Wise Ol' Man




Eleni:  Dead DJ (repeated) (2)



The wise old man
All and around,
He was
Fair and just
His wisdom,
Ten thousand miles

Wise old man
WIse old man

Get you out, baby!

On the bus
The hill folk
Ear plugs
Sorrow he's proud
To repulse

Wise old man can get you out!

Wise old man
Wise old man
Wise old man

MES: His wisdom...

He wasn't seen
In the hareem (3)
In fact
He was only nineteen (4)
Wise old man 
Didn't exist 
Wise old man
He has butcher's face (5)


Old man, wisdom
And a hero's coat

Wise old man! Eleni: Wise old man!
Wise old man! Eleni: Didn't exist
Wise old man! Eleni: He wasn't seen
Wise old man! Eleni: In a hareem
Wise old man, Ah ah ah

Wise old man
Wise old man
Wise old man
Ha ha ha ha ha

Wise old man

Ha ha ha ha ha!
Wise old man!
Ah ah ah ah

They cold meat,
He went to the butcher!  (3)
Wise old man
He is indistinguished
Wise old man

He went to the butcher! 

Wise old man
Wise old man




1. Thanks to perverted by sandwich for providing the first transcription attempt, which is the basis for my transcription above. As is the norm for newer Fall material, much of this transcription is speculative; if you're reproducing any of this, don't take it as gospel, and check it out yourself. And, if you think you've discovered something we've missed, please weigh in below.

It is possible that the title alludes to sometime Fall associate, promoter Alan Wise, as nairng points out. Somehow Wise, who died in July 2016, found himself subject to rampant speculation as to whether he was "Dr. Annabel" of "An Older Lover Etc."(a fact of which he may have been completely unaware). The only basis for this seems to have been a slight similarity in sound between "Dr. Annabel Lies" and "Alan Wise," but it was repeated enough that there were those who were certain of it...in this case, so far, all we have to go on is the word "wise." Since the title could be an allusion without the subject matter having anything to do with Wise, this is at the very least less unlikely than it might otherwise have been. 

The song very likely alludes to Solomon, as Brian points out (see note 3 below).

Dan points out that the "wise old man" is a Jungian archetype.


2. At least this is what it sounds like...if so, it is possible the song is about John Peel. Take this with a grain of salt, since the transcription is uncertain to begin with. But if the lyrics are about a prominent DJ, it makes some sense out of some of them, particularly the second verse. Note that in the comments below, "Dead DJ" has fallen into disfavor...it sounds fairly distinct to me, though. 


3. A more common form of "hareem" is "harem," which means the part of a Muslim household where women are housed, and most commonly refers, by extension, to a group of women sexually involved with one man (usually a king or some kind of royal figure). The song may allue to the bliblical King Solomon, who was reputed to be the wisest ol' man to ever have lived, and who was also said to have had an enormous harem/hareem, as per I Kings 11:

"King Solomon, however, loved many foreign women besides Pharaoh's daughter--Moabites, Ammonites, Edomites, Sidonians and Hittites.
They were from nations about which the LORD had told the Israelites, 'You must not intermarry with them, because they will surely turn your hearts after their gods.' Nevertheless, Solomon held fast to them in love.
He had seven hundred wives of royal birth and three hundred concubines, and his wives led him astray."

Solomon began worshiping foreign gods, and even established one or two of the dreaded "high places" we're always reading about (temples on elevated ground dedicated to foreign deities).  In anger, YHWH then decreed that all but one tribe of Israel would, after Solomon's death, be ruled by a king of Edom, with only one tribe following his son Rehoboam. 

