"Down In The Tube Station At Midnight" by The Jam - What Does It Mean?

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I'm aware it involves some type of scuffle, you know, in a tube station and all. Is is it based on a true story or racial clashing? Is the narrator Indian being attacked by skinheads? I'm aware that lots of people get "...take-away curry."

taco laser dick, Thursday, 2 September 2004 15:32 (seventeen years ago) link

The distant echo - of faraway voices boarding faraway trains
To take them home to, the ones that they love and who love them forever
The glazed, dirty steps - repeat my own and reflect my thoughts
Cold and uninviting, partially naked
Except for toffee wrapers and this morning's paper
Mr. Jones got run down
Headlines of death and sorrow - they tell of tomorrow
Madmen on the rampage
And I'm down in the tube station at midnight

I fumble for change - and pull out the Queen
Smiling, beguiling
I put in the money and pull out a plum, Behind me
Whispers in the shadows - gruff blazing voices, Hating, waiting
"Hey boy" they shout - "have you got any money?"
And I said - "I've a little money and a take away curry,
I'm on my way home to my wife.
She'll be lining up the cutlery,
You know she's expecting me
Polishing the glasses and pulling out the cork"
And I'm down in the tube station at midnight

I first felt a fist, and then a kick
I could now smell their breath
They smelt of pubs and Wormwood Scrubs
And too many right wing meetings
My life swam around me
It took a look and drowned me in its own existence
The smell of brown leather
It blended in with the weather
It filled my eyes, ears, nose and mouth
It blocked all my senses
Couldn't see, hear, speak any longer
And I'm down in the tube station at midnight
I said I was down in the tube station at midnight

The last thing that I saw, As I lay there on the floor
Was "Jesus Saves" painted by an atheist nutter
And a British Rail poster read "Have an Awayday - a cheap holiday
Do it today!"
I glanced back on my life
And thought about my wife
'Cause they took the keys - and she'll think it's me
And I'm down in the tube station at midnight
The wine will be flat and the curry's gone cold
I'm down in the tube station at midnight
Don't want to go down in a tube station at midnight


scott seward (scott seward), Thursday, 2 September 2004 15:46 (seventeen years ago) link

I always thought this song was quite straightforward. Then ILE confused matters, typically:


I heard 'Down In The Tube Station At Midnight' by The Jam for the first time in years the other day, and was horrified to find that I could sing along to all the lyrics. It also occured to me for the first time ever that if our narrator IS down in the tube station at midnight, isn't it a bit strange for his wife to be "lining up the cutlery, polishing the glasses and pulling out the cork" at that late hour?

-- Andrew L (andrewlittlefiel...), February 1st, 2002 1:00 AM.

Also why on earth has he decided to go to a pub a half hour away from the tube?

-- Tom (ebro...), February 1st, 2002 1:00 AM.

achy breaky heart. I would hang my head but then I realised that I have no shame

-- Menelaus Darcy (andje83...), February 1st, 2002 1:00 AM.

Also why on earth has he decided to go to a pub a half hour away from the tube?

Not really, he could have been meeting friends in south east London.

-- N. (nickdastoo...), February 1st, 2002 1:00 AM.

Also why on earth has he decided to go to a pub a half hour away from the tube?

Because he is Paul Weller = because he is a thicko.

-- Nicole (ndwillet...), February 1st, 2002 1:00 AM.

where are you love?

I'm in the glovebox...

-- goeff (effexxo...), February 1st, 2002 1:00 AM.

Is it possible he is at the destination station, rather than the embarking one, as Tom assumes? The only thing that makes me think not is that he's faffing around buying plums in vending machines, which he surely wouldn't be doing if he was almost home and worrried about his curry going cold.

-- N. (nickdastoo...), February 1st, 2002 1:00 AM.

Did tube stations at any point have plum vending machines?

-- Tom (ebro...), February 1st, 2002 1:00 AM.

I don't know. This part puzzles me.

-- N. (nickdastoo...), February 1st, 2002 1:00 AM.

it would have been even longer than half an hour too. back in the day were not last orders EVEN EARLIER!

-- Alan Trewartha (alantrewarth...), February 1st, 2002 1:00 AM.

Maybe he did that thing where you fall asleep on the tube and end up going all the way to the end of the line and then have to come back again? I of course have never done this but know people who have snoozed past Finsbury Park, ended up in Walthamstow and gone bouncing backwards and forwards on the Victoria line for much of the night.

-- Emma (emmaluvscak...), February 1st, 2002 1:00 AM.

Hang on a minute. I've just realised that at no point in the song does he even say he has been to the pub. Tom has just projected his own life onto Weller's protagonist. He's probably just been working really late at the office. No, hang on, this is the 1970s and that kind of thing didn't happen. OK, he's been shagging his secretary in some grotty hotel room.

