The War Against Intelligence

Lyrics

(1)

The war against intelligence
War versus intelligence
Notebooks out plagiarists (2)
War against intelligence

War versus intelligence
They got a lot of debris yesterday
They stuck out its golden horns
And volunteered its essence
War against intelligence

Hey pseud!
Why did you defect to the other side?
Hey dude!
Give the info a rest and use your mind
Dancing with your Dada mates in the corner
You're such a bloody fool
You think your haircut is distinguished
When it's a blot on the English landscape

Hey dude!
Get your mental bones right outta here!
You! It's beyond your capability
Hey git! In the league of mental short-arse
And you will never recompense
For your war versus intelligence

War versus intelligence
War against intelligence

Hey dude!

Notes

1. The story, according to Simon Ford in his MES biography Hip Priest, is that this was intended to be the title track on the album that became Shift-Work but, because of the Gulf War, Smith decided the title was too controversial. Robert says:

"The title would be potentially controversial just for containing the word "war". During the Gulf War a bunch of songs were banned from broadcast by the BBC for being war-themed. Some of the choices may seem comical ('I Just Died in Your Arms Tonight') but this was serious enough that the group Massive Attack famously billed themselves as just "Massive" at that time to avoid an airplay ban. It's unlikely this policy would have affected the Fall greatly, however..."

Note that although the heading at the blog linked to above refers to "banned" material, this was actually a memo given to DJs listing songs requiring sensitivity, or something of that nature.

However, there are good reasons to think MES did not change the title for fear of being "blacklisted." See Dan's comment number 3 below for a full argument against this idea. The main premises are that MES did not change the title of the song, and the list is a list of songs; he included the supposedly "controversial" song in a Peel session recorded shortly after the end of the war (which was its first appearance); MES did not refer to BBC bans or controversy in contemporary interviews, in fact he seemed to be more or less unaware of all this; and, the BBC in any case did not blacklist The Fall.

Dan thinks that if the album title was changed, it was because MES did not want people mistakenly thinking the album was in some sense about the war. This seems strange to me also, however, as the titular war is against "intelligence," not "Iraq."

MES talks about the song in a contemporaneous interview with the NME, confirming Ford's account of his weird qualms about the title's supposed congruence with current events, while not giving any serious clues as to what these qualms were:

"I had a vague title for the LP actually, called 'The War Against Intelligence', and then the Gulf War broke out ... But, there is a war of intelligence going on at the moment. I do genuinely think that, and it's not because I'm particularly intelligent, I just think there is. Intelligence is actively discouraged in all walks of life, the media and all of it.

You think it's getting worse?

You talk to somebody, a bricklayer for instance. They're simply told to build badly, as opposed to making a f--in proper job out of it. And the blokes that they tell these things to either have to do it or they're out of work. Same with groups, same with everything.

You mean there's a conspiracy going on to downgrade everything?

It's like an undercurrent, innit? It's like a mental thought. Nobody's doing my work. Nobody likes to have a craft for anything. Nobody likes getting out of bed in the morning. I don't, but sometimes you have to. Nobody likes going to school. Nobody likes reading books. I find books very hard ... Hahahaha... But I read a lot of them ... No I don't actually. Sometimes for weeks on end I just watch telly, and after a bit you go 'What the f-- am I doing here?' Everybody does it."

^

2. This line is the heading for the second side of Shift-Work (the first side is titled "Earth's Impossible Day," a phrase taken from the DC comic Hawkman).

^

Comments (6)

Mark
  • 1. Mark | 21/05/2014
I like the line "You think your haircut is distinguished / When it's a blot on the English landscape" as I think it refers to the Madchester scene (around the time that this was recorded) and all the daft hairstyles that were around at this time.
Robert
  • 2. Robert | 23/10/2017
Smith decided the title was too controversial.

The title would be potentially controversial just for containing the word "war".

During the Gulf War a bunch of songs were banned from broadcast by the BBC for being war-themed. The list of banned songs is here. Some of the choices may seem comical but this was serious enough that the group Massive Attack famously billed themselves as just "Massive" at that time to avoid an airplay ban. It's unlikely this policy would have affected the Fall greatly so Smith's explanation sounds like one of his many bullshit claims over the years. But the airplay ban is likely the reason why he said it.
dannyno
  • 3. dannyno | 23/10/2017
Robert, comment #2.

Careful, it's not "Smith's explanation", bullshit or not.

Neither the BBC list nor "controversy" is cited by Smith as reasons for the album title change. Simon Ford is the one who mentions controversy when writing about the title change, not MES.

The BBC list of songs requiring "sensitivity" (it was a note for DJs rather than a formal banned list, in fact) is important for general context, I suppose, but I have a few other observations.

The Gulf War ended in February 1991. Shift-Work was released in April 1991.

The existence of a BBC advisory note urging sensitivity about certain songs was revealed in the Sunday Times on 20 January 1991, and Johnny Beerling - then controller of BBC Radio 1 - was quoted in the Sunday Times of 17 February 1991 justifying the censorship of the Rolling Stones' "High Wire".

Note that the list itself was not published in full until New Statesman & Society revealed it in April. Here's the citation: Caspar Henderson, "The Filtered War". New Statesman & Society, 5 April 1991, vol 4 (145), Banned: Censorship Special supplement, p.16.

