1959 and all that
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1959 and all that...

Well, you don't look for much of a voice in a comic song. You don't expect correct phrasing or vocalization. You don't mind if a man does find out, when in the middle of a note, that he is too high, and comes down with a jerk. You don't bother about time. You don't mind a man being two bars in front of the accompaniment, and easing up in the middle of a line to argue it out with the pianist, and then starting the verse afresh. But you do expect the words.
Jerome K. Jerome Three Men In A Boat

About the interpretations

What is the point of all of this? Is there any one correct interpretation? Well, of course not. These points should probably be addressed more fully, but in short I'd say this: they are only songs, and I rather suspect that the author won't lose any sleep over people interpreting them in an individual way. He's quite possibly got more exciting and useful things to lose sleep over. However I'd argue that the songs are clearly written with an audience in mind rather than as a personal exercise, and thus they are written in a rational manner: the lyrics are intended to convey certain messages to the listener's brain, just as the music is intended to convey certain messages to the listener's body. Of course, sometimes the music will talk to the brain and the lyrics to the hips, and sometimes both of these things will happen at once, and that's why the Sisters are deeply groovy. But more of that later...

It's difficult to understand what those messages are if you don't know what all the words mean, and thus we get to the point of these documents - to provide a crib sheet explaining the concepts to which certain words or phrases might allude. Of course, knowing what words or phrases mean in isolation isn't going to give you the meaning(s) of the songs - it remains the duty of the listener to decide how lines relate to one another and to stitch it all together into one (hopefully) coherent whole. This might seem like a rather reductionist view of the lyrics - words used as mechanical elements, with little breathing space for poetic interpretation. It's not intended to be that; rather the commentaries contained here should probably best be seem as a starting point which can inform one's own interpretation. However, it is the opinion of the authors of this site that if, say, your interpretation of Dominion / Mother Russia doesn't take into account the fact that the line "Stuck outside of Memphis..." refers to a Dylan song, or that the lines "On the lone and level / Sands stretch far away" refer to a poem by Shelley, then whilst your interpretation is valid for you, it's not likely to be very close to what the author of the song was thinking about when he wrote it. Now, given that he put some effort into writing it, it seems only reasonable for the listener to put some effort into interpreting the song.

The commentaries given here clearly can't claim to be `definitive' or correct in any sense, although they aim to provide plausible explanations, backed up by comments in interviews etcetera wherever possible. Hopefully it will be clear where the authors are simply pointing out the source of a particular quote, and where they are setting sail into the deeper waters of speculation. One of the difficulties arises from the fact that there's no reason why the songs have to be 100% open to other parties: for all we know the lyrics are littered with private jokes or musings, and any attempt to account for every line in a song is bound to run aground on these distractions. So it goes. In general, if the assertion that a given line is about shoes, ships or sealing wax is not backed up by a quote from Eldritch to this effect, then we've put two and two together. We hope that the average is close to four. You are welcome to ignore any or all of the comments that are made. Some of the comments may seem facile or obvious. That, Dear Reader, is because you are a clever and generally wonderful person. However, you'd be mortified by the illiteracy displayed by some of your peers. Go figure.

A note about the use of the word 'song': throughout the above, the word 'song' has been used, and yet only the lyrical content has been addressed. We're well aware of this failing, and of the fact that a song is not simply a set of words put to music, but rather a compound of these two elements which ideally has new and exciting properties. Ignore the music at your peril.


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