-- N. (nickdastoo...), February 1st, 2002 1:00 AM.

Now you are projecting YOUR life onto the song, N..

-- Edna Welthorpe, Mrs (edna_welthorp...), February 1st, 2002 1:00 AM.

un mundo ideal, un mundo identicoooo, un mundo para ti, para los dos...

-- goeff (effexxo...), February 1st, 2002 1:00 AM.

re: weller's plum. allegedly this refers to a bar of cadury's chocolate (you know that deep blue foil they have). this is the best theory google could find me.

Startlingly this came from an essay about a longpigs song. oh dear.

-- Alan Trewartha (alantrewarth...), February 1st, 2002 1:00 AM.

Where's Lucy when you need her? I need her to tell me if this is a genuine piece of Woking slang. I suspect not.

-- N. (nickdastoo...), February 1st, 2002 1:00 AM.

Glasgow N. that's where.

-- chris (cbrown...), February 1st, 2002 1:00 AM.

IT WAS A RHETORICAL QUESTION YOU FOOL

-- N. (nickdastoo...), February 1st, 2002 1:00 AM.

Not only that but he is wrrying about the wine going flat = Champagne socialist!!! I have you twigged Mr "man O' the People" Weller.

-- Pete (pb1...), February 1st, 2002 1:00 AM.

Alba (Alba), Thursday, 2 September 2004 15:54 (seventeen years ago) link

wow, ilm used to be so Londonish. come back you bloody bleeding brilliant bleeders.

Fritz Wollner (Fritz), Thursday, 2 September 2004 16:26 (seventeen years ago) link

Yes, all of that is very well, but has anybody read into the racial connotations? I was thinking it was taken from a newspaper article current at the time or something.

taco laser dick, Thursday, 2 September 2004 16:34 (seventeen years ago) link

I didn't think of the racial connotations, but I suppose it's plausible. National Front thugs were beating up all sorts of people around that time, and yeah, everyone eats curries so I wouldn't say he definitely wrote it as a song about an Asian man.

Alba (Alba), Thursday, 2 September 2004 16:37 (seventeen years ago) link

Also, if he had intended it that way, I would have expected Weller to sing the whole song in a comedy Indian accent.

Alba (Alba), Thursday, 2 September 2004 16:42 (seventeen years ago) link

Surely an Asian man would be less likely to buy a take-away curry than Paul Weller?

Ally C (Ally C), Thursday, 2 September 2004 16:47 (seventeen years ago) link

Yes, I was going to suggest that.

Alba (Alba), Thursday, 2 September 2004 16:50 (seventeen years ago) link

Given the controversial plum line, perhaps the Little Jack Horner reference is more important than I had previously assumed.

Apparently, the real Little Jack Horner was anything but a good boy. The Bishop of Glastonbury had sent his steward, Jack Horner, to Henry VIII with a Christmas gift - a pie in which were hidden the title deeds to twelve manorial estates. On his way to the king, Jack popped open the pie and stole the deed to the Manor of Mells, a real plum of an estate. To this day the Horner family resides there.

So maybe if the narrator is a 70s era Jack Horner (perhaps even a descendent?), we have been on the wrong side all along. Let them duff the rotter in.

Alba (Alba), Thursday, 2 September 2004 16:56 (seventeen years ago) link

I am confused as to why an "atheist nutter" would paint "Jesus saves" on a wall. Sarcasm?

Jerry the Nipper (Jerrynipper), Thursday, 2 September 2004 17:04 (seventeen years ago) link

I don't know of Weller's religious beliefs at the time - if they were as flip-floppy as his political ones, then maybe he was just confused.

Actually, my best guess is that he was implying the God Squad aren't really believers in a true god at all. Either that or he was just painting a Dylan-esquely surreal portrait of the madness of the times.

Alba (Alba), Thursday, 2 September 2004 17:07 (seventeen years ago) link

What sort of weirdo drinks champagne/sparkling wine with curry anyway? I know this was the 1970s - but even so, this is a hideous combination. And who in their right mind would uncork something fizzy before their partner has even stepped through the door? And if they're posh enough to be drinking sparkling wine with their curry, then wouldn't they have a microwave with which to warm up the curry?

And how does the victim place the odour of his attackers specifically as coming from Wormwood Scrubs, rather than any other correctional institute? Besides, in order for his attackers to actually SMELL of the place, they would either have to be off-duty prison officers, or fellow inmates who had just been released together that day - before going to the pub (or rather "pubs") to celebrate, and also before showering and changing (which would have removed the odour of the Scrubs).

