Winter (Hostel-Maxi)

Lyrics

(1)

Entrances uncovered
Street signs you never saw
All entrances delivered
Courtesy of winter
  (2)

Entrances uncovered
Street signs you never saw
All entrances delivered
Courtesy of winter

Entrances uncovered
Street signs you never saw

You got Manny in the library
Working off his hangover 3:30
Get the spleen at 3:15
But it's 3:13            (3)

The mad kid walked left-side south-side towards me (4)
He was about 7
His mother was a cleaning lady
She had a large black dog
And the mad kid said:
"Gimme the lead,
Gimme the lead,
Gimme the lead!"
I'd just walked past the alcoholics' dryout house
The lawn was littered with cans of Barbican (5)
There was a feminist's Austin Maxi parked outside (6)
With anti-nicotine anti-nuclear stickers on the side

The boys on the inside said "give me a smoke"...

Anyway two weeks before the mad kid had said to me
"I'll take both of you on,
I'll take both of you on!"  
Then he seemed the young one
He had a parka on and a black cardboard Archbishop's hat
With a green-fuzz skull and crossbones
He'd just got back from the backward kids' party
Anyway then he seemed the young one
But now he looked like the victim of a pogrom (7)

Entrances uncovered
Street signs you never saw
All entrances delivered
Courtesy of winter
Courtesy of winter 

Entrances uncovered
All inquiries too
All entrances delivered
Courtesy of winter

(Winter 2)

On the first floor of the dryout house
Was a replica dartboard
And the man on the floor
His soul went out of window, over the lawn
And round to the mad kid
"Please take this medallion,
Please wear this medallion
It's no sign of authority
I'd rather go than put it on" 

Courtesy of winter
 

So [around the] mad kid
Man on the first floor said

"I just looked round
I just looked round
I just looked round
And my youth it was sold" 

"I just looked round
I just looked round
And my youth it was sold" (8)

Two white doves cross the sky
Look like krakens  (9)
And sometimes, that little...
Makes me tremble (10)
Courtesy of winter
Courtesy of winter 

The mad kid had 4 lights, the average is 2.5 lights
The mediocre has 2 lights, the sign of genius is three lights
There's one light left, that's the one light
That's the science law (11)

Courtesy of winter

Notes

1. This is split into two parts on Hex Enduction Hour (spanning the sides of the album, when there were such things) but it is clearly one performance and has always been treated as one song in live performances.  

Hostel-Maxi is probably a sort of portmanteau, but it isn't really a portmanteau, in fact,  but more of a steamer trunk. You will soon see "steamer trunk" everywhere to refer to two words only related by the context in which they appear, connected with a hyphen--it is sure to be the new "eggcorn."

Mr. Marshall points to a pun on the words "hostel" and "hostile" (which is also the title of a Fall song).

^

2. These lines, which suggest that winter reveals things we haven't seen before, may be unexpected insofar as we would generally think of winter as a time when snow has covered up entrances and street signs that we are used to seeing. This is a hint that there is more to the imagery of winter then we might expect: while the song's winter is indeed barren and stark, it is also full of life and possiblities, although it may be that the life is otherwordly and the possibilities grim. 

"Winter" is about someone (the "mad kid")  whose life is blighted before it has properly begun, and the song is, appropriately enough, chilly and austere. It consists of mundane scenes tinged with a bleak and supernatural kind of menace. The street signs and entrances that now appear among the ordinary furniture of a winter town seem to lead beyond the frame of the picture, although nothing within the picture looks to be out of the ordinary. The picture frame is a perfectly ordinary, even generic, one note bass riff that doesn't really go anywhere, but firmly bounces along, suggesting the inexorability of fate and the seasons, which aren't a bit concerned with the protagonists' lives. 