Brian also notes the line "Get you out, baby!" This line seems to be saying that the titular character can "get you out" of some place or situation, and "baby" then would be appended as a generic form of address (as the second time, MES says "Wise ol' man can get you out!"). However, Brian connects this with a story told in the Bible. Solomon acted as a judge for his people, and two women came to him laying claim to the same baby. Solomons judgment was that they would each get half of the baby. One of the "mothers" agreed to the plan of halving the baby, probably because she decided, reasonably enough, that half a baby is better than none. The other woman, on the other hand, immediately relinquished her claim to the child, and ceded the whole thing to her rival claimant. At this point Solomon revealed his ruse, ruling that the woman who would give up the child rather than see it chopped in half was clearly the real mother. This is because, I suppose, a real mother would want what is best for the child, and being hacked in half with a machete is clearly not what is best for an otherwise healthy infant. In his wisdom, Solomon realized that motherhood would give her the requisite experience to know this, whereas the false mother made an understandable mistake, but one that was fatal for her case...so the narrator may be saying Solomon can get the baby out of this unfortunate situation, on Brian's reading. This would also perhaps explain the lines about the "butcher" further down...

"Hareem": ^

"Butcher:" ^

4. Zack has reminded me that the narrator of "Pacifying Joint" is also said to be "only nineteen."


5. Dan reports that Orlando by Virginia Woolf proclaims "for the poet has a butcher's face and the butcher a poet's..."



Comments (43)

  • 1. bzfgt | 27/02/2016
Man, I hate how the text is justified! I think it's a new thing, the gaps between words are weird and big in spots.
  • 2. rik | 04/03/2016
I think its "did declaim".... instead of dead DJ ? makes more sense
  • 3. bzfgt | 19/03/2016
Could be, that was an early candidate. Right now it's the closest to what I hear but if a consensus builds I'll change it, which would make me happy since I do not feel sure about it. But to me right now it still sounds more "dead dj."
  • 4. bzfgt | 19/03/2016
Listening again now, I really think I hear "DJ," the "Dead" would be the part I wouldn't swear to--maybe "Did DJ" with DJ a verb? Maybe a reference to Peel?
Joseph Mullaney
  • 5. Joseph Mullaney | 31/03/2016
It's definitely not `dead DJ'. I'm hearing it as `death day plan', but no idea if that's correct or not.
  • 6. dannyno | 02/05/2016
"He has butcher's face"

From Virginian Woolf, "Orlando":

for the poet has a butcher's face and the butcher a poet's;
  • 7. dannyno | 02/05/2016
Typo: Virginian/Virginia, obviously.
  • 8. RB | 08/05/2016
I hear "did declaim", more likely than "dead DJ". MES writing a song about John Peel also seems highly unlikely to me - remember that Newsnight interview following Peel's death, where MES says they were never friends, that he used to listen to his show "in the early 70s", and generally does a good impression of not giving a shit about the man...
  • 9. bzfgt | 24/06/2016
I still hear "Dead DJ," I'm more convinced as time goes by and repetitions mount.
  • 10. bzfgt | 24/06/2016
I didn't really interpret the interview that way, it just sounds like MES was saying they weren't really friends and didn't interact much, but I don't see why that makes a song about him unlikely. I doubt he spent much time with Terry Waite or William of Orange, either.
  • 11. Zack | 25/09/2016
The narrator of "Pacifying Joint" was also "only nineteen".
  • 12. nairng | 26/09/2016
Is this not about Alan Wise?
  • 13. Simon | 15/10/2016
I've no idea what Eleni is saying so I can't add anything to that (except maybe one should take her accent into account and I don't think it is 'dead DJ' at all)

I really don't think this is about John Peel or has anything to do with a DJ. I think we are dealing with, very generally, a 'wise figure' - at least something taken to be - who is revealed to be something other than what he has been taken for. Perhaps not a fraud but someone who has had this 'wise' position thrust upon them by a dim and wanting public. There does also seem to be some theme of grief and mourning as well though.

But in this context the second verse is fairly descriptive: the figure is on the bus and people take out their earphones (which is a rather common adornment today) in order to hear him speak - a certain 'walking on water' accomplishment in these times!