And what's this about smelling of "too many" right-wing meetings? Because this implies that actually, there is a certain acceptable quota of right-wing meetings that one might reasonably attend, before a) becoming fatally morally compromised and b) developing a distinctive "right wing" odour.

Sorry, but I've been stewing about this for YEARS.

mike t-diva (mike t-diva), Thursday, 2 September 2004 18:27 (seventeen years ago) link

This thread has made me smile.

Alex in NYC (vassifer), Thursday, 2 September 2004 19:04 (seventeen years ago) link

And how does the victim place the odour of his attackers specifically as coming from Wormwood Scrubs, rather than any other correctional institute?

Because it rhymes with "pubs."

mike a, Thursday, 2 September 2004 19:21 (seventeen years ago) link

isn't it a bit strange for his wife to be "lining up the cutlery, polishing the glasses and pulling out the cork" at that late hour?

The only plausible reason I can think of for this is that the narrator is an observant Jew and he's heading home for Shabbat dinner (which doesn't start until after sundown, which would place this scenario around early summer). That would explain the wine as well...but still, that would place dinner no later than 9:30 pm or so.

(It would have to be Kosher curry takeaway in this scenario.)

mike a, Thursday, 2 September 2004 19:25 (seventeen years ago) link

The narrator of the song is a character, a middle class white collar quiet life regular guy sorta thing. He's reading scraps of newspaper in the first verse about "madmen on the rampage", and when he's attacked he assumes it's these same madmen he read about: guys from Wormwood Scrubs and right wing meetings. They probably smell bad, and since he probably hasn't had much experience with these types, he figures that's what it smells like in those places. The words aren't gospel truth, just this guy's somewhat exciteable imagination. It's just like one of those "atheist nutters" he's heard about to scrawl "Jesus Saves" on a subway wall.

And if that doesn't do it for you, remember that by the last verse he's suffered quite a few blows to the head, and may not be thinking straight.

Also, the lyrics never say it's bubbly. The wife could be pulling the cork off some cheap jug for all we know. Maybe that works better with the curry, I'm no culinary expert.

ccconor, Thursday, 2 September 2004 19:25 (seventeen years ago) link

You think that they actually, literally SMELL like the place?

roxymuzak (roxymuzak), Thursday, 2 September 2004 19:26 (seventeen years ago) link

that was lots of xposts.

roxymuzak (roxymuzak), Thursday, 2 September 2004 19:27 (seventeen years ago) link

It could be fizzy wine? Perhaps a sparkiling shiraz?

the music mole (colin s barrow), Thursday, 2 September 2004 20:15 (seventeen years ago) link

Mike - microwave?? This is the 70s. They were largely the preserve of the catering industry at that time, in the UK at least.

Also, the lyrics never say it's bubbly.

One would assume it was once from the line "The wine will be flat and the curry's gone cold".

I suppose he could just be generally moaning that his wife will have bought unsparkling wine again.

Alba (Alba), Thursday, 2 September 2004 20:39 (seventeen years ago) link

and cold curries. That would be a raita and... what other cold curries are there?

the music mole (colin s barrow), Thursday, 2 September 2004 20:43 (seventeen years ago) link

the curry's cold because it's been lying next to his unconscious body since midnight.

sexyDancer, Thursday, 2 September 2004 20:50 (seventeen years ago) link

It's a fucking riduculous idea to be taking home curries on the Tube anyway. Hasn't he seen those signs about no smelly food?

Alba (Alba), Thursday, 2 September 2004 20:57 (seventeen years ago) link

Maybe that's why he got beat down.

sexyDancer, Thursday, 2 September 2004 20:57 (seventeen years ago) link

Hang on - I suddenly understand the whole thing! He hasn't been on a tube at all - he's just popped out for a take away and used the underground station subway as a short cut. That's why it's only a distant echo of trains.

Alba (Alba), Thursday, 2 September 2004 20:59 (seventeen years ago) link

Maybe the plum is on a fruit machine. But then what tube stations have fruit machines?

Billy Dods (Billy Dods), Thursday, 2 September 2004 21:00 (seventeen years ago) link

OK, that explains everything except the plum vending mystery.

Alba (Alba), Thursday, 2 September 2004 21:00 (seventeen years ago) link

I don't know. It was the 70s. Things were weird.

Alba (Alba), Thursday, 2 September 2004 21:01 (seventeen years ago) link

The curry would've got cold long before he arrived home. This is midnight in London! I hope they have a microwave. Not that it matters now.

the music mole (colin s barrow), Thursday, 2 September 2004 21:06 (seventeen years ago) link

There's no sodding microwave. Why won't you listen to me?

I'm bored with this whole stupid thing.