^

3. I'm unsure if these lines can be connected with the rest of the song, or if they are just scattered phrases MES had been kicking around and looking for a song to stick them in or, as the case may be, what he sang to fill out the track without going back to replace them with something more meaningful. In any case, they give me the impression of randomness, whatever their genesis. But it's always best to at least try to get some sense out of things, if it's at all possible (or, if not actually making sense out of the lyrics, at least finding in them the occasion for focused and consequent thoughts). If time is running backwards here, that wouldn't be entirely unusual in a Fall song of this period: this is a central element of "The N.W.R.A.," and the non-linear fluidity of time is a theme of "Backdrop". Here, immediately before we are told that it is only 3:13, the scene at 3:30 is briefly set: Manny in the library working off his hangover. Could Manny be the man from the "dryout house" we will soon encounter? In the song's time present, 3:13 (presumably PM, since the library is open), the unnamed narrator sees the "mad kid" approaching, and thus 3:15 is perhaps the moment when the one central event of the song takes place. This event is hinted at but not fully explained here; as the Peel version has it, "I saw the guy on the first floor [of the dryout house or "hostel"]/ his soul went over the lawn to the mad kid..." Elsewhere, however, MES has said that the song is "a tale concerning an insane child who is taken over by a spirit from the mind of a cooped-up alcoholic." So perhaps Manny, or whatever is left of him now that his soul is inhabiting the body of the mad kid, proceeds to the library immediately after the possession takes place. This leaves the question what "get the spleen" means; I am not sure about that. What Manny, if Manny is the same character, has gotten is the body (and thus the "youth") of the mad kid. It would be odd if "spleen" were a synechdoche for the whole body. In most cases, not every word of a Fall song makes obvious sense, so that's the best I can do for now.

Mxyzptlk gives a rather plausible surface reading of the lines: 

You get the spleen at 3.15, but it's 3.30...
Just means that Manny is already feeling rancorous (ie, full of spleen)...On a coach trip to London once, I glanced out of the window as we passed a serious looking building called Spleen House... Always wondered what they did in there.

"Full of spleen" has the connotation Mxyzptlk suggests in contemporary usage, but Dan points out that "the spleen represents 'black bile' in the old theory of the humours. But it doesn't translate necessarily or simply into 'rancorousness' ('splenetic' often meaning enraged), as suggested. It also suggests sadness and melancholy (see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Melancholia. See also: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spleen#Society_and_culture.) Oddly, it's associated with autumn rather than winter. Also see: Anne Finch, 'The Spleen': 'What art thou, Spleen, which ev’ry thing dost ape?/Thou Proteus to abused mankind,/Who never yet thy real cause could find,/ Or fix thee to remain in one continued shape.'"

^

4. This probably refers to walking "widdershins," literally "against the sun," i.e. counterclockwise or against the sun. In ritual magic(k) widdershins is sometimes thought to be the proper way to circumambulate when casting a dark or evil spell, vs. "deosil" or clockwise, which is sometimes considered a more pious direction, but this is not unanimously agreed upon. Widdrshins literally means "against the sun" which, through the course of the day, moves from east to south to west, thus the south would be on one's left when pacing widdershins and on one's right when moving deosil (which means "toward the right"). Aside from moving counter to the sun, right and left are traditionally morally freighted terms as well (think "sinister," which comes from the Latin for "left"; sometimes black, unconventional, or hedonistic magic is called the "Left Hand Path"). Thanks to Russell for catching the reference to "magical" direction here.

^

 

5. Barbican is non-alcoholic beer (A Part of America, Therein: "that's an alcohol-free lager") which is apparently, and doubtless purely incidentally, popular in Muslim countries .  

^

6. Austin Maxis were British automobiles produced in the 1970s.  

^

7. Here we must ask: which "then," and which "now?" All we know of the mad kid, before the incident at the dryout house, are these two little scenes where he encounters the narrator. Each encounter involves a small, ineffectual and, in context, heartrending effort on the kid's part to establish some kind of agency (which is, of seemingly, what he is about to lose forever). Both times the narrator sees the kid the latter is very agitated: now he attempts to take control of the dog, just as then he attempted to assert his power over the narrator and his unnamed companion. Underlined by the costume he was wearing during the first encounter--it is probably no coincidence that MES portrays him wearing a uniform which denotes power and authority--his frantic gestures seem to take on a greater significance in light of what is about to happen to him. As in certain dreams, dreadful knowledge of the future makes the present into a dreadful and seemingly scripted narrative, i.e. turns it into the present into the past even as it unfolds. Thus, the present time, 3:13 PM, is seen from the perspective of 3:30 even as it is lived through. Looking at it straightforwardly, "then" is the scene after the party when the kid challenges the narrator, and "now" is 3:13, when the kid, in the last few moments in which he still possesses his own soul, tries to take dog's leash. Why, then, does the kid look like the victim of a pogrom? It is not clear whether something terrible has just happened to him, but it cannot be as terrible as what is about to happen. But the reversal of narrative time at the beginning of the song may be a clue that here the kid appears to the narrator under the shadow of the event that is about to happen, the possession at 3:15 which will render futile any further attempts by the kid to attain any kind of agency with respect to fate. 

