The Reckoning


I phoned you up from Dallas  (1)
But your heart was still in marble
And your head
Was reckoning

Your friends are dis-compos-mentis (2)
And like most in leather jackets are

And you're sleeping with some hippie half-wit
Who thinks he's Mr. Mark Smith (3)

I'm left alone in Europe
Consulting an atlas

And it's evil that you spark off
In disguise as basic truth



1. The Peel version begins "I followed you to Dallas." Zack comments:

"The opening lines here are similar to those of the old country song 'My Elusive Dreams': 'I followed you to Texas / I followed you to Utah.' Even the cadence and melody, not to mention the globetrotting theme of the rest of the song, are similar. Many artists have recorded 'My Elusive Dreams' but if I had to guess which version MES was most familiar with, it's probably the one by Nancy Sinatra & Lee Hazlewood."

Zack is right on the money, there is a strong resonance with this song, as listening to the first verse of each back to back reveals.


2. Compos Mentis is Latin for "of sound mind"; the negation of the latter is more properly Non Compos Mentis, and is generally used in a legal context.  

This song may be the one referred to by Lori Kramer of The Pendulum Floors and Paper Squares in an unidentified interview which IAMTHE PUCK from the Fall online forum found on a blog which is dedicated, apparently, entirely to the interview, and doesn't give the source (although the interview seems to be genuine, as it is a JPEG). Using Optical Character Recognition (PCR) software, I am able to reproduce the text here--we use all the latest scientific techniques here at The Annotated Fall, which is what sets us apart from the competition:

Your old band was the Paper Squares, right?


How long ago did that get started?

We were together three years. 90 to 93. We were playing out, and it was like a rock band, with a farfisa, but it was very lyric-oriented. A lot of people described it like the Fall, kind of. It had like a surfy sound. too. Our guitarist played a Mustang. It was fun to do. I had a good time. But we broke up, so.

And how did that happen?

I left the band because I had met Mark E. Smith [singer of the Fall] at his show, and I ended up going out with him. Going on tour with him, and going back to England with him. So I ended up leaving my band.

Did you cause any turmoil in his life?

Yeah, I'm sure I did! He had another girlfriend, and he had marital problems or whatever . But, no, I didn't cause anyreal problems in his life. We had like a fling, you know? It went on for a little while, but we had a real good time together.

What kind of life did be have out in England?

He lived a pretty average, it looked like a very middle-class little home. I didn't spend much time there. Manchester isn't a very attractive place or anything. It's an industrial town. He works hard, they're a very professional kind of band. But they drink hard, they party hard. They're good. They're very good

Did you guys do any stuff together music-wise?

Nawe didn't

Did you ever do any writing with him at all?

No, Just on one of his records he wrote a song for me, he talked about our thing. And I wrote a song back, on our record, called "Dallas-. We were in Dallas together.

And how did you break up?

Well, he decided he wanted to go back to his girlfriend who he was with prior to meeting me. But he had brought me back to England because he thought that he wanted to continue our relationship. And he realized that it wasn't going to work out. But it was nice, you know, he was very generous, and he spent a lot of money to have me travel around with him and stuff. It was nice.

It didn't make you feel bitter and abandoned at all?

Yeah, I was kind of upset at the time, because I gave up my band and my boyfriend for him. But that's life, you know. At the time it was hard, but that was almost four years ago, so I don't really think about it anymore.

Danny speculates:

"If you look at the lyrics in the light of what we are told in that interview, it seems to be about the "other girlfriend" . "I phoned you up from Dallas" seems to be MES speaking rather than Lori or the other one, and if that's right then you can understand that part of the song as him ringing his other girlfriend from America, who it turns out is sleeping with some "hippy half-wit". Lori could be the one "left alone in Europe", but that could also be MES."


3. The Peel version has "who thinks he's Mrs. Mark Smith." This could refer to Nigel Kennedy, the fiddle player whom Brix dated after MES (thanks to boplala). 


Comments (16)

  • 1. Colin | 23/10/2013
I always thought that this song is autobiographical, though MES would never admit it. Could be about Brix. Some people have said that he still hadn't gotten over her at this point.
  • 2. Zack | 30/11/2013
The opening lines here are similar to those of the old country song "My Elusive Dreams": "I followed you to Texas / I followed you to Utah." Even the cadence and melody, not to mention the globetrotting theme of the rest of the song, are similar. Many artists have recorded "My Elusive Dreams" but if I had to guess which version MES was most familiar with, it's probably the one by Nancy Sinatra & Lee Hazlewood.
  • 3. dannyno | 08/05/2016
"Reckoning" is the title of the penultimate episode (#25) of the classic documentary "The World at War", which we know from Brix's autobiography was a favourite of MES's. I'm hoping this is relevant.
  • 4. Martin | 07/06/2016
The Peel session version of the song has the line "I followed you to Dallas" (which fits well with Zack's comment above about "My Elusive Dreams".
  • 5. bzfgt | 29/06/2016
Great stuff, guys! Zack, sorry it took 2.5 years to work up a note for your intel...
  • 6. dannyno | 18/09/2016
"But your heart was still in marble"

Not sure there is much point doing this, as I doubt this is a source, but Matthew Lewis's 1809 play "Venoni" contains the line, "her heart was still marble!" I just like noting things like this.

  • 7. Brian | 21/11/2017
On the day I bought the album I saw a book about the killing of Christopher Marlowe, ostensibly triggered by a bar bill controversy, I.e. the reckoning. So I wanted the song to be bout that in some way. Perhaps MES is admitting that he’s the real killer
  • 8. Lord | 08/04/2019
Did I mishear it as "your heart was still in Marple." .?

I liked that line.
  • 9. joincey | 16/10/2019
- funny , like 'Lord' above , I heard the line as " ... Marple" not Marble. Anyone not local might not know that Marple is a little town in Stockport, Greater Manchester.
  • 10. boplala | 29/10/2019 the hippie half-wit is not nigel kennedy?
  • 11. bzfgt (link) | 09/11/2019
Could well be
  • 12. bzfgt (link) | 09/11/2019
I don't hear Marple
  • 13. dannyno | 09/11/2019
Nigel Kennedy? Not every song about a woman in The Fall canon relates to Brix! And anyway, Kennedy affected a punk look rather than a hippy look.
  • 14. bzfgt (link) | 16/11/2019
Yeah, which is why "hippie halfwit" is so devastating! Well, anyway, it could be Kennedy...and maybe not.
  • 15. joincey | 13/10/2023
bzfgt, #12 - nah, it's definitely 'Marple'.
  • 16. dannyno | 30/10/2023
It could be Marple, it would follow from the mention of Dallas to have another placename. However, it's not clearly or obviously so.

I listened to several versions, and the Peel version, none of which helped resolve the matter to my ears.

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