Dumb Waiters

Album: Talk Talk Talk (1981)
Charted: 59
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Songfacts®:

  • A dumb waiter is a small elevator often used by restaurants to transport food from the kitchen to the serving area. It could also refer to a waiter with low intelligence.

    The phrase doesn't show up in the lyrics, which are written from the perspective of someone who seems to have a tenuous grip on reality ("Give me all your paper ma, so I can buy a train").

    According to the group's guitarist, John Ashton, he started writing the song with Rick Cooper, who was the bass player in a band called Roxy. "I had the tune and Richard wrote the words for it," he said in ZigZag. "It's a bit surreal - I think they tend to make people use their imaginations really. The way we never play a song the same. It never means quite the same. I guess people relate to it any way, make something out of it themselves."
  • A band composition, this song was packaged in a playable (at 33-1/3 rpm on a turntable) embossed sleeve to promote the band's second album, Talk Talk Talk. It contained sneak-peek excerpts of the tracks "Into You Like a Train", "I Wanna Sleep With You" and, what would become one of their most famous songs, "Pretty In Pink." On this version, singer Richard Butler even introduces "Dumb Waiters" with an album plug: "This is a Psychedelic Furs commercial. Buy Talk Talk Talk."
  • This was the first Furs single to break into the UK charts. It peaked at #59, while in the US it reached #27 on the Dance Music/Club Play Singles chart.
  • For the first two Psychedelic Furs albums, the band was 6-piece, with producer Steve Lillywhite in charge of wrangling their sound into cohesive studio recordings. Guitarist Roger Morris and sax player Duncan Kilburn left before their next album, Forever Now, which was produced by Todd Rundgren and contained their first US chart entry: "Love My Way."
  • In 1976, 10cc mentioned dumb waiters in their similarly nonsensical song "Don't Hang Up" with the lyric: "Dumb waiters waiting sweating straining, all mass-debating my woman."

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