The League of Bald-Headed Men

Lyrics

(1)
You know when you end up in some sort of a cinema complex
And the person next to you is someone you hate?
Well well well well well well well well with me,
I end up like that
All around and inside left

All through the walls
It suppurates
Look it up! (2)
I'm immobile.
Is your house for sale? (3)

And Davey's just got out of his cell 
Where have you been this time?
Your lives are beyond the pale
Walk! Walk the main drag, splayed
See the blue baseball hatted, baseball blue hatted
School friends
Pop mobs
Male loafers
Business affairs advisers
And members of the band
Suppurates-- 
Look it up!

And every day it's my pleasure to meet
The great league of bald-headed men
And it's every day's my pleasure to meet
The great league of bald-headed men

Your friends, pop mobs, first wives, ex-loafers

And every day it is my pleasure to meet
The league of bald-headed men
And every day it's my pleasure to meet
The great league
And every day it's my pleasure to meet
The league of bald-heanded men 
And every day it's my pleasure to meet
The league of bald-headed men 

Baseball hatted, blue capped
Baseball hatted, blue capped

And every day it's my pleasure to meet
The league of bald-headed men 

And every day it's my pleasure to meet (4)

Notes

1. The Story of the Fall has it that this song contains "ruminations on executive/media types," but Mick Middles' comment from his book about the Fall seems more likely to me (via Reformation): as Middles has it, the song describes "how ageing rockers grabbed garish T-shirts and began to dance appallingly during Madchester's unholy and artless explosion." The conventional wisdom has it that the riff is copped from Led Zeppelin's "Misty Mountain Hop," but the riff is very simple and it is not exactly the same, so this could just as easily be chalked up to chance. In any case, in an era when the Fall gave much of their music a dance-pop feel (albeit with quite a bit of vigor on The Infortainent Scan, although less so elsewhere), this song is a heavy dose of rock.

Blazenstruik points out that the title is most likely inspired by Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes story "The Adventure of the Red-Headed League." Danny has discovered that, when it was translated into Japanese, the story appeared under the more relatable title "The Bald-Headed League." And at least as early as 1981, there was an actual "Bald-Headed League," which was able to boast of having Telly Savalas among its members.  

From Steve Hanley's The Big Midweek (p314)

"I start to wonder if I'm becoming his muse when the next track becomes a diatribe entitled 'The League of Bald-Headed Men'. I am clearly the founding member. The lyrics aren't taking much working out these days, are they?" (thanks to Dan)

According to nobody (i.e. "nobody," in the comments below):

Ben Pritchard says he believes this song is about the groups older fans

"What's cool now is that, when I first joined the group, any shows that we did in England, when we turned up at the venue, and the majority of the audience would be 35-40-year- old guys. Very, very critical. But what's really, really cool is that in the past 3-4 years in England, we've had this explosion of American bands like the Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, the Strokes, the White Stripes, and they have quite often said, when they've been asked, "Who are your inspirations?," they've all said The Fall. So what's really cool now, especially in the States, is that we're coming to the shows and there's loads of young people there. And that's so refreshing to Mark. Because he cares! He really cares. I mean, he wrote the song "The League of Bald-headed Gentlemen" [sic], and I believe that's what that refers to. The fact that all he'd see was bald heads in the crowd. That was the thing, you know - he got a bit sick and tired of it."

Blazenstruik suggests that the title may be inspired by Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes story "The Adventure of the Red-Headed League." Danny has discovered that, when it was translated into Japanese, the story appeared under the more relatable title "The Bald-Headed League." And at least as early as 1981, there was an actual "Bald-Headed League," which was able to boast of having Telly Savalas among its members.  DC Comics' Batman series also features a "League of Assassins," dating back before the song.

Alan has likely found the proximate source, though--a 1968 episode of Get Smart! entitled "Diamonds are a Spy's Best Friend" features a gang of jewel thieves who style themselves the "League of Bald-Headed Men." Get Smart! was widely shown in syndication for years after its 1965-1970 run, and Dan has found that this episode aired in England on August 22, 1992. The first peformance of this song was November 19th of that year. However, Dan points out that the  titular line appeared earlier than that, hence closer to the air date of the episode in question. From Reformation: "it is interesting to note that lyrics from the track were first used by MES on stage during a performance of 'US 80s 90s' at the Ritz, Manchester, on 15 September 1992, when he incorporated into the latter song the words: 'And it is the league of bald-headed men in leather jackets conniving in a preponderence...'"

^

2. If you do you'll be grossed out by the image of pus seeping through the walls, a substance that is perhaps traceable back to the league members' bald heads.  

^

3. MES seems freaked out by middle age in this song...

^

4. The "League Moon Monkey Mix" includes an extra line: "You scored passages to assuage their post-latent sexual baldy alopecia." 

