1959 and all that
Home
What's new?
Chronological Index
Alphabetical Index
Links
About the interpretations
References and Contributors
Disclaimer

Vision Thing



Vision Thing album

I thought the `Vision Thing' album was unassailably brilliant. - Andrew Eldritch [BVP]
Eye of Horus

The main image on the sleeve of Vision Thing is the familiar Egyptian symbol, the `Eye of Horus'. Whilst numerous occult symbolisms might be associated with it, the primary meaning is probably just a visual pun on the concept(s) of `vision'. It might also be noted that the image is manipulated to look as though it is filtered via TV scan lines. Interestingly enough it is also topologically rather reminiscent of a handgun.

Background image

A picture of a city is faintly visible on the sleeve; this is seen to best effect on the vinyl version of the album. Various cities have thus far been `definitively' cited as the one depicted.

Vision Thing

sniff

Before the crash-bang-wallop opening, there is a brief sound which sounds something like a reversed cymbal. According to Andrew it is a sniff:

Chris Roberts:"...`Vision Thing', the title track, starts with `25 whores in the room next door...'"
Andrew Eldritch:"No, `Vision Thing' starts with a sniff" [EAA]

...or, perhaps, a snort.

two thousand Hamburg four

A postal code. Prior to re-unification, 2000 was the code for the Hamburg region. Sub-area 4 included the Reeperbahn, the road around which Hamburg's red-light district is based. At the time when Vision Thing was written, Andrew lived in the vicinity.

Vision Thing

The phrase was initially used by George Bush in his campaign for the 1988 election. (Apparently originally used in Time in 1987). When it was suggested to Bush that his plans were all to do with short term issues, and that he lacked ideas that might be more significant in America's longer history, he dismissed the question by claiming that he did indeed have '...the vision thing...'. Since then it has been the subject of journalistic rhetoric to ask whether or not particular politicians have `the vision thing', with varying levels of irony.

As it turned out, the invasion of Nicaragua in order to depose General Noriega seemed to indicate that was Bush's vision was for the USA to become the world's policeman, using it's military might to interfere in foreign countries which had the audacity not to be American pawns. A fairly expensive interpretation of foreign policy, and thus a '...billion dollar vision thing...'.

One million points of light

The phrase 'one thousand points of light' came out of the same election campaign. Bush used it in his acceptance speech for the Republican nomination (? confirmation) and again in his presidential inaugural speech.

The phrase (as used by Bush) is a metaphor for the many community based welfare schemes etc. that exist in America, both charitable and centrally funded. The argument is that these many small points of light provide better illumination than a single beacon (i.e. centrally operated schemes).

"You can't overlook the fact that Vision Thing is about the American political divide and it's fuel of choice, the blinding disparity between Bush's promised "points of light" and those which he helped deliver (from Panama)." [C14]

These points of light delivered from Panama are a reference to drugs, specifically the drugs allegedly imported to the US with the knowledge and/or aid of the CIA in order to generate money to maintain funding of the Nicaraguan Contras. The actual points of light are presumably referring to the affects on vision caused by hallucinogenic drugs, and might also be seen as a metaphor for illumination achieved via mind-altering substances. Of course, if you can understand the intricacies of the whole Contra scandal, replete with subtexts and countertexts and a multitude of ironies, then untangling Andrew's lyrics should present no problem!

A little more mad in the methedrome

A pun on Polonius' aside in `Hamlet': "Though this be madness yet there is method in't" (Act 2, Scene 2)

"There is a reference to a line from Hamlet about madness and method. (Why Hamlet? Go figure.)" [C14]

The spelling of methedrome harks back to previous references to methedrine, of course.

Blizzard king

Presumably excess (via allusion to Jim Morrison) and cocaine, and therefore Manuel Noriega. A blizzard refers to a vast amount of cocaine, and the king would be the overseer of the drugs operation. The next line could refer either to Noriega, or to the drugs (or, of course, to both) as both were `brought home'.

"...I am the lizard king / I can do anything..." - Morrison, `Celebration of the lizard'

snacirema eht ynlo

The garbled sample towards the end of the `Canadian Club mix' of VT is reversed. When played the right way round, it says: "Only the Americans would build a place like this in the middle of the jungle ... Only the Americans would want to". It is taken from the film Apocalypse Now and can be heard on the `definitive' double CD soundtrack album available on Elektra, (track 15, `Dossier #III', to be precise). However, there are several edits of the film, and the quote is not necessarily to be found in all of them. It certainly isn't in the UK widescreen video. Clarification of any cinematic releases or commercial video / laserdisc versions which definitely feature the quote would be appreciated.

NB According to Panu Virtanen who runs the Apocalypse Now site listed below, the different edits of the film mostly relate to the ending; however, the 2CD soundtrack also contains other snippets not to be found in the file, and it is known that Coppola had a lot of additional voice-over material recorded by Martin Sheen. Draw your own conlusions. Is the sample actually on any version of the film?