Alba (Alba), Thursday, 2 September 2004 21:07 (seventeen years ago) link

Could have been worse - he could have been attempting to unobtrusively chaperone a fish supper onto the night bus.

Neil Willett (Neil Willett), Thursday, 2 September 2004 21:12 (seventeen years ago) link

not only is the narrator from india or pakistan, he NEVER RE-SET HIS WATCH after he moved to london. so it's in fact 7 pm as he steps on the train on his way home to his dinner of curry and uncorked wine, but his watch says midnight. this shows weller's amazing eye for the kind of detail that most songwriters overlook.

fact checking cuz (fcc), Thursday, 2 September 2004 21:13 (seventeen years ago) link

he could have been attempting to unobtrusively chaperone a fish supper onto the night bus

Hahahahahahahahahahaha

Alex in NYC (vassifer), Thursday, 2 September 2004 21:16 (seventeen years ago) link

it seems crazy that the wife buys the wine and he buys the curry, the other way round wld make much more sense

wellah, Thursday, 2 September 2004 21:18 (seventeen years ago) link

Yes, and why did dhe uncork the wine before he got home? It's fizzy wine or sparkiling chardonnay remember. Not only should it not be allowed to breathe - she will probably require his help to uncork it. Well they've both really stuffed up their dinner haven't they?

the music mole (colin s barrow), Thursday, 2 September 2004 21:22 (seventeen years ago) link

"Did tube stations at any point have plum vending machines? "

Could just be me, but I thought 'pulling out a plum' was a term used for pulling your finger/thumb out of its socket so it cracks (like cracking your knuckles).

Chris W, Thursday, 2 September 2004 21:24 (seventeen years ago) link

Mike - microwave?? This is the 70s. They were largely the preserve of the catering industry at that time, in the UK at least.

Actually actually actually, my stepmother took possession of our first microwave in 1976 - a full two years before the release of this single. The point stands.

Besides which, re-heated curry tastes every bit as good as the original. He had better things to think about at this difficult time.

mike t-diva (mike t-diva), Thursday, 2 September 2004 22:45 (seventeen years ago) link

this thread is a joy.

lauren (laurenp), Friday, 3 September 2004 02:04 (seventeen years ago) link

I'm wondering why the guy would be buying either a fruit, or a cadbury chocolate bar, and snacking right before dinner?

Queen Electric Butt Prober BZZT!! BZZZZZT!! (Queen Electric Butt Prober BZZ), Friday, 3 September 2004 02:31 (seventeen years ago) link

Men do that in Britain. I read once that Tesco's pork pies were selling well even though no household was reporting buying them. The asnwer was that men were going shopping with the wife's list, having a crafty pork pie, then coming home with all the shopping pretending nothing had happened. The wife then fills in the Tesco survey, unaware of the crafty pork pie their spouse eats every week.

See, this guy's bought a chocolate bar (the 'plum' reference is just young-man cleverness - a Zadiesmithism if you will -after all Paul Weller was, what, 18 years old when he wrote this song? He's showing off his literary skills and stretching meaning as a consequence) to have on the way home. His wife will never know. It's like pissing in the sink.

During the day he's probably had a few toffees as well. Hence the wrappers.

the music mole (colin s barrow), Friday, 3 September 2004 03:08 (seventeen years ago) link

Is it possible that his assailants were only moved to violence by his possibly irrelevant references to [1] cutlery, [2] glasses, [3] the cork, or [4] a combination of two or more of [1] to [3]?

Not that we should blame the victim or anything.

Neil Willett (Neil Willett), Friday, 3 September 2004 04:36 (seventeen years ago) link

He was a spotty English dickhead chewing toffees, buying a candy bar, putting off seeing his poor wife. She was a cold curry cuckold.

the music mole (colin s barrow), Friday, 3 September 2004 04:49 (seventeen years ago) link

It's actually a parable about the consequences of delaying dinner too long.

the music mole (colin s barrow), Friday, 3 September 2004 04:53 (seventeen years ago) link

To rephrase: BLAME THE VICTIM! BLAME THE VICTIM!

These poor people with nothing better to do than frequent tube stations at midnight (and - earlier in the evening, perhaps - attend excessive quantities of right-wing meetings with special smells) were DRIVEN to violence by "the victim's" incessant chatter about place-settings.

Neil Willett (Neil Willett), Friday, 3 September 2004 05:06 (seventeen years ago) link

Toffee chewing wanker, stinking out the train with his cold curry.

the music mole (colin s barrow), Friday, 3 September 2004 05:09 (seventeen years ago) link

Alba's theory upthread is fucking genius and I'm apalled I never thought of it earlier. He clearly lives far enough out for the train to be overground, and the tube station subway is the only way to cross the rail line. It's taken a bit longer to pick up the takeaway than he thought, and he's got a bit peckish and is buying chocolate (as someone says upthread, 'plum' is Cadbury's purple tinfoil) on the way back.

