"Industrial Disease" as written by and Mark Knopfler....
Warning lights are flashing down at Quality Control
Somebody threw a spanner and they threw him in the hole
There's rumors in the loading bay and anger in the town
Somebody blew the whistle and the walls came down
There's a meeting in the boardroom they're trying to trace the smell
There's leaking in the washroom there's a sneak in personnel
Somewhere in the corridors someone was heard to sneeze
'goodness me could this be Industrial Disease?

The caretaker was crucified for sleeping at his post
They're refusing to be pacified it's him they blame the most
The watchdog's got rabies the foreman's got fleas
And everyone's concerned about Industrial Disease
There's panic on the switchboard tongues are ties in knots
Some come out in sympathy some come out in spots
Some blame the management some the employees
And everybody knows it's the Industrial Disease

The work force is disgusted downs tools and walks
Innocence is injured experience just talks
Everyone seeks damages and everyone agrees
That these are 'classic symptoms of a monetary squeeze'
On ITV and BBC they talk about the curse
Philosophy is useless theology is worse
History boils over there's an economics freeze

Sociologists invent words that mean 'Industrial Disease'
Doctor Parkinson declared 'I'm not surprised to see you here
You've got smokers cough from smoking, brewer's droop from drinking beer
I don't know how you came to get the Betty Davis knees
But worst of all young man you've got Industrial Disease'

He wrote me a prescription he said 'you are depressed
But I'm glad you came to see me to get this off your chest
Come back and see me later - next patient please
Send in another victim of Industrial Disease'
I go down to Speaker's Corner I'm thunderstruck
They got free speech, tourists, police in trucks
Two men say they're Jesus one of them must be wrong
There's a protest singer singing a protest song - he says
'they want to have a war to keep us on our knees

They want to have a war to keep their factories
They want to have a war to stop us buying Japanese
They want to have a war to stop Industrial Disease
They're pointing out the enemy to keep you deaf and blind
They want to sap your energy incarcerate your mind
They give you Rule Brittania, gassy beer, page three

Two weeks in Espana and Sunday striptease'
Meanwhile the first Jesus says 'I'd cure it soon
Abolish Monday mornings and Friday afternoons'
The other one's on a hunger strike he's dying by degrees
How come Jesus gets Industrial Disease


Lyrics submitted by Dasch

"Industrial Disease" as written by Mark Knopfler

Lyrics © Universal Music Publishing Group

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Industrial Disease song meanings
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24 Comments

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  • +2
    General CommentThis describes everything that was was wrong with the UK in the early '80s (much of it still with us a quarter of a century later). Ten out of ten.

    Ha! Splendid!
    ShineYouDiamondon August 30, 2006   Link
  • +2
    My InterpretationMany people think this song is making fun of made up maladies. In fact, at the time of this writing, the Wikipedia entry for this song claims that this is the meaning. I couldn't disagree more. Many of the things listed as maladies are not diseases, they are symptoms of Industrial Disease, which is a form of capitalism that has turned everything into a huge industry to further profits for the few at the top. I don't think Knopfler is against capitalism like the type where we all open small booths in a flea market and sell our wares. He is speaking against what the huge corporations and the “try to become a millionaire at any cost” mentality that our current form of capitalism and our whole society pushes. Knopfler wrote the soundtrack to “Wag the Dog”, a movie about the government and media creating a fake war. He also wrote the soundtrack to “Local Hero” about how a business putting refineries off the coast would destroy a quaint small town. He tells the story of how Ray Kroc took the McDonald brothers' idea of a family burger joint and turned it into a win at all costs money making machine in the song “Boom like that”.

    The first few stanzas seem to be alluding to an industrial accident and a worker uprising, but I think he may be using the industrial accident as a metaphor for an economic depression/recession. He talks about people sneezing, some come out in spots, and people with real health issues like smoking, drinking, depression and imaginary ones like Bette Davis Knees but they are all symptoms of Industrial Disease. The doctor diagnosis the next patient without seeing them, saying to send in the next victim of Industrial Disease. He knows that whatever they complain about is just a symptom of how we are living by taking in polluted air and water, living in a work till you die society with little free time and extremely high stress that drives people to smoke, drink and eat unhealthy diets. Most of our maladies are caused from an unhealthy lifestyle and being born into a society that dictates we get good grades so we can get a high stress job and work ourselves to death in industries that our polluting our environment and killing us. It is interesting to note that this song was written a few years after the Environmental Protection Agency was formed in the US because the rivers were so polluted they were catching on fire and a few months before the worst industrial accident in history at Bhopal, India.


