Various Times



Alright we're going to go back
to 1940
No money
And I live in Berlin
I think I'll join up
Become a camp guard
No war for me
An old Jew's face dripping red


I hate the prisoners
I hate the officers
They've no fight
I think I'll join,
The red rose, (2)
Leave Belsen
I'll go to Switzerland
Human [race]
Don't think, ask him


Present :
I don't like them
said Ian (3)
in his black-out threat
I think I'll drop out 
Become a No Man   (4)
And live my rules
But I'm the sort that gets
out of the bath with a dirty face


Everyone I meet's the same now
No brains or thought
A good case for the systems we like - we get
Human [race]
Various times
Don't think, ask him


Black windows
And smokey holes
My head is full of lead
And the beer is so weak
Since they got rid of time around here


Dr. Doom (5) 
Fresh from Salem
And the witch trials (6)
The Lathe of Heaven (7)
Time mistaken
Three places at once
Human [race]
Don't think, ask him
Ask him
Ask him



1. Here is a bit of talk from MES. The interview is from 1989, from some sort of Dutch magazine:

Smith says he tried to be narrative in that song, to tell a story. "I remember being very proud of the lyric. It's very simple. Just before writing it, I had heard something from the Shangri-La's, _The Future, The Present, The Past_ or something like that, a horrible song [actually "Past, Present and Future]. (laughing) It made me write this." The song in question is called _Past, Present And Future_ and it isn't that bad really. It resembles _Various Times_ in that the singer announces each verse with "past", "present" and "future". Smith says "Right, we're gonna go back", "present" and "future", I think. I ask him about the chorus, is it "human race"? "Yes, it is. The structure of verse-chorus-verse was pretty unusual in those days. [for a new wave band, I suppose he means] We wanted the chorus to be a vocal noise, it wasn't intended to be understood."

To be honest, I don't think there was ever a period in the history of pop music when "verse-chorus-verse" was uncommon; it is possible that Smith is talking about the Fall rather than a general trend, but if so the remark is inaccurate. The Fall had released five songs at this point: "Psycho Mafia," "Bingo-Master,"  "Repetition," and the A-side of "Various Times," "It's The New Thing." "Repetition" does not have a chorus, but the other four all run verse-chorus-verse. There may have been some sort of micro-trend in "New Wave" that eschewed the structure, especially if we were to disqualify songs that start with the chorus, although this seems like niggling. But it's a pretty common way to write a song, and it has been for quite some time.



2. Smith probably has the group of non-violent resistors to the Hitler regime in Nazi Germany known as the White Rose, as this quote Dan turned up would indicate:

In this July 1988 MES travelogue for the NME, he refers to "the Red Rose":  "I asked this bloke why there were no historical things in Munich and he kindly showed me around. I asked him where the 1923 Putsch was and he pointed it out and then he took me for a drink in the place where the Red Rose [sic] was, that was the student underground against the Nazis - the same street where the Nazi party was formed strangely enough." 

I initially thought of the Rosicrucians, whose symbology features a red rose upon a cross, upon hearing this lyric (the name is derived from rosae crucis, or "rose cross"). A purported secret society dedicated to the occult and the reformation of humanity, the legend of the Rosicrucians was originally inspired by two anonymous 17th-century manifestoes. Numerous occult societies have claimed to be the true Rosicrucians, right up to our own time. It seems likely Smith has just gotten the name mixed up, though. 


3. According to Bagrec on the Fall online forum:

I used to know Julian [Cope] a bit back in the day, (clang!!) and he certainly believed ["Julian said how was the gear" in "Two Steps Back"] was about him- and that the "I don't like them, said Ian" in Various Times, refers to Ian McCulloch- who apparently used to do an impersonation of a racist character.

Both lines date from the days when Cope and McCulloch apparently used to roadie for The Fall....

This may of course be bollox.


4. In the Odyssey, Odysseus tells the cyclops Polyphemus that his name is Outis (often given in English translations as Nemo, the Latin equivalent), which means "No Man." When Odysseus blinds Polyphemus, the punning name aids in his escape:

"Then in his turn from out the cave big Polyphemus answered: 'Friends, Nobody is murdering me by craft...' But answering him in winged words they said: 'If nobody harms you when you are left alone, illness which comes from mighty Zeus you cannot fly. But make your prayer to your father, lord Poseidon.'"

In the blue lyrics book, the capitalization is as I have it here, like a proper name; it seems likely MES had The Odyssey in mind here, as it is a famous passage. Furthermore, Outis has been used as a pseudonym in several well-known instances. See Wikipedia for more (thanks to Dan for this note).



5. Dr. Doom is a Marvel character-- a supervillain, inventor, sorceror, and leader of the fictional country "Latveria." Dannyno from the Fall Online forum points out this connection between Dr. Doom and the Salem witch trials:

"[The line] is a clear reference to this Marvel Spiderman storyline (1976), starting with issue 41:

Marvel Team-Up #41

in issue 44:
Marvel Team-Up #44 ."

Also Fall-notable, the cover of #43 proclaims "A Past Gone Mad!"


6. On the significance of witch trials to the Fall mythos, see K-punk, "Memorex for the Krakens."(K-punk)


7. The Lathe of Heaven is a science fiction novel by Ursula K. Le Guin about a man who changes reality every time he dreams.


Comments (10)

  • 1. dannyno | 01/07/2014
The Shangri-Las song cited by MES in note 1 is "Past, Present and Future. It's easy to find via Google. eg:
  • 2. john | 19/11/2014
i always thought he was saying a human relic (uh).
  • 3. dannyno | 30/12/2014
"Red Rose".

Why red, when the White Rose was the name of an actual anti-Nazi movement? Could MES be having a little joke here? A white rose is of course also a symbol of Yorkshire - cf the heraldic rose of the House of York. The red rose, on the other hand, is the heraldic symbol of the House of Lancaster, and so the red rose has become a symbol of Lancashire (see the Wars of the Roses). You can see that this might appeal to MES.
  • 4. bzfgt | 01/01/2015
Also the comic book connection. This strikes me as very comic-booky with the lurid imagery ("an old Jew's face dripping red"), and Dr. Doom is from "Latveria" rather than Latvia, so maybe "Red Rose" is the fictionalized/comic book version of White Rose.
  • 5. dannyno | 14/03/2015
In this July 1988 MES travelogue for the NME, he refers to "the Red Rose":

"I asked this bloke why there were no historical things in Munich and he kindly showed me around. I asked him where the 1923 Putsch was and he pointed it out and then he took me for a drink in the place where the Red Rose was, that was the student underground against the Nazis - the same street where the Nazi party was formed strangely enough."
  • 6. dannyno | 28/03/2015
Note 1:
" The interview is apparently from 1989, and purports to be from Sounds:"

No, I think you've misread the link. The interview seems to have been for a Dutch magazine. The piece at the link merely begins with a quote from a Sounds article.
  • 7. dannyno | 21/05/2017

"I think I'll drop out
Become a no-man"

This "no man" concept - could it be linked to the pseudonymical "Outis"?

Goes back to Odysseus, see also Joyce's Ulysses. But, with Nemo, used to disguise identity by artists etc. Possibly fits in the context.
  • 8. bzfgt (link) | 27/05/2017
Dan, definitely the Outis/Nemo thing, I cannot believe I never noted that. It's what most people would think of, I think. It seems likely it was in the background.
  • 9. dannyno | 16/12/2018
On the Mighty Fall Facebook page today, a contributor asked about literary references in Fall songs. Una Baines responded with:

Lathe of Heaven Ursula le guin
  • 10. bzfgt (link) | 19/01/2019
Yeah we knew that but good to have

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