Similarly, it is impossible to know for certain whether the kid was always mad, or if he is now seen as mad because he is possessed. Even if the latter is the case, it would be hard to tell if the song does not maintain a linear sense of time but presents the event of possession that is the song's narrative climax as a stone dropped into the water of time and sending ripples out in every direction. This question will become significant further on; see note 10 below.

Here, on A Part of America, Therein, MES sings "And this day he looked like the victim of a pogrom..." Whether intentionally ot not, this repeats the title of the final song on Hex Enduction Hour, "And This Day."

If we choose not to accept MES's claim that the song is about a possession, we might find Mxyzptlk's interpretation attractive:

I don't think the Mad Kid gets possessed, the drunken guy's soul just mistakes him for an archbishop and spectrally pleads with him to take the medallion, a bit like the Sacristan's daughter does with Dennistoun in Canon Alberic's Scrapbook by MR James [see "Spectre Vs. Rector"]. 

There's not enough internal evidence to conclude on this basis alone that the kid is possessed, and it is hard not to admire the way the above reading ties in the archbishop's hat in the manner of Chekhov's gun...

^

8. Who is actually speaking here, and whose youth has been sold? It is typical of MES's lyrics that the central line of the song should, as always, be ambiguous: in this version, at least, it is the alcoholic ("Manny"?) who utters the line, although it may seem more appropriate coming from the kid. On the other hand, at this point the recovering alcoholic and the mad kid have presumably in some way merged. Or does the kid's soul get switched with that of the alcoholic, so that it is now the kid who speaks, in the form of the alcoholic? On the other hand, perhaps the latter is recalling some past event, for which he seeks recompense by taking over the mad kid. It is impossible to know exactly how to take this lyric; either way, it's a chilling line, and the song here seems to take a darker, more melancholy turn, or rather to reveal its underlying melancholy most clearly at this point.

On some live versions, MES says "my soul it was sold." One possible interpretation is that the "medallion," whether literally or figuratively, has purchased the mad kid's soul or youth for the alcoholic. It could also be that the alcoholic, knowing or somehow intuiting the kid's fascination with the trappings of authority, distracts the kid by offering him the medallion. Whatever the case may be, it is typical that, even when telling a story, MES leaves things open to various interpretations.

^

9. The Lyrics Parade has "there fly krakens," which is taken from the lyrics book published in the 1980s. On every version of this song I've heard, MES clearly says "look like krakens," however. This certainly makes more literal sense (a kraken is a legendary sea monster, although many references to krakens may actually be to very real, and certainly monstruous, giant squids). Confronted with a choice between breaking with the mundane setting of the song by placing something monstruous within the frame, or merely hinting at the monstruous within the mudane, MES clearly made the correct aesthetic choice by keeping the canvas taut, but "there fly krakens" is certainly a stirring and evocative line.
 
Krakens are also mentioned in "Iceland," also on Hex Enduction Hour."
 
 
10. This gap (filled by a keyboard flourish on Hex) is not the result of a studio flub or a hastily improvised line, as it is sung this way on live versions and on the Peel session. "That little" could of course refer to the mad kid, but he would be easy enough to name, and I think MES is going for something more ineffable here. The word that goes in the gap would have to encapsulate the entire emotional burden of the song, the sense of a profound chill that is only partly attributable to the weather. Here the word "tremble," then, is more evocative then something like "shiver" would have been: "winter" is both a meteorological and a spiritual condition of the song. Here I also think of the soul of the alcoholic passing through the singer's body on its way to the mad kid; and just as, when someone shivers, it sometimes said that someone walked across their grave, the narrator's trembling is not so much a result of encountering a malign spirit, as it is caused by his briefly intuiting the indifference of fate to his own soul. In this regard, Thop in the comments below points out a resonance with the 19th Century spiritual "Were You There (When They Crucified My Lord)" with its refrain "O sometimes it causes me to tremble! tremble! tremble!" which MES's lyric neatly echoes...
 
