The Man Whose Head Expanded


The man whose head expanded

The man whose head expanded
Was corrupted by Mr. Sociological Memory
Was corrupted by Mr. Sociological Memory Man
Could not get a carrier bag for love nor money (2)

The man whose head expanded
Sounds like hick wap, huh?
Sounds like hick wap, huh? (3)
Over! Over!
Over! Over!

The man whose head expanded

The soap opera writer would follow him around
and use his jewels for T.V. prime time
The man whose head expanded

Turn that bloody blimey Space Invader off! (4)

The man whose head expanded
The scriptwriter would follow him around, 
of this he was convinced
It was no coincidence
The lager seemed poisoned
It was no matter of small consequence
No little pub incidence
A red faced post- 'Jolly Grapes' (5)
Would steal his jewels
And put them in the mouths of Vic actor fools (6)
Of this he was convinced

Sounds like hick wap, huh?
Sounds like a lot of mick wap, huh?
Over! Over!
Over! Over!

The man whose head expanded

The man whose head expanded

Does not want to appear illiterate
Crack! Crack!
Does not want to appear illiterate
Crack! Crack!
Crack! Crack!

The man whose head expanded

Come on with the heraldry
Add misinterpretation, prerogative
John Kennedy's half-assed slyness (7)

The man whose head diminished

The man whose head diminished

Sounds like hick wap, huh? 
Over! Over!
Sounds like mig 20 crack, huh? (8)
Over! Over!
Sounds like a lot of hick wap, huh?
Over! Over! (8)



1. From Reformation

MES quoted in The Biggest Library Yet, no. 8 (February 1997); according to Paintwork: A Portrait of the Fall by Brian Edge, the comments originally appeared in Sounds (thanks Paul G):
"It's about this fellow who's been fucked up by too much misinformation posing as real information. And then it goes into this thing which is an obvious paranoia trip when he thinks the bloke from a soap opera is ripping off his lines and writing them down. But his thoughts are too intense for him to do anything about it. That's why the vocals are doing Burrr! and the song is very untogether. I'm a bit pissed off that people find the song undecipherable. I find it pretty clear.
I enjoy the line about the Sociological Memory Man. Did you ever hear those sports memory men who used to stand up and people would shout at them "Who won the world cup in 1920? How like, you get sociological guys telling you about how many people didn't have houses in 1945."
"I mean does reaching a wider audience mean that the audience is wider between the ears? I think The Man Whose Head Expanded is a compromise in a way, but I think that it fits the song--it's a colourful song and its meant to be flash because it's about a guy who's being ripped off because he got too big-headed. It works too, it's even got synths and things on it."
Some variants include: "The next song features Mr. Sociological Memory - he used to tour the Palladiums in the '40s and '50s. He could give you all the housing numbers and percentages from the 1920s. Sorry this is a bit difficult and sorry this is over anybody's head in the audience..." and "...housing figures from the '30s and '50s..."
The lyrics, with their combination of paranoia and humor, are resonant with the work of Philip K. Dick, an author for whom MES has often expressed appreciation (see also "The Aphid"). The title echoes Dick titles like The Man Who Japed, The Man Whose Teeth Were All Exactly Alike (although the latter, written in 1960, wasn't published until 1984, about a year after the release of "The Man Whose Head Expanded"), and The Man in the High Castle. Other similar title phrases are The Man Who Was Thursday (a novel by G.K. Chesterton) and The Man Who Knew Too Much (the title of a collection of stories by Chesterton, and subsequently of a movie, unrelated to Chesterton's book, that Alfred Hitchcock made twice). Also, Robert Heinlein has The Man Who Sold The Moon, which in turn probably inspired David Bowie's The Man Who Sold The World (and of course Bowie later starred in The Man Who Fell To Earth, which was based on the 1963 novel of the same title by Walter Tevis).
Wikipedia calls this song "a thinly veiled attack on [Marc] Riley" but this is almost certainly inaccurate or, at the very least, the attack is thickly veiled. I'm aware of no good reason to think this song is directed at Riley, and it adds nothing to our understanding of the character portrayed therein to think that it is. Wikipedia probably appropriated this statement verbatim from another source, but I haven't found it yet. "Jumper Clown," which began as a Fall instrumental and reëmerged in the hands of Marc Riley's post-Fall group The Creepers as a thinly veiled attack on MES, features the same bass line. It seems likely that this indicates that the songs share a common root in Fall jam sessions, rather than indicating that "Jumper Clown" is a response to "The Man Whose Head Expanded" in particular. 
Mark doped out the personnel:

"Keyboard player on this track was Craig, doubling on guitar in the middle and end. Paul plays drums, Karl 2nd (almost inaudible) bass. See ."
The song is musically similar to "What I Say" from the Miles Davis album Live Evil.
"The Man Whose Head Expanded" is credited to "Mark E. Smith, Steve Hanley, Craig Scanlon, Seaberg [sic]." According to Brix Sol Seaburg [sic] was a singer in a band called FC Domestos and a part-time van driver for the Fall, and was the "Jew on a motorbike" immortalized in the lyrics to "Garden."
2. In the U.K., plastic grocery bags are called "carrier bags" or "carry bags" (see "Carry Bag Man"). The saying "for love or money," incidentally, dates back to the 1580s.  
3. In context these seem to be nonsense syllables, perhaps meant to indicate something like "a load of hooey." Dan has found an instance of MES using it in his daily speech: "MES uses this word in his singles review in Melody Maker, 1 May 1982, p.23: "The only 'American music' in this pile of Wap."  
4. Space Invaders is an arcade game that dates from 1978, and was largely responsible for a huge expansion in the popularity of video games. The line here is probably addressed to the repetitive, tinny and distinctly 80s-sounding keyboard riff, which cuts off at this point before returning with a more straightforward piano sound. The keyboards could represent something the "man" is hearing, or this could be MES breaking character and addressing the keyboard player (probably Paul Hanley). However, the line was already present on early live versions of the song, so it is clearly not an ad lib inspired by annoyance at the keyboard sound, even though the way it plays out makes it seem that way (and this may have been what it was originally). On the Peel version the same lyric appears, and it also coincides with the cessation of the space age keyboards.
The keyboard riff that runs through the beginning of the song had appeared in "Da da da ich lieb dich nicht du liebst mich nicht aha aha aha" ("Da Da Da I Don't Love You You Don't Love Me Aha Aha Aha") by the band Trio. They were associated with Neue Deutsche Welle (German New Wave), but reportedly they preferred to call their style Neue Deutsch Frölichkeit, or "New German Cheerfulness." "Da Da Da" was a number 2 hit in the UK in 1982 (thanks to nochmal in the comment section for bringing this to my attention).
However, the original source of the riff is a preset beat on the Casio VL tone keyboard, which was introduced in 1980. The Fall might have gotten the riff from Trio, or they both could have gotten it from the Casio. In the Trio video, an actual Casio seems to be what is used to produce the riff; the keyboard player just pushes a button once, which means he is using the preset. It is not clear whether the Fall are actually using the Casio, or whether the beat is reproduced on another keyboard. It is sped up to what must be about the maximum speed, but it also seems to have been altered slightly. 
The Casio preset riff is used, without embellishment, at the very beginning of "Fortress" on Hex Enduction Hour. The "Fortress" introduction also appears at the beginning of "Look, Know" on Hip Priests and Kamerads.
The actual sound of Space Invaders is a low and fuzzy keyboard tone initially playing quarter notes that gradually speed up as the aliens descend, in addition to the sound effects made by shooting. "Space Invader[s]" makes sense as a description of the general aesthetic expressed by the keyboards, however, even if it is not descriptively accurate. 
5. "Jolly Grapes" may be the name of a (real or fictional) pub; perhaps we are meant to imagine a place where actors and theater people congregate.
6. "Vic actor" probably refers to actors from one of London's Vic theaters. The Old Vic is both a London theater, established in 1818, and the repertory company associated with the theater, established in 1963; the Young Vic, an offshoot of the Old Vic, is a repertory company that was established in 1946 and a theater built to accomodate the company, finished in 1970.
The Peel version has (at the head of the stanza) "The soap opera writer would follow him around..." and "soap opera TV soap opera TV actor fools." Some versions seem to have "bit actor fools..."
7.  The Peel version seems to say "John Kennedy's half-assed wryness." 
8. A MiG is a Russian fighter plane. However, there are no Mig 20s--they only made odd-numbered MiGs, and it sounds like he says "mick-20." The sleeve for the single, however, says "mig 20."  So, it could be "mig (MiG) 20 crack," which might be meant to sugest a sound effect when the man's head expands very rapidly, and in fact explodes. This is interpretation is reinforced by the following line, which the Lyrics Parade puts at the end of the song: "Sounds like my head, trying to unravel this lot/ I can tell you Sparky!" However, the provenance of this line is currently unknown; it doesn't appear on the single or the Peel session, or in any lyrics book. It may be from a live version, or, as Danny points out, it may be a transcriber's note.


