 15. dannyno | 23/02/2016
From the pilot issue of LM magazine (given away free with Crash, December 1986), dated January 1987, p.25:

http://pitchandputtproductions.blogspot.co.uk/2013/11/mark-e-smith-interview-from-1986.html


Shoulder Pads is just about a lot of different people and why I think they're twats - there's two parts to the song, one
on each side of the LP, but really I could have written about nine different songs on that subject. I suppose it is an odd title; it' s an American football term and I can't stand American football. It's so boring and complicated -like a sort of moronic chess.
dannyno
  • 16. dannyno | 19/03/2016
Note 1:


It has been remarked (I'm glad this isn't Wikipedia with their "by whom?" as I honestly don't recall) that the main music theme of "Shoulder Pads" sounds like the horn part in the theme song from Are You Being Served


Grudge Natch, on the FOF, April 2013:
http://z1.invisionfree.com/thefall/index.php?showtopic=19142&view=findpost&p=22189208

That may not be the first mention though.
dannyno
  • 17. dannyno | 19/03/2016
Oh, and the very famous sports reporter on the FOF, March 2007:
http://z1.invisionfree.com/thefall/index.php?showtopic=15564&view=findpost&p=10395445
bzfgt
  • 18. bzfgt | 24/03/2016
OK, but we're not going to start researching notes and annotating annotations. I don't remember by whom, I got my Wikipedia dig in, and there's an end of it! If Grudge Natch wants to sue he can call my lawyer.
dannyno
  • 19. dannyno | 27/03/2016
Do you have to call someone's lawyer in order to sue them?
bzfgt
  • 20. bzfgt | 30/04/2016
It would be a courtesy at the very least...
Zack
  • 21. Zack | 01/06/2016
Anyone who considers a Talking Heads album "rock" is a fool by MES's reckoning. There's an interview where he says "The Talking Heads are the enemy."
bzfgt
  • 22. bzfgt | 28/06/2016
I wish I could find that. It looks like there's a web page that mentions MES and has the line "the talking heads are the enemy" (although I can't tell from what I can see if it's a direct quote) but it ends in "/feed" rather than ".com" or whatever. I have no idea what that is, and I cannot open it.

I recall him saying (either in a regular interview or one of the books) "Neil Young is the enemy" or "To me, Neil Young was the enemy" or something of that nature. I always thought that was odd--of all the potential enemies out there, Neil Young, even if I didn't like him, seems like he'd be low on the shit list, since even if you're not into him his crimes must surely be minor? But anyway apparently MES didn't see it that way...
bzfgt
  • 23. bzfgt | 28/06/2016
Also a little strange, with all we know about MES and his contrarian nature vis a vis genre, that he identifies with the tag "rock" in that way...I guess he did proclaim his belief in "RnR," but that's a little different. Of course the "MES" narrating the song may not be entirely coextensive with the MES from Salford, as usual, but in any case a song where he refers himself in the third person as "MES" has at least a prima facie case to be taken a bit more straightforwardly.
Martin
  • 24. Martin | 06/08/2016
Minor point re the word "kecks": just to clear up any possible confusion. with reference to some notes and comments above, this never refers to underwear but always to trousers.
dannyno
  • 25. dannyno | 21/08/2016
"Cursing black singers ten years dead"

As note 6 rightly says, "10 years" may just be a broad time period. But if we take it literally, then 1976 deaths included Paul Robeson, Howlin' Wolf. But I can't see anything relevant from 1986 that helps us understand the line. So, er, a bit unhelpful.
bzfgt
  • 26. bzfgt | 03/09/2016
OK, Martin, I added a clarificatory parenthesis since I think it is since that note that I realized that "pants" refers to underwear in Britain (maybe I didn't know that until I read Mark's note, I don't know; it feels recent, anyway).
M.S. Pierce
  • 27. M.S. Pierce | 08/10/2016
I've always heard "Macca lads" as "Maccolytes/Maccalytes"; i.e., followers or disciples of McCartney (or equivalent mid-80's pop pablum).
Thop
  • 28. Thop | 08/06/2017
"They couldn't tell Lou Reed from Doug Yule"
The choice of words in this line sometimes reminds me of the Kinks' 'David Watts'. "I am a dull and simple lad. Cannot tell water from champagne".
bzfgt
  • 29. bzfgt (link) | 09/07/2017
Ha, yeah, interesting connection.
Definitive Article
  • 30. Definitive Article | 06/02/2018
'My senses
Are like hard putty'

Is impressively wrong. It's 'my senses, alive have party', or perhaps 'at party'. I prefer the first option though. Smith's glad of his powers, psychic or otherwise. These are his senses that return, or come alive. Their return gives him a cause for celebration, or a party.
dannyno
  • 31. dannyno | 07/02/2018
Comment #30.