 
11. These "lights" are mysterious and hard to interpret. I don't think we quite get it if we think of it as a simple ascending scale denoting intelligence or insight, but the context doesn't offer much in the way of elucidation. For me the line evokes Blake's "fourfold vision," from a letter to Thomas Butts:
 
Now I a fourfold vision see
And a fourfold vision is given to me
Tis fourfold in my supreme delight
And three fold in soft Beulahs night
And twofold Always.
May God us keep From Single vision & Newtons sleep.
 

It would be difficult to interpret these lines here without getting into a lengthy disquisition on Blake's symbology. However, "Newton's sleep" is generally thought to refer to an unimaginative, scientifically reductive view of nature. The fourfold vision is crowned by the Imagination, the highest concept in Blake's writing, in fact tantamount to God. The view of the world as a collection of facts, while not a false vision, is a limited and impoverished one for Blake. MES is an avowed reader of Blake and may have had something like this in mind: the mad kid has a kind of imaginative vision of the world many of us lack, although unfortunately this may be his undoing. And "one light left" implies that the lights are not just a factor of character, intelligence or personal insight, but that the age is one that is illumined solely by the science light.
 
On A Part of America, Therein the mad kid has 4.75 lights--off the charts, so to speak. On that version the lyrics run:
 
The mad kid had 4.75 lights
And the sign of genius is 4 lights
Now, most of us have 3 lights
Except um, slates, who have 2 lights
And there's one exception, there's one light
And that is the science law, the science law
Courtesy of Winter
Courtesy of Winter
You're the only one for me
It is a fallacy 

It is a fallacy and this does not stand up
It is the one science law
And it is a statement of grace
 
Why is the science law an "exception" and a "statement of grace"? One interpretation would be that, unlike Blake, MES wants to assert the truth of the scientific view of reality, so, instead of being impoverished, the one light of science is the blending of the rays of all the others, and thus contains them. The simplicity and methodological single-mindedness of the scientific perspective would not then be myopic but visionary. This seems unlikely, though, from all we know of MES. It's also difficult to tell what is called a "fallacy" here, especially since the previous line is unintelligible. On the other hand, perhaps the one light is a statement of grace because it shields us from a kind of vulnerability to malign forces that would come with madness or excessive insight. Maybe, like a Lovecraft character, what the mad kid learns is that it is not good to know too much.
 
Although it is a less likely point of reference for MES than the works of Blake, Luther's "The Bondage of the Will" employs the trope of "lights" by which we understand, and does so in a way that is in some ways consonant with the theme of "Winter."  According to Luther, understanding is illuminated by three lights: the light of nature, the light of grace, and the light of glory. When we do understand by the light of grace (which Luther also calls the light of the Gospel), God appears to be unjust, because the wicked seem to prosper while the good are punished: "And yet all this, which is so very much like injustice in God, when set forth in those arguments which no reason or light of nature can resist, is most easily cleared up by the light of the Gospel, and the knowledge of grace: by which, we are taught, that the wicked flourish in their bodies, but lose their souls! And the whole of this insolvable question is solved in one word — There is a life after this life: in which will be punished and repaid, every thing that is not punished and repaid here: for this life is nothing more than an entrance on, and a beginning of, the life which is to come!" If it's permissable to push it as far as possible for the moment, here we are told of "entrances uncovered," in the form of the portal to heaven. There, our understanding will be even more perfect, as the light of grace requires faith and scripture, but in God's presence we will understand by the light of glory. 
 
The theology of "Winter," if it can be called that, could be interpreted as a kind of inverse of that of Luther. Any uncovered entrances open onto the mad kid's doom, and the science light, or the "light of nature," is the only grace the kid can hope for; in the science light, the kid's irrecuperable fate is reduced to insanity. If madness is in many cases permanent, this is a contingent fact rather than an irreversible fate, and in any case it is a sentence that is commuted by death. 
 