Comments (34)

  • 1. dannyno | 27/04/2013

"A red faced post- 'Jolly Grapes' would steal his jewels, and put (5)
them in the mouths of Vic. actor fools."

So obviously there's plagiarism afoot, or paranoia about plagiarism. The narrator's best lines are being stolen and put into plays. "Vic. actor" I take to refer to the Old Vic, the famous theatre (or the breakaway known as the Young Vic).

  • 2. dannyno | 27/04/2013


Something to do with railway sleeping cars?

Or the British trains, linked to the same company? There was the Manchester Pullman:

  • 3. nochmal | 02/05/2013

"Turn that bloody blimey space invader off!" is of course the point where the initial synth riff -- getting more and more out of synch -- appears to be removed of from the mix. As far as I've been able to ascertain, the riff does not really have anything to do with Space Invaders the game. Its plinkyness does of course suggest old arcade games, but its obvious antecedent (by which I mean The Fall have clearly nicked it wholesale with only minor modification) is the German trio Trio's major 1982 hit "Da da da ich lieb dich nicht du liebst mich nicht aha aha aha".

  • 4. Martin | 20/10/2013

14 July 1983 Tiffany's, Derby:

- "The next song features Mr. Sociological Memory - he used to tour the Palladiums in the '40s and '50s. He could give you all the housing numbers and percentages from the 1920s. Sorry this is a bit difficult and sorry this is over anybody's head in the audience..."

  • 5. dannyno | 11/03/2014

Slightly different account here:

"it's about a guy who's being ripped off because he got too big-headed."


  • 6. Mark | 02/07/2014

Keyboard player on this track was Craig, doubling on guitar in the middle and end. Paul plays drums, Karl 2nd (almost inaudible) bass. See

  • 7. dannyno | 06/07/2014

"Sounds like my head, trying to unravel this lot/ I can tell you Sparky!"

To me that reads like whoever originally attempted to transcribe the song, commenting on it. Presumably it was someone calling themselves Sparky, and that was them signing off an email or message?

  • 8. Mark | 16/07/2014

That comment came from the "Sinister Times" newspaper. I always assumed that it was directed at MES, if only because I've been called "Sparky" before too due to sharing the same forename (predominantly when I was younger).

  • 9. dannyno | 21/07/2014

Just dug out my copy, and can confirm what you say.

Sinister Times is probably the original source of many of the Lyrics Parade transcriptions.

  • 10. dannyno | 21/07/2014

Sinister Times also has "John Kennedy's pulmanesque explained".

