Tommy Shooter

Lyrics

I got news for you
I got news for you my friend
To which you will have to attend
Reduce your knees to noodles
Your Doberman Pinschers to poodles
Tommy Shooter (1)
Painting yellow flowers
Sorry after blowing her away
Tommy Shooter
See the clouds are darkening
With wings of chickens
They're coming home to roost (2)
I tell you my friend
Pinschers to poodles
Chickens coming home
To sit on your shoulder bone
Painting yellow flowers
After blowing away
Another balloon string
Held at bay (3)
Tommy Shooter
Rather than
Facing up to it
It is you
In Chicken Shack (4)
Father, short-sighted
Me, blind
The rubbish that accepted
Piles up in the corridor
The locals are in the realm of humiliation
Painting yellow flowers
Sorry after blowing her away
Tommy Shooter
I got news for you
I got news for you my friend
To which you will have to attend
Reduce your knees to noodles
Your Doberman Pinschers to poodles
Tommy Shooter

 

Notes

1. The Thompson submachine gun, colloquially known as a Tommy gun, was invented by John T. Thompson in 1919 and quickly became the heater of choice, during the Prohibition era, for both goodies and baddies (making it even harder to determine which was which). In live performances of the song, for some reason, vocals were often farmed out to a roadie named "Nikki" or "Nick," as can be seen here. In its earliest live incarnation, the song had different lyrics and was apparently entitled "I'm Me, Mark." According to The Story of the Fall, the song in this guise began with the memorable lyric "I love orange juice - always have...I'm the witchfinder" (see "More Information" below).  

^

2. This saying, in one form or another, is quite old, and has been traced back to Chaucer's statement "[O]ftentimes such cursing returns again upon the head of him that curses, like a bird that returns again to its own nest." The saying shaped up into its modern form some time during the 19th century, but by far its most famous usage was Malcolm X's application of the analogy to John F. Kennedy's murder.

The MC5 almost certainly had this instance in mind in "American Ruse," from 1970:

Yeah, but I can see the chickens coming home to roost/Young people everywhere are gonna cook their goose/Lots of kids are working to get rid of these blues/'Cause everybody's sick of the American ruse      (thanks to The Jukebox Rebel)

Ward Churchill later got in some hot water for an essay entitled "Some People Push Back: On the Justice of Roosting Chickens" (subsequently expanded into the book On the Justice of Roosting Chickens: Reflections on the Consequences of U.S. Imperial Arrogance and Criminality), which applied the analogy to the events of September 11th, 2001. Here it simply suggests that if you mess with the Tommy Shooter, there will be consequences, so to speak, and lots of them, from the look of the sky. The sky darkening with the wings of chickens and the Doberman Pinschers turning into poodles are two complementary extensions of a figure of speech, both using animals, that inject a pronounced streak of humor into the foreboding feel of the song. The music performs a similar function in that, while it is tense and dramatic, is so in a stylized way reminiscent of music from a spy movie, and thus the music also has a whimsical side to it even as it conveys suspense and dread. The lyrics to "Spectre vs. Rector" perform a similar entwining of dread and humor in the register of spritual, rather than physical, peril.    

^

3. Could there be a lyric more quintessentially Mark E. Smith than the preposterous image of a balloon string held at bay? This is precisely the kind of image he delights in because it is almost unimaginable, but at the same time very concrete and, in its own way, absolutely clear. An argument could be made that moments like this (for another example, how about the "ecstatic midges" of "4 1/2 Inch") are those centers of gravity where the verbal aesthetic of the Fall gathers itself and comes to rest in a single image. Here it happens in a tossed-off line that doesn't bear too much weight or insist on itself too strongly. It may not be a [i]good[/i] line--I'm not even sure how to evaluate it along those lines--but it's certainly a place where Fallness happens in a particularly pronounced manner. See the notes to "New Puritan" for more on this topic.     

^

4. A "chicken shack" is a term for a restaurant that specializes in (usually fried) chicken; here the roosting chickens have transformed into fried ones, but we can rest assured that all that's really on the menu is lead.  

^

Notes

Tommy Shooter: Fall Tracks A-Z

The Story of the Fall: 2008

See here for couple of attempts at transcribing "I'm Me, Mark," although the first one seems to be a pretty loose rendering, to say the least.

Comments (4)

dannyno
  • 1. dannyno | 17/06/2013
"Another balloon string
Held at bay"

I'm reminded of this scene from 'The Third Man":
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TIGlTCOn0tY
Martin
  • 2. Martin | 16/02/2014
Dannyo's link no longer works, unfortunately.
Martin
  • 3. Martin | 10/10/2014
Googling the phrase "the realm of humiliation" throws up a few examples, in case anyone thinks that MES invented it.
The Jukebox Rebel
  • 4. The Jukebox Rebel (link) | 15/03/2016
A distant trigger for MES perhaps?

Yeah, but I can see the chickens coming home to roost
Young people everywhere are gonna cook their goose
Lots of kids are working to get rid of these blues
'Cause everybody's sick of the American ruse


MC5 - The American Ruse

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