The Birmingham School of Business School



The car is at the roundabout
The policeman is at the roundabout (2)
But I'm full of surprises now
And my friend, he said I'm full of surprises now
Let me tell you about scientific management
And the theft of its concealment
The Birmingham School of Business School (3)
In Birmingham
It's main theme

Weave a web so magnificent
Disguise in the art of conceit
Give a very firm handshake
And take the bastards for everything that they rate
The Birmingham Business School of Business School

Deposits prisoner robotics
Home to their wives Stepford (4)
Business School
Birmingham School of Business School
Birmingham School of Business School
In the heart of Britain
The big heart of England  (5)
Lee Coopers on FEs (6)
The Birmingham School of Business School

Plane crash to walkin'
Tryna find a job
The jumped up prats
Birmingham Business School
The Birmingham School of Business School
Birmingham School of Business School
Laughing-stock of European
Olympic bidding again and again (7)
Exciting developments
The Birmingham School of Business School 

("Trevor Long" "Speaking" [dial tone])


1. This song is reputed to be about Trevor Long, who managed the Fall in the late '80s and who was subsequently sued (unsuccessfully) by Mark E. Smith for appropriating some of the band's funds. From an interview with John Procter of I, Ludicrous in The Biggest Library Yet:

"Trevor Long rubbed us up the wrong way from the start. But, in true Nietzchean style, we embraced our enemy (I learned that from Mark). By the end of the tour, Trevor was spending most of his time in our dressing room, which was very disturbing. Very disturbing indeed. Mark described Trevor as The Fall's guru, but we were wary of him.
I suspect Gentleman's Agreement to be about Trevor, but can shed no further light. The Birmingham School of Business School is more specifically about Trevor and his creative accounting techniques."

There is some indication that "Don't Take The Pizza" is also about Long, at least in part.

One can almost hear "Brummagem School of Business School," a word deriving from 'Birmingham' which denotes cheap or ersatz goods. 

The form of the title echoes a radio piece MES read on the pirate station Greenwich Sound Radio in 1983 entitled "Mark E Smith Guide to Writing Guide." And at the end of "Yes, O Yes" from the ballet I Am Curious, Orange (and the album I Am Kurious, Oranj), MES is heard to say, "And that's what you get when you join the M. Clark School of Soccer Coaching School: Enraged and inflamed with torment."

Martin submits:

Typewritten comments about the song found on the Code: Selfish album sleeve: "The weak in courage are strong in cunning2 [sic] (Blake) milling about in the hotel reception. Convention vermin who read the 'Sunday Sport`too often. [The actual Blake quote has the singular "is" and not "are", by the way.]


2. Roundabouts are also referenced in M5 and Way Round.


3. The Birmingham Business School is part of the University of Birmingham.


4. The Stepford Wives is a 1972 novel by Ira Levin in which the wives in an upscale suburban Connecticut neighborhood turn out to be robots. Film versions were released in 1975 and 2004.  


5. "The Big Heart of England" was an advertising slogan for Birmingham.


6. Lee Coopers are jeans that were particularly trendy in the 1950s and 1960s. An F.E. is a financial executive.

But from pinkpapaver:  "I hear 'Lee Cooper of FE.' FE also stands for "further education," and there are FE colleges in Brum. So, second rate education. (16-19 education) like Lee Cooper jeans second rate jeans to levis." Then this particular school may be second rate (Lee Cooper) within the category of second rate (Levi's)...

According to Seadog Black on the Fall Online Forum,  "To me it sounds like F.U's and that would make more sense as F.U's are a famous American brand of jeans from the 70's/80's."


7. Birmingham made a bid for the Olympics in 1992, the year Code:Selfish was released.


Comments (20)

  • 1. egg | 18/05/2014
There's a muffled "Chairman Long speaking", followed by a dial tone, towards the end of this song.
  • 2. dannyno | 27/06/2014
Scientific management AKA Taylorism, of course. But maybe that's too obvious to annotate

  • 3. bzfgt | 15/07/2014
I take it to be maybe older than Taylorism, but rather the early days of industrial production etc...I remember David Harvey talking about a contrast between the Manchester and Birmingham models of production, but I can't remember where and didn't find anything about these on Google. Keep your eyes out for it if you would (I don't think Harvey is being idiosyncratic, I'm pretty sure that in the 19th century it was a thing.
  • 4. dannyno | 13/08/2014
From Steve Hanley's "The Big Midweek" p309:

" 'The Birmingham School of Business School' with its less-than-cryptic tirade about a band manager from the Midlands. To clear up any remaining doubt as to which manager the song may be calling into disrepute, Mark even insisted on tacking an authentic recording of an answerphone message onto the end of the piece."
  • 5. dannyno | 13/08/2014

From David Harvey's "A Companion to Marx's Capital, Vol 1" pp.214-215:

"Marx tend to universalize what is going on in Manchester as if this is the ultimate form of capitalist industrialism... If Engels had been in Birmingham, Marx's presentation might have been quite different. The industrial structure there was small-scale but assembled in such a way as to realize economies of agglomeration. It was more craft-oriented, with workshops producing guns, jewelry and various metallurgical products, and it seems to have been highly efficient and characterized by very different labor relations from those found in the huge cotton factories of the Manchester region. Marx evidently knew very little about what we might call the Birmingham model of capitalist industrialism and therefore failed to address a distinction that has been long-lasting in the history of capitalist development."
  • 6. MandrakeAnthrax | 07/02/2017
I'm fairly sure that's simply "Trevor Long" in the end, not "Chairman Long".
  • 7. bzfgt | 11/02/2017
I think so!
  • 8. Martin | 26/03/2017
Typewritten comments about the song found on the "Code: Selfish" album sleeve:

"The weak in courage are strong in cunning2 {sic] (Blake)
milling about in the hotel reception. Convention vermin who read the 'Sunday Sport`too often.

(The actual Blake quote has the singular "is" and not "are", by the way.)
  • 9. Pinkpapaver | 07/02/2018
In Birmingham, there is also an Aston business school. I hear Lee Cooper of fe. Fe also stands for further education, there are fe colleges in Brum. So, second rate education. (16-19 education) like Lee Cooper jeans second rate jeans to levis. There are a lot of coopers and Lees in the area also.
Laughing stock of European Olympic bidding.... The city went for the Olympics in 1992, ie around 86. So, its not just about Trevor long It is about Birmingham. I feel smith has a soft spot for the city and its deprivation and delusions of grandeur. In the way he says Manchester is actually crap, but it is a place very bigged bigged up in the country. Birmingham is a place everyone knows is crap! (yet its actually pretty good unless youre poor, like everywhere). It's in the Midlands but mark references birmingham as in the neglected and industrial North in the video of hit the north
And then there's the lse London school of economics. Higher Ed rather than fe but another educational establishment of waffle and bulla.

I hear jumped up press. But prats sounds good enough.
  • 10. bzfgt (link) | 17/02/2018
Oo, good with "FE," that might fly.
  • 11. bzfgt (link) | 17/02/2018
Great song, I feel like I haven't listened to this in years, although I'm not sure...
  • 12. bzfgt (link) | 17/02/2018
OK, I hear "on" pretty distinctly, but I put it in the notes as a sort of minority report, as it's too good to waste.
  • 13. bzfgt (link) | 17/02/2018
I hate [?] so I now have "Plane crash to walkin'", but I don't like it....anyone?
Joseph Mullaney
  • 14. Joseph Mullaney | 19/02/2018
'Hitching' - I've always heard this as Hitchin, a small town in the county of Hertfordshire in England, north of London.
  • 15. bzfgt (link) | 24/02/2018
Could be, James; is there anything dispositive either way here?
  • 16. dannyno | 22/03/2018
"The big heart of England"

This was a tourist-advertising slogan for Birmingham:
  • 17. dannyno | 22/03/2018

It doesn't sound like "FEs" to me whatsoever. Nothing like it. Sounds more like "FUs" or "effuse", but I don't know what the word is. Neither of those really fits.

I'm having trouble with the whole "plane crash... hitching" bit. Don't feel that's right at all. Except I don't think Hitchin would fit at all.
  • 18. Rob | 25/03/2018
Lee Coopers en effuse
(i.e. lots of Lee Coopers)
  • 19. bzfgt (link) | 31/03/2018
Have I ever put a picture in the notes before? I can't imagine why not but I don't remember doing it worked great.
mr phil
  • 20. mr phil | 20/04/2018
The point about scientific management is very valid. Taylor would subtly redesign a shovel to see if he got more tonnage shovelled or not. Whether people were aware of this or not is open to question. As such 'the thefts of its concealment' are interesting as many of the methods might have reduced the throughput. If the worker was on piece rate, he may have been shortchanged when it was a result of the shovel and not the worker. Perhaps Mark felt that Trevor Long was 'switching the shovel' without the bands knowledge and represented it this way.

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