    Warning lights are flashing down at Quality Control
    (There as been an industrial accident or more generally there is a problem with quality, the quality of our modern lives. In business and in life since so much of our lives are controlled by business, computers and rules we work our lives away to make others rich, and they own the governments and media and keep feeding us a story about how great our lives are)

    Somebody threw a spanner and they threw him in the hole
    (There is a wrench in the system like an industrial accident and they punished him. Or could be a worker refusing to work and starting a union)
    There's rumors in the loading bay and anger in the town
    (people are talking and getting wise to the scam and they are angry)
    Somebody blew the whistle and the walls came down
    (whistleblower — when an insider (worker) brings proof of illegal activities of the employer, but I think it means the whole system is unethical behavior; walls came down — no more secrecy, protection or privacy to continue unethical activity — this is taking on a whole new meaning now since the internet and workers and people in other countries can talk to each other online)
    There's a meeting in the boardroom they're trying to trace the smell
    (Boardroom — those who profit from the unethical activity; trace the smell — find the leak, whose telling on them so they can silence the source)
    There's leaking in the washroom there's a sneak in personnel
    (leaking in the washroom — play on words -ha ha; sneak in personnel — sneak means you don't want others to see what you are doing, what goes on in personnel? Relationship with employees. Hiring, firing, complaints, benefits, etc. They try to get people just smart enough to do the job, but stupid or desperate enough to do it for the cheapest wage. They pretend to care and use your own words to fire you. Or someone in personnel is telling people what other are being paid. Sneak. Nowadays personnel is called what it really is, human resources, because they use us up and spit us out just like other resources, lumber, iron, chemicals etc.)
    Somewhere in the corridors someone was heard to sneeze
    (sneeze is a sudden outburst — the workers are mouthing off )
    'goodness me could this be Industrial Disease?
    (Industrial Disease used here in the 1% vs the 99% context — all the maladies spoken about have the same root source, stress, anxiety, toxic surroundings, slave type environments, the industrialization as a lifestyle is the problem)

    The caretaker was crucified for sleeping at his post
    (they found a scapegoat to pretend they fixed the problem and crucified him as an example)
    They're refusing to be pacified it's him they blame the most
    The watchdog's got rabies the foreman's got fleas
    (caretaker — could mean government as their role as regulator, when industrial accidents or recessions occur people wonder why government didn't prevent it. Watchdog has rabies, attacks from the media, who are supposed to be the watchdogs for society; foreman's got fleas — position halfway between workers and management, he's been infected)

    And everyone's concerned about Industrial Disease
    There's panic on the switchboard tongues are ties in knots
    (we all talk and complain about our work, work, work society and business owning government, but we don't do anything)
    Some come out in sympathy some come out in spots
    (some have compassion and understand the problem, those that disagree are sores to the system “come out in spots” and vilified as troublemakers)
    Some blame the management some the employees
    And everybody knows it's the Industrial Disease
    (it's not just one person or group it's the driving force and the system itself that is the problem)

    The work force is disgusted downs tools and walks
    (either there is no work or the union just went on strike)
    Innocence is injured experience just talks
    (big business doesn't care about workers or customers or safety. Experienced people know the system is a sham and the experts on tv discuss economic graphs but never get to the root of the systemic problems)
    Everyone seeks damages and everyone agrees
    (the situation is hurting everybody)
    That these are 'classic symptoms of a monetary squeeze'
    (looking for answers in economic or fiscal policies)
    On ITV and BBC they talk about the curse
    (looking for answers in superstition — or imaginary things like Adam Smith's invisible hand)
    Philosophy is useless theology is worse
    (looking for answers in Philosophy/Theology)
    History boils over there's an economics freeze
    (Looking for answers in History)