The number of lights varies across versions, but it is constant that the kid has more than geniuses, and both have more than most of us (see Martin's excellent comment below).
 
 

Comments (49)

dannyno
  • 1. dannyno | 05/05/2013
I'm not sure if there is a connection, or what it would mean if there was, but it is worth recording that Luther writes of "three lights" - the light of grace, the light of glory and the light of nature: http://books.google.co.uk/books?id=mZvlSRhrB3wC&lpg=PA270&ots=Be0suN9MZx&dq=%22three%20lights%22%20grace%20glory%20nature&pg=PA270#v=onepage&q=%22three%20lights%22%20grace%20glory%20nature&f=false
bzfgt
  • 2. bzfgt | 29/11/2013
Oh yeah; there might not be a connection, but if not the semblance of one is still powerful...
dannyno
  • 3. dannyno | 23/07/2014
It's "courtesy winter", rather than "courtesy of winter", throughout.
bzfgt
  • 4. bzfgt | 21/09/2014
I'm not sure about that, I've thought that but I think there's a little stop in there where it's kind of implied. Maybe not, I have to listen again.
Martin
  • 5. Martin | 24/10/2014
In case anyone thinks that the number of lights ascribed to mad kids, geniuses, us and the mediocre has any real significance, then this list should disabuse them, slightly at least. It seems to me that Mark E Smith had a few constant random numbers, occasionally altered a bit, which he used in gigs. Anyway, here's a partial list of how many lights various people had (omissions are due to (mainly) the "mediocre" not being mentioned or to me not understanding what the vocalist says!.

11 July 1981: genius 0.75 lights, mad kid 5
12 July 1981: genius 4.75, mad kid 5, most of us 3.5
13 July 1981: genius "4 possible 2.5 lights". mad kid 4.75, most of us 3.75, mediocre 2
16 July 1981: genius 4, mad kid 4.75, "I have - most of us - 3 lights" [I think then he says "dog 2 lights"]
4 September 1981: genius 3, most of us 2, mediocre 1.5
9 September 1981: genius 3.5, mad kid 4, most of us 2.5
23 September 1981: mad kid 3.75, most of us 2.5
1 November 1981: genius 3, mad kid 3.75, most of us 2.5
7 December 1981: mad kid 3.75, most of us 2, mediocre 2.55

This is possibly the most pointless contribution to this website of all time, and I don't want to listen to Winter again for a long, long time.
Martin
  • 6. Martin | 24/10/2014
With reference to the question of whether it's "courtesy of winter" or "courtesy winter", I would say it's more like "courtesy o' winter". Often, when one word finishes with a consonant and the next one does too, the first consonant disappears (almost) when spoken. So "big boy" becomes something like (it's far more complicated of course and I don't pretend to be an expert) "bi' boy". I think this is the case with the snatch of lyric here.
Martin
  • 7. Martin | 24/10/2014
The expression "southside" as used in the song seems to me to be a particularly American usage, or have I been away from Britain too long?
bzfgt
  • 8. bzfgt | 27/10/2014
Not pointless at all--ass has been kicked, here, by you. I note that the kid always has more than the genius, who always has more than us--like the hedonic calculus, nobody knows what the numbers actually are, but the relationship between them is fairly stable. Crazy like a fox, I say.
O.D. Jones
  • 9. O.D. Jones (link) | 29/12/2014
Re: spleen...my Scots grandmother always referred to nausea/gas/gastric distress etc as a bit of spleen...fits the theme of the library incident. I assume gran wasn't the only one to use spleen in this context. Secondary Oxford definition also includes "ill humor, angry, spiteful". Also assume MES aware of the Baudelaire connection "Spleen et Ideal" from Flowers of Evil...spending an afternoon here with the music going and this website. Thanks!
Max Williams
  • 10. Max Williams | 09/01/2015
Re the line "the mad kid walked left-side, south-side, towards me" - i've always thought this was like the term "southpaw", meaning a boxer who punches with their left hand. So in context, the mad kid is walking towards the narrator, holding his body as if he might punch the narrator with his left hand. Sort of makes sense.

