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The song:
"This was a friend's story that I waited twenty years to tell in a song [. . . .] a redemtption song that I find moving every time I listen."
- Source: Justin Sullivan in Anthology booklet -

I can't find any source for this anymore, but I think I remember Justin Sullivan saying in interviews or at gigs that the person in the song means to commit suicide (so the drug is poison or an overdose). When he sees the beauty of the sun rising his will to live returns.
With its topics of leaving a family this song reminds me of Home. Other songs that mention family or home are BD3, Familiy, Family Life, Inheritance,
March in September, My People, No Mirror, No Shadow and Twilight Home.

[ Back to Dawn ]

The Day the World Turned Day-Glo

The song:
NMA played this song only once, I believe, to pay respect to Poly Styrene, X-Ray Spex's singer, who died of cancer a few days earlier, on 25 Apr 2011. She was one of Justin's and Nelson's heroines.
- Source: Justin Sullivan, 29/04/11, Metropool, Hengelo -

Another great X-Ray Spex song, 'Germfree Adolescents', was covered by the Levellers. To me, Poly Styrene had the archetypical female punk voice. If you don't know it, check out their fantastic album Germfree Adolescents!
- Read more: Wikipedia -

Wimpy means "weak and cowardly or unadventurous", but it is also the name of a British fast food chain.
- Source: The New Oxford Dictionary of English, Wikipedia -

[ Back to The Day the World Turned Day-Glo ]


The song:
When playing You Weren't There live, Justin usually announces the song with "never ever believe what you see on TV".

A well chosen Native American expression for television.
- Source: B-Sides and Abandoned Tracks booklet -

Heart on the blooded sleeve:
To wear one's heart on one's sleeve means to "make one's feelings apparent".
- Source: The New Oxford Dictionary of English -

A little knowledge is a dangerous thing:
In his poem "An Essay on Criticism" English poet Alexander Pope (1688-1744) warns that a little knowledge is worse than no knowledge at all:

A little Learning is a dang'rous Thing;
Drink deep, or taste not the Pierian Spring:
There shallow Draughts intoxicate the Brain,
And drinking largely sobers us again.

- Read more: Project Gutenberg - Wikipedia entries on Alexander Pope and "An Essay on Criticism" -

An idea often expressed in connection with the chaos theory is that with a beat of its wing a butterfly can cause a tornado in a completely different corner of the world; i.e. a seemingly insignificant event can make a huge impact. Justin repeatedly expressed his interest in the chaos theory (and seems to refer to it in Vanity). So here in this sense "a little knowledge" would be like a butterfly's wing.
- Read more: Wikipedia -

[ Back to Deadeye | Back to R&R ]


The song:
When you're young you think that the devil is an interesting idea. When you get older you realise the devil really exists and that's not good . . .
- Source: Justin Sullivan at the Winter UK and Europe Tour in autumn 2016 -

Mirror, mirror on the wall:
In the famous German fairy tale "Snow White", a beautiful but vain and evil queen possesses a magic mirror, which she asks every morning "Mirror, mirror on the wall, who is the fairest in the land?" The mirror answers "My queen, you are the fairest in the land" untill her step daughter Snow White grows up and surpasses her in her beauty. The queen is so jealous that she decides to have Snow White killed.
- Read more: Wikipedia -

A figure from German legend, Faust, sells his soul to the devil in exchange for unlimited knowledge. This legend is famously used in Christopher Marlowe's play Doctor Faustus (1604) and in Johann Wolfgang von Goethe's play Faust (1808). Devil's Bargain and Stormclouds also refer to deals with the devil.
- Read more: Wikipedia -

There is a superstitious belief that spilling salt is an evil omen. In order to avert the evil one has to throw a pinch of the spilled salt over one's left shoulder, presumably to blind the devil lurking there.
- Source: Wikipedia -

[ Back to Devil ]

Devil's Bargain

The song:
"'Devil's Bargain' is written about a particular person".
- Source: Justin Sullivan in an interview with Chimeo -

"[It] was an unfinished BDAW [Between Dog and Wolf] song".
- Source: Justin Sullivan in an interview with The Midlands Rocks -

It takes a piece of your soul:
It is a common superstition of indigenous people like Native Americans or Australian Aborigines that being photographed takes a piece of your soul. At least it is a common superstion of western people that this is a common superstition of indigenous people.

