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Disney's Dream Debased

Written by:

  • Mark E Smith, Brix Smith 

Initial release:

  • Escape Route From The Wonderful and Frightening World of The Fall, Beggars Banquet, BEGC58 Cassette


  • 8 October 1984
Subsequent releases:
  • Nord -West Gas, Funf Und Vierzig (Germany) LP08 1986
  • Box One, Beggars Banquet Japan ALCB81/82/83/84; 1988
  • The Wonderful and Frightening World of The Fall, Beggars Banquet BEGC58 CD; 1988 and 1997
  • The Wonderful and Frightening World of The Fall, Beggars Banquet BBQCD2066; 25 October 2010
  • The Wonderful and Frightening World of The Fall, Beggars Banquet BBQLP2132 (LP); 15 June 2015

Group on initial recording:

  • Mark E Smith - vocals; Brix Smith - guitar;  Craig Scanlon - guitar; Steve Hanley - bass; Paul Hanley - drums; keyboards Karl Burns - drums 
First played live:

  • 21 March 1984 Edinburgh
Last played live:

  • 22 March 1986 Toronto
Number of known performances:

  • 23

"Mark got off this ride with tears in his eyes he was so frightened. This ride is a mountain, 100 ft in the air, a replica of The Matterhorn; you ride at sixty miles an hour. Ten minutes after we get off, a woman fails out of her sleigh, gets trapped and decapitated by the oncoming one. They couldn't get her out, there was fire-engines everywhere coming out of the bushes, and all these Micky Mouse characters rushing out to distract people. It took them seven hours to get the body off. Everyone was pretending nothing had happened, they were all going 'Disneyland is wonderful land'. Mark was saying, 'Whaaat??? There's a woman up there with no head on', but Micky Mouse was just laughing away. Mark thought it was like a bad trip." (Brix Smith quoted in Jamming, November 1984)

"I convinced Mark to go to Disneyland with me and my grandfather. Mark thinks he's psychic...We went on this ride called the Matterhorn...It's huge, you can see it from the freeway...it's a scary bobsled ride that goes through tunnels of the Matterhorn. We got off the ride and I swear to fucking God Mark was crying, I asked what was wronga and all he could say was that the ride was evil. I said it was ridiculous as I'd been going on it since I was eight. To calm him down I took him on the 'It's A Small World' boat ride which is the cheesiest, old-school baby ride with dolls. We're walking back from it and a rectangular shaped bush parts, and a mini-fire engine comes out, and on the back is a nurse. It drives to the Matterhorn. The whole ride gets cordoned off and people with walkie-talkies and clipboards are running everywhere, it was panic. Mark was right - something just happened on the Matterhorn. They closed the whole place down. We went home and saw the news: it was all 'death at Disneyland.' Someone had either jumped out of the Matterhorn or fell out, and was trapped and decapitated by the oncoming bobsled and it took mountain climbers, like, six hours to get the body off there. And that was Disney's Dream Debased."..."The person who died was Dolly Rigene Young. Which was even more bizarre because my nickname from my grandparents was Dolly. " (Brix Smith quoted in the booklet accompanying the re-release of The Wonderful and Frightening World of The Fall (Beggars Banquet, 2010)
A possible source for the events described in the song can be found at: http://www.snopes.com/disney/parks/deaths.asp

The following  analysis of the song first appeared in The Pseud Mag no. 4 (June/July 2005), as part of a series entitled Gladys Winthorpe's Emporium Of Particularly Underacknowledged Fall Compositions


Smith, M E: vox
Smith, B: guitar, backing vox
Burns babe, K K: percussion(?)
Hanley, S: bass
Scanlon, C: guitar
Hanley, P: drums

Why this song? Well, for me, it's a real slow burner. Previously, I'd always dismissed this song as "fluff" which spoiled the end of an otherwise excellent album. It took me over a decade to realise that it's actually a great, great song. There's quite a moving story behind the lyrics too; MES and Brix visited Disneyland in early 1984 and rode on the Matterhorn bobsleds. Ten minutes after they got off, a middle-aged woman fell out her seat during the ride and was killed after being run over by another train. Apparently, the death was followed by hordes of Disney characters descending on the crowds to preserve the illusion that all was well, although they couldn't say what had happened because they weren't allowed to talk to people whilst in costume.

I can't be sure, but I think that Paul provides the main drumming here, which would mean that Karl supplies the tambourine, audible in the left channel. I can't hear a 2nd bass or drum kit, so that's what I'm surmising. Guitar-wise, there's at least 4 different sources here: 2 playing rhythm (panned left and right), a "foreground twangy guitar" (obviously Brix's Rickenbacker, e.g. 2:01) and a "background twangy guitar" playing single notes. These notes provide the basic melodic structure that the rest of the songs hangs off. There are various trainspotter-esque moments to spot in relation to the guitar tracks: an error at 1:56 (possibly another at 1:15?), a "twiddle" at 4:50 and feedback at 1:34 and 3:41, just before it starts playing after a pause. There's also an odd bass noise at 4:58 and 2 guitar arpeggios after the song has finished - which annoy the hell out of me, for some reason - at 5:11 and 5:14.

After a single crisp snare crack to start the song off, structurally the song is a simple alternation between a verse (almost all on one note) and a chorus, which see-saws between 2 chords[1]. The former has no kick drum at all - an odd feature of several songs around this time [2] - which, with the languid harmonic nature of the music, gives a lazily drifting atmosphere to this section. There's also a single instance of the relatively brief middle section between 1:19 and 1:29. A truly lovely touch here is that the middle section is slower than the rest of the song, tying in the line "... and everything stopped". After this, there's a brief pause to regain our position (1:28) and then we relaunch into the verse-chorus structure until the end. Note the tinkling ride cymbal between 4:37 and 4:52, signifying that we are on the home straight and the song is drawing to a close.

As with "2 x 4", MES is double-tracked at times, most obviously at the word "prayed" at 2:53. Brix is double-tracked too - note the vocal harmonies[3] on the word "Disney" at 3:15. There are also some deeply buried vocals between 5:04 and 5:07.


[1] There's a single run through of the verse and chorus before MES's vox come in (0:00 - 0:32).
[2] "Pilsner Trail", "Smile", "Wings", "Kicker Conspiracy", "Eat Y'self Fitter".
[3] Now *there's* a phrase I thought I'd never type in one of these articles!



Gigs played at:

21 March 1984Nite Club, Edinburgh 
1 April 1984Effenaar, Eindhoven, The Netherlands 
6 December 1984Broadway, Leuven, Belgium 
8 December 1984Tivoli, Utrecht, The Netherlands 
9 December 1984Forum les Halles , France 
12 December 1984Salle de la CitÚ, Rennes, France 
7 March 1985Town Hall, Hammersmith, London 
26 March 1985Keystone, Palo Alto, California 
31 March 19859:30 Club, Washington, D.C.
1 April 1985Agora, Columbus, Ohio 
3 April 1985Spit, Boston, Massachussets 
4 April 1985Exit Club, Chicago, Illinois 
18 July 1985Underground, Croydon 
19 July 1985W.O.M.A.D. Festival, Mersea Island, Essex 
13 September 1985Zeche, Bochum, Germany 
15 September 1985Batschkapp, Frankfurt, Germany 
4 October 1985Queen Margaret Union, Glasgow 
7 October 1985Coasters, Edinburgh 
10 October 1985Leeds Polytechnic 
6 February 1986Coronet, Woolwich, London 
6 March 1986New Century Hall, Milwaukee, Wisconsin 
21 March 1986Lone Star Cafe, New York City 
22 March 1986Larry's Hideaway, Toronto, Canada