"hard putty" seems to date to comment #9 by Mxyzptlk.

The Fall online discography/lyrics parade has "alive have party".

But when I listened for The Flickering Lexicon concordance, I heard "My senses alive, half-parted."
Definitive Article
  • 32. Definitive Article | 08/02/2018
Let's agree then that this putty thing ain't going anywhere. I think I'm right, but this is not a song I spend much time with, or care about much.

My rationale is good though, and added to by thinking not only is Smith glad his senses are engaged and that this event invites a celebration, or party, but the actual invigoration of the senses themselves result in them being so active and engaged as to result in a party of their own accord, one independent of the bearer of them also feeling celebratory at their return.
bzfgt
  • 33. bzfgt (link) | 17/02/2018
OK, I got "My senses, alive, have parted"

And I'm running with it! But we can argue. Nevertheless I really hear that pretty strongly, and I just listened to it 8 times.
bzfgt
  • 34. bzfgt (link) | 17/02/2018
Although admittedly "half-" would be parallel construction...I'm wavering now.
bzfgt
  • 35. bzfgt (link) | 17/02/2018
But I feel damn sure.
bzfgt
  • 36. bzfgt (link) | 17/02/2018
The next "My powers" section--does anyone actually hear "heard language"? It's nonsense and he wouldn't say it. There is "language" in there somewhere on the second vocal though.
bzfgt
  • 37. bzfgt (link) | 17/02/2018
Hmm, DA, I like your interpretation but the 'd' at the end of the word sounds distinct to me, check it again and I think you'll hear it too.

Agreed that "putty" is no part of anything.
Mike Watts
  • 38. Mike Watts | 27/02/2018
My overall general impression is that MES is walking off somewhere with a bunch of guys in sharp suits (shoulder pads and green and white flecks, dreadful material) and he feels a bit intimidated by them it reminds him of school, but as they talk he realises that they don't know what they're on about, various insults are flung about by MES - the superhero returns to save the song? Oversimplified? It works for me...
bzfgt
  • 39. bzfgt (link) | 10/03/2018
Yeah that seems like a plausible reading.
John Dolan
  • 40. John Dolan | 27/03/2018
Isn't it "Went populist, eternal defeat/Denmark had that coup d'etat...."
I also hear "fakers and cads" rather than "makers of fads." And "cads" fits the Flashman persona here.
bzfgt
  • 41. bzfgt (link) | 07/04/2018
Yep, "Fakers and cads" is right
bzfgt
  • 42. bzfgt (link) | 07/04/2018
The "populist" line makes more sense, but I can't make it out clearly
Ex worker man
  • 43. Ex worker man | 07/04/2018
Some suggestions as heard here;
#1

My senses allied half party i.e. united half the gathered people either for or against him

Suppressed hate foments [or ferments]

Kissing black singers

#2
Watch out, makers of fads

My powers none, [something like Palace or Pallas] vid Pacman - Pacman notoriously consumes pills to get power
dannyno
  • 44. dannyno | 17/07/2018
I'm still hearing "half-parted". And I note all the other "half-" things in the lyric.

On the other hand I hear

"My powers heard language, two-time doom" as "My powers languished in time, doom"

Still hearing "cursing" rather than "kissing". "BBC Live in Concert" recording could be "kissing", however.