It's just the story of a random mugging, perhaps one with a little Daily Mail-esque opinion of 'Youth Thugs Today'. Weller was a Conservative at the time, so he may well have been reading the Daily Mail.

aldo_cowpat (aldo_cowpat), Friday, 3 September 2004 07:24 (seventeen years ago) link

but there is no tube in Woking?

maybe he was in Dollis Hill, wherethe tube station indeed provides a handy cut through

Porkpie (porkpie), Friday, 3 September 2004 07:43 (seventeen years ago) link

**The asnwer was that men were going shopping with the wife's list, having a crafty pork pie, then coming home with all the shopping pretending nothing had happened**

I DO THIS.

Dr. C (Dr. C), Friday, 3 September 2004 09:12 (seventeen years ago) link

Wow!!!

Gerrit, Friday, 3 September 2004 12:49 (seventeen years ago) link

Or indeed a state of Oedipal crisis - does he believe that his own wife is "expecting" him as she would "expect" a child?

Harthill Services (Neil Willett), Wednesday, 14 December 2005 23:14 (sixteen years ago) link

Yes, it's becoming clear now - the song is actually about fear of the female reproductive system. Driven by castration anxiety (for what purpose does his wife / mother "line up the cutlery"?), he assumes a nightmarish foetal identity (as well as a foetal position).

He doesn't want to go "down in the tube station" - the birth canal?

His horror of being unmanned before, or enclosed within, the female body is matched only by his terror of the gynaecologists and obstetricians - probably women, too - who heckle and harass him within the womb ("hey boy"); particularly those in private practice ("have you got any money"), and whom he metaphorically depicts as a gang of male muggers (their *surgical* scrubs being translated into "*Wormwood* Scrubs").

Harthill Services (Neil Willett), Thursday, 15 December 2005 00:24 (sixteen years ago) link

The male muggers incorporate an unacceptable unconscious wish to be violated by a male figure, in my view, as a punishment for self-abuse (the vending machine is clearly a metaphor for masturbation - pull out a plum indeed). It's quite a homoerotic song. The desire to be beaten by a male is an unconscious wish to expiate guilt, while, characteristically, incorporating the unacceptable wish - actual passive violation - within the punishment itself. It's worth noting at this point that 'curry' is English vernacular - 'give it some curry' means 'shove it really hard'.

moley (moley), Thursday, 15 December 2005 01:08 (sixteen years ago) link

one year passes...

I think what's been missed here is that the term "right-wing" in the line "too many right-wing meetings" is undefined.

We have to remember that this song was recorded in the General Election year of 1979. Therefore, a lot of active Conservative parliamentary groups would have been meeting frequently to plan Mrs. Thatcher's election campaign.

I therefore suspect that the assailants, rather than being National Front, are tired, irrascible members of the Conservative Backbench 1922 Committee, who are letting out the frustrations of endless meetings on polling strategies, tax-and-spend policies, anti-union laws etc. by beating up a harmless passer by.

The tragedy is that if Weller had been less coy about identifying these assailants, the resulting scandal might have fatally damaged the Tory election campaign, with the possibility of us being spared the predations of monetary economics.

To conclude: It's because of that cunt Weller we no longer have a steel industry.

PhilK, Saturday, 15 September 2007 14:05 (fourteen years ago) link

Appendix 4 is now written!

Mark G, Sunday, 16 September 2007 21:09 (fourteen years ago) link

seven months pass...

This thread cheers me up like nothing else. it's got to the stage where i giggle when i see Weller records in used bins

sonofstan, Thursday, 8 May 2008 23:11 (fourteen years ago) link

four weeks pass...

The all-enclosing womb metaphorised as 'the tube' - the sense of entrapment by and within the smothering female - I think we have hardly touched upon this matter.

moley, Friday, 6 June 2008 00:14 (fourteen years ago) link

New People!

This is the ""Down In The Tube Station At Midnight" by The Jam - What Does It Mean?" thread.

Read All, and smile.

Mark G, Friday, 6 June 2008 09:39 (fourteen years ago) link

four months pass...

Revive! I've just done a phone interview with Bruce Foxton, during the course of which I took him to task about some of the more troubling lines.

He has no idea what Weller meant by "I pulled out a plum", and has been puzzling over it for years.

The maximum quota of right wing meetings that one might reasonably attend before picking up their distinctive odour: "Not even one."

And he thinks that the wine might have been a Lambrusco. (He tried palming me off with the "flat" = "stale" argument, but I persisted.)

I hope this helps.

mike t-diva, Tuesday, 21 October 2008 11:50 (thirteen years ago) link

this thread! holy shitbags what a joy.

