Zagreb

Lyrics

(1)

Walking at night past the closed shop
Behind the counter (2)
Crouched a blue figure
It sang this song   (3)
You get five minutes with me
Then I'm off around the world
You get five minutes Johnny with me
Then off around the world
Open-plan graves (4)
Blown-over trees
Muted mystics impasse
Glittering beach
Johnny he replied back 
With me you struck a pact
ZV day (5)
Five minutes with you
Then you're off around the worlds
Zagreb day

My neophyte
My sweetheart
My liebchen
My librium (6)
My lover
My friends
You get five minutes with me
Then I'm off round the worlds

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Notes

1. Zagreb is the capital of The Republic of Croatia. Croatia declared independence from The Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, which began the Croatian War of Independence. TYhe war was intially fought against the Yugoslav People's Army and Serbian forces; in 1992 a ceasefire with Yugoslav forces and international recognition of Croatian sovereignty altered the nature of the conflict into a war between Croatia and Serbia, which sought to establish a Greater Serbian state that would have included ethinic Serbian portions of Croatia. The war ended in 1995, with Croatia victorious and able to preserve its historic borders. Croatia declared independence about a year after this song was recorded; at the time it was released, Croatia was still a part of Yugoslavia. You know what's coming next by now--"pre-cog":

MES quoted in Frieze Magazine, 4 September 1992: 'It’s just precog,’says Smith. ‘You write things down and you don’t know what they mean but you know they’re true and they come true later. It’s not prophecy as such. It makes me laugh actually. I see things happening and I think,"Oh,that reminds me of something.” Turns out it’s something I wrote five years ago. l wrote a song called, Zagreb Daylight [sic] two years ago. We were playing in Zagreb and l could feel this horrible, murderous shit in the air. l had a feeling that yobs were going to rule the earth. I’m half one myself you see. Anyway, I wrote this thing about a man in a shop with a dwarf behind the counter. It didn’t go down well at all. If it came out a month from now, people would say it’s topical.

 

MES again, from an article entitled  "Prole Art Threat On The Internet" : "I said everything about Yugoslavia in 'Free Range' and 'Zagreb Day'[sic] a year before it all happened, so I've said my bit. We played Yugoslavia just before it went off and you could feel the tension." 

The second interview continues with Smith acknowleding the mundane sources of his precognitive feat:

We took these really nice couples from Ljubljana to Zagreb on the bus, these really respectable, really cool kids. They were going, "You know, we're only coming with you because we like The Fall, we can't stand Zagreb." And we're going "Oh, it's like that in England, the North/South divide and all that." But they go "No, you do not understand. We want to kill them." And we're like "Oh right, like Lancashire and Yorkshire?" and these dead cultured people are going "No, in all seriousness, we want to KILL them, we want to EXTERMINATE them... And what songs are you doing tonight?" It all went quiet. So yeah, we could see what was coming, we said so...

The opening section is a vamp on the riff from Stevie Wonder's "Higher Ground"; according to Marcia Schofield, this was inspired by her and Simon Wolstencroft's dislike of the Red Hot Chili Peppers' version of the song.   

^

2. Note the Fall song "Behind the Counter" on Middle Class Revolt, although there's no evident connection other than the name.

^

3.  Dan: The Eurovision song contest took place in Zagreb on 5 May 1990, just a couple of weeks after The Fall played there. Blue is the colour of the Dinamo Zagreb football team. The associated "ultras" group is called "Bad Blue Boys".

^

4."Open plan" in this context implies a lack of walls, hedges, and other boundary-defining landscape features.  

^

5.harleyr: "Victory in Zagreb? Possibly anticipating the war that MES thought was about to kick off, or a previous war. " It could be "Zagreb Victory Day," I suppose...

^

6. Liebchen is a German term of endearment meaning, basically, "dear"; the root is the word for love, and -chen is a diminutive suffix. Librium is a drug, Chlordiazepoxide Hydrochloride, prescribed for alcohol dependence/withdrawal and anxiety.

