Underground Medecin



(Your nervous system, your nervous system)
(Underground medicine, underground medicine)


A spark inside
Ten percent that I hide
And when it clicks
There's no resist


Every time I hear a new baby cry (2)
I thank my spark inside


And you get underground medicine
Underground medicine
I'm but a nervous system
Underground medicine


I found a reason not to die
A reason for the ride
The spark inside
When it hits the mind you get
Underground medicine
Underground medicine
I'm but a nervous system
Underground medicine


I had a psychosomatic voice
At one time it might come back
Now! It's back


Underground medicine
Underground medicine
I'm but a nervous system
Underground medicine


On my pants I spilled expectorant
And the colonel shot better with 30 pints
They took his cup away
Take it away, take it away
[Used to 'ground] medicine
[Used to 'ground] medicine
[Used to 'ground] medicine


1. This is a song that is often assumed to be about drugs, although it doesn't necessarily have to be. Like much of Live at the Witch Trials, the lyrics are terse and gnomic, and admit of various interpretations.  


2. Plutart points out that this is a probable reference to the devotional song "I Believe," written in by Ervin Drake, Irvin Graham, Jimmy Shirl and Al Stillman, and popularized by Jane Froman, and subsequently a number one hit for Frankie Laine:

Every time I hear a new born baby cry
Or touch a leaf or see the sky
Then I know why I believe


Comments (27)

  • 1. Martin | 16/02/2014
I had to look up the meaning of "expectorant". Evidently, according to wikipedia, it "is incorrectly extended to any cough medicine, since it is a universal component." Not sure if this adds in any way to our (non) understanding of the song!
  • 2. mal | 10/06/2014
I always heard that last part as Uster Graf medicine. Graf being a Germanic title of nobility, Uster being in Switzerland. I never thought it made much sense though.
  • 3. bzfgt | 15/06/2014
Shit, it's intriguing though, since the way it is now is definitely wrong and all the brackets are an eyesore on my site. The "colonel" could be German or Swiss or something...generally seems wiser to leave the wrong thing everyone's used to than change it to the more speculative probably wrong thing, something would have to tip the scales...
Max Williams
  • 4. Max Williams | 05/01/2015
I always thought the repeated bit at the end was "useful gram, medicine", which makes sense in the context of the song being about drugs, particularly speed.
  • 5. Martin | 29/03/2016
Possibly, just possibly, the line " the colonel shot better with 30 pints" could refer to the widespread belief among pubgoers in Britain who play darts or pool that alcohol makes them perform better, as the drink relaxes them. There are various references to pubs throughout Fall lyrics, so the idea I suggest above may not be completely fanciful.
  • 6. bzfgt | 14/05/2016
No, I thought something similar as this kind of belief is very widespread and not confined to Britain, although at the same time it could be firearms, or a play on both.
john kedward
  • 7. john kedward | 31/01/2018
My take on this is ironic considering the amount of stuff the late Great Mark E Smith took during his time on Planet Prestwich and that is the song seems to be about celebrating a natural high, a swerve away from chemicals, apart from the internal, underground medicine.He's talking about the spark inside with his nervous system, which can play havoc-psychosomatic voices-, but can respond to natural wonders like a new child. I'm not sure who the Colonel is though! Don't tell me it's Jockey Wilson
  • 8. bzfgt (link) | 12/02/2018
John, yeah, I think that's a reasonable reading although I'm not sure he's drawing a contrast.
ex-worker man
  • 9. ex-worker man | 13/03/2018
[Traverse up my hide] = ten percent that I hide
sort of inverse of this https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ten_percent_of_the_brain_myth
  • 10. bzfgt (link) | 21/03/2018
I don't know what it means, but that's exactly what I hear now you've suggested it. Why the "inverse" of that?
  • 11. bzfgt (link) | 21/03/2018
Even if that's still wrong, it's closer than "Traverse up my hide"...it has to be.
Ex worker man
  • 12. Ex worker man | 25/03/2018
Inverse not really the right word. He has access to 10 % extra brain power, normally hidden, gained through creativity or underground medicine
  • 13. Martin | 27/03/2018
"Ten percent that I hide" are, to these ears, the lyrics sung on various live performances of the track.
  • 14. bzfgt (link) | 07/04/2018
Yeah, that's canonized now!
  • 15. dannyno | 16/06/2018
Screenwriter and MES associate Graham Duff posted a lyric sheet for this song to Facebook. There's a thread devoted to it over on the Fall Online Forum.

Now, lyric sheets may not reflect what is actually sung on record, but with that proviso this text does seem to confirm some of our guesses above.

So "ten percent that I hid(e)" is there.
  • 16. dannyno | 09/07/2018
Just to note that the lyric sheet posted by Graham Duff on Facebook and commented on above actually appears in the blue lyrics book. (p51)
  • 17. bzfgt (link) | 15/07/2018
I can barely read any of that. Does it suggest anything we need to change? I didn't see anything but a lot of it is inscrutable.
Freddy M
  • 18. Freddy M | 02/09/2019
Always thought it was about abortion.
  • 19. Plutart | 25/01/2020
'Every time I hear a new baby cry.' - Obviously from I Believe written by Ervin Drake, Irvin Graham, Jimmy Shirl and Al Stillman in 1953.
  • 20. Plutart | 25/01/2020
You missed a line

'I had a psychosomatic voice
And one time it might come back
...Now! It's back.'
  • 21. bzfgt (link) | 25/01/2020
Thank you!
  • 22. bzfgt (link) | 25/01/2020
I'm suspicious of "I'm but a nervous system"
  • 23. dannyno | 02/05/2020
The lyric sheet mentioned in my comment #15, which appears in the blue lyrics book:

  • 24. bzfgt (link) | 14/06/2020
Link doesn't work for me
  • 25. Chris | 22/07/2020
What you've got written as "I had a psychosomatic voice and one time" makes more sense to me and sounds like "AT one time".
  • 26. bzfgt (link) | 26/07/2020
Damn it it sounds equal to me, agree yours makes a little more sense, and that line's not in the handwritten lyrics in the blue book, I'll go with "at" and see if anyone objects
  • 27. bzfgt (link) | 26/07/2020
Actually I don't think it makes any more sense. Fuck.

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