Telephone Thing

Lyrics

(1)

I hear you Telephone Thing listening in
I hear you Telephone Thing listening in

How dare you assume I want to parlez-vous with you!
Sorry to be so short with you 
But I'm tapped 
But I'm tapped

I hear you Telephone Thing listening in
I hear you Telephone Thing listening in

The use of, uh, [lorture] and your smug advertisements
And your tendril ocean bed achievements does not (2)
justify your abuse of privacy piracy act

I hear you Telephone Thing listening in
I feel you Telephone Thing listening in 

How dare you assume I want to parlez-vous with you!
Gretchen Franklin nosey matron thing (3)

I hear you Telephone Thing listening in

Sense you

I hear you Telephone Thing listening in

How dare you assume I want to parlez-vous with you!
You Gretchen Franklin nosey matron type

Does the Home Secretary have the barest faintest inkling of what's going down?   (4)

 

I hear you Telephone Thing listening in
I hear you Telephone Thing listening in

The use of, uh, l [lortua] and your smug advertisements
And your tendril ocean bed achievements does not justify your abuse of privacy piracy act

I hear you Telephone Thing listening in 
I feel you Telephone Thing listening in

How dare you assume I want to parlez-vous with you!
Gretchen Franklin thing

I hear you Telephone Thing listening in

Sense you

I hear you Telephone Thing listening in

Sense you

I hear you Telephone Thing listening in
I hear you Telephone Thing listening in
I hear you Telephone Thing listening in

How dare you assume I want to parlez-vous with you!

I'm tapped

I hear you Telephone Thing listening in

Notes

1. Telephone Thing was written by Mark E Smith and the electronic dance music duo Coldcut, who also produced the track. From Reformation:

"My Telephone" was  a single by dance music duo Coldcut (Matt Black and Jonathan More) from the album "What's That Noise?" and featured Lisa Stanfield on vocals. [This album also featured the track "(I'm) In Deep with MES on guest vocals.]
 
On 25 January 1990 on News Nike, MES commented: "On the acetate they sent me the drums were a lot  we're quite a drum and bass orientated group...On the Stansfield version it's more of a pop song, really, whereas as ours is more of a workout...All we've done really is got the machine tracks and got the musicians to learn them naturally" .
 
On the same day, the NME published an interview  ("Funky, Cold, Modern - Ah!")in which MES said that Coldcut's "version of it was a misjustice to the tune. That single was a flop and it was rubbish. It's topical - like all Fall singles. I think it's good to have a go at things like that - BritishRail and British Telecom. It's a natural gripe. One time, I was using the phone a lot and I dialled a number and I could hear people munching sandwiches and talking about my last phone call. I actually rang up the operator and said 'Lookl I'm trying to dial a fucking number here and I can't get through because people are talking about my phone callsl Have you got a bleedin' license to do this?'"

"Being staff, they get fed up, so what they do is tap into lines that they think are gonna be interesting. It doesn't bother me, I've got nothing to fucking hide! But I said 'Well, is it tapped or not? I can't fucking get through because of your bloody lot!' And she slammed the phone down on me!"

On 23 February 1990 on Radio Luxembourg MES said, "I think it's a bit too long to be a hit."
 
Jonathan More is quoted ("Ring The Noise", NME; 20 January 1990) as saying,"He thought the vocals and all the rest of the stuff we did on it were shit, but he really liked the guitar, bass and drums, and he gave the cassette to his band to learn these parts."

^
 
2. This line presumably refers to undersea telephone cables, as Dan points out below.
 
 
3. Gretchen Franklin was a British actress best known for playing Ethel on Eastenders. From the NME, January 25, 1990 (thanks to Zack):
 Gretchen Franklin?! The woman who plays Ethel on Eastenders? Mark buries his head under the table in what appears to be shame. He groans. "I know! I know! I thought I'd made up that name. Coldcut and Craig Leon were going to me 'That's a great name to make up, Gretchen Franklin', it just came out of nowhere. And then I was watching Eastenders and ... it was terrible! Maybe she'll be flattered, you usually find people are flattered. I don't even watch fucking Eastenders. I hate it! It must've just lodged there somewhere, out of the blue. It's subliminal - I've nothing against her - I can't even remember what she looks like now." She wears a tea cosy and carries a pug. "OH NO! It's not the woman with the dog is it? It's not!"
 
Whether or not he's being honest here, the character Ethel is gossipy and nosy, according to the Baron Doug below, so it seems like an appropriate lyric.

^
4. Martin: The home secretary at the time of the first performance of the song (Aberdeen, 18 October 1989) was Douglas Hurd. I don't have a recording of this but do have one of the next gig outing, which was 28 November 1989 in Dusseldorf. The lyrics concerning the home secretary are there. By this time David Waddington had replaced Hurd in this particular cabinet position. The following quote comes from Waddington's memoirs: "Very much more important than the Data Protection Act was the Interception of Communications Bill which I helped Leon Brittan to take through the House at about the same time. It put telephone tapping authorised by the Secretary of State on a statutory basis and outlawed telephone interceptions not so authrorised; and it was to be the model for later legislation putting the security service on a similar statutory basis." 
 

Comments (13)

dannyno
  • 1. dannyno | 22/06/2014
I don't think question marks are needed after the "how dare you..." lines. They are statements, accusations.

The first mention of Gretchen Franklin doesn't start with "You".

"I do you Telephone Thing listening in" is "I feel you Telephone Thing listening in"

And the last mention of Gretchen Franklin doesn't start with "You" either.
bzfgt
  • 2. bzfgt | 24/06/2014
Fine, I went with an exclamation point, although I'm pretty sure that either way is correct. I wish I had some better option than "lorture," though...
Zack
  • 3. Zack (link) | 09/06/2015
Andrew Collins interviews MES, NME January 25, 1990:

Gretchen Franklin?! The woman who plays Ethel on Eastenders?

