A fabulous synth intro from Mick, then a fabulous classic rock riff from Charlie.
And then….like the crashing elevator within the chorus, in comes Jim with such stilted and stark lyrics…getting straight to the point of it! It’s bleak. It’s dystopia! Industrial. Gritty. In a pea-soup fog. It’s a Lowry painting. It’s Fritz Lang’s Metropolis. (I love that film!)
But…we have a protagonist. The “man with a plan to escape”. He wants out! That’s not his future!
I hear this as semi-autobiographical. Jim was going to make damn sure, by hook or by crook, that his future did not see him in a 9-5 job, settled and married off by 21. He wanted so much more for himself than that (objective well and truly achieved, it is safe to say)!
As with the best Simple Minds songs, there is light and hope. The “black light” strikes again. These are the Minds songs I love the most. Because they carry that message of hope within them. The exterior is dark with a heavy subject matter. That opening verse and chorus are indeed, to me, like a Lowry painting. The “factory” in my mind is vivid…and obviously several floors high (it has at least one elevator after all).
“Factory / we all go out to lunch”…
There can be recurring themes in Kerr lyrics. An example: rain “Walking in the soft rain” – Someone Somewhere In Summertime. “Come/Get/Step in/out of the rain” – Waterfront. “The metal rains pour, pour, raining, raining down on me” – Premonition. “Oh I believe one great day the rain will come and wash this mess away” – Wall Of Love.
In this case, the use of the term “glittering prize” is used within the lyrics.
But…looking again. One could interpret the “man with a plan to escape” as…a plan for suicide. “A certain ratio we know has left us unaware / someone else has taken leave /someone who did care”. So, is the “plan to escape” escaping the tedium of working-class life? Or is it to TAKE one’s life?
Would Jim write something that Nihilistic? I very much doubt it. But…having started to write this, I can definitely see how some could interpret the lyrics from that angle.
Of course now it gives me the excuse of sharing one of my favourite snippets of David Bowie. He and Iggy Pop being interviewed by Dinah Shaw in 1977 (to those not familiar, Iggy’s real name is James Osterberg and he is Jim/Jimmy to his friends, hence the use of the name in the interview). David has such a wicked sense of humour. I love and miss this man so.
In summary: an industrial heart, sonically. The best of German “Krautrock” influences on and within it. And just that…Kerr gem of bringing light to the darkest of subject matter.
David Bowie…I love you, I really do. You enriched my life in so many ways that you will never know, and you are an amazingly gifted song-writer. But…I really, really love your little protege. (I hope Sir dosn’t get pissed at me for describing him so…because in fact, for me, as a song-writer, he surpassed David in my eyes long ago. Maybe not absolutely outright…but very definitely within certain elements of the craft and at certain stages in both their careers. He is certainly, most definitely on an equal parring, if not actually surpassing.)
And that is why I love Factory.