Nevertheless, MES would likely have known about the BBC "sensitivity" advice, and in good time for decision making about the album.

Presumably he was finalising both the album title and track listing during the Gulf War. If MES had time to change the album title, he could also have changed the song title. He chose not to; he only changed the album title. Since it's songs that are played on the radio, not albums, this would be illogical if "controversy" were the main concern, or if the news about the BBC's guidance spooked him.

The BBC list certainly had no effect on The Fall in terms of radio broadcasts.

The War Against Intelligence was even not included on the BBC list (how could it be - probably nobody at the BBC knew the song existed until after the end of the war), and it was played on the radio.

It was recorded on 5 March 1991 for a BBC John Peel Session that was broadcast on 23 March 1991 and repeated 26 May 1991 and 22 December 1991.

The album track seems to have been played on Peel's show on 9 March 1991, and - significantly - on his British Forces Broadcasting Services show (apparently the German end of things, not sure how it worked) on 30 March 1991.

It entered John Peel's Festive Fifty, broadcast at the end of the year, at #35.

The song was played on Peel's show several times, both as the album track and the session recording, and that includes being played in the month immediately after the end of the Gulf War.

If controversy, or concern over the BBC's guidance were really the main problem, MES could have chosen not to record the track for Peel, or could have changed its title. After all, it wasn't played live until May 1991 so nobody would know it had changed.

Therefore, it's hard to sustain the idea that MES's decision had anything to do with the BBC's list, or anything to do with any likelihood that they might prevent the song from being played, or anything to do with "controversy" at all.

MES not make the most obvious change (i.e. to the song title) that you would make if you were concerned about sensitivities, controversy, or getting blacklisted - even though he likely knew about all of that, and had the opportunity to respond.

MES included the supposedly "controversial" song in a Peel session recorded shortly after the end of the war.

MES did not refer to BBC bans or controversy in contemporary interviews.

The BBC in any case had not blacklisted The Fall.

Finally, although he may have known about the BBC guidance, MES seems to have been unaware of other aspects of the "controversy". This is from Select magazine, published in January 1992 (http://thefall.org/gigography/92jan-select.html):


THE GULF WAR -- POP LOSES ITS BOTTLE

War In the Gulf traumatises pop into timidity. There are no major protest tunes, no 'Shipbuilding' and not as much as a peep from Billy Bragg, instead pop meekly falls into line, with the KLF editing machinegun fire from 'What Time is Love' and Massive Attack and Bomb The Bass temporarily changing their names into the less contentious Massive and Tim Simenon, respectively.

Mark: "You're joking?"

(gales of laughter from Miki and Peter)

Peter: "God, he's never heard of Baggy, he's never heard about Massive Attack...what...what the fuck's going on, Mark? Are you living on planet Earth or what?"

Mark (perturbedly): "What do you mean, Bomb The Bass have changed their name? I'm a big fan of them. I'm really annoyed about that."

Miki: "They changed it back though."

Mark: "Oh right, good (pause, swig). Anyway I'm not surprised. Usually when there's a war on you have a big blank-out. You have to."


But MES did not have a "blank-out". He changed his album title, but not the song title, and he recorded the song for a Peel session just a few weeks after the end of the war.

Nor did he take the opportunity, while he was in full contrarian flow, to say, "yeah, you have to have a blank-out - I changed our album title.."

So why did MES change the album title, if it doesn't seem plausible that "controversy" or BBC guidance is a good enough explanation?

I think it's just because people would assume that the album was in some way thematically concerned with the Gulf War - which it wasn't. I think he was less concerned about the actual song, perhaps because you can hear that it's not about military conflict at all, and more concerned about people mistaking his intentions in terms of the LP.

http://peel.wikia.com/wiki/Fall
Robert
  • 4. Robert | 24/10/2017
Danny,
Thanks for that excellent response. Yeah I didn't mean to pinpoint Smith's reason here... just trying to add a little clarification to questions raised in note 1 above. You are likely correct about his intentions.
bzfgt
  • 5. bzfgt (link) | 18/11/2017
My original statement, I cut it out because it has been superseded by Robert and Dan's comments, but I'm pasting it here in case I need to recover any of it:

The story, according to Simon Ford in his MES biography Hip Priest, is that this was intended to be the title track on the album that became Shift-Work but, because of the Gulf War, Smith decided the title was too controversial. This whole story seems strange to me, for several reasons. It is not impossible to imagine MES shying away from controversy, whether for commercial reasons or otherwise, but it doesn't seem entirely likely. But that's not the main reason I find this story mystifying; the big question is, what exactly would the controversy have been? Would people assume that "intelligence" meant Iraq, and that this was an anti-war message? Or that the UN coalition was "intelligence," and MES was too pro-war? That war itself is a war on intelligence, so MES is too anti-war? If controversy was so imminent, why was there none concerning the song (which, after all, was still included on the album with the same title it would have had were it the title track)? Unless I'm just thick, I don't see any grounds for controversy whatsoever involving this song, or the title of this song being used as an album title, and the Gulf War.
harleyr
  • 6. harleyr | 21/11/2017
I remember Smith saying that in an interview at the time, and I took it more that he thought it would be misread ("oh you're talking about the war in Iraq") rather than it being too controvertial per se.

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