Mark buries his head under the table in what appears to be shame. He groans.

"I know! I know! I thought I'd made up that name. Coldcut and Craig Leon were going to me 'That's a great name to make up, Gretchen Franklin', it just came out of nowhere. And then I was watching Eastenders and ... it was terrible! Maybe she'll be flattered, you usually find people are flattered. I don't even watch fucking Eastenders. I hate it! It must've just lodged there somewhere, out of the blue. It's subliminal - I've nothing against her - I can't even remember what she looks like now."

She wears a tea cosy and carries a pug.

"OH NO! It's not the woman with the dog is it? It's not!"
Martin
  • 4. Martin | 31/03/2016
The home secretary at the time of the first performance of the song (Aberdeen, 18 October 1989) was Douglas Hurd. I don't have a recording of this but do have one of the next gig outing, which was 28 November 1989 in Dusseldorf. The lyrics concerning the home secretary are there. By this time David Waddington had replaced Hurd in this particular cabinet position. The following quote comes from Waddington's memoirs:

"Very much more important than the Data Protection Act was the Interception of Communications Bill which I helped Leon Brittan to take through the House at about the same time. It put telephone tapping authorised by the Secretary of State on a statutory basis and outlawed telephone interceptions not so authrorised; and it was to be the model for later legislation putting the security service on a similar statutory basis."

As usual, I've no idea where any of this is leading (if it leads anywhere) but I think some more research needs to be done into the lyrics of this song.

Oh, and while I'm about it, what on earth are " tendril ocean bed achievements"?
dannyno
  • 5. dannyno | 14/05/2016
Martin:

I always presumed that the "tendril ocean bed achievements" are British Telecom's undersea cables.
Zack
  • 6. Zack | 25/06/2016
"Tendril" seems to have been one of MES's favorite words at the time; it also turns up in the 'Extricate' liner notes ("[This album] is the culmination of stuff I've/we've held back or just wrote over and through the tendril wires and chaos of the last 14 months.") and in the lyrics to "(I'm) In Deep", his other collaboration with Coldcut ("He trekked up and down the tendril wires of this haunted isle...").

Also, Home Secretary Douglas Hurd -> "heard" -> "listening" is a delightful (albeit hidden) play on words.
Baron Hurd of Westwell, CH, CBE, PC (call me Doug)
  • 7. Baron Hurd of Westwell, CH, CBE, PC (call me Doug) | 31/10/2016
"Pint-sized Ethel Skinner was to all appearances a real old dear, but she could be a trouble-maker when the mood took her. She spread the most insane rumours about all and sundry in the cabal of gossips that she formed with the formidable Lou Beale and Dorothy Cotton."
- BBC

She was pretty nosey as well. Be sure and study her technique on youtube, anyone applying for GCHQ.
duncandisorderly
  • 8. duncandisorderly (link) | 01/09/2017
I've always heard the line as "I hate you, telephone thing, listening in.."
bzfgt
  • 9. bzfgt (link) | 07/10/2017
The very first time he says it on the Extricate version the "hear" is pretty clear. Thereafter there are iterations that could be "hate."
DP McNulty
  • 10. DP McNulty | 12/10/2017
I can't claim credit for this discovery (someone commented on the 'Late Show ' Performance found on YouTube) The late poet Laureate Ted Hughes's poem 'Do Not Pick Up The Telephone' has a certain Fall like quality to it and Mark must surely have been aware of its existence.
dannyno
  • 11. dannyno | 12/10/2017
This is it. I don't personally find so very Fall-like, to be honest.


Do not Pick up the Telephone

That plastic Buddha jars out a Karate screech

Before the soft words with their spores
The cosmetic breath of the gravestone

Death invented the phone it looks like the altar of death
Do not worship the telephone
It drags its worshippers into actual graves
With a variety of devices, through a variety of disguised voices

Sit godless when you hear the religious wail of the telephone

Do not think your house is a hide-out it is a telephone
Do not think you walk your own road, you walk down a telephone
Do not think you sleep in the hand of God you sleep in the mouthpiece of a telephone
Do not think your future is yours it waits upon a telephone
Do not think your thoughts are your own thoughts they are the toys of the telephone
Do not think these days are days they are the sacrificial priests of the telephone

The secret police of the telephone

0 phone get out of my house
You are a bad god
Go and whisper on some other pillow
Do not lift your snake head in my house
Do not bite any more beautiful people

You plastic crab
Why is your oracle always the same in the end?
What rake off for you from the cemeteries?

Your silences are as bad
When you are needed, dumb with the malice of the clairvoyant insane
The stars whisper together in your breathing
World's emptiness oceans in your mouthpiece
Stupidly your string dangles into the abysses
Plastic you are then stone a broken box of letters
And you cannot utter
Lies or truth, only the evil one
Makes you tremble with sudden appetite to see somebody undone

Blackening electrical connections
To where death bleaches its crystals
You swell and you writhe
You open your Buddha gape
You screech at the root of the house

Do not pick up the detonator of the telephone
A flame from the last day will come lashing out of the telephone
A dead body will fall out of the telephone

Do not pick up the telephone
DP McNulty
  • 12. DP McNulty | 17/10/2017
What ?
Imagine it in a Prestwich accent complete with Gretchen Franklin reference
bzfgt
  • 13. bzfgt (link) | 04/11/2017
I also think it's a bit Fall-like, in parts although not as a whole. But there is not enough intrinsic evidence to say he was influenced by it, there would need to be an explicit connection; even if it is likely he' d have been aware of it I don't know how to connect the dots if it's just a surmise.

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