This is the sample as it normally appears in the remix, and reversed, so that you can hear it:

NB I've experienced difficulties with these links that I don't entirely understand. If they fail, you should be able to see the files via this URL: http://www.geocities.com/SunsetStrip/Club/1217/audio/

External links

Ribbons

Flowers on the razor wire

The line evokes images of both the flowers placed by pacifists on barbed wire fences, and the blooms of blood brought by application of sharp objects such as razor wire to the skin. Either would function as nice combinations of the poet's traditional interests of love and death; together the sense can only be amplified: this line goes all the way up to eleven.

Love is a many splintered thing

A pun on the song Love Is A Many Splendoured Thing written by Paul Francis Webster.

cobalt red...cobalt blue

Different forms of cobalt are variously coloured red and blue. This could quite easily be seen as emblematic of political divide. However, cobalt is not the only substance to have these colour qualities, so is there any particular reason why it is mentioned rather than any other substance? Two reasons spring to mind; firstly the cobalt bomb, a proposed Doomsday `superbomb' in which a hydrogen bomb would be encased in shell of cobalt. As the bomb exploded, the cobalt would be vaporised, and radioactive particulates would be spread throughout the atmosphere, poisoning the whole planet. Thus the women in the song might be seen as having awesome destructive power. Alternatively (or additionally) it might be noted that the word `cobalt' comes from the German word `kobald', meaning a goblin or subterranean demon, so named by miners because of the difficulty of working the metal, and thus it could quite usefully be seen as a pun. Note also that the eyes are red amd the voice is blue.

Marx and Engels

Whilst it is possible that the narrator is trying to persuade the woman in question of the various merits of Groucho Marx or Noel Scott Engels, it seems more likely that be is referring to Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, authors of the Communist Manifesto etc.

God and Angels

Oh come on, you must have heard of them.
" - be there or wait another five years for God and all His angels to make that funny exploding noise in your head again." - postcard advertising the single `More' and publicising the appearances at Wembley Arena in November 1990.

Tie a red, red, red, red, red ribbon

A contrast to the paean to American values, Tie A Yellow Ribbon Round The Old Oak Tree

External links

Detonation Boulevard

Detonation Boulevard

An echo of Dylan's Desolation Row?, or perhaps, The Sweet's Desolation Boulevard.

Long distance information

A quote from the Chuck Berry song Memphis, Tennessee. Is this supposed to echo the line '...stuck outside of Memphis...', from Dominion?

Pink noise, white noise

Pink and white noise are two forms of random noise; pink and white are also apparently two forms of amphetamine.

Eldorado

Both a mythical source of fantastic wealth hidden somewhere in the jungles of Central or South America (variously an individual, a city or a whole region), and a (vast) American car.

Encenada

Ensenada (note the spelling) is a resort in Mexico which by many accounts, is a wretched hive of scum and villainy, in which you could `catch something weird' very easily. Andrew supposedly has numerous anecdotes about Mexico, presumably relating to his trip there in 1985. The band were stuck in LA for a few days waiting for a flight back to England, so Andrew and John Martin, the tour manager, decided to hire a car (despite neither holding a driving license) and headed way down Mexico way. It is reported that the rest of the band were inspired by this reckless derring-do and went to Disneyland.
? Is this a typo, or a commonly used alternative spelling? Alternatively, might the mis-spelling be relevant?

Torquemada

Tomas de Torquemada (1420-1498) was the one of the first, and certainly the most famous, Inquisitor-Generals of the notorious Spanish Inquisition, established by Ferdinand V and Isabella of Spain in the fifteenth century. The avowed rôle of the Inquisition was to find and try heretics, specifically false conversos (Jews and Muslims who had converted to Catholicism in order to escape religious persecution, but carried on practicing their previous faiths in private). The methods used tended towards the extreme, and the name Torquemada is usually used as a symbol of cruelty and sadistic zeal, although recent revisionist histories have suggested that the Spanish Inquisition have suffered from a bad press over the years.

Andrew has previously cited Torquemada as a hero / influence, references include The Gothic Rock Black Book by Mick Mercer.

External links

Something Fast

Gimme something fast

Possibly related to the `gimme speed' line in Amphetamine Logic?

Baltimore

A city in Maryland obviously, but I'm not totally sure of the relevance. The use of `his' and `he' in this verse would seem to agree with `God' in the first line, although one might expect Andrew to capitalise the words if they did refer to God. The lack of capitals may well be important in deciphering the lyricist's intentions in this song. If the `he' who is still in Baltimore does refer to God, then we are still left with the slightly tricky question of `why Baltimore?'. There is a potential link to the Baltimore Catechism, in which case I take the line to be in contrast to the previous two: the first image being of a televangelist, and the last line indicating that the narrator prefers to believe in a God rooted more firmly in Catholic orthodoxy. That said, the narrator seems to distance himself from God: "God knows... / Some of us are not so sure", so perhaps it's the case that God is seen as being an irrelevance, stuck in past strictures. God knows what this song is about.

The Baltimore Catechism is one of a number of Catechisms (documents explaining the Catholic faith, specifically explaining the meanings of the Apostle's Creed, the sacraments, the Ten Commandments and the Lord's Prayer) and as far as I know it doesn't represent any radically different approach to Christianity (although please correct me if you know better), so if it does represent religious traditionalism, I suspect that actual word was chosen at least in part because it fitted the rhyme scheme well, although it also offers the best ironic contrast with the essentially American image of corrupt TV preachers.