  • 11. dannyno | 13/08/2014

There's a little hint in Steve Hanley's "The Big Midweek" (p281). Steve receives a Marvel comic anthology called "Strange Tales of Startling Suspense" as a gift. It includes a story titled "The man with the incredible expanding head".

I'm currently trying to track it down

  • 12. bzfgt | 21/09/2014

According to Hanley's book, Paul Hanley plays the Space Invader keys.

  • 13. egg | 25/11/2014

re "hick wap" and "mick wap":

If we assume that "wap" is a made-up word meaning "nonsense" or even "crap"... then we have "hick", meaning a backward person from the countryside, and "mick", derogatory slang for an Irishman.

ie, "this sounds like a ridiculous story that a country bumpkin or a Irish drunk would tell in a pub" (whereas, as we know, the story is "no little pub incident")

Paul G
  • 14. Paul G | 08/08/2015

Re Point 1 - MES comments were originally from Sounds, according to Paintwork a Portrait of The Fall by Brian Edge (Omnibus Press 1989)

  • 15. Antoine | 01/10/2015

I'm now not entirely convinced of this, having read the annotation for "Vic actor fools" but I've always heard the line "into the mouths of bit actor fools," as in measly bit parts (a Google search for "bit actor" seems to mostly turn up results for "bit part" instead, either that or "bit players"). To me, this has a rather unglamourous ring to it and fits in with the hammy soap opera context (although the lines do also mention prime-time...) as opposed to the Old/Young Vic theatres, which appears to be more prestigious, having worked with folks like Peter O'Toole, Ben Kingsley, Hellen Mirren, John Malkovitch, etc, all of whom wouldn't really be the first people in mind when thinking about soap operas. It's also possible MES would shy away from referring to that crowd as fools, but that's my most tenuous argument, since the M.W.H.E is a character and considering the author's marked lack of vitriolic boundaries. Just a (very long-winded) thought, I wasn't aware of either Vic Theatre before today, so of course I'm now completely unsure. I've listened to the Peel and single versions on the web but my laptop speakers are horrendous and I could be fooling myself into hearing a T at the end of the word. I'm away from my records at the moment but will listen closer when I get a chance...

(I'm continually reminded to be chuffed as hell to have this Fall resource at my disposal! Thanks again!)

  • 16. Antoine | 24/10/2015

Definitely "bit actor fools"

The line comes up right at the three-minute mark. My obnoxious tirade up there was pretty much useless (I had had a few)

  • 17. mrak | 08/11/2015

"The Peel version seems to say "John Kennedy's half-assed wryness." - Sounds like "slyness" to me?

I assumed "jolly grapes" was a metaphor for wine, though the only prior reference I can find using my Google-ninja-skills is a prohibition-era article in Business Week. (referred to in a book about the subject, that page not available in the preview, typically)

Also, I'm stumped by the writing credit for "Seaberg" on this one. Riley?

  • 18. bzfgt | 15/11/2015

Thank you, Antoine. My inclination is to agree that this is an entirely empirical question since either makes adequate sense. I'm listening to your link now and will check some other versions, and if anyone wants to lend their ears to this task it will be appreciated.

  • 19. bzfgt | 15/11/2015

Convincing but not conclusive, it looks like I have to check some other ones...

  • 20. bzfgt | 15/11/2015

OK I'm still convinced the studio version has "vic actor" so I have dealt with the situation in the note, where I have Peel variants and mention that some versions seem to have "bit."

  • 21. bzfgt | 23/11/2015

Not sure about "slyness/wryness." If "Jolly Grapes" is a pub, I have no doubt the reference is to wine...however, you may be right and maybe it is just a straight reference to wine, minus the pub.

  • 22. dannyno | 08/06/2016


MES uses this word in his singles review in Melody Maker, 1 May 1982, p.23:

"The only "American music" in this pile of Wap.


  • 23. dannyno | 19/06/2016

Could the memory man referred to be Leslie Welch? He was a memory man who was on TV and Radio and also played the London Palladium - could this be who MES has in mind in the interview above? His expertise was sport, though.