[ Back to Devil's Bargain ]

Die Trying

The song:
'Die Trying' was almost a song that I almost tried not to write, because we've written about refugees before quite a lot. But my girlfriend lives in Fance, so I spend a lot of time going through Calais, and watch the jungle grow up and be knocked down and grow up and be knocked down and grow up and be knocked down. And it was impossible not to write the song.
- Source: Justin Sullivan interview with Rock Antenne -

The jungle at the port of Calais is a camp of refugees during the European "refugee crisis" who try to get to the UK. It has repeatedly been knocked down and rebuilt again.
- Read more: Wikipedia -

Other songs about refugees are Another Imperial Day, Higher Wall, Part the Waters, and Refugee.

Cross the water or die trying:
Many thousand refugees have died on their flight, mostly while crossing the Mediterranean Sea: the UN's refugee organisation UNHCR reports 3,771 deaths for 2015 and 3,740 from January to October 2016; Amnesty International reports more than 2,000 deaths for the first six months in 2017.
- Source: UNHCR - Amnesty International -

Fall right through the world:
This somewhat unusual phrasing might be a reference to the long fall through a rabbit hole that Alice takes at the beginning of Lewis Carroll's famous novel Alice's Adventures in Wonderland (1865). When bored and sleepy, Alice sees a white rabbit that talks and wears clothes. She follows it down its hole and ends up in a strange fantasy world.
- Read more: Gutenberg Project -

Thanks to Christian for this suggestion!

[ Back to Die Trying ]

Did You Make it Safe?

His shape:
The creature on the cover of Between Dog and Wolf has horns (or rather antlers) and spear. It is Herne the Hunter, a ghost in English folklore who after some unknown offence hanged himself in Windsor Forest. He haunts that forest, accompanied by wild huntsmen, demon hounds and other forest creatures. He is a phantom of ill omen.
- Source: Official NMA site - Read more: Wikipedia -

Probably Bradford.

Rusting Mills:
Factories, or, if this refers to Bradford, cotton mills. Thatcher de-industrialised the north of the UK (creating high unemployment and a decline of wealth), hence 'rusting'. The similar image of 'rusting cranes' is used in Over the Wire, in No Greater Love there are 'mills closing down', and in Courage in 'the mills on Whetley Lane' 'the lights went out for the very last time'.
- Source: B-Sides and Abandoned Tracks booklet -

Take you in:
Justin Sullivan seems to agree to the definition of home as the place where "they have to take you in".

[ Back to Did You Make it Safe? | Back to Echo November ]

Drag it Down

The song:
"Iconoclastic lyrics describing a society that embraced the trivial and fatuous at the expense of tradition, sentiments that hold true today . . . ."
- Source: Jason "Moose" Harris in Anthology booklet -

The times they are a-changing:
The title of a well-known song by Bob Dylan. Dylan said about this song, "I didn't mean ['The Times They Are a-Changin'] as a statement... It's a feeling", a sentiment often expressed by Justin Sullivan about his music, too.

Come gather 'round people
Wherever you roam
And admit that the waters
Around you have grown
And accept it that soon
You'll be drenched to the bone.
If your time to you
Is worth savin'
Then you better start swimmin'
Or you'll sink like a stone
For the times they are a-changin'.

Come writers and critics
Who prophesize with your pen
And keep your eyes wide
The chance won't come again
And don't speak too soon
For the wheel's still in spin
And there's no tellin' who
That it's namin'.
For the loser now
Will be later to win
For the times they are a-changin'.

Come senators, congressmen
Please heed the call
Don't stand in the doorway
Don't block up the hall
For he that gets hurt
Will be he who has stalled
There's a battle outside
And it is ragin'.
It'll soon shake your windows
And rattle your walls
For the times they are a-changin'.

Come mothers and fathers
Throughout the land
And don't criticize
What you can't understand
Your sons and your daughters
Are beyond your command
Your old road is
Rapidly agin'.
Please get out of the new one
If you can't lend your hand
For the times they are a-changin'.

