Stephen Song

Lyrics

(1)

It was a thing with a head like a spud ball (2)
It was a song, the song we were looking for

I always have to state to myself
It has nothing to do with me
He has nothing
He is not me
(Gavin Friday): His vendetta in parchment

(MES):Floating grey abundance
Against my palace of conscience
(GF): Our hero deeply loved (3)
Moonlit walks past privet and wide-leaved foliage (4)

(MES): I'll tell you of the rats in this world
Fawning in place with The Face
Men coming between each other
For the sake of a two-minute urge
(GF): It is headless
(MES): Worth 5 dollars London
And cursed anon

Our hero, still deeply loved
Moonlit walks past privet and wide leaved
It was no more a net of mesh
It was class
He did not blink a lid
(GF): He braced his self-imposed gorgeous adult net (5)
(MES): And breeze
And it was class
And it was class
And no no-man's land
Ever had this
And no no-man's land
Ever had this
No no-man's land
Ever had this
Ever had this 


Their follies are strong liberation

Notes

1. Reformation drops some science on our proverbial domes:

"I like it 'cos it was right off the wall... The tune was there and I just made it up as I went along, It's about competitiveness, people getting at you, imitating you and your habits. Plagiarism really obsesses me, that's why I don't like giving away secrets about how I write. And this... no, I can't remember, 'Clothed in grey abundance' is wrong, but I don't know what it should be." ([MES quoted in] Phil Sutcliffe: Lyricists: Mark E Smith: Q no. 68, May 1992) 
 
We have "floating grey abundance."

Despite his avowed "obsession" with plagiarists and his consequent secretiveness, Mark E. Smith has made a career out of liberally borrowing from other lyricists, authors, and composers (as amply, if at times debatably, documented here). In my opinion such practice is perfectly legitimate, but this is a curious obsession for such a man to have. I can only conclude that "plagiarism" is a rather complex concept for Smith (he could simply be hypocritical, of course, but I think there is more to it than that). I have to think, then, that repurposing words and tunes is not sufficient to constitute plagiarism proper for Smith, but that originality is a more complex matter than creation, as it were, ex nihilo. As hard as this would be to define, I don't think it is a particularly difficult position to understand; I'm sure that most of us could think of examples of songs that are strongly reminiscent of other songs and that nevertheless strike us as perfectly unique, and others that may as well have come out of nowhere as far as their formal structure or lyrical content goes, but that seem utterly trite and bland for all that. Of course, at the same time such judgments cannot be argumentatively justified; we can only point to originality, if we categorize it this way, but we cannot fully explain it. Thus, hypocrisy in this matter must be at times hard to avoid, and to this extent I am willing to admit that Smith does seem a bit churlish at times when criticizing others for their lack of originality.
 
From Dan: The booklet to The Wonderful and Frightening World of The Fall has an annotation for this song that reads "Vatican distort into operatic nightmare. "
 
This is one of two songs (the other is "Copped It", speaking of plagiarism) that feature Virgin Prunes singer Gavin Friday on vocals. The title indicates that Stephen Hanley was involved in writing the music (his brother Paul also gets a credit).   
 
 
2. Maybe a dig at the (already in 1984) balding Hanley? In 1995 we find him "modelling the bald look" on "North West Fashion Show" from Cerebral Caustic.  
 
 
3. This parenthetical statement comes after Smith sings "my conscience," so maybe "our hero" refers to himself, the way one would say "yours truly." The diegetical thread is hard to unravel in this one, as it is shaped like a story, but the lyrics are rather impressionistic.  
 
 
4. Friday actually says "foilage" here.  
 
 
5. Brix Smith formed a band the next year called The Adult Net as a side project. Their only album, The Honey Tangle, was released around the time Brix was, in 1989.  
 
Dan: In The Rise, The Fall, and The Rise, Brix says that Steve Hanley wrote the music for this song. "Gavin sings a throwaway lyric underneath the mix: 'Adult Net. Net of mesh.' I said to Mark, 'What the fuck is an adult net?' This was years before the internet, but something about the phrase really resonated with me. 'How cool.'"
 
Yes, that's right--pre-cog! We finally have hard evidence.
 

Comments (6)

dannyno
  • 1. dannyno | 21/06/2014

"Worth 5 dollars in London".

I'm not hearing "in". It's "Worth 5 dollars London"

bzfgt
  • 2. bzfgt | 24/06/2014

Yes, I moved "in" up..."his vendetta in parchment" I think.

dannyno
  • 3. dannyno | 07/05/2016

In The Rise, The Fall, and The Rise, Brix says that Steve Hanley wrote the music for this song.


Gavin sings a throwaway lyric underneath the mix: 'Adult Net. Net of mesh.' I said to Mark, "What the fuck is an adult net?' This was years before the internet, but something about the phrase really resonated with me. 'How cool.'

dannyno
  • 4. dannyno | 15/04/2017

The booklet to The Wonderful and Frightening World of The Fall has an annotation for this song that reads,


Vatican distort into operative nightmare.

dannyno
  • 5. dannyno | 15/04/2017

Sigh. Typo in comment #4, which should read:

The booklet to The Wonderful and Frightening World of The Fall has an annotation for this song that reads,


Vatican distort into operatic nightmare.

bzfgt
  • 6. bzfgt (link) | 13/05/2017

That makes a lot more sense! Which isn't to say it makes sense.

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