Alright we're going to go back
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)
I'll go to Switzerland
Don't think, ask him
Everyone I meet's the same now
No brains or thought
A good case for the systems we like - we get
Don't think, ask him
And smokey holes
My head is full of lead
And the beer is so weak
Since they got rid of time around here
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.
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.
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!"