CharlieNo4, Tuesday, 21 October 2008 12:15 (thirteen years ago) link

but he pulls out a plum "behind me" when he's put the coin in the machine, which is presumably in front of him?

Dr X O'Skeleton, Tuesday, 21 October 2008 15:01 (thirteen years ago) link

No, it's his assailants who are behind him, not the plum

Ich Ber ein Binliner (Tom D.), Tuesday, 21 October 2008 15:03 (thirteen years ago) link

I always thought the line was "too many right wing beatings", not meetings.

Joe the C.R.E.E.P. Operative (Rock Hardy), Tuesday, 21 October 2008 15:27 (thirteen years ago) link

No, it's his assailants who are behind him, not the plum

― Ich Ber ein Binliner (Tom D.), Tuesday, 21 October 2008 16:03 (44 minutes ago)

That's not how it sounds on the record. It's all very well be clever with the commas on the lyric sheet Mr Weller.
I've always puzzled about where that plum got pulled from myself
it was a troubling part of my youth

Dr X O'Skeleton, Tuesday, 21 October 2008 15:51 (thirteen years ago) link

Best thread ever.

Chewshabadoo, Tuesday, 21 October 2008 22:41 (thirteen years ago) link

Once we're done with this thread, I think Oasis's 'Wonderwall' could use some of our expert analysis too.

moley, Tuesday, 21 October 2008 23:10 (thirteen years ago) link

one month passes...

OK, so let's give Bruce Foxton the right of reply here:

http://troubled-diva.com/brucetube.mp3

I did my best!

mike t-diva, Friday, 5 December 2008 17:16 (thirteen years ago) link

^^^
Bumping this for the office workers.

mike t-diva, Monday, 8 December 2008 13:11 (thirteen years ago) link

Good effort!

Chewshabadoo, Monday, 8 December 2008 15:57 (thirteen years ago) link

three months pass...

Hurrah! No one can even MENTION it now without reference to this thread! =

http://www.guardian.co.uk/music/table/2009/mar/16/people-and-places-1000-songs-everyone-must-hear

Though it seems straightforward enough, the lyric of Down in the Tube Station at Midnight has provoked a memorably tortuous thread on music-geek discussion site I Love Music. Ostensibly the tale of a man beaten up on the way home to his wife, it does pose some curious questions. His assailants apparently smell of “too many right-wing meetings” (begging the question, how many is acceptable?). For that matter: why is our hero transporting a curry on the tube in the first place? And would his wife really be laying the table and uncorking the wine in expectation? Whatever, it’s textbook punk-era Weller: a deftly observed, quietly shocking suburban vignette. MH

piscesx, Monday, 16 March 2009 18:28 (thirteen years ago) link

Hurrah! No one can even MENTION it now withiut reference to this thread! =

http://www.guardian.co.uk/music/table/2009/mar/16/people-and-places-1000-songs-everyone-must-hear

Though it seems straightforward enough, the lyric of Down in the Tube Station at Midnight has provoked a memorably tortuous thread on music-geek discussion site I Love Music. Ostensibly the tale of a man beaten up on the way home to his wife, it does pose some curious questions. His assailants apparently smell of “too many right-wing meetings” (begging the question, how many is acceptable?). For that matter: why is our hero transporting a curry on the tube in the first place? And would his wife really be laying the table and uncorking the wine in expectation? Whatever, it’s textbook punk-era Weller: a deftly observed, quietly shocking suburban vignette. MH

piscesx, Monday, 16 March 2009 18:28 (thirteen years ago) link

Enshrined forever. As it should be.

Ned Raggett, Monday, 16 March 2009 18:30 (thirteen years ago) link

Now I want to hear that vocalese "So What" by Eddie Jefferson that's listed right below on that link.

moe greene dolphin street (James Redd and the Blecchs), Monday, 16 March 2009 18:36 (thirteen years ago) link

oh i said that twice. hm soz.

piscesx, Monday, 16 March 2009 18:36 (thirteen years ago) link

eleven months pass...

Perhaps clues can be found in another of Weller's songs, Mr Clean. Look at the evidence in the lyrics.

Daylights dawns, you wake up and yawn - Mr. Clean
A piece of toast from the one you love most - and you leave
You get the bus in the 8 o'clock rush,
And catch the train in the morning rain
Mr. Clean - Mr. Clean
If you see me in the street - look away
Cause I don't ever want to catch you looking at me - Mr. Clean
Cause I hate you and your wife
And if I get the chance I'll fuck up your life
Mr. Clean - etc. -
IS THAT SEEN!
Surround yourself with dreams, of pretty young
girls, and anyone you want, but -
please don't forget me or any of my kind
cause I'll make you think again
When I stick your face in the grind -
Getting pissed at the annual office do -
Smart blue suit and you went to Cambridge too -
You miss page 3, but the Times is right for you -
And mum and dad are very proud of you -
Mr. Clean - etc.