"Suppressed hate romance" - "Suppressed" is right, but I'm no longer clear about "hate romance". The vocal gets smeared at that point. Sounds like "hate romance" on the "BBC Live in Concert" recording.
dannyno
  • 45. dannyno | 17/07/2018
Might they be walking down the street "with a cue" at all. It kind of sounds like that, but the rhyming scheme seems to demand the "cule" sound. Really unclear to me now.
bzfgt
  • 46. bzfgt (link) | 22/07/2018
OK half-parted, I just realize it's probably "half 'parted," as in half departed. So it actually makes more sense. Or no, just as much, I suppose either way, but more than I realized it did.
bzfgt
  • 47. bzfgt (link) | 22/07/2018
Still sounds a little more like "have" to me but I defer. I still hear "ridicule" but it's ungrammatical so I have doubt.
bzfgt
  • 48. bzfgt (link) | 22/07/2018
"Suppressed make romance" seems like what he's saying, but the "romance" is the part that's not clear as if so he pronounces it "ruh-mance"
bzfgt
  • 49. bzfgt (link) | 22/07/2018
There's almost an 'f' like "make fruh-mance"
bzfgt
  • 50. bzfgt (link) | 22/07/2018
"Made from ants"?
bzfgt
  • 51. bzfgt (link) | 22/07/2018
VERY unsure about "powers languish/language," this is just a place-holder
Bill
  • 52. Bill | 18/10/2018
This song, to me, seems to reference, with its oblique references ("half parted," "two time Doom") but more so with it's format, the Beatles' "Helter Skelter," a song which has two parts with a fade out and a fade back in, its "powers" returning in the second part which is, as here, the shorter of the two. That particular Beatles' song was almost exclusively the work of.....Macca! Pow!
bzfgt
  • 53. bzfgt (link) | 21/10/2018
Interesting as fuck! VERY speculative though...
bzfgt
  • 54. bzfgt (link) | 21/10/2018
OK Dan, went with you with the powers--it's still gibberish, but less so. Unfortunately as the years have gone by it's turned out that when a line is gibberish, we usually have it wrong. It was easier when I used to think he throws a lot of gibberish in...
harleyr
  • 55. harleyr | 07/03/2019
I offer the following for your consideration...

>>All these fads
>>It's shoulder pads
Lovers of fads
it is shoulder pads

>>Picking antiques 
Kicking antiques
[which ties in with the aggressive undercurrent of spermatoze]

>>Walked, at shoulder, down the street, ridicule
Walked, padded shoulder...

I agree with John Dolan that it is...
Went populist, eternal defeat/Denmark had a coup d'etat....

>>Realize what they'd always wanted
Realised...

>>Cursing black singers ten years dead
Dissing black singers...

>>Big fit deal for mamas of fads
Big fair deal for lovers of fads

>>Holding ankles, rotten kecks
... rotten gags
dannyno
  • 56. dannyno | 15/03/2019
From the booklet to the 2019 Beggars Banquet reissue of Bend Sinister.


MARK E SMITH: People are quite surprised when they find out I'm a halfway decent sort of bloke and I do always try to be nice to anyone I come across, but sometimes you end up being taken advantage of. That's why I wrote that new song, MES in Shoulder Pads: when someone comes down on me I'll react by coming down twice as hard. [Interview with Gavin Martin, NME, 30 August 1986]

BRIX: Mark borrowed a shirt of mine that I had borrowed from my mother and it had shoulder pads in it. This struck me as hilarious - MES in shoulder pads. I just remember (sings riff) being so irritating.
dannyno
  • 57. dannyno | 23/03/2019
"Macca lads"

Another possibility - could it be short for "Jamaican"? Not sure it helps make sense of the lyrics, but I'm thinking of slang like "Macka Splaff", the Steel Pulse song that appears on Live at the Electric Circus (which The Fall also appear on).
Karlb
  • 58. Karlb | 29/04/2019
I always heard macca-lads as macca-lytes, as in neophytes. Ian McCullough wannabe's.
Ian Greig
  • 59. Ian Greig | 11/07/2019
i ALWAYS THOUGHT SHOULDER PADS 1 AND 2 WERE A RESPONSE OF SOME KIND TO JAMES BROWNS HOT PANTS 1 AND 2. EACH GARMENT THE EMBLEM OF THEIR RESPECTIVE DECADES. I THINK I'M JOKING BUT MAYBE NOT,
bzfgt
  • 60. bzfgt (link) | 12/07/2019
Yeah, the reference could be intentional...
bzfgt
  • 61. bzfgt (link) | 12/07/2019
Yeah, the reference could be intentional...
Lytton
  • 62. Lytton | 09/07/2020
I thought for years the lyric was “couldn’t tell Lou Reed from The Cure”. I still hear this now but I’m guessing as nobody has ever mentioned this that it’s some ridiculous ear spasm unique to me?
bzfgt
  • 63. bzfgt (link) | 12/07/2020
Doug Yule seems more likely if they sounded equally likely, and I hear Doug Yule
dannyno
  • 64. dannyno | 06/09/2020
It definitely isn't Lou Reed/The Cure, no.
Noggin
  • 65. Noggin | 11/10/2020
Back in the 80s plenty of the old guard like Bowie and Macca took to wearing shiny jackets with big shoulder pads. Not very rock and roll really. To me MES is imagining an unlikely scenario where he would be wearing the same type of gear. If you stop and imagine that for a moment it’s hilarious if rather unlikely!
dannyno
  • 66. dannyno | 12/10/2020
Comment #65. Given how styled MES and Brix often were in the mid-late 1980s, what with Bodymap etc, it's not that unlikely.

