About the interpretations
References and Contributors
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
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"
...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)."
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
- 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.)"
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
"...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:
- 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
- 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
- Pink noise, white noise
Pink and white noise are two forms of random noise; pink and
white are also apparently two forms of amphetamine.
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.
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?
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
- Gimme something fast
Possibly related to the `gimme speed' line in Amphetamine
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.
A variety of interpretations have been offered; however I'm not aware of
allusions in the song, or phrases which need explanation.
- I Love Lucy
A television show, which Americans apparently find funny.
- Pee Wee
Disgraced children's TV star Pee Wee Herman.
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
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
- 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.
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'.
"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
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.
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.