U.S. 80s-90s

Lyrics

Had a run-in with Boston Immigration
And to my name had an aversion
Nervous droplets
Due to sleeping tablets (1)

No beer
No cigarettes
Slam, spikes, gin, cigarettes (2)
Beer in van

The cops are tops  (3)

Welcome to the 80s 90s
Welcome to US 80s 90s

I'm the big-shot original rapper   (4)
But it's time for me to get off this crapper

Welcome to the US 80s 90s

No beer
No cigarettes
Spikes, gin, cigarettes
Whisky

Like cones of silence (5)

Welcome to the US 80s and 90s
Welcome to the US 80s/90s
Welcome to the 1890s

Kentucky dead keep pouring down
Kentucky dead keep pouring down
By death stadium  (6)
Monroe used dressing room
My ambition, but one chance in three million Jack
Like cones of silence

Cast aside over-inflation theory of the panic insists
Welcome to the US 80s 90s
Look at page 19, small column, lower right-hand side
Welcome to the 1980s  

SaveSave

Notes

1. Max points out the obvious, which obviously should have been in my notes. Why deny the obvious child?

Actually, I didn't know about this, although, like you, I must have read about it in one of the books and forgotten it:

"This probably seems totally obvious to everyone else, but i just realised that the whole "no beer, no cigarettes, spikes, gin, whiskey" probably refers to US Immigration confiscating a load of booze and cigs off Mark, along with a penknife (spike) or similar."

Dan points out below that "spikes" is more likely to mean hypodermic needles.

And from Dan:

MES quote from the pilot issue of LM magazine (given away free with Crash, December 1986), dated January 1987, p.25: "US Eighties And Nineties is about America and how it's changed over the years. When I've been there before it was the freest place I'd ever been to in my life, but the last few times I've been it' s been a very oppressed place – as bad as Russia or somewhere." 

And finally, Brix's memoir:

In The Rise, The Fall, and The Rise, Brix Smith-Start confirms that the song was inspired by the group's experiences at customs: "we practically had stickers on our foreheads saying 'Search me'... we would always get tormented by security and feel like we were entering a police state." She recounts an incident at Boston immigration, where the group were questioned about sleeping pills given to Mark and Brix by her mother - the prescription was in her mother's name, hence the problem. However, see note 2 below.

Brix says that this was "our version of a hip-hop track."

^

2. To "slam" is to shoot drugs, and "spikes" in this context means hypodermic needles. 

^

3. Dan: "NY cops are tops" was a pro-police slogan in New York from the 1960s. There is a reference here, for example, to Pete Townshend wearing a button badge with the slogan

Cop cars wore the slogan.

I think it's used quite commonly elsewhere too, for example Canada and Australia.

^

4. Shawn Swagerty comments: I always took the lines "I'm the big-shot original rapper But it's time for me to get off this crapper" as a slap at Lou Reed, who had a rather lame single called "The Original Wrapper" in 1986.

^

5. A reference to the classic 1960s Mel Brooks/Buck Henry sitcom "Get Smart." Agent 86, Maxwell Smart, would always insist on using a device called the "Cone of Silence" when the Chief had something top secret to impart, much to the latter's annoyance. Everthing they said would be completely inaudible within the Cone, but could be easily heard from outside.

^

6. Memorial Coliseum at the University of Kentucky in Lexington was built as a memorial to soldiers from Kentucky who had died in the two World Wars and the Korean conflict, and later added the names of all the Kentucky dead from Vietnam. As far as I can tell, the Fall never played there, or anywhere else in Kentucky, at least as of 1985. If this refers to an actual incident, I haven't discovered it.  

Dan:

There were two football stadium disasters in 1985 - Heysel and Bradford. I wonder if they are in mind here at all?

"Kentucky dead". Possibilities might include the 1876 Kentucky meat shower, however to me it looks like an Elvis reference.

In Elvis's song "Kentucky Rain", is the following:

"Kentucky rain keeps pouring down
And up ahead's another town
That I'll go walking thru
With the rain in my shoes,
Searchin for you"

Also perhaps worth noting that the film "The Return of the Living Dead" was released in 1985, and was set in Kentucky. It features a deadly rain.

On the other hand, nkroached points out that the line on the Peel version seems to be "Kentucky death keep pouring down," which s/he takes to refer to bourbon. It does sound like "death" on Peel, although not definitely; it seems to me to be kind of in between "death" and "dead," maybe even "debt," but my ears aren't the best...