As the notes say there are different angles on this. MES says at one point that it's an American football thing. Brix at one point says MES had borrowed a shirt with shoulder pads.
Ontological
  • 67. Ontological | 07/12/2020
When was that Bowie story first printed?

I think it's just a coincidence. Because isn't that a 2001 interview with Yule?
dannyno
  • 68. dannyno | 18/12/2020
Comment #67.

It is.

But the interviewer is asking Yule if the story is true. In other words, the story is already in circulation.

I did once dig out a much earlier version of the story, told by Bowie, but I can't find it at the moment!
bzfgt
  • 69. bzfgt (link) | 23/01/2021
Thanks for that Noggin #65, I looked up a picture of McCartney with them and now I recognize it from the 80s...it all makes more sense now (despite, or alongside, the "moronic chess" angle)
dannyno
  • 70. dannyno | 26/03/2021
In a letter to Tony Friel (briefly online on Friel's site years ago), dated 6 October 1976, MES writes


The Velvet Underground EP I received on Friday is excellent/dynamite. Good drumming good playing. Distinctive Velvets atmosphere. The papers claimed it was from post third album time, with John Cale. As a fellow Velvets aff-drat forgot the spelling FAN, you will know this is the proverbial bullshit. 1968 more like-with Doug Yule.


There's a decade between this letter and this song, which would usually suggest to me that it's not a current enough reference. But still.

I'm not sure what the record referred to is. Might possibly be the White Heat 1976 bootleg listed here: http://olivier.landemaine.free.fr/vu/bootlegs/singles/bsingles.html and https://www.discogs.com/The-Velvet-Underground-White-Heat/release/670929
bzfgt
  • 71. bzfgt (link) | 27/03/2021
Post 3d record would not be with Cale would it
dannyno
  • 72. dannyno | 27/03/2021
I think that's exactly MES' point.
bzfgt
  • 73. bzfgt (link) | 27/03/2021
Oh, "1968 more like" threw me off then I think
dannyno
  • 74. dannyno | 27/03/2021

It wasn't then a Beatles song
Superhero in harlequin kecks


The Beatles song The Continuing Story of Bungalow Bill includes the following:


Deep in the jungle where the mighty tiger lies
Bill and his elephants were taken by surprise
So Captain Marvel zapped him right between the eyes


I'm thinking that possibly might be the reference.

See my comments on the entry for Hotel Bloedel for more on Fawcett Publications/Whizz Comic and Captain Marvel.
dannyno
  • 75. dannyno | 27/03/2021
Mind you, Captain Marvel didn't wear harlequin style clothing, and so things remain obscure even if my wild speculation is right.
dannyno
  • 76. dannyno | 29/03/2021
I'm trying to pin down the first time Bowie told his mistaking-Yule-for-Reed story. Because if it wasn't widely known until after this song, then we can rule out the story as a potential influence.

Thus far the earliest has been Record Collector's interview with Doug Yule, where they ask him to confirm the story (which is therefore clearly already in circulation).

I've found a 1995 interview with Mark Radcliffe, recorded in New York:

https://www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/play/p0171fn5

The BBC describe it only as an "archive interview", and I don't yet know exactly when (or indeed if) it was first broadcast.

Transcript (I've smoothed out ums and ers):


Did you see The Velvet Underground when they got back together again and did that tour?

I'll tell you, I saw.. funnier than that... when I very first came over to the States in about 1970, one of the things that happened, I heard the Underground were playing in New York, it was like this was a magical event for me. And I was all on my own, it was my first trip over here. So I went to see their gig, and during the break I got to speak to Lou, you know, I said, ah, great, and I was going on and on about his writing, and he was nodding and "yeah, yeah, yeah", and then halfway through he said, "look, um, Lou's actually left the band, I'm Doug Yule."