Can i also say, as an aside, that your anti-spam captcha thing seems broken - it just shows me the ad but never shows me what i'm supposed to type in, or even gives me an input to type it into! If you're reading this it means i persevered well beyond being completely pissed off with it (eg trying different browsers), because i love The Fall so goddamn much.
bzfgt
  • 11. bzfgt | 31/01/2015
Good thought, that sounds about right. Does it not show you the slide thingy in lieu of a box for text? That's what I get...
Mxyzptlk
  • 12. Mxyzptlk | 18/02/2015
You get the spleen at 3.15, but it's 3.30...
Just means that Manny is already feeling rancorous (ie, full of spleen). Also, I don't think the Mad Kid gets possessed, the drunken guy's soul just mistakes him for an archbishop and spectrally pleads with him to take the medallion, a bit like the Sacristan's daughter does with Dennistoun in Canon Alberic's Scrapbook by MR James.
On a coach trip to London once, I glanced out of the window as we passed a serious looking building called Spleen House... Always wondered what they did in there.
Max Williams
  • 13. Max Williams | 19/02/2015
Bzfgt - I think it's just broken in the Linux version of chrome
bzfgt
  • 14. bzfgt | 28/03/2015
That's brilliant, I never made the connection with the kid's hat. As for the big picture, let me brood over it for a minute.
bzfgt
  • 15. bzfgt | 28/03/2015
Fuck I think you might be right, maybe he just pleads with the kid. I was taking MES's word for it...probably not a sound principle of interpretation (not that I'd want to ignore what he says about it either). I worked your comments in but I may have to revisit this at some point and see what shakes loose.
harleyr
  • 16. harleyr | 21/04/2015
It's not my observation, but doesn't the line 'I'll take both of you on!", as directed at the singular narrator, suggest that the child has been possessed by the alcoholic and so is seeing double?
harleyr
  • 17. harleyr | 21/04/2015
Also, I think the line about the Austin Maxi begins...
'the boys on the inside said 'gimme a smoke'.
dannyno
  • 18. dannyno | 23/04/2015
Some discussion of "Hostel-Maxi" here:
http://z1.invisionfree.com/thefall/index.php?showtopic=38818
Hugo
  • 19. Hugo | 21/05/2015
i always thought this song was about the state of Britain and British politics with the mad kid representing the ineffectual Labour party desperately seeking to regain power. So the mad kid says gimme the lead, gimme the lead and his mother (a Thatcher stand-in) isn't going to. The mad kid threatening "take both of you on" is again Labour acting like a barroom drunk pointlessly threatening the Tories and the Liberals.
russell richardson
  • 20. russell richardson | 08/06/2015
'left side, south side

has to be widdershins, the magical way of walking around a building or person 'against the sun" (deosil) in order to cast a spell

or Hex

seems to fit, whether it's the kid doing it or the kid as possessed being made to do it.
bzfgt
  • 21. bzfgt | 26/06/2015
Top notch lyric identification, harley! I'm pondering the rest of it, I think this needs an overhaul soon...
dannyno
  • 22. dannyno | 29/06/2015
These "boys on the inside"... Are they inside the feminist's Austin-Maxi, or inside the dryout house? Surely the latter?
dannyno
  • 23. dannyno | 11/07/2015
An Austin Maxi, yesterday:

Image
harleyr
  • 24. harleyr | 12/07/2015
"Two white doves cross the sky / Look like krakens"
Another sign of drunkenness?

"And sometimes, that little... / Makes me tremble"
The first time I heard Winter (many years ago) the keyboard tune seemed very familiar, but I've never heard the source since. Anyone else know what it is?
bzfgt
  • 25. bzfgt | 17/07/2015
"Deosil" is actually the opposite, clockwise, which you probably know but your comment obfuscates. Good call though.
Factorybozo
  • 26. Factorybozo | 24/03/2016
I always thought "I'll take both of you on" meant that the narrator himself/MES was possessed, and the mad kid is the only one who knows, or who can see it, because they're kindred.

The idea that he says it because he's drunk and seeing double never occurred to me, but I like it.
bzfgt
  • 27. bzfgt | 30/04/2016
Me too, and it seems like just the kind of thing MES would say.
dannyno
  • 28. dannyno | 07/07/2016
The spleen represents "black bile" in the old theory of the humours. But it doesn't translate necessarily or simply into "rancorousness" ("splenetic" often meaning enraged), as suggested. It also suggests sadness and melancholy:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Melancholia

See also: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spleen#Society_and_culture

Oddly, it's associated with autumn rather than winter.