  • 24. bzfgt | 29/06/2016

Dan, what the public now wants to know is, what track/artist is the "only American music"?

  • 25. dannyno | 02/07/2016

The comment is the introductory sentence to a paragraph which reviews two singles together and appears to refer to both as a collective: The Blasters (B-side), "No Other Girl" and Gary Panter, "Italian Sun Glass Movie".

  • 26. dannyno | 16/11/2016

comment #17, re the identity of "Seaberg", who gets a writing credit on this song.

This will be Sol Seaberg, who according to Brix is also the "Jew on a Motorbike" of the song "Garden":

  • 27. bzfgt | 24/11/2016

Note 1 initially continued as follows, but it was too much:

"It's not clear whether the interview wirh Brix was conducted verbally or via email--the author says he spoke with her "from her home in Shoreditch" which could possibly imply email, but it is much more likely to be via the telephone, as with an email interview he most likely would not have determined where she was located at all. An in person seems like it would be "at her home in Shoreditch," so we can safely rule that out (pending any contradictory evidence, of course). So it may be the case that the interviewer did not ask Brix how to spell the name, in which case "Seaberg" is slightly more likely to be the correct spelling. In any case, FC Domestos is mentioned in the book Shadowplayers:  the inside story of the start of Britain's most revered and infamous record label in the following two passages: "The last two Factory Fridays fell on 2 and 9 June. The first of these again showcased The Durutti Column, this time matched with FC Domestos and Cabaret Voltaire," and  "The second band, FC Domestos, were obliterated by the PA." And the only record of Seaberg/Sol Seaburg is the former name on the credits for "The Man Whose Head Expanded" and the latter in Brix's interview."

And there is an information page about a band called Doctor Cyclops which contains the following information:


Cosmic guitar and mad determination to gather other weird members. Was in a band called Crystal Ridge years ago who's fame spread right across Bury as far as Deeply Vale. Before that Dave was in FC Domestos with Steve B.


Now Bass also was and occasionally still does rhythm classical and other stuff Steve was in a band called FC Domestos years ago with Dave. Steve also did some work with the Manchester Musicians Collective on an album called (what's its name Steve?).

Note "A year ago," the page seems to be from October, 2000, so Domestos may have been a long-running concern...or this is another band entirely.

Dan, I know you will read this comment, I'm not sure that anyone else will though...

  • 28. bzfgt | 24/11/2016

Fuck, there's also a "Punk Catalog" with FC Domestos listed under Manchester 1978 under the heading "More Information Required."

  • 29. dannyno | 24/11/2016

"A year ago"? But bzfgt, they actually say "years ago". You can chronologically relax.

  • 30. dannyno | 24/11/2016

Michael Kaminer has had two pieces published, apparently from the same interview. One as above, and one in the Jewish Chronicle:,where he says:

In this country, a lot of people know who I am, but have no idea who I am," says Start-Smith from the Shoreditch loft she shares with her husband and pugs Gladys and Pixie.

It is written up like a phone interview, isn't it? But Kaminer lives in Manhattan:, so does that make phone any less likely than email? Maybe not.

  • 31. dannyno | 24/11/2016

This could be the guy:

Worth emailing him maybe.

  • 32. bzfgt | 21/12/2016

Not important, we know with near-certainty that "Seaburg" is wrong, we don't have to litigate whose fault it is!

  • 33. bzfgt | 21/12/2016

Oh, I see the link is Seaberg, for some reason I thought you wanted to track down Kaminer! Sorry about that. It could be good to track him down...

  • 34. Martin | 15/04/2017

"Come on with the heraldry
Add misinterpretation, prerogative
John Kennedy's half-assed slyness

The man whose head diminished,,,"

Following this,there seem to me to be some extra lines spoken (maybe one of them goes something along the lines of "...take it easy man"?)

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