Ah, right

He looked identical to Lou, the guy was the spitting image, but [indistinct], 'cos I was thinking he was as good as I thought he was on stage.
dannyno
  • 77. dannyno | 29/03/2021
Full interview currently up on Youtube here:



Relevant bit starts about 15:15.
dannyno
  • 78. dannyno | 29/03/2021
Judging by https://concerts.fandom.com/wiki/Velvet_Underground the gig would likely have been the 29-30 January 1971 Electric Circus gigs, as that's when Bowie first went to America (https://liveforlivemusic.com/news/david-bowie-us-visit.

The story took slightly different forms over the years.

Here's Bowie in a self-interview feature ("Without Him, He's Nothing") in the Canadian National Post, 26 Feb 2000 (Arts section, p.2):


After the show, you'll knock on the dressing-room door (they're not "famous" enough to have security), and John Cale will answer. You ask if you can speak with Lou Reed and Cale smiles and says, "Sure." Lou slips out of the dressing room and you both sit on a bench that's placed on a side wall of the club. You chat to him about how you think you're probably the only person in London to be a major fan and how you had a copy of their first album before it was even released in America. You also ask about the meaning of some of the lyrics and how the distorted sound on their records was made. Lou, for you believe it to be him, replies thoughtfully and with charm. You chat for a good 15 minutes until Lou says he has to go. You float off into the night, a fan whose dream has come true. The next day , one of your new-found N.Y. friends tells you that Lou has not been with the band for quite a while and that the new singer Doug Yule, kinda looks like Reed. You will be gutted.


So in this version Doug Yule does not tell Bowie who he is - in every version other than the 1995 interview I've seen, it's a friend who tells him he wasn't talking to Reed, not Yule himself. And there is also no way that Cale would have answered the door in January 1971! His last VU gig was September 1968. On 17 January 1971 he was playing his first solo gig at the Roundhouse in London on the same bill as Nico. In other versions of the story, it's just "a band member" who opens the door.

Anyway, 1995 remains the earliest sighting so far.
dannyno
  • 79. dannyno | 29/03/2021
Paul Trynka's Bowie biography David Bowie: starman (2011), confirms that Bowie's US trip was a promotional tour for The Man Who Sold the World, and started on 27 January 1971.

And Trynka also says:


When Ron was busy, David wandered around New York alone and was thrilled to see, the weekend after his arrival, that the Velvet Underground was playing the Electric Circus.


So that confirms my conclusion about the concert dates above.
bzfgt
  • 80. bzfgt (link) | 03/04/2021
OK this is bad--Classic Rock Magazine link is dead, and can not find "Our Favorite Bowie Berlin Story" on the internet now. I wish I'd known of the Archive then.
bzfgt
  • 81. bzfgt (link) | 03/04/2021
OK I got the same story from the David Bowie website, undated.

It is certainly 1971. See my note now, Yule also tells the story with him hipping Bowie to the mistake, and this is the more plausible version--Bowie probably tells it the other way because it makes a better story.

I felt so bad for the poor Classic Rock author that I stuck the original one we had under "More Information," but then I deleted it because it has nothing different.

Anyway this one is tough because even if Bowie hadn't told it in an interview or whatever, remember MES was a rock musician who knew other rock musicians, and at least Riley I know is a massive Bowie fan. This is the kind of story that may have circulated among musicians and those in the know before it was ever told to the general public. So if we never date it earlier we still cannot rule it out. That doesn't mean we should confidently rule it in, even if we do find it, though.
dannyno
  • 82. dannyno | 03/04/2021
Comment #81: Oh, logically that's correct. However, notice that Riley is on the Mark Radcliffe Bowie interview I cited above as the so-far earliest sighting of the story, and neither Mark nor Marc indicate any familiarity with the story.
Ant
  • 83. Ant | 02/07/2021
Definitely hearing "populist" instead of "populace" ....
Ant
  • 84. Ant | 07/07/2021
Surely "Classic Rock Author" is one of the great Fall "song-titles-that-could-have-been"?!?
Mark F
  • 85. Mark F | 09/07/2021
I heard it as 'Couldn't tell Lou Reed from The Cure' for years. In retrospect, it's obviously wrong, but you're not the only one who heard it that way Lytton! As a huge VU and Bowie fan, with a fondness for that story, I can't believe I missed it.

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