Smile

Lyrics

(1)

Tight faded male arse 
Decadence and Anarchy 
He said, he smiled 
Something to dance to
A certain style 
Smile!
Smile!
Smile!
Smile!
Meat Animals 
Smiled!
Smiled! 
Patchwork jacket from the top of his ears 
Shaved
Relation with fellow age group, and opposite birds (2)
Smiles!
Wants anarchy
Smiled!
The club nerve and poses 
Physical awareness 
Smiles!
Take the chicken run, take the chicken run (3)
To the toilet 
In the above, designed from above club 
Makes ginger  (4)
"Go on, you can do it!" 
Smile!
Smiles! 
Wants anarchy
Smiled!
Is the fungus damp in the cellar? 
Positive G.B.H. (5)
Smiled!
With his friends, ask for cigarettes 
Smiles!

Take it down... (6)


Sparks off
Repeal gun laws in my brain 
Sparks off
Give us a gun if I got one 
Damn! 
Grin 
Damn 
Grin 
UP UP UP UP UP UP UP UP UP UP!
Smile! 
Smiled!  
Would ask for a "fag" in Texas (7)
Smiles 
Desires travel 
Well fed in welfare way 
Smiles! 
Smiled!
Smiles!
Lousy celebrity makes record 
Lick-spittle southerner 
Waiting for next holiday by gas miser 
Smiles! 
Smiles!
Positive G.B.H.
Roar, encore, special vexation process 
Tight faded male arse, decadence and anarchy he said 
He smiles--
Smile!
Smiled! 
Well fed in roman nero way like the way you imagined 
In the roman nero films 

Notes

1. A few comments from the author may be found here:

Smith: "The lyric was aimed against the cocktail clubs that were on the rise, then." Was it also about a particular type of person, I asked. "Yes, about the hypocritical type that says he wants anarchy but are in fact very bourgeois. I now have the luxury of not hanging around with them. Those people didn't even like our music that much, but they hung around all the time anyway."

See the readers' comments below for some good theories about whom this is about. 

John Howard suggests that the song may be partly inspired by Lou Reed's "Smiles" from Growing Up In Public. Some lyrics:

Smiles, they all smile on tv/The quizmaster with his withered crones/The talkshow hosting movie stars, the politician licking feet/The mugger, the rapist, the arsenic lover/All smile out from the news, at one time or another/Those smiles, those garish sickly smiles

^

2. "Bird" is English slang for a woman; it is never, or almost never, used in the US, but is commonly known here, I think. Since we already know the subject of the song is male, "opposite birds" is a redundant phrase.  

^

3. A chicken run is an outdoor yard for chickens. Here it suggests a crowded, and perhaps dirty, club. Martin points out that this could also be "Take the chick and run." This is plausible in context, but the orange lyrics book has "chicken run" so we're going to stick with that.

^

4. A mysterious phrase; could "mak[ing] ginger" mean taking a piss?  

^

5. In English law, "G.B.H." means "grievous bodily harm." A punk band of that name was formed in 1978, with the name inspired by the singer's trial for the offence that bears the acronym; the backronym "Great Britain Hardcore" has also been attributed to the band.

^

6. An instruction to the band, who (only just) comply without showing much enthusiasm for the idea.

^

7. "Fag" means cigarette in England, but it means something else in Texas.

From Paul Hanley's book, Leave the Capital, p.176-177 (Dan): "'Smile' featured a semi-affectionate pen portrait of Karl Burns's indiscreet personality and dress sense - 'Would ask for a fag in Texas' could go on his gravestone."

^

Comments (20)

George Cochrane
  • 1. George Cochrane | 26/12/2013
MES adds some curious lyrics in a performance at The Palace, Hollywood, CA 3/22/85. "Crimson/sparks off/repeal gun laws/student/death/grin/he'd ask for a fag in Texas [U.S. audience very much gets the joke, and audibly responds]/order a lager in a town [whispering] Auschwitz." Creepy. An astonishing version.
Martin
  • 2. Martin | 30/01/2014
Probably completely erroneous, but I always heard "take the chick [= girl?] and run" as opposed to "chicken run". It would tie in with the mention of "birds".
bzfgt
  • 3. bzfgt | 15/02/2014
A good enough idea to mention in my note, although the orange book has "chicken run."
dannyno
  • 4. dannyno | 23/05/2014
I'm hearing:

"Well fed in welfare way", not "a welfare way"

"Lousy celebrity makes record" not "joke record"

and the last line is:

"In the Roman Nero films", not "In the roman and nero kodak films"

I think the above is not the original album version.
bzfgt
  • 5. bzfgt | 28/05/2014
Yes, I took this from the Lyrics Parade and I don't remember if I ever checked it, probably not it seems. The extra words in question do not live on Peel either. The Lyrics Parade version, however, seems to be taken over exactly, including the capitalization and the choices between "SMILE," "SMILES" and "SMILED," from the orange lyrics book. I have no idea about the last (e, es, ed) but I changed the couple lines you point out as they accord more with the recording as I hear it.
Mark
  • 6. Mark | 29/07/2014
I think it's "Mates ginger", not "makes". As in, the character in question has a friend either called Ginger or has ginger hair.
rik
  • 7. rik | 20/02/2015
any thoughts on "patchwork jacket from the top of his ears" ???
bzfgt
  • 8. bzfgt | 28/03/2015
Not in my head, but I'm all ears!
dannyno
  • 9. dannyno | 02/07/2015
I used to wonder if this song was about Stewart Home, who edited a magazine called SMILE. It would kind of fit. But then i read this: http://www.thekingsboropress.com/catalogue/gbmes2, and it's apparent that MES has never met Stewart Home before.
bzfgt
  • 10. bzfgt | 17/07/2015
Home really seems to fit though...
dannyno
  • 11. dannyno | 12/09/2015
Alternatively, what about Steve Foley?

http://www.discogs.com/label/426724-Smile-Studios
factorybozo
  • 12. factorybozo | 08/11/2015
I always figured this song to be tied to Malcolm McLaren and/or the Sex Pistols. decadence/anarchy, makes ginger (red-headed Lydon), the bad dance/club records, Vicious yelling 'fags' in Texas...
Loupen
  • 13. Loupen | 29/12/2015
'London', the poem Mark recites in his 'Guide to Writing Guide', has similar elements:

"Take the chicken run to the bogs"
"Spittle-chin southerner waiting for next holiday"
"Neath his designs you have no choice...He is looking down on you from his tech drawing board" - which seems to echo the reference to "the above, designed from above club" in 'Smile'.

'London' also describes a character in motley dress, whose "mind is Parisian - 50s Situationalist". A portrait of Malcolm McClaren? Maybe the pseudo-anarchist pop svengali is the one who 'designs from above'.
bzfgt
  • 14. bzfgt | 05/01/2016
Excellent stuff, Loupen, and I hope my suggestion to "look under" in my first post suffices here, I'm self-conscious about the length of the notes lately and I imagine most people would read the comments too...
Martin
  • 15. Martin | 21/04/2016
With reference to comment no 1, pretty much the same added lyrics are present in the very first performance of the song (21 March 1983 The Venue, London) with an extra line about "firegun restrictions". There's also a mention of David Bellamy, who is an environmental campaigner and botanist:

"David Bellamy, lousy celebrity, makes record, smiles!"

(Possibly referring to a song called "Brontosaurus Will You Wait For Me?")
dannyno
  • 16. dannyno | 10/09/2016
Could be that song, but if it is that means MES is referencing a single released in 1980 - 3 years previous. This seems unusually long ago.
John Howard
  • 17. John Howard | 08/01/2017
there is a Lou Reed song called "Smiles" on Growing Up in Public. Here's a verse:

Smiles, they all smile on tv
The quizmaster with his withered crones
The talkshow hosting movie stars, the politician licking feet
The mugger, the rapist, the arsonic lover
All smile out from the news, at one time or another
Those smiles, those garish sickly smiles
dannyno
  • 18. dannyno | 27/10/2017
From Paul Hanley's book, Leave the Capital, p.176-177:


'Smile' featured a semi-affectionate pen portrait of Karl Burns's indiscreet personality and dress sense - 'Would ask for a fag in Texas' could go on his gravestone.
Mike Watts
  • 19. Mike Watts | 02/12/2017
'Meet animals' ?
Dhfhfj
  • 20. Dhfhfj | 03/12/2017
4 could be "mixed gender", not sure but matches the context

Add a comment

You're using an AdBlock like software. Disable it to allow submit.