The tenth track of Wire's 1978 album Chairs Missing. The album signified a change in direction for Wire, whose forte lay in being able to reinvent themselves constantly. On Pink Flag, 'Fragile' came rather close to a well honed pop song, but this tune is an almost perfectly crafted slice of pop music. With the lashings of obscure lyrics, it is pretty much unlike anything they did before. Later songs like the much lauded Map Ref. 41°N 93°W would approach the catchy pop heights of Outdoor Miner, but in my mind this is a more successful pop song (If not necessarily, a better song). It is no wonder that the song has been covered so many times, the simplicity of the individual instruments belies the sound that Wire achieve as a group - I don't think I've heard a better cover than the original. For the record, the song has been covered by: Autoliner, Blake Babies, Flying Saucer Attack, The Grays, The Lightning Seeds, Luna, Mary Lou Lord, Mr. Blonde, My Life Story, Pluck Theatre, The Slingbacks, Stigmata A-Go-Go, and Transformer. If you know any others, please /msg me

Slightly unnerving guitar chords start the song before it settles into something more pleasing to the ear. Graham Lewis's vocals come in two bars from the start, just after the drums and bass start up. Throughout the song, Robert Gotobed's drums keep a very simple rythym, in most cases a kick-snare, kick-kick-snare with the ride cymbal. Largely, the guitar and bass take a backseat to Lewis's vocals, which are delivered sweetly with all the trademark Wire placement (ie. Never breaking the vocals up into lines as you would expect). All through the song, vocal looped "ahhhhh"'s are used to good effect, further examples of Wire's increasing pop-sensibilities. Never ones to stretch out songs more than necessary, the album version runs for a paltry one minute forty-four.

The song was scheduled for single release, but contrary to what usually happens, EMI asked Wire to extend the song. The producer Mike Thorne, who had already been playing piano and synthesizers with Wire during the album was elected to play along with the song and to provide a piano solo. Says Thorne; "The piano part was actually quite difficult to play, being more a strummed guitar imitation than a smooth piece of pianism. The edits and extras were completed quickly, and the mix delivered to EMI. They liked it a lot." The piano had a solo, and also played small accompanyments throughout the song. The song was cleaned up a bit, even the non-keyboard parts being more polished and the track length was increased to a lofty two minutes fifty-five. The single sold surprisingly well - up to No. 51 in the UK charts, but it was stricken for a week when EMI were caught 'hyping' the single's position (Someone was caught going into a store and buying multiple copies of the single - falsely increasing the amount that was bought). This ultimately cost the group a spot on Top of the Pops, and who knows where they would have been now. The single version, which has the increased running time of two minutes fift-five is reasonably rare, but in any case it is available on the 1994 CD re-issue of Chairs Missing.

The lyrics to this song are about the Serpentine leaf miner, a small (about 3mm) insect that feeds on the chlorophyll from leaves (and lives in a leaf too) and other insects, like the silverfish (which is irritated by a clean room more than a messy one in the beautifully poetic second verse). The serpentine miner can be considered a household pest, and Graham Lewis' lyrics express concern over one of the insects eating away at the roof supports. Thorne says; "In our slightly hermetic Wire bubble, this didn't seem particularly unreasonable at all."

OUTDOOR MINER


No blind spots, In the leopard's eyes
can only help, to jeopardise
the lives of lambs the shepard cries ((ahhhhh))

An outdoor life, for a silverfish
eternal dust, less ticklish
than the clean room a houseguest's wish

He lies on his side
Is he trying to hide
In fact it's the earth which he's known since birth
He lies on his side
Is he trying to hide
In fact it's the earth which he's known since birth

Face worker, a serpentine miner
a roof falls, an underliner ((ahhhhh (all through the next line)))
of leaf structure the egg timer

((((ahhhhh's all through this verse))

He lies on his side
Is he trying to hide
In fact it's the earth which he's known since birth
He lies on his side
Is he trying to hide
In fact it's the earth which he's known since birth))

- This only added in the single version

((Piano solo in single version here))

((ahhhhh's all through the final choruses))

He lies on his side
Is he trying to hide
In fact it's the earth which he's known since birth
He lies on his side
Is he trying to hide
In fact it's the earth which he's known since birth
He lies on his side ((He. Lies. On.))
Is he trying to hide ((His. Side.))
In fact it's the earth which he's known since birth ((Is he trying to hide?))
- Continue last three lines to fade

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