    Sociologists invent words that mean 'Industrial Disease'
    (Why mention Sociologists? They study human societies. They won't say our society is sick, they make up euphemisms for it.)
    Doctor Parkinson declared 'I'm not surprised to see you here
    (Parkinson's disease was generally thought of as a disease that only came about in modern times after industrialization and poisons in our environment. This isn't actually true, it's symptoms have been recorded for over 2000 years, but may be why Knopfler called the doctor Parkinson. We have many other diseases that haven't appeared until after industrialization and others that have gotten much worse, like cancer)
    You've got smokers cough from smoking, brewer's droop from drinking beer
    (cigarettes and beer are now manufactured in huge quantities, industries unto themselves and even though they are unhealthy — actually forms of poison, are ingested in massive quantities for reasons some say to calm down and others say as a suicidal death wish)
    I don't know how you came to get the Betty Davis knees
    But worst of all young man you've got Industrial Disease'
    (Betty Davis knees is made up like one of the phony syndromes, but the real root cause is Industrial Disease — ie your unhealthy, work yourself to death in your unsafe factory lifestyle)
    He wrote me a prescription he said 'you are depressed
    But I'm glad you came to see me to get this off your chest
    (this person is stressed out from work but there is nothing else wrong with them. Their job and lifestyle sucks but they need to work so the Dr makes some money by giving them an anti-depressant and sending them back to work — which is the real problem)
    Come back and see me later - next patient please
    Send in another victim of Industrial Disease'
    (Dr is making money off of this and knows the problem of the next patient without even seeing them. Whatever the symptoms are, Industrial Disease is the root problem)
    I go down to Speaker's Corner I'm thunderstruck
    They got free speech, tourists, police in trucks
    (If we have free speech why isn't anyone talking about this and changing things? Why are there police? Because they are the enforcement arm of the wealthy and suppress free speech)
    Two men say they're Jesus one of them must be wrong
    (religion doesn't make sense, it is a lot of double talk, pretends to comfort poor but rarely organizes marches to change conditions — two jesus' perhaps talking about Anglican vs Catholic or jesus as friend of commoner — unions perhaps gov't unions vs private unions)
    There's a protest singer singing a protest song - he says
    'they want to have a war to keep us on our knees

    They want to have a war to keep their factories
    They want to have a war to stop us buying Japanese
    They want to have a war to stop Industrial Disease
    (This song is so ahead of it's time considering the new war on Terror. Governments like war, real war and economic wars for industry and declaring war on Drugs, poverty, obesity etc because it gives governments more power and they use the War on Whatever as an excuse to raise taxes and curtail freedoms)
    They're pointing out the enemy to keep you deaf and blind
    (These Wars and the enemies are just more distractions — look at the number of cameras in London and the Patriot Act in the US — the real enemy is the government and big business teaming up to enslave us)
    They want to sap your energy incarcerate your mind
    (If you work people hard enough they are too tired for revolution. And they are too busy to pay attention to how they are being screwed. After just a few generations, people think it's normal to study in school for half their lives to get a job and make other people rich and bowing down to an increasingly oppressive government. Your individual creative energy is used learning and doing things that make them profit and keep you in a helpless position and dependent on a system that benefits them and hurts you)

    They give you Rule Brittania, gassy beer, page three
    (from: "Rule, Britannia! rule the waves: "Britons never will be slaves." Means nationalism. Gassy bear - drugs to forget unethical behavior of corporations and governments and our participation in them and our miserable lives as indentured servants to this system. Page Three: sensationalized corporate/government pr disguised as news)
    Two weeks in Espana and Sunday striptease'
    ( out of 52 weeks you only get 2 weeks holiday, and some time off on weekends)
    Meanwhile the first Jesus says 'I'd cure it soon
    Abolish Monday mornings and Friday afternoons'
    (while cutting back work would help it won't solve the problem, during economic downturns some companies / unions cut the number of hours worked so they don't have to lay off workers)
    The other one's on a hunger strike he's dying by degrees
    How come Jesus gets Industrial Disease
    (religions are big money and part of the systemic problem, or again jesus might represent two unions Trade Unions vs Gov't employee Unions)
    Lyrics2Deepon August 30, 2013   Link
  • +2
    General CommentThis song was released in 1982 and it's about the industrial decline and economic malaise that affected the UK in the 1970s and continued into the early 1980s. Even though the economy would recover later in the decade, this was only really due to the growth of the service sector. The lyrics of the song compare the economic malaise to a literal disease - I quite like how Mark Knopfler describes the absurd things happening in a deadpan manner. Especially the brillaint lines"Two men say they're Jesus / One of them must be wrong!"

    The "protest singer" is just a reference to daft conspiracy theorists who feel the need to imagine that there's a secret plot behind everything the government does. What the protest singer is claiming is that the government deliberately engineered the Falklands War to distract people from their economic problems. He then goes on to claim that the 'system' gives people distractions like "gassy beer, page three / Two weeks in Espana and Sunday striptease" to further cover it up.

    The "Brewers droop" effect is when someone's sex drive is damaged by alcoholism. It was also the name of a band that Mark Knopfler previously played in.
    noonebeatsdylanon September 28, 2013   Link
  • +1
    My InterpretationThe world is OWNED by the Fascist Elite who used HItler and WWII to solidify their hold over the entire globe through the United Nations, Owned Political Leaders, Public Education, the Entertainment Industry and the Mainstream Media. There is NO MORE Democracy on this planet, only Fascism disguised as a kind of Nationalistic Democracy where "you're okay as long as you tow the company line".