External links

When You Don't See Me

A variety of interpretations have been offered; however I'm not aware of allusions in the song, or phrases which need explanation.

Doctor Jeep

I Love Lucy

A television show, which Americans apparently find funny.

Pee Wee

Disgraced children's TV star Pee Wee Herman.

Hizbollah

Literally `Army of God', the Hizbollah are a revolutionary Shiite Muslim faction, which rose to prominence during the war in Lebanon in the 1980s, and have since been involved in numerous terrorist actions aimed at Israel and America.

businessmen from South Miami

? Cocaine smugglers

AOR

Album Oriented Rock (or Album Oriented Radio, the stations that play it) - ghastly mainstream classic rock predominates.

Cal ... napalm

Strictly speaking, napalm is a thickening agent. The name is a contraction of naphthenate palmitate, both(?) aluminium based compounds. This can be processed into a reddish brown powder, (dust and gasolene / rust and gasolene, you might say) which is then mixed into gasoline (or a similar active ingredient) to form a thick, sticky gel, i.e. the substance more generally described as `napalm'.

Cal is almost certainly Cal Worthington, the dodgy used-car salesman's dodgy used-car saleman. Worthington is well known in the US for his commercials, which always feature the cheery proclaimation "It's Cal Worthington and his dog Spot!". 'Spot' is featured as some sort of animal, although rarely, if ever, a dog. Cheap Americana through and through. A somewhat contrived alternative explanation would be that 'Cal' is a back formation referring to the Viet Cong, who were indubitably dogged by napalm (i.e. Viet Cong = VC = Victor Charlie = Charlie = Cal).

I like Ike

`Ike' is Dwight D. Eisenhower, the 34th President of the USA; `I like Ike' was his campaign slogan in 1953. As a man who had an exemplary military career and was president as the Cold War developed, he can probably be seen as emblematic of atomic weapons. However, his rôle here is perhaps ironic. Eisenhower warned about the power and lack of morality of the 'military-industrial complex', showing considerable foresight. Stranger still: he was a Republican, but offers an odd contrast with his fellow Republicans Reagan and Bush, who respectively overshadow Floodland and Vision Thing.

Janie ... Viet Cong

The Viet Cong were communist revolutionaries in South Vietnam, who sprang out of the remnants of the Viet Minh.

`Janie' is Jane Fonda, who had a prominent rôle in the anti-Vietnam war movement. Fonda was photographed posing with bemused Viet Cong civilians, much to the fury of conservatives across the States, and organised fund raising to assist Vietnamese victims of the war. Interestingly enough, she later married Ted Turner, owner of CNN and a significant partner in Time Warner (now AOL Time Warner); Time Warner own both the Warners record label and East West, the Sisters' nemesis.

Saigon

The capital of South Vietnam during the war; now Ho Chi Minh City.

sold down the Mekong

The Mekong is one of the main rivers in Vietnam. Being sold down the river was a phrase which arose from the slave trade. If the Mekong, which flows from Cambodia in to South Vietnam is taken as representative of the conflicting philosophies of the Vietnam war, then being sold down the Mekong could be interpreted as being enslaved by capitalism, or US cultural imperialism, or simply the thoughts of someone who whole heartedly supports the war. The line would therefore be in contrast to the (presumed) reference to Jane Fonda a couple of lines previously.

guns and cars and accidents

Whilst one is loath to put much creedence in videos, it may be worth noting that two of the more interesting interpretations in the Doctor Jeep video are for this line, which is illustrated with the Zapruder footage of Kennedy's assassination, as is the line `bye-bye mother', whilst George Bush is used to illustrate the line `Pee Wee reads the evening news'.

External links

More

"Half the lyrics aren't there any more because they were...illegal. It was originally: wise up, motherfucker. Now it's a hybrid of mine and Jim's, so I'm at somewhat of a loss when answering for it."[EAA]

I take the above to mean that the song was (originally) about someone, with that someone not being Andrew, and that furthermore it was libellous. However it's hard to say who it's about, and if Steinman tinkered with the lyrics as well as the music then it probably hasn't aided analysis. Any ideas?

English zloty

The zloty is the currency of Poland. Prior to the collapse of the Eastern Bloc, the zloty was typically used as an example of a useless currency: if you went to Poland then it was difficult to find anything that you wanted to buy with your zlotys, and on leaving the country it was difficult, if not impossible to change zlotys back into a western currency. Even after the break up of the Soviet Union, it was, for a while, useless as a currency, as it suffered from rapid and massive devaluation. Thus the phrase `English zloty' could indicate either a bogus currency (i.e. much the same as `counterfeit dollars') or could be read as referring to sterling, but suggesting that sterling is no longer to be seen as a hard currency.

Other than that, I'm not aware of allusions in the song, or phrases which need elucidation.

External links

I Was Wrong

Again I'm not aware of allusions in the song, or phrases which need explanation, which isn't to say that I'm confident about what the song means to any great depth.

More - single

You Could Be The One


[ Home | Chronological Index | Alphabetical Index ]