It could be Mr Clean himself lying battered in the Tube station. Did Paul Weller catch up with him and give him the promised kicking and stick Mr Clean's face in the Grind? Paul is able to see the result of this somewhat class-based hatred as well as the anticipation of it.

Proger, Tuesday, 23 February 2010 12:22 (twelve years ago) link

first time seeing this thread, crying with laughter, well done all

Jamie_ATP, Tuesday, 23 February 2010 12:39 (twelve years ago) link

To retread some old ground re the too many right wings odour, I wonder if a visual representation helps? See: http://crappygraphs.com/user_graphs/?id=5443

mweller, Thursday, 4 March 2010 15:38 (twelve years ago) link

Previous posters have assumed that "they took the keys and she'll think it's me" means that the thugs will use his keys to get into his home.

My interpretation is that he will get home very late and will have to wake his wife up to let him in. He will say that he had his keys stolen but she will think that it is him who lost them.

PS Who is this Paul Weller you all speak of?

woodleywise, Thursday, 4 March 2010 16:02 (twelve years ago) link

Is mweller any relation?

woodleywise, Friday, 5 March 2010 10:25 (twelve years ago) link

two years pass...

deserves a bump, as every time i hear this now i can't stop laughing

Jamie_ATP, Thursday, 30 August 2012 11:37 (nine years ago) link

People, check the Uncut Weller special, specifically the page where they review "All Mod Cons", you may find some parts you recognise...

Mark G, Tuesday, 4 September 2012 20:34 (nine years ago) link

..

Mark G, Wednesday, 5 September 2012 13:30 (nine years ago) link

Do tell.

Ned Raggett, Wednesday, 5 September 2012 16:38 (nine years ago) link

four years pass...

this thread is all-time

Odysseus, Thursday, 9 February 2017 16:07 (five years ago) link

There was Throbbing Gristle song about Genesis P-Orridge getting beaten up down in a tube station (hour not specified) that I'm certain Paul Weller never heard before writing this.

Eats like Elvis, shits like De Niro (Tom D.), Thursday, 9 February 2017 16:17 (five years ago) link

five years pass...

https://pbs.twimg.com/media/FU0OC8IWYAEuYB5?format=jpg

piscesx, Thursday, 9 June 2022 17:20 (three weeks ago) link

I've been spinning this song for 40 years, and now I don't feel like I've ever heard it at all.

immodesty blaise (jimbeaux), Thursday, 9 June 2022 22:17 (three weeks ago) link

The morning paper is probably the NME or Sounds. Weller was a teenager and would be oblivious to the normal tabloids (cf. It was Foxton, a few years older, who composed "News of the World"). This part of the song references the biggest news story for mods that year - Keith Moon's death ("headlines of death and sorrow") and the poor reception that Kenney Jones received as his replacement in The Who ("Mr Jones got run down").

everything, Friday, 10 June 2022 08:30 (three weeks ago) link

I've found the transcript of my interview with Bruce Foxton in 2008, which concludes thusly:

That’s all my main questions, but I have got a couple of cheeky extras for you, because I can’t resist the opportunity to take you to task over some of the lyrics of Down In The Tube Station At Midnight. It is one of your greatest songs, and I know you didn’t write it, but I’ve always found some of the lyrics a bit puzzling.

Firstly, there’s the moment when the man in the song uses a vending machine, and the line goes “I put in the money and pull out a plum”. Now, even in 1978, I don’t remember seeing vending machines that sold fresh fruit. Was that a metaphor?

(Laughs) You’ve got me there! I think you’d best ask Paul about that. That’s one that has bemused me for a while.

And then we meet his assailants, who “smelt of pubs and Wormwood Scrubs and too many right wing meetings”. What is the maximum quota of right wing meetings that you might reasonably attend, before being tainted by their characteristic odour?

Well, I wouldn’t want to go to one! They were cheeky questions, you’re right.

And right at the end of the end of the song, when he’s lying semi-conscious on the platform, he says “the wine will be flat and the curry’s gone cold”. Now then, sparkling wine with curry? These people were fancy.

Now, I can answer that one. It could go off, couldn’t it? I’m not sure what wine he was drinking, but it may have been a Lambrusco or something. (Laughs)

She would have done better to have left the cork in until he got home – but thanks for clearing that up.