I'm tempted to make a Lacanian comment about going to the butchers but I'll refrain.
  • 14. bzfgt | 15/10/2016
Thanks, good comment, Simon. I have no idea whether it's intended to allude to Peel in any way, shape or form, and your interpretation seems like the most straightforward one (despite the reference to Lacan, who I don't think of as a purveyor of straightforward interpretations, or any psychoanalyst for that matter!). But after a bunch of listens over the past 7 months or however long it's been, to my ears she definitely says "Dead DJ."
  • 15. bzfgt | 15/10/2016
nairng: I had not thought of that, nor has anyone else as far as I can tell. I have absolutely no idea whether it is about Alan Wise, but it seems plausible that the title/lyric alludes to Alan Wise, which is of course not the same thing.
  • 16. Simon | 11/01/2017
That Alan Wise connection! Excellent!

I'm happy to concede that she is saying 'Dead DJ' at this point.
  • 17. Simon | 11/01/2017
Am I the only one hearing a /pl/ in the final syllable of what Eleni is saying though (as opposed to a /ʤ/ which would fit with 'DJ')?
  • 18. bzfgt | 04/02/2017
I definitely do not hear anything resembling /pl/!

I think they may have been listening to him with their earplugs to begin with, in which case it wouldn't be much of a miracle...I mean, either way is possible, but if "DJ" is right it may have run in that direction.
  • 19. harleyr | 14/02/2017
>He was only nineteen
Wise Ol' Man
Didn't exist

Is it too obvious / far fetched that, rather than being about Alan Wise/John Peel/Jeremy Corbyn, this might be about a teenager pretending to be an old chap?
  • 20. bzfgt | 18/02/2017
Well yes, that is certainly what the line suggests!
  • 21. bzfgt | 18/02/2017
But I should add it doesn't necessarily suggest that this is not about anything else too...
  • 22. Zack | 19/03/2017
Having listened to SLT and WOM today, I have reached the end of my three months long chronological journey through my Fall collection. I hoped to write a few words to neatly sum up the experience here but the truth is I'm a little burned out on The Fall and I'm looking forward to listening to anything but The Fall for the next few weeks.

In any case, it's been fun staring into the abyss with Bzfgt, Dannyno and everyone else and I hope the next album gives us plenty more to stare at.

Zack (aka dalyzach)
  • 23. dannyno | 19/03/2017
Zack: amen
  • 24. bzfgt (link) | 23/03/2017
Thanks, Zack, you've enriched the fuck out of the site over the course of that journey!
  • 25. Brendan | 30/07/2017
I've been wondering since it came out what the hell Eleni is saying. Dead DJ sounds right though. It's hard not to conclude it's aboout Alan Wise, really. I don't quite see how the the Virginia Wolf/Only nineteen/He went to the butcher stuff ties in with that. Assuming that the song can't be about two or more things at once: You never know.

I'm pretty sure my original guess of "He is indistinguished" is wrong as that's not a word. Now it sounds kind of like "He is in this mirror" or "He is in a stairway", but it's really hard to make out. Also could it be "take cold meat"? Makes slightly more syntactical sense.

P.S., I'm "perverted by sandwich" who did the original guesswork on the FOF but on this site I've just been using my real name.
  • 26. bzfgt (link) | 16/09/2017
Cool. I think not only songs can be about more than one thing but that a whole lot of Fall songs are, and also MES does use "words" that aren't words from time to time....sorry for the delayed reaction, I just cam across this again, and thanks for your contributions.
  • 27. dannyno | 16/09/2017
Brendan, comment #25: "It's hard not to conclude it's about Alan Wise".

Seems really easy to me.