The line it is drawn
The curse it is cast
The slow one now
Will later be fast
As the present now
Will later be past
The order is
Rapidly fadin'.
And the first one now
Will later be last
For the times they are a-changin'.

- Source: Bob Dylan Site - Read more: Wikipedia -

Biblical term. Derogatory for money or wealth.

[ Back to Drag it Down ]

The Dream

His hands are weak . . .:
Biblical reference: "Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak"
- Source: The Bible. Matthew, 26.41 -

[ Back to The Dream ]


The song:
This is about heart-break. So it's for all of us here, because everybody has their heart broken at some time . . .
- Source: Justin Sullivan at the Winter UK and Europe Tour in autumn 2016 -

[ Back to Drifts ]

Drummy B (Billy McCann Version)

The song:
These weren't the original lyrics which everyone liked except Justin. He decided to make it the song about Belfast that he'd been trying to write for years.
- Source: B-Sides and Abandoned Tracks booklet -

Many many years ago [in the 1970s] I used to live in Belfast, and by chance on the Protestant side. I always thought that there was a kind of hole between those people that wanted to live in the seventeenth century and those that wanted to live in the twentieth century, but as long as the IRA were operating they'd stay together. And I always thought perhaps if one day there would be an IRA ceasefire then this kind of Protestant block would start to split apart. And that's exactly what's happened. Interesting times. And now perhaps also the old fashioned republican movement is splitting, too, between those people that want to be 1916 and the people that planted the bomb the other day and those people that want to be twentieth century.
- Source: Justin Sullivan, 21/08/98, Sumpfblume, Hameln -

Belfast is, of course, the capital of Northern Ireland. Here's the history of (Northern) Ireland (incomplete and abridged):
More or less in the beginning Ireland was Celtic, until in the early Middle Ages it was converted by Catholic missionaries. Ireland formed a cultural, religious and political union. Between the 8th and 11th century Vikings came and left again and apparently did no great harm, but in the 12th century the English started to meddle with Irish affairs. In the 16th century English King Henry VIII began to subjugate Ireland completely and proclaimed himself King of Ireland. He also split from the Roman Catholic Church and founded his own, the Anglican Church, in order to get divorced or kill his wives and marry again as often as he liked. Today, the Anglican Church, a mixture of Protestant belief and Catholic ritual, is still the English state religion. Henry tried to spread his new faith in Ireland, and so several Irish rebellions took place against the English that were motivated not only politically but also religiously. The subsequent queens and kings and also Oliver Cromwell, leader of the Puritan and democratic revolution in 1648 (yes, he's that guy with the New Model Army), continued the oppressive policies against Ireland and Irish Catholics. In 1798 social misery lead to another major but unsuccessful Irish rebellion, after which the Irish parliament was abolished and the union of Great Britain and Ireland (under the name of United Kingdom) was formed. In 1829, however, the Irish nationalist movement gained a major victory and subsequently became a mass movement fighting for the repeal of the Union. The English reacted with violence, so the until then peaceful movement grew more radical. In 1905 Irish nationalist party Sinn Féin was founded. After the violent Easter Rising of 1916 Ulster, the mainly Protestant northern part of Ireland, got its own parliament, while the predominantly Catholic south became independent. In 1949 this part was finally officially proclaimed a republic. In the northern part, Northern Ireland, a violent civil war has been raging for the past eighty years, between Catholic nationalist on the one hand who want to become part of the Republic of Ireland, and Protestant unionists on the other hand who want to remain under British rule. The Irish Republican Army (IRA) is a terror organisation fighting for Northern Irish independence. Although in the 1990s the British government and the IRA agreed on ceasefires several times in order to find a political solution, and although the Northern Irish parliament has now more authority and independence, there are still outbursts of violence on both sides, and a peaceful solution of the conflict still seems to lie in the far future.
- Source: Encyclopaedia Britannica - Read more: Wikipedia entries on Belfast and History of Ireland -