You’ve made me think about those other couple. I’ll put my thinking cap on. But it was a pleasure, anyway.

mike t-diva, Friday, 10 June 2022 10:29 (three weeks ago) link

Do remember vending machines on tube station platforms but can't remember exact contents. Fruit being left in a vending machine would tend towards rotten fruit and a spread of mildew anyway. Might be something you might find on teh continent with adequate technology etc but not in dear old blighty.

https://i.pinimg.com/originals/41/8c/0a/418c0aa98772339b08fe5c399439531d.jpg
I thought of this but grape doesn't rhyme as well as plum and so on. But did remember a purplish fruit on the packaging.

& isn't plum a lift from Little Jack Horner or something?

Stevolende, Friday, 10 June 2022 10:41 (three weeks ago) link

Right, see, Woking Station has a stinky, pissy underpass and if you come through it from the south and walk a few yards up Broadway, there's an Indian restaurant which used to (still does?) have as its unique selling point CURRIES AT 1978 PRICES, 1978 being the year it opened, so that's about £4.50 then.

need to know if this place is still going

J Edgar Noothgrush (Joan Crawford Loves Chachi), Friday, 10 June 2022 10:55 (three weeks ago) link

'It's a muddle ok palimpsest if you like' makes most sense to me: weller wants to write a song about getting mugged in a tube station but all the concrete details come from Woking experience - he's remembering picking up a curry and cutting through the station; he's trying to re-imagine it as a tube journey, so he adds in the ticket machine which dispenses a 'plum' - plausibly a 70s dark pink cheap day train return to London from Woking, because that's the ticket he's most used to seeing. (I can find period examples on eBay from Guildford that could plausibly be 'plums').

The sneaky chocolate bar hypothesis is very appealing, but I suspect he's just picturing the wrong kind of ticket.

no idea about that wine though

woof, Friday, 10 June 2022 11:09 (three weeks ago) link

Weller can be pretty Bernard Sumneresque when it comes to lyric writing, pulling out any old rubbish just because it rhymes. There's that line in Paris Match "As I tread the boulevard floor, will I see you once more"... Tread the boulevard floor???

Zelda Zonk, Friday, 10 June 2022 11:35 (three weeks ago) link

the entire curry discourse comes from a speech whose sole purpose is to save him from a mugging = nothing in that entire quotation need to be taken as truthful (the curry does not exist, it is a feint, his wife's supposed activities are invented to make him seem harmless and likeable and not worth a mugger's energies)

his return to the curry and win all post-beating is thus to be read as a crestfallen and ironic analysis of the failure of this speech to do the work intended: hence "the curry is cold" means "my spur-of-the-moment invention failed and curdled bcz i was set upon anyway, thus all aesthetic endeavour" [swoons, dies*]

as for plum: it's a metaphor entirely interrupted by the arrival of the crime - he pulls out a "queen" (= smiling, beguiling) and then a "plum" (= characterisation never arrives), there's a rhythm to the figure (one metaphor followed by another) but his happily inept and self-absorbed attempted poetics is smashed to pieces by harsh hateful reality and we never learn how effective his metaleptic device was going to be: thus all art (good or bad) in the face of implacable violence

*more metaphor maybe

in conclusion the gang is basically saying "tear him for his bad verses" (shakespeare) and the tragedy is that we never discover if they're right abt how bad they are

mark s, Friday, 10 June 2022 11:49 (three weeks ago) link

ADDING
the implied and hoped-for response to thumb-pulling out a plum is the audience affirming the plum-puller's judgment: "what a good boy am i!" but THIS audience is impatient to teach him another response and while doing deny him even the complacent completion of his literary performance

mark s, Friday, 10 June 2022 11:57 (three weeks ago) link

There was Throbbing Gristle song about Genesis P-Orridge getting beaten up down in a tube station (hour not specified) that I'm certain Paul Weller never heard before writing this.

― Eats like Elvis, shits like De Niro (Tom D.), Thursday, February 9, 2017 4:17 PM (five years ago) bookmarkflaglink

1977! Jubilee! There's a lot of stuff in the lyric about Prince Philip doing unspeakable things to the Queen.

Doodles Diamond (Tom D.), Friday, 10 June 2022 12:01 (three weeks ago) link

so maybe the urban dictionary defn of "pulled out a plum" helps expand on the unspeakability here

mark s, Friday, 10 June 2022 12:13 (three weeks ago) link

Did he conclude that he was a good boy?

immodesty blaise (jimbeaux), Friday, 10 June 2022 15:50 (three weeks ago) link

"wine flat curry cold boy not so good" is his sad conclusion IMO

mark s, Friday, 10 June 2022 15:55 (three weeks ago) link

David Quantick's regular page in Record Collector, dated July 2022

Just sayin...

Mark G, Friday, 17 June 2022 07:30 (two weeks ago) link


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