Also see:

Anne Finch, "The Spleen":
http://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems-and-poets/poems/detail/50565

"What art thou, Spleen, which ev’ry thing dost ape?
Thou Proteus to abused mankind,
Who never yet thy real cause could find,
Or fix thee to remain in one continued shape. "

Just thought it might help to unpack the meanings of "spleen" a bit more.
dannyno
  • 29. dannyno | 07/07/2016
Just poking at this a bit more.

I've tended to presume that this is a story about spirit possession. But nowhere in the song is there any explicit indication that anyone is possessed. The "man on the floor" of the first floor of the dryout house is dead, and his spirit leaves the dryout house and communicates with the mad kid. But it doesn't say the spirit possesses the child.

"I'll take both of you on". This incident happened two weeks before the encounter related in the main song. The child is about 7 years old, so probably not drunk and seeing double, even in Prestwich (assuming it's set in Prestwich!). Nor is there any indication that the narrator was possessed at the time. It could just be that the narrator was not alone when confronted by the mad kid! On the other hand it is kind of implied that the kid has special powers and may see what others cannot.
dannyno
  • 30. dannyno | 07/07/2016
I liked Mxyzptlk's suggestion and connection with the MR James story.

However, the "backwards kid's party" and fancy dress encounter was "two weeks before", was it not? So if I've got that right apparently he was not wearing an archbishop's hat when the spirit approached him with the medallion... Which undermines Mxyzptlk's fantastic suggestion.
bzfgt
  • 31. bzfgt | 15/07/2016
Yes, the possession narrative comes from MES not the song itself, it could be a red herring. I don't think the song needs to be interpreted too closely to be effective but it's the strongest hint I've got. One of these days I'm going to re-open the investigation and go over all this very closely, though. In the meantime it's good to have competing interpretations in these comments.
bzfgt
  • 32. bzfgt | 15/07/2016
Mx, I went lookijng for Spleen House, I got an entry on the spleen from the House tv show wiki, and a winery in France called Château ["house'] Chasse-Spleen, the scion of which abandoned the family business and later created an art exhibition about the whole thing called Spleenhouse I wonder if Dan could find out what the place you saw is, he is uncannily talented at research, but on the other hand it probably has nothing to do with the song.

Also interesting that there is a condition called "wandering spleen."
dannyno
  • 33. dannyno | 16/07/2016
I found a "Speen House" in London.

https://www.google.co.uk/maps/uv?hl=en&pb=!1s0x48761ace935627b3:0x6b7897cae61c805d!2m5!2m2!1i80!2i80!3m1!2i100!3m1!7e115!4s/maps/place/%2522speen%2Bhouse%2522%2Bporter/@51.5215493,-0.156876,3a,75y,156.32h,90t/data%3D*213m4*211e1*213m2*211sYK2dmYyNdmsfaKPA4wlbnw*212e0*214m2*213m1*211s0x0:0x6b7897cae61c805d?hl%3Den!5s%22speen+house%22+porter+-+Google+Search&imagekey=!1e2!2sYK2dmYyNdmsfaKPA4wlbnw&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjC2N79__jNAhUML8AKHQn7ALMQpx8IUzAK

But I'm not sure if the house was *in* London, or just on the way there. Porter Street doesn't seem like the kind of street that coaches would venture down.
dannyno
  • 34. dannyno | 15/11/2016
re: Manny/Mani in the library.

I've always kind of assumed the library was a different location to the dryout house, somewhere "in town". But re-reading all this, and thinking of "the man" on the floor as basically identical to Manny/Mani, then I'm now wondering if the dryout house has its own library.
bzfgt
  • 35. bzfgt | 24/11/2016
Dan, I've never thought of that. I also always took the library to be somewhere else but now you mention it that is entirely possible.
Factorybozo
  • 36. Factorybozo | 15/01/2017
Is it possible that he replies to the offering of the medallion with "I'd rather go than put it on", instead of "wear the gold and put it on"?