Bonfires are lit by Protestants in Northern Ireland on the 11th of July to commemorate the Battle of the Boyne. This took place in 1690 between supporters of the English King James II, who was Catholic, and the Protestant William, who had claimed the throne two years earlier. William's army won, thus confirming Protestant succession to the English throne.
- Source: Wikipedia -

Billy McCann:
ither a real person or an amalgam of people Justin knew when he was living in Belfast that was on the opposite side, the other divide, in Northern Ireland.
- Source: Robert Heaton in an interview with Chris Benn in May 1997 -

Glenshane Pass:
A major mountain pass cutting through the Sperrin Mountains in Northern Ireland, that overlooks Belfast.
- Source: Wikipedia -

[ Back to Drummy B (Billy McCann Version) | Back to All of This | Back to Billy | Back to Vanity |
Back to You Weren't There

Echo November

Nature Gods:
Many religions have gods in charge of natural forces and occurences like water, vegetation, the sky, fertility or death. It is, for instance, an accepted belief in paganism, and one of the Germanic nature gods is Herne the Hunter from the Between Dog and Wolf album cover.
- Source: Wikipedia -

Basically, to me - I was brought up religious. The idea of God or the Other is entirely part of my life. It seems so obvious to me that there is a whole other level of things going on simultaneously to the material world. I don't really question it, and I don't really have to do anything about it; to me, God is nature and nature is God, and we're part of nature, therefore we're part of God. It's all one and the same, really. If I had to name what I believe, it would probably be Paganism. But I don't feel the need to join any groups, you know what I mean?
- Source: Allan MacInnis: "New Model Army: Tribal Warfare and Western Civilization. Telephone interview on May 18th, 2008 -

Echo November:
The letters E and N in the International Radiotelephony Spelling Alphabet. Also, November is the month in which Rob Heaton died
(04/11/2004). So perhaps the ghosts and remembering of the chorus refer to him. Fireworks Night is dedicated to Rob Heaton.

Wheel of fortune:
In ancient and medieval philosophy a symbol of the unpredictable nature of fate. It belongs to the goddes Fortuna. By spinning it at random she assigns fortune or misfortune to the people on the wheel.
- Read more: Wikipedia -

[ Back to Echo November | Back to Home ]

Eleven Years

It could be coincidence, because Stevie is a frequent name, but there is also a Stevie in F#NY.

Grey eyes:
The person in I Wish also has grey eyes. Joolz's eyes look grey in photos.

Eleven sweet years:
The song was released in 1990, so eleven years earlier it was 1979, a date that also appears in F#NY. Justin Sullivan met Joolz in 1979. A poet, spoken word artist, novelist, painter and lately tattooist, she became Justin's lifelong friend, managed New Model Army in their early years and has designed every single NMA record cover.

Andrew points out that 1979 was also the year that one of NMA's favourite political enemies, the conservative Margaret Thatcher, came to power.

Many thanks to Andrew!

I'm proud of you:
Chris Naylor wrote me an e-mail about this part:
"the verse is thanking joolz and saying i'm proud of you
on the thunder and consolation tour and earlier tours they played a venue in london called Brixton Academy
(it's now called O2 academy brixton)
the 10,000 footsteps is because army fans wore clogs in those days, and if my memory is intact, the capacity was 5,000 at brixton academy
therefore 10,00 footsteps. the band used to sell out the venue, and it's a nod to joolz for getting them to that stage in their career.
i used to stand outside stockwell tube station in london near the venue and hear the fans coming along the road!"

Brixton Road:
A major road in Brixton in the south of London, leading towards the city's centre.

[ Back to Eleven Years | Back to F#NY | Back to I Wish ]

Eyes Get Used to the Darkness

The Song:
Similar to Burn the Castle and Winter, this seems to be about the changes many western societies have been going through for perhaps the last ten years, where discontented people have lost faith in the established political parties and turn to more and more radical and anti-democratic forces, while the number of hate crimes rises.

"[. . .] the last line is 'And maybe out beyond the blackest storms, we'll see the furthest stars'. It's like knowing that a sort of storm's coming and kind of looking beyond it."
- Source: Justin Sullivan interview with Rock Antenne -

[ Back to Eyes Get Used to the Darkness ]

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16/11/14; last update 23/07/17