Assassing

Introduction:  From Steve Rothery's liner notes on A Singles Collection: "The germ of the idea came while we were writing at Mountain studios in Wales in the summer of '83. A strange mixture of rehearsal studio and hippy commune run by amongst others 'Sunshine' and 'Nutkin'. It had a Druids stone circle on a hill behind the house and was quite possibly the strangest place I've ever been. I'd just got my Roland guitar synthesiser and was experimenting with it, Fish had been driving us all mad by playing Islamic records he'd got from Peter Hammill at great volume all the time. We finished writing the song a months later, again in Wales, this time at Rockfield Studios in a house by the side of a river.

"We recorded Assassing at the Manor Studio in Oxfordshire, a beautiful old house complete with a snooker table, a pair of Irish Wolfhounds and a ghost."


Fish has often lamented adding the 'g' to the title, but the initial idea was apparently to create a neologism from 'assassin' and 'sassing' in the US sense of being rude to someone.



'Nemesis'
Brewer’s: "The Greek goddess, daughter of Nox; a divinity of vengeance who rewarded virtue and punished the wicked and all kinds of impiety; the personification of divine retribution."

The goddess was supposedly lame, but though she was hampered, she would always catch up with her victim eventually. In one book of Horace’s Odes, it is said that you could get on a boat and row to the other side of the world, only to find that the oars(wo)man behind you was Nemesis. Sound familiar, H fans? (cf. The Uninvited Guest.)

'The scarf with the fugi knot'
Fugi is a corruption of Thuggee, worshipers of Kali who would strangle their victims in the name of religion. The method of strangulation was by a yellow scarf into which a one rupee had been knotted. The Thuggee can be seen in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom but the film distorts the reality.

'Thousand yard stare'
The expression noted on soldiers returning from the trenches in the First World War. It developed from straining to see if there was any signs of an attack from the opposition’s trenches, which were often about 1000 yards apart (about 900 metres). The condition would eventually rectify itself.

'A friend in need is a friend that bleeds'
A pun on ‘a friend in need is a friend indeed’, originally a Latin expression, meaning that a friend who wants something is more friendly in order to extract that which s/he desires.

'Free fire zone'
An American expression from Vietnam. It is closely related to the expression ‘Free for All’, where all engage in a battle, normal rules of engagement disregarded. ‘Free fire zone’ was coined to describe areas which were going to be free of Americans or civilians. This meant that anything moving within the FFZ was therefore enemy and ripe for shooting. Astonishingly, loads of mistakes were made. A term describing these ‘accidental’ casualties appears in the song Afraid of Sunrise. (cf. That Time Of The Night.)

'Pavlovian slaver'
Adapted from Brewer’s: "Ivan Pavlov was a believer of what became known as the behaviourist school of thought, founded in 1914. The main tenet was that the relatively unscientific methodologies of Introspection and Mental States should be abandoned in favour of the more scientific study of behaviour. Pavlov developed a system of psychology that said it was possible to condition reflexes to stimulus. His famous experiment involved the ringing of bells prior to the feeding of dogs. The dogs grew to recognise that the ringing of the bell meant that feeding was imminent. Eventually, they would salivate at the ringing of the bell, even if no food were presented to them. He postulated that this was a similar thing to the way a child learns, through conditioned responses. Pavlov’s work, largely because of it’s simplicity and easy application, was embraced by Communist Russia and quickly became dogma. In the West it was regarded as fundamentally flawed, and is now largely ignored."

'Non Com'
Non-Commissioned. A term referring to an officer who has risen through the ranks due to his ability as a soldier, rather than entering at a higher level due to his education, or, even as recently as WWII, their social status.

However, Paul R. Levan wrote in to add: "I feel I should point out that a 'Non-com observer' refers to non-combatant, not non-commissioned, in this case. It was a term used especially in Vietnam and Korea meaning film crews, journalists, photographers and the like who were involved in the documenting of events, and were not required to take part in any military action. They wore armbands and the like to signify non-combatant, and it was not considered sporting to fire at non-coms!"

Paul's explanation is more credible than mine on this.

'And what do you call... my friend?'
From Francis Ford Copolla’s Apocalypse Now. Said by Brando to Martin Sheen. Sheen has been sent to carry out a clandestine murder of Brando’s character for carrying out unauthorised (but highly effective) military missions in neutral countries, much to the disturbance of the powers that be.

Where to get this song:

 

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