The only link is the word "wise", which crops up a couple of times in other lyrics without anyone jumping to conclusions. Nobody has ever pointed to any solid textual references other than that one word. Also Wise died in June 2016, and this song was being performed from October 2015. Not sure when the lyrics were settled, but certainly he was neither dead nor a DJ when the song debuted. And he had been fired as Fall manager in 2009. I doubt he was even on MES' radar in October 2015.
  • 28. bzfgt (link) | 07/10/2017
According to my readers, it's pretty much impossible to conclude that anything isn't about Alan Wise...this one seems more plausible than most, though, what with the name. I didn't know he was still involved as late as 2009...I thought Blaney had probably crowded everyone else out long before that (I'm not implying Blaney did anything shady, just that I thought he was on the spot and managing throughout much of the 2000s--but I know little about that).
  • 29. Brian | 12/12/2017
Solomon? The baby, the harem?
  • 30. bzfgt (link) | 16/12/2017
Shit! OF...FUCKING...COURSE!! Thank you, Brian, you should smack us for that one.
Joshua Ross
  • 31. Joshua Ross (link) | 10/04/2019
I took the Hareem/19 part to be about the controversy in John Peel's autobiography about how he slept with groupies in Texas when he was a DJ in Oklahoma for KOMA Radio, and how he admitted to feeling guilty for 'not always checking their IDs'. John Peel was in his early to mid-20s, so sleeping with women who were 16 or so was very acceptable at the time socially, but also clearly ethically wrong, and with 20:20 hindsight morally wrong.

So my (as always very subjective) breakdown is as follows:

'He wasn't seen
In the hareem'
Let's take 'he' to be an ambiguous comparison of Peel and Wise.

In fact
He was only nineteen

I don't think MES would have googled Peel's age at the time. Wise died aged 63 in 2016, making him 19 in 1972

Wise old man
Didn't exist
Wise old man
He has butcher's face

While Peel and Wise both had Butcher's faces, all writing (by MES and latently by all writers by default) is about the writer himself. Really, the song is Mark facing the reaper, IMHO


JRo AKA Theotherjr AKA The Mad Kid
  • 32. dannyno | 16/04/2019
When this song was debuted, in October 2015, John Peel had been dead for over a decade and Alan Wise was still alive. There's no reason at all to think this song is about either of them.

Peel's first wife, of course, was 15 when they married.

I think I would suggest looking at Jungian archetypes instead:
  • 33. bzfgt (link) | 21/06/2019
Joshua Ross, that's very suggestive and certainly plausible and possible...also very speculative at this point, but I'll keep it in mind in case something pops up that would corroborate it...
  • 34. dannyno | 25/06/2019
"He wasn't seen
In the hareem"

There's a Fredric Brown short story, titled Invisibility, collected in various places, in which a character discovers how to become invisible and sneaks into a Sultan's harem, with terrible consequences. I don't see the story is connected to the lyric, but I'm just rolling around some readings of the lyric in my mind.
  • 35. dannyno | 25/06/2019
Solomon: various sources estimate his age at about 20 when he became king. there have been those who say he was 19. But estimates vary quite a bit. Just thought someone should check that.
  • 36. dannyno | 25/06/2019
It also appears that modern archaeological scholarship has not been able to establish that Solomon existed, or that the Biblical account of Jewish history is accurate.

If you wanted to construct a case that the lyric is inspired by MES reading something about archaeological findings in relation to Solomon, then you probably could.

But other parts of the lyric of course would appear obscure in that light. Not that this would be unusual.
  • 37. bzfgt (link) | 03/07/2019
Yeah, I'm not sure there's an allusion to Solomon's age, seems like a stretch at the moment....I'm chewing on it though
New Fall Fan
  • 38. New Fall Fan | 01/12/2019
Alan Wise, John Peel, King Solomon??? For realz? I got the immediate impression Wise Ol' Man = MES. I didn't think that was a huge leap to make.
  • 39. bzfgt (link) | 21/12/2019
Sure, as likely as anything.
  • 40. Ben | 30/01/2020
Alan Wise cold confidently be said to posses a butchers face and according to Professor James Young in Nico, Songs They Never Play on the Radio, was partial to late night outings. He was also definitely old and wore a coat. It also seems to be a play on the irony that he wasn't necessarily very wise.
  • 41. dannyno | 26/02/2020
Wise wasn't old. He was only 63 when he died.
  • 42. bzfgt (link) | 14/03/2020
"Old" isn't an entirely precise concept, of course....
  • 43. dannyno | 24/08/2021
Wise Man was a 1977 single by Uriah Heep.

I don't think this helps us any, and the only reason I mention it is that MES did, in a letter to Tony Friel dated 26 May 1977.

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