The magnificent structure straddled the river
As I dictated my autobiography to my biographer
When I heard this tune
My title was "Renegade Genius" (1)
But was interrupted much too soon
Was interrupted much too soon
I received this line


From me in Hampstead he received a letter
I headed it "Dear Twister"
Up from West Hampstead I visited Keswick (2)
On permission from the guard
I begun like this but could not continue it
When I heard this tune
(It begun like this but could not continue it)
My ears were burned
By this tune
My head swooned
By this tune


The train from London on day of lunacy
Was packed with innocents
Children tended by walkman'd parents (3)
Cretins auditioning
For non-existent parts on TV One
The train was a tube
Within the crushing beauty of the countryside
On the London-Keswick run   (4)


My head burned...burned...da da da ears burned..
countryside has sold phone calls home...
accent all phone calls...ramble..grinning... my ear hole...was day of lunacy..some things
like...explosives..of pages turned..shadows..massive fucking noises...pop stars.. heh heh hackles...try mystic meg..twister...rustic town...





1. Around 20 years later MES did indeed dictate somewhat of an autobiography (maybe "memoir" is more accurate) to a "biographer," and when he did the title chosen was Renegade, which seems like a loss of nerve. The Story of the Fall comments that this is about "MES obviously stuck on a train surrounded by fame crazed wannabes..." The blistering Peel version is best.   

Twister is of course a popular game, as well as slang for a tornado. What seems to be most relevant here, though, is that in English slang it is a word for a villain, "One who turns this way and that; fig. one who shuffles or prevaricates; a dishonest person, a crook. slang." (from the Oxford English Dictionary). According to Dan, "'Twister' means someone who is distorting the truth or ripping you off. I don't think it refers to the game. Worth noting that the only other song in the Fall canon where the word occurs is in "Australians in Europe" from the same period: 'They're just a bloody twister, so who do you think you're fooling?'"


2. West Hampstead is in London, and Keswick is in Cumbria. There is no prison in West Hampstead, and it seems unlikely a prisoner could get "permission from [a] guard" to leave and visit Keswick, so I am unsure what the meaning of the lyric is, but in any case the narrator's confinement by a guard may be metaphorical. Neither is it clear whom the mysterious "Twister" is, or why MES is summoned to Keswick.  


3. For all you kiddies, a walkman was a popular portable device that played cassette tapes directly to headphones.


4. According to Blokbuster, this run was discontinued in 1972.


4. Mystic Meg is a famous British psychic and astrologer.


Comments (22)

  • 1. dannyno | 05/05/2013
"permission from the guard"

A train guard?

Or "the gods", which is what sounds like to me at the moment?
  • 2. dannyno | 05/05/2013
Keats made a journey to Keswick and back to Hampstead. But anyway.

So for a while the poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge (a renegade genius if there was one) lived in Keswick. There are two famous interruptions for which Coleridge is known. The first is the "Person from Porlock" who interrupted the writing of 'Kubla Khan'. And the second is the "letter from a friend" which turns up in Chapter 13 of Biographia Literaria (

"Thus far had the work been transcribed for the press, when I received the following letter from a friend, whose practical judgment I have had ample reason to estimate and revere, and whose taste and sensibility preclude all the excuses which my self-love might possibly have prompted me to set up in plea against the decision of advisers of equal good sense, but with less tact and feeling.

"Dear C.
"You ask my opinion concerning your Chapter on the Imagination,
both as to the impressions it made on myself, and as to those which I
think it will make on the Public, i.e. that part of the public, who,
from the title of the work and from its forming a sort of introduction
to a volume of poems, are likely to constitute the great majority of
your readers."

And so on. It turns out, by the way, that Coleridge wrote the letter himself.
  • 3. dannyno | 05/05/2013
"The magnificent structure straddled the river"

shades of

"In Xanadu did Kubla Khan
A stately pleasure-dome decree:
Where Alph, the sacred river, ran..."

Too far fetched?
  • 4. Mark | 02/07/2014
Mystic Meg:
  • 5. Mark | 02/07/2014
  • 6. Mark | 02/07/2014
Another "I seen to recall...": this song was so called because the group enjoyed playing the game of the same name (
  • 7. Mark | 02/07/2014
The guard reference is the one on the train, perhaps?
  • 8. bzfgt | 15/07/2014
Shit, it never occured to me that "walkman" would need a note, but I guess they are obsolete.
  • 9. dannyno | 09/07/2015

It means someone who is distorting the truth or ripping you off. I don't think it refers to the game.

Worth noting that the only other song in the Fall canon where the word occurs is in Australians in Europe from the same period: "They're just a bloody twister, so who do you think you're fooling? "
  • 10. Macker | 28/05/2016
The Peel Session version, during the rant near the end of the song includes Smith barks "28th of May!" which I've always loved, but I always wondered on it's significance.
  • 11. bzfgt | 24/06/2016
Good question, I have no idea. I Googled "tornado May 28th" but it's not specific enough, there have been lots of tornados on lots of May 28ths and in any case the lyrics don't really seem to have much to do with an actual twister. But it was the first thing I thought of, so I took a shot, and nothing.
  • 12. dannyno | 16/07/2016
I don't think tornados have anything to do with this.

28th May 1987 was only a few weeks in the future when The Fall recorded the Peel version. So was he looking ahead to something, or looking back?
  • 13. bzfgt | 19/07/2016
I don't necessarily think a tornado has any relevance to the song, except indirectly--if someone is named "Twister" (as the second verse seems to imply) I would assume it was a tornado reference, in the sense that my given name means "Christ bearer" and someone mentioning it wouldn't be directly referencing Christ, but would be secondarily by virtue of my name. I don't know that this is the case but, as I say, it would be my first thought but--

--but I've never heard "Twister" used in the way you say, is that an English slang thing? In any case I added a bit from the OED.
  • 14. dannyno | 17/11/2016
Note 13: "I've never heard "Twister" used in the way you say"

Ah, but you have!

See my note 9:
Australians in Europe from the same period: "They're just a bloody twister, so who do you think you're fooling? "
  • 15. bzfgt (link) | 10/03/2018
Yeah just noticed that, that reinforces.
  • 16. bzfgt (link) | 10/03/2018
Crap, it was all there already...I need to read my own notes.
  • 17. Blokbuster | 26/04/2018
Is it worth noting that the railway to Keswick closed in 1972 (according to Wikipedia)?
  • 18. bzfgt (link) | 09/07/2018
  • 19. bzfgt (link) | 09/07/2018
I noted it but I can't figure out what to search to get the link, please post it so I can give more info.
  • 20. dannyno | 09/11/2019
Comment #19, well you could have searched for Keswick, to be fair :-),_Cumbria#Transport
  • 21. bzfgt (link) | 16/11/2019
Wow, I guess it's famous...
  • 22. DJAsh (link) | 04/02/2021
MES seemed to like visiting Keswick, see footage of Castlerigg stone circle on Pearson’s Revenge ( Shiftwork and Holidays compilation). The site is above the town and close to the disused branch rail line which linked it to Penrith and beyond.

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