    Mark Knopfler is a genius, who knew about the existence of the Illuminati and the reality of our Corporate controlled world. Thus, Industrial Disease is a CAREFULLY constructed song that used Humour and a fast-pace rhythm to "mask" all of the powerful truths he was laying out for the listener. In fact, the ENTIRE ALBUM was an unmasking of the Illuminati control over every aspect of Modern Society...from their total control of Cities, jobs and land (Telegraph Road), through Institutionalized Lying and their version of history (Private Investigations), their control over economics/public information via the Mainstream Media and their so-called "expert commentators" (Industrial Disease) and their viperous control over the entertainment industry to control the public narrative (It Never Rains).

    Knopfler's answer to all of this sickness was the song, Love Over Gold...

    "It takes love over gold
    And mind over matter
    To do what you do that you must
    When the things that you hold
    Can fall and be shattered
    Or run through your fingers like dust"

    In this last verse, Knopfler revealed THE ANSWER for all of humanity to win this rigged game that we have been forced into playing. It indeed takes LOVE over GOLD (Greed, possessions, wealth, etc) if we are ever going to awaken to the truth. It takes MIND over MATTER to see our true reality. MIND is his representation of SELF INDUCED THOUGHT or Consciousness, not robotic mental reflexes at the whims of society. Independent thought over the ILLUSION of our societal "truths". Remember, MATTER is NOT solid, it is endless waves of possibilities upon a 2-Dimensional plane (the Unified Field), that only appears as a solid substance within a 3-Dimensional world whenever we FOCUS our thoughts upon it...thus, Matter will always look, act, behave precisely the way we have been TAUGHT to believe it should look, act, behave.

    How does Knopfler know that Love is the answer and that Matter is the Illusion, the game, the trap? "When the things that you hold can fall and be shattered, or run through your fingers like dust"...that's how. When matter is merely a temporary thing (popping in and out of existence every time we focus our thoughts upon the Matrix) that can fall and be shattered, or run through our fingers like dust (cosmic dust, endless waves of possibilities), then matter isn't solid, matter isn't permanent, matter doesn't hold any value or worth...matter is merely an Illusion, the unseen particles that can be manifested into reality based on our beliefs, so that we can play this game in this Physical realm. And if our physical world of Matter and Newtonian Physics is the Maya (the Illusion), then what must be our true reality? The unseen world of Consciousness, which is LOVE!

    This was the ultimate message and purpose of the Love Over Gold album. Knopfler exposed their illusory system of control (the worship of valueless matter) and replaced it with Humanity...which is to exist through the vibration of LOVE, not Fear.
    CharlieFreakon November 06, 2016   Link
  • 0
    General CommentBest DS song!
    Alvienon February 17, 2005   Link
  • 0
    General CommentNot their best in my opinion but still very good. A well-written, amusing and entertaining song about industrial sabotage and slackness in the workplace.
    Love the \"2 men say theyr\'e Jesus, one of them must be wrong\" lyrics.
    chrisb1on April 23, 2005   Link
  • 0
    General CommentI think the reason this song has so much humor to it is because it's about how sensative people are nowadays and how "everyone seeks damages and everyone agrees." Everyone is trying to sue for everything, and Dr. Parkinson is like one of those doctors who help con artists into faking neck or back pain then sends them off. I think the two different Jesuses (ever used that word in a plural form, LoL) represent people who will fight and starve for a casue, and the other just says 'Eh, that's easy, just sue people."
    echoskyboundon December 29, 2005   Link
  • 0
    General CommentThe cancer of America?
    hishopperon January 07, 2006   Link
  • 0
    General CommentThing song is my fav DS song, love the way how MK 'raps' through it!
    Remember, this song is from 1982! I think its more of a swipe at Margeret Thatcher and how she almost killed the UK industry through shutting down the mines, factories, etc... and the protests that were associated with it. ("The work force is disgusted downs tools and walks").
    It was also the same time as the Falklands War ("They wanna have a war to keep us on our knees
    They wanna have a war to keep their factories
    They wanna have a war to stop us buying japanese
    They wanna have a war to stop industrial disease") and also, the manufacturing industry was down to a 3 or 4 day working week ("Abolish monday mornings and friday afternoons").
    lessthanleeon March 27, 2006   Link
  • 0
    General CommentIt doesn't really matter... but I was just listening to this song and I noticed that these two lines are in the wrong order above. It goes like this:

    They wanna have a war to keep their factories
    They wanna have a war to keep us on our knees
    pk_boomeron May 18, 2006   Link

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