How Dare You Assume I Want To Parlez-Vous With You?

Telephone Thing 02

Old fart that I am, I’m still shattered from my three nights out in five days* so I’ve chosen something short, awkward and generally ornery today, The Fall Telephone Thing 12″.  I really like the Fall but I don’t listen to them a whole lot and to be frank I wouldn’t want to meet a person who did – I would imagine the affect of consuming that much weapons-grade wilfulness would warp you like the trees you see on heathland, all gnarled and bent out of shape by the constant howling winds.  I don’t own many Fall records, even though I like them a lot – it’d be too dangerous for a real obsessive like me to cut loose on their back catalogue.

‘Telephone Thing’ was like nothing else the fall had ever done at the time, it was thanks to a masterful mixing job by Coldcut a shifting indie techno thingy**, Steve Hanley’s bass being much to the fore.  The heft and bounce of the music, replete with treated guitar squalls and keys was so far ahead of its time in 1990 it was untrue and unlike a lot of rock-dance hybrids of that era, it still sounds great today.  ‘Telephone Thing’ was released on their Extricate LP, but its sound would go on to inform ’93s The Infotainment Scan, an LP that still sounds way ahead of the curve, then and now.

Telephone Thing 01

But I digress, as always with the Fall it’s Mark E. Smith and his extraordinary lyrics and vocals that are the main attraction.  He doesn’t disappoint.  Here he sounds like he’s singing from a corridor just outside the main room and pronounces lines such as,

I hear you telephone thing listening in
I feel you telephone thing listening in
How dare you assume I want to parlez-vous with you?
You Gretchen Franklin nosey matron thing

Your smug advertisements
Of your tendril ocean bed achievements does not
Justify your abuse of privacy piracy act

Like it was the most natural thing in the world and you know, in context it makes perfect sense at the time – just like that one really bad idea you get when you’re hopelessly drunk.  The fact remains that, despite what Mrs 1537 says, this is a great track.

Telephone Thing 03

Obviously huge credit must go to Coldcut for their production and input – the origins for ‘Telephone Thing’ lay in Smith’s participation on one of their earlier tracks, they mix this tune without imposing themselves too much on the source, in fact they amplify its idiosyncrasies which I find rare for remixers, who in general just tend to stamp their brand all over their victims.  The final track on the 12″, ‘Telephone Dub’ is just that really, a deeper more instrumental version, it’s fine but not worth listening to more than, ooh, five times in your life.

The ‘proper’ B-side is the splendidly named ‘British People In Hot Weather’, where over a full Fall indie beat and cheap synth effects, Mark E. Smith gets to cut loose on other people’s foibles and, you know what I’m with him on this one.  Denizens of warmer climates let me explain, give us Brits an afternoon of sunshine and suddenly we head for the nearest stretch of sand, or grass en masse, baring our unshapely white bodies in an act of worship to the sun-god and drinking cheap lager; I don’t of course, I’m far too middle-class and sneery for all that.  If we get two days of continuous sunshine then we declare a national state of emergency and start banning the use of hosepipes to conserve water; like it doesn’t fall from the skies in large quantities for the rest of the year!  We’re pretty weird, but then so are most nations looked at from the outside.

Telephone Thing 04

Anyway, MES gets to rant on, chuckling to himself in a manner reminiscent of a slightly mad tramp who’s been hitting the solvents and crème de menthe in a churchyard all afternoon, about,

Fill green envelopes and send them to ya
On train ride, read Marx tracts
Play walkmans loud behind ya
Demonstrate on Oxford Street
About what the Hell they couldn’t tell ya
British people in hot weather
Have a heart-to-heart with your sister
People in shorts drunk before ya
Beached whale in Wapping
His armpit hairs are sprouting
Serpentine ah…. Serpentine grrr…
British people in hot weather

As always I just love the way that simply by sticking ‘ya’, or adding the syllable ‘uh’ to the end of every line, MES worked out that you can make anything rhyme with anything – even orange.  True story.

274 Down.

*Mrs 1537 and I saw Season’s Greetings by Alan Ayckbourn last night; basically a very funny play about how ghastly family Christmases can be.  It’s just how we roll.

**I know, I know, it’s this level of insight that keeps you from straying away from 1537 for a second.

9 thoughts on “How Dare You Assume I Want To Parlez-Vous With You?

  1. I had heard that the entire Gretchen Franklin thing was in fact a subliminal promotion influenced by Paul McCartney’s mind control over the Fall, causing them to include the partial line “…I want to parlez-vous with you” in order to have people associate with the song “Michelle” on Rubber Soul, which was released in 1965, the same year the Beatles’ movie “Help!” was released, in which Gretchen Franklin played a part, in order to promote greater sales of Beatles albums, movies and paraphernalia.

    As to having a lack of sunlight, you think you have it rough in the UK? HA! (

    1. Wow – this is dynamite! The world needs to know this! Leap into action and submit your truth to several peer-reviewed journals (might I suggest ‘Wing Nuts & Closet Deviants Review’) and simply sit back and after four rejections over an 8-month period just go back to counting passing cars. Ah well, they’ll be sorry one day.

  2. Love The Fall, but like you in limited quantities. This one I haven’t heard. I’m more a fan of the early to mid eighties stuff. I’ve been looking for a reason to move past “C.R.E.E.P” and here it is.

      1. Yeah, I won’t be swimming Mr. Smith’s waters too much. There’s way too many records to trudge through. I’ll just sift here and there, starting with this nugget.

        The Fall is a lot like Guided By Voices in that the discography is so large it’s almost like if you don’t here something prior to jumping in it’s nearly impossible to find a good starting point. Your best bet is to back away slowly, then run. Run like hell. Fortunately for me a chance listen to “Hip Priest” brought me to Hex Enduction Hour which I was happy to stick with. “Totally Wired” led me to Grotesque(After The Gramme). I’ve been more than pleased to dabble in those two for about 5 years now.

Leave a Reply