^

Comments (34)

Martin
  • 1. Martin | 21/04/2013
The alternative version of the song, found on the Cheetham Hill compilation, has a reference to rhinestone, a diamond simulant.

More intriguingly, it also contains this line:

"And the tryst that curtails the mill shall make us strong".

I have no idea what this could mean.
Mr. Odd
  • 2. Mr. Odd | 01/05/2013
I think I heard a live version where Mark sang "90s 000000s" instead of "80s 90s". Can anyone confirm this?
dannyno
  • 3. dannyno | 20/07/2014
I'm not hearing 1980s at the end, though it does go impossibly murky as the chorus thing is repeated over and over.

Dan
dannyno
  • 4. dannyno | 20/07/2014
Isn't "Welcome to the U.S.A" what is printed on US immigration forms?
dannyno
  • 5. dannyno | 20/07/2014
"Kentucky dead keep pouring down
By death stadium"

There were two football stadium disasters in 1985 - Heysel and Bradford. I wonder if they are in mind here at all?

"Kentucky dead". Possibilities might include the 1876 Kentucky meat shower (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kentucky_meat_shower), however to me it looks like an Elvis reference.

In Elvis's song "Kentucky Rain", is the following:

"Kentucky rain keeps pouring down
And up ahead's another town
That I'll go walking thru
With the rain in my shoes,
Searchin for you"

Also perhaps worth noting that the film "The Return of the Living Dead" was released in 1985, and was set in Kentucky. It features a deadly rain.
dannyno
  • 6. dannyno | 20/07/2014
I'm confident of this one.

"The cops are tops"

"NY cops are tops" was a pro-police slogan in New York from the 1960s. There is a reference here, for example, to Pete Townshend wearing a button badge with the slogan: http://www.robertchristgau.com/xg/rock/who-69.php

Cop cars wore the slogan.

I think it's used quite commonly elsewhere too, for example Canada and Australia.
Titfordshire
  • 7. Titfordshire | 22/07/2014
The live version on 'Time Enough to Last' has these extra words amongst others:

welcome to U.S. 1990s
welcome to Euro U.S 1990s
welcome to the the U.S. UK 1990s

No cheese, no tomatoes

My ambition is to walk to work
one chance in 3 million Jack

What have you learnt son?
Read summat you fool.

A leisure society
of severe preponderance
And my fists are bruised
And I cannot write properly

welcome to the UK 2000s
No beer, no cigarettes, no slam, gin, sausages...

No this,
No that,
Like bank holidays in England.
No wonder there's a recession

A very important political statement
Rhinestone, gemstone.
bzfgt
  • 8. bzfgt | 21/09/2014
"Isn't "Welcome to the U.S.A" what is printed on US immigration forms?"

I have no idea...
nkroached
  • 10. nkroached | 02/02/2015
Kentucky death keep pouring down in Peel session.

I thought this was the Whisky(sic) Bourbon.
Max Williams
  • 11. Max Williams | 21/04/2015
This probably seems totally obvious to everyone else, but i just realised that the whole "no beer, no cigarettes, spikes, gin, whiskey" probably refers to US Immigration confiscating a load of booze and cigs off Mark, along with a penknife (spike) or similar.
dannyno
  • 12. dannyno | 09/07/2015
Image
dannyno
  • 13. dannyno | 23/02/2016
MES quote from the pilot issue of LM magazine (given away free with Crash, December 1986), dated January 1987, p.25:

http://pitchandputtproductions.blogspot.co.uk/2013/11/mark-e-smith-interview-from-1986.html


US Eighties And Nineties is about America and how it's changed over the years. When I've been there before it was the freest place I'd ever been to in my life, but the last few times I've been it' s been a very oppressed place – as bad as Russia or somewhere.
dannyno
  • 14. dannyno | 19/03/2016
Note 1:

"Spikes" would be needles, not penknives.
bzfgt
  • 15. bzfgt | 24/03/2016
Yes, that seems totally obvious, I'm surprised I repeated that interpretation without pointing (pun?) that out.
dannyno
  • 16. dannyno | 04/05/2016
In The Rise, The Fall, and The Rise, Brix Smith-Start confirms that the song was inspired by the group's experiences at customs:


we practically had stickers on our foreheads saying 'Search me'...

... we would always get tormented by security and feel like we were entering a police state.