^

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Comments (14)

dannyno
  • 1. dannyno | 20/12/2014

The only "ZV" I can find in Zagreb context is the Zagreb Fair, (Zagrebački velesajam in Croatian):
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zagreb_Fair

Dan

dannyno
  • 2. dannyno | 20/12/2014

"My Librium". Librium is a drug, Chlordiazepoxide Hydrochloride, prescribed for alcohol dependence/withdrawal and anxiety.

harleyr
  • 3. harleyr | 15/08/2015

VZ day - Victory in Zagreb?

Possibly anticipating the war that MES thought was about to kick off, or a previous war.

Nairn Gordon
  • 4. Nairn Gordon | 06/12/2015

It's weird he says "zee vee day..." We Brits say zed, not zee.

bzfgt
  • 5. bzfgt | 06/12/2015

Huh, I didn't realize it was that all the time, I would have guessed 80-20.

Martin
  • 6. Martin | 28/03/2016

With reference to the following lyrics from the song:

"Crouched a blue figure
It sang this song
You get five minutes with me
Then I'm off around the world
You get five minutes Johnny with me
Then off around the world"

there is a faint possibility that Mark E Smith could have been influenced by the song "Five Minutes", written by Beth Nielsen Chapman, recorded by Lorrie Morgan and released on May 11 1989 on the album "Leave The Light On". A sample lyric from the song is:

"You look so disbelieving
At my suitcase by the door
My taxi's on its' way
I can't take it anymore

Lately you've forgotten
What loving me is about
Well, now you've got five minutes
To figure it out"

I suppose all this is leading nowhere, but then again a large part of all this song lyric research is to discount possibilities and not only to stumble across exciting new discoveries.

dannyno
  • 7. dannyno | 15/11/2016

I'm having quite significant trouble understanding how a song about a dwarf behind a shop counter can possibly constitute pre-cog of the breakup of Yugoslavia, given that none of the lyrics appear to mention war, or have any kind of political content. The idea that it could ever be "topical" I find baffling.

dannyno
  • 8. dannyno | 15/11/2016

From the 1992 interview in note 1:

I see things happening and I think,"Oh,that reminds me of something.” Turns out it’s something I wrote five years ago. l wrote a song called, Zagreb Daylight [sic] two years ago. We were playing in Zagreb and l could feel this horrible, murderous shit in the air.


The chronology of all this is a bit confusing. Zagreb does date from 1990, apparently first being played live at a gig in Belgium on 31 March that year.

The Fall did not play Zagreb until 15 April 1990, later on the same tour. So the song actually predates the group's visit to Zagreb (I'm assuming the lyrics were there from March).

Which makes the pre-cog aspect even more implausible, although the titular reference to Zagreb must surely be deliberate anticipation. Unless MES had visited Croatia separately from the group, which is of course possible. But we have no information from MES or anyone else about that, and MES did have opportunity to mention any other experiences in the quoted interview and at other times. From what he's saying, that 1990 trip to Croatia was indeed his first experience of the country.

So if the song was written before MES experienced the country, is Zagreb actually a red herring?

(The Fall have apparently only played Zagreb three times, the second time also in Zagreb in 2008 and the third in 2011 at a festival in Sibinik. )

dannyno
  • 9. dannyno | 15/11/2016

Zagreb Daylight:

Ognjeslav Utješenović, 1817-1890, Croatian politician and author.

Wikipedia:

One of Utješenović's poems written in 1842 begins,"The whole world sees morning, but in the Balkans daylight never comes."

bzfgt
  • 10. bzfgt | 24/11/2016

Although I did include it in my notes, I don't think the claim is significant enough to be worth having "significant trouble" over.

bzfgt
  • 11. bzfgt | 24/11/2016

"From what he's saying, that 1990 trip to Croatia was indeed his first experience of the country.

So if the song was written before MES experienced the country, is Zagreb actually a red herring?"

Double reverse pre-cog!!

dannyno
  • 12. dannyno | 24/11/2016

Oh no! Not double reverse pre-cog!

dannyno
  • 13. dannyno | 14/04/2017

Some random thoughts that may or may not be remotely helpful.

The Eurovision song contest took place in Zagreb on 5 May 1990, just a couple of weeks after The Fall played there.

Blue is the colour of the Dinamo Zagreb football team. The associated "ultras" group is called "Bad Blue Boys".

bzfgt
  • 14. bzfgt (link) | 13/05/2017

I think that's worth running with. Killer lyrics to this one, I never noticed!

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