This is my favorite site on the entire web by the way, and the work you've all put into it has been a service that I could never repay. Many thanks to you all.
bzfgt
  • 37. bzfgt | 04/02/2017
Factorybozo, I couldn't possibly convey in words how gratifying it is to hear you say this is your favorite site. I will listen to "Winter" and see if your ears accord with mine.
bzfgt
  • 38. bzfgt | 04/02/2017
FB, it sounds to my ears more like "wear the gold," but not absolutely distinctly, I'll have to check a live version or two.

Also, this is attested in a lyrics book, I think. I have the file in my Dropbox, but I accidentally deleted my Dropbox folder and they changed my password since the last time I logged in. I have been trying to get my folder back for a #^@! week, those bastards--I thought Dropbox was to keep you from losing files? I am angry, although I realize nobody needs to read about it I cannot help but tell my tale of woe. So I cannot check that just now, if I remember I can look Monday on my other computer at work.
bzfgt
  • 39. bzfgt | 04/02/2017
A Part of America, Therein indeed sounds like "I'd rather go than put it on."

Hmm, "Wear the gold and put it on" is kind of a weak line and smacks of something a transcriber grasped at when uncertain of the lyric. Often when a lyric is weak it turns out to be a transcription artifact. "I'd rather go than put it on," on the other hand, is a little perplexing.

I'm going to change it now but please, those who read this, listen and let me know what you think, and if anyone has the lyrics book please check it for me.
bFgt
  • 40. bFgt | 04/02/2017
To be honest APOAT sounded a little like "I'd rather gold than put it on" the first time through for me. I am far from sure about this change so I hope we can get some more help with this.
Robert
  • 41. Robert | 05/02/2017
From the Peel Session: "____ the gold and put it on" ... where the blank word is indistinct... could be "grab"?. Definitely not "wear". The rest of the sentence is clear.
dannyno
  • 42. dannyno | 05/02/2017
We probably ought to record, did we not, that krakens also appear in the song "Iceland", also on Hex.
bzfgt
  • 43. bzfgt | 11/02/2017
Yes, thank you, I've done so.
Thop
  • 44. Thop | 22/08/2017
Just firstly to say bzfgt - thanks again many times for this website, it is a marvellous thing.
To Winter, just to say that whenever "makes me tremble" is sung I am often reminded of the spiritual hymn "Were you there when they crucified my Lord?" in which it is such a significant word. In note 10, you mention a spiritual connotation to use of tremble.
dannyno
  • 45. dannyno | 18/09/2017
"You got Manny in the library"

Everyone assume "Manny/Mani" is a person, probably because it sounds like a name and because of the "his hangover" on the next line. And that's probably right. But to destabilise that understanding a second, worth noting that "Mani" was the prophetic founder of the gnostic religion of Manichaeism, and "getting Mani in the library" could mean picking up a book about the religion.

Alright, so it's probably not that, but always worth considering alternative readings even if they ultimately lead nowhere. Actually, it's often not worth it, but still.
bzfgt
  • 46. bzfgt (link) | 28/09/2017
Thanks for your comment, Thop--both for your praise for the site (which is really the work of many hands), and for the connection--the lyric "O sometimes it causes me to tremble! tremble! tremble!" could be a paraphrase (or rather vice versa) of the relevant line here! Excellent connection, there is a spiritual feel suffusing that line for me.

Dan that is also an excellent comment, I had never thought of that. I can feel a new theory percolating in the recesses of the group mind--the song is really about Augustine, who was a Manichaean and a libertine before he hit the dry-out house and (what became) mainstream Xtianity...
bzfgt
  • 47. bzfgt (link) | 28/09/2017
Tolle Lege!!! Take up and read...
bzfgt
  • 48. bzfgt (link) | 28/09/2017
I mean, "sometimes that little...makes me tremble" and "O sometimes it causes me to tremble! tremble! tremble!" That is a neat connection, or at least echo if it's not intentional.
stephenscutt
  • 49. stephenscutt | 02/10/2017
Horribly, I always thought "Please take this medallion" was a reference to the Medallions Jimmy Saville used to dole out to kids on Jim'll fix it. (shudder...)
Jim FIXED it for me. (for life.)

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