She also says that it was "our version of a hip-hop track".
dannyno
  • 17. dannyno | 07/05/2016
Just to expand on that, Brix writes in her book about a specific incident at Boston immigration, where the group were questioned about sleeping pills given to Mark and Brix by her mother - the prescription were in her mother's name, hence the problem. And hence the first few lines of the song.
Shawn Swagerty
  • 18. Shawn Swagerty | 14/06/2017
I always took the lines

"I'm the big-shot original rapper
But it's time for me to get off this crapper"

as a slap at Lou Reed, who had a rather lame single called "The Original Wrapper" in 1986 -

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t1Am45JrwQ4
harleyr
  • 19. harleyr | 07/08/2017
Another sighting of 'cops are tops' - on a placard in an old Tommy Cooper sketch about policemen and protesters. Spotted a couple of weeks ago on one of the Freeview channels (ITV4 I think) in the middle of the night when I couldn't get to sleep. I wasn't dreaming. It was a very short sketch - over too quick for me to take a snap - so I'd be surprised if it it's up on the web.
egg
  • 20. egg | 20/10/2017
Not to question Brix's sleeping pills story, but "slam" (especially with "spikes", for which also cf I Feel Voxish), is pretty likely to refer to amphetamines (see https://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=slam for example, besides which everyone says they were MES's drug of choice).
bzfgt
  • 21. bzfgt (link) | 18/11/2017
"Slam" almost always mean shooting up, and "spikes" for me seems to put it so far over the top in that direction I didn't even think of annotating it...it doesn't have to be speed though, it refers to the method, not the content...
Fit and Working Again
  • 22. Fit and Working Again | 05/05/2018
Peel version has "Monroe used dressing room", lp sounds more like "no-one used"
bzfgt
  • 23. bzfgt (link) | 09/07/2018
Yeah. "No more amused dressing room" used to seem like the kind of thing MES would say until we started correcting the transcriptions and, at this point, it doesn't seem like something he would say at all. So I am inclined to believe you, I'm listening now.
bzfgt
  • 24. bzfgt (link) | 09/07/2018
Although it does sound like it. Damn it. Anyone want to listen and help decide this?
dannyno
  • 25. dannyno | 17/07/2018
It's "beer in van", not "beer in ban"

And it does sound like "Monroe used dressing room" on both album and Peel versions to me too.
bzfgt
  • 26. bzfgt (link) | 22/07/2018
OK
bzfgt
  • 27. bzfgt (link) | 22/07/2018
OK what the hell do we make of "Monroe..." Marilyn Monroe? Kentucky is mentioned. Bill Monroe? What the hell is with "Monroe"? We just went from one damnable thing to another...some call it "progress."
dannyno
  • 28. dannyno | 22/07/2018
I'd guess at Marilyn Monroe. Perhaps we need to check all the venues The Fall played in the US up to 1986 and see whether any of them promoted the fact that Marilyn Monroe used their dressing room.
dannyno
  • 29. dannyno | 22/07/2018
Kentucky dead keep pouring down
By death stadium
Monroe used dressing room


On their February/March 1986 tour of the US, The Fall played several venues where Monroe might also have appeared at some point.

However, the proximity of Kentucky perhaps points towards the gig at the Jockey Club, Newport on 18th March. It just so happens, you see, that the Jockey Club at 633 York Street was formerly the Flamingo Casino, a place with mob connections and a hang-out for Sinatra and... Marilyn Monroe.

Some history of the site as a punk/rock venue can be found in George Hurchalla's Going Underground: American Punk 1979–1989. I can read bits on Google Books, but your access may vary.

Seems a plausible connection?
dannyno
  • 30. dannyno | 23/07/2018
"death stadium"

The convictions of the perpetrators of the Trinity murders (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trinity_murders) was in 1986. There's a stadium connection in that case. Victor Dewayne Taylor was sentenced to death in May 1986, but the trial was in the newspapers from February. And of course The Fall were in the US in February and March.

http://murderpedia.org/male.T/t/taylor-victor-dewayne.htm

Maybe a connection here? Doesn't feel very strong, but worth the comment anyway.
bzfgt
  • 31. bzfgt (link) | 29/07/2018
30: yeah, definitely worth considering

29: "Jockey Club" doesn't sound like a stadium, though
dannyno
  • 32. dannyno | 31/07/2018
No, I think they are unconnected.
dannyno
  • 33. dannyno | 31/07/2018
I mean, I think the dressing room and the death stadium are separate.
dannyno
  • 34. dannyno | 31/07/2018
Other than they are both in Kentucky.

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