HE WAS INFAMOUS FOR FIFTEEN MINUTES AND HE APPEARED ON PANORAMA

SWC and Badger, as part of this rather wonderful ICA on Carter USM that appeared back in November 2015, made the observation that Jim Bob wrote such wonderful lyrics that he had to become an author. As ever, the dynamic duo were bang on the money, with him now being the proud author of six books, two of which are autobiographical from his time with the band, and four highly readable and enjoyable works of fiction.

Jim Bob (real name James Robert Morrison) has long been a social commentator, with his lyrics, (and in later life his novels), making all sorts of observations about the unjust world we live in. He’s enjoyed chart success covering dark matters such as racism and bullying in the British Army, alcoholism and child abuse; he’s also targeted the rich, the pompous and the pampered, and on one occasion weaving all three attributes into a none too thinly disguised attack on the pop music industry.

Twenty years ago, he came up with one of his best – a blistering attack on slum landlords and the way they exploit their poor and vulnerable tenants in sickening and despicable ways,

Sheriff Fatman started out in business as a granny farmer
He was infamous for fifteen minutes
And he appeared on Panorama
Then he somehow got on board a Starship Enterprise Allowance Scheme
With a Prince of Wales Award
For pushing valium and amphetamines

Moving Up on Second Base
With Nicholas Van what’s His Face
At six foot six
And 100 Tons
The undisputed King of the Slums
With more alias’ than Klaus Barbie
Master Butcher of Leigh on Sea
Just about to take the stage
The one and only – hold the front page

Fatman’s got something to sell
To the Capital’s homeless
A Crossroads Motel
For the No Fixed Abodeless
Where you can live life in style
If you sleep in a closet
And if you flash him a smile
He’ll take your teeth as deposit

There’s bats in the belfry
The windows are jammed
The toilet’s ain’t healthy
He don’t give a damn
Just chuckles and smiles
Laughs like a madman
A born again Rachman
Here comes Sheriff Fatman

With his valium, amphetamines
Sicknotes and his phoney prescriptions
Just when you thought it was safe to go back to the kitchen
Dead heads and cracked heads
Bunk beds and breakfasts
Wake up you sleepyheads
Check this

Moving up on second base
With Nicholas Van Whatshis face
At six foot six
And 100 tons
The undisputed King of the Slums
With more alias’ than Klaus Barbie
The Master Butcher of Leigh on Sea
Just about to take the stage
The one and only hold the front page

It’s a lyric that will, in all likelihood, make more sense to my domestic audience than those of you who reside overseas, so here’s a few wiki links to help with the background should you wish to explore:-

Panorama
Enterprise Allowance Scheme
Nicholas Van what’s His Face
Crossroads Motel
Rachman

The really frightening this is that nothing has changed in 30 years – indeed in many parts of the UK , the situation has got worse. It is estimated that more than 10,000 rogue landlords in England and Wales are collecting ridiculously high rents and offering sub-standard and cruelly inhumane conditions and the laws in place seem inadequate to prevent it happening time after time after time……

mp3 : Carter USM – Sheriff Fatman

The single was initially released in November 1989 when Carter USM were just beginning to come to the attention of an audience that went beyond the London pub circuit. It enjoyed a re-release in June 1991 and this time, despite most fans already having the song via the 101 Damnations album, it reached #23. The artwork and b-sides were the same on both the 89 and 91 releases, although they do have different catalogue numbers:-

mp3 : Carter USM – R.S.P.C.E.
mp3 : Carter USM – Twin Tub With Guitar
mp3 : Carter USM – Everybody’s Happy Nowadays

The first of the b-sides is another of the social commentary lyrics. Here in the UK, we have the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA), Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Birds (RSPCB) and the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (RSPCC). Jim Bob combines all three to invent the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Everything and has a dig at ivory poachers, factory farming and sadistic parents.

The second of the tracks is an instrumental – a genre which Carter USM were particularly adept – and takes its name from a 1981 piece of Modern Art which is most often on display in the Tate Gallery in London but is presently on loan to the Deutsche Bank Kunsthalle in Berlin.

The last on offer is a cover of the Buzzcocks single. The Carter USM version has its tongue very firmly pressed into its cheek, with the emphasis very much on life being an illusion……..

JC

5 thoughts on “HE WAS INFAMOUS FOR FIFTEEN MINUTES AND HE APPEARED ON PANORAMA

  1. Fantastic single. My Sheriff Fatman 7” is one of the hardest worked pieces of plastic this side of the door stop at Number 10. They were great at B-Sides too so good to see those get the ‘spect they deserve.

  2. I really enjoyed their early singles; buying them whenever I saw them. This one was in the Record Cell too. Not only were the A-sides ace, but I quickly learned that they had an impeccable run of B-side cover tunes which were second to none! Yet, I never bit for the albums. Back in the day I’d spend $10 for an import CD single to get the non-LP B-sides, and wait [possibly forever] for the album, which I reasoned, was less ephemeral in the marketplace. This led to lots of Julian Cope and Carter U.S.M. singles and zero albums by said sterling artists in Ye Olde Record Cell.

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