^

Comments (18)

blazenstruik
  • 1. blazenstruik | 27/06/2014
Surprised no-one has pointed out the obvious on here yet, but the title of this song is pinched from a Sherlock Holmes story - The Adventure of the Red-Headed League.
dannyno
  • 2. dannyno | 03/07/2014
That's a bit dubious. However, what is interesting is that when that story was published in Japan, where there aren't many red-heads, it was renamed "The Bald-Headed League".

Also, there was a "Bald-Headed League" in the US in the early 1980s: http://tinyurl.com/baldleague
dannyno
  • 3. dannyno | 03/07/2014
Typos:

You've got a "The great league of belad-headed men"

and

"And every say it's my pleasure"
bzfgt
  • 4. bzfgt | 15/07/2014
I know that story! Shit--and thanks!
dannyno
  • 5. dannyno | 13/08/2014
From Steve Hanley's The Big Midweek (p314)

"I start to wonder if I'm becoming his muse when the next track becomes a diatribe entitled 'The League of Bald-Headed Men'. I am clearly the founding member. The lyrics aren't taking much working out these days, are they?"
nobody
  • 6. nobody | 16/11/2014
Ben Pritchard says he believes this song is about the groups older fans

"What's cool now is that, when I first joined the group, any shows that we did in England, when we turned up at the venue, and the majority of the audience would be 35-40-year- old guys. Very, very critical. But what's really, really cool is that in the past 3-4 years in England, we've had this explosion of American bands like the Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, the Strokes, the White Stripes, and they have quite often said, when they've been asked, "Who are your inspirations?," they've all said The Fall. So what's really cool now, especially in the States, is that we're coming to the shows and there's loads of young people there. And that's so refreshing to Mark. Because he cares! He really cares. I mean, he wrote the song "The League of Bald-headed Gentlemen," and I believe that's what that refers to. The fact that all he'd see was bald heads in the crowd. That was the thing, you know - he got a bit sick and tired of it."
Link:
http://www.markprindle.com/pritchard-i.htm
Rik
  • 7. Rik | 04/04/2015
Is the line " is your house for sale" any reference to Hanleys account in his book about the tax problems and him losing his house?
dannyno
  • 8. dannyno | 06/07/2015
Rik: surely not, that was a few years later.
dannyno
  • 9. dannyno | 19/02/2017
Note 3 doesn't work chronologically, as I pointed out in comment 8.
bzfgt
  • 10. bzfgt | 25/02/2017
Hmm, I didn't want to kill the note altogether, but what's left is weak tea...someday something will pop up to fill the note again.
Alan
  • 11. Alan (link) | 17/03/2018
Probably got it from a 1968 episode of Get Smart.
http://getsmart.wikia.com/wiki/League_of_Bald-Headed_Men
dannyno
  • 12. dannyno | 17/03/2018
Alan, comment #11: I like that, very plausible. Very plausible indeed.

Episodes of the show have been shown intermittently over the years on UK TV, on various networks, though not necessarily all of them.

But most significantly, and again in line with my instinct that MES tends to use recent lyrical inspiration, Channel 4 broadcast a run of the show in 1992.

The song was first heard at Birmingham Town Hall on 19 November 1992. I was there.

But the Reformation! site (https://sites.google.com/site/reformationposttpm/fall-tracks/the-league-of-bald-headed-men) notes that :

it is interesting to note that lyrics from the track were first used by MES on stage during a performance of US 80s 90s at the Ritz, Manchester, on 15 September 1992, when he incorporated into the latter song the words: "And it is the league of bald-headed men in leather jackets conniving in a preponderence..."


So wouldn't it be interesting if we could locate a broadcast of the relevant episode close to the first appearance of the song, or lyric?

Yes it would.

And we can!

Because Channel 4 Broadcast Diamonds are a Spy's Best Friend at 12pm on Saturday 22 August 1992 [Source: Daily Mail TV guide, 22/8/92, p.32].

I reckon Alan has nailed this one.

The episode is available online: http://www.dailymotion.com/video/x55xsc0
dannyno
  • 13. dannyno | 17/03/2018
https://www.tapatalk.com/groups/thefall/download/file.php?id=29
bzfgt
  • 14. bzfgt (link) | 21/03/2018
One of the best shows of all time, I believe.
bzfgt
  • 15. bzfgt (link) | 21/03/2018
Would you believe top ten?
bzfgt
  • 16. bzfgt (link) | 21/03/2018
"So wouldn't it be interesting if we could locate a broadcast of the relevant episode close to the first appearance of the song, or lyric?"

Not really. If we hadn't found that, I'd still think the evidence was pretty well dispositive.
dannyno
  • 17. dannyno | 22/03/2018
Surely I can't be the only person in the world who thinks like that!
bzfgt
  • 18. bzfgt (link) | 31/03/2018
Like what? That MES has the memory of a goldfish?

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