Fugazi

‘Fugazi’
From Jeroen Schipper’s FAQ: "Fugazi is a word that was used by Americans in Vietnam, and is slang concerning those who died in ambush (something like that), so the acronym is Fucked Up, Got Ambushed, Zipped In." (Presumably the ‘Zipped In’ refers to body bags - Ed.) This explains pretty well what Fish is trying to say with the album: 'This world is totally fugazi'. Fugazi is close to a popular net-acronym, Foobar, which is derived from Fubar and means 'Fucked Up Beyond All Recognition'. Fugazi is definitely not a Vietnamese word as there is no Z in the Vietnamese alphabet.

Fish had been reading a book called Nam by Mark Baker, a book of Vietnam reportage from the US soldiers that were there. It was from this book that Fish first encountered the word 'fugazi'.  



'Blackheath’
An area of Lewisham, South-east London. In 1381 it was the mustering point for Wat Tyler’s peasant uprising against the poll tax, but is now an area of open land. There are many expensive houses in the area.

'Piccadilly Line’
The Piccadilly line is an underground line running from Cockfosters in the north of London via Central London to Hammersmith and out to Heathrow in the south west. And nowhere near Blackheath which doesn’t even have a tube station.

'An albatross in the Marrytime... hung herself around my neck’
In Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s (1772-1834) epic poem, The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, the protagonist shoots and albatross, traditionally seen as a good luck omen by sailors. He is beset by all kinds of problems, such as the ship being becalmed, being stalked by a black barque crewed by skeletons that follows him across the ocean. He eventually acknowledges his guilt by wearing the dead bird around his neck. He eventually returns to England, and pays penance for his crime by retelling his story to all he meets. Apparently the moral of the story is don't kill birds who shit on you. That’s what Bruce says anyway...

Click here for more info on The Rime of the Ancient Mariner.

'Time-Life-Guardians’
These are three publications that can been genuinely be seen being read by the 'hat, suit and ties' on the Tube. They are liberally inclined publications targeted at professionals. The Guardian is a broadsheet newspaper, the other two glossies.

'The Thief of Baghdad’
A Muslim immigrant. The Thief of Baghdad, like Aladdin and Sinbad the Sailor, was a heroic character from the Arabian Nights - 1001 cliff-hanger stories told by the princess Scheherezade to postpone her execution by her husband Sultan Schahriah. The stories first appeared in Europe in a French translation in 12 volumes, translated from a 14th or 15th century source.

'Islington’
A borough close to Central London. It has a relatively high proportion of people from the ethnic minorities, but is certainly not particularly renowned for it.

'Sacred Cow’
Fish makes mistake shocker! It is Hindus not Muslims who venerate the cow. Muslims will eat beef as long as it is Halal.

'Magdalenes’
Mary Magdalene is often mistakenly identified as the prostitute (So it says in Pears Cyclopedia) that is saved from a stoning when Christ ordered that the woman might only be legitimately be stoned if any thrower were free of sin himself (as any Monty Python fan knows, only men were allowed at stonings) The woman, as Christ knew, was able to go free. It is a sentiment similar to the ‘Mote in your eye’ of Incubus.

Magdalene is often used to mean prostitute (particularly by Fish!) The real Mary Magdalene, however, was cured of seven demons by Jesus, was present at his crucifixion and was the first to see the empty tomb after he rose again. Some texts, removed from the early editions of the bible by the Catholic Church apparently had her as Jesus’ wife, and mother of his children. (Blasphemy! He said Jehovah! (etc. etc.))

'Brixton Chess’
Jeroen Schipper’s FAQ: "Brixton is a suburb of London where there were major riots in April 1981." 

'Chess'
Jeroen Schipper’s FAQ: "Has several levels of meaning. The chess game is used as a metaphor for conflict in general. The riots were partly race riots (for want of a better term), and 'Chess' implicitly refers to black and white in opposition. It also suggests a larger game beyond the knowledge of the pawns - this refers to the political power play in the background. An inquiry into the riots partially blamed them on the economic policies of Margaret Thatcher's Conservative government, which seemed to inflict the poor with the economic cost of restructuring while leaving the more affluent (the Conservatives' major supporters) relatively unscathed."

Additionally, there were further riots in Brixton in the summer of 1996. A young black man died in police custody. A peaceful demonstration was held which enquired why black men were more likely to die in custody than white men. The police were unsympathetic to this clearly unreasonable request and the whole thing went pear-shaped from there. Brixton is one of the main centres for Black British culture. Ex-Prime Minister John Major was born there.

'Knight for Embankment’
Unlike Torch (See link at top of page) I think it is about a tramp, who were sometimes called ‘knights of the road’.

Embankment is the name given to the banks of the Thames in London. The north is the Victoria Embankment, the south bank, Albert Embankment after the monarch and her consort. It is a popular saying that ‘An Englishman’s home is his castle’ and tramps, who are an all too common sight sleeping on benches on the Embankment, often sleep under newspapers. Furthermore, The old soldiers part reinforces this to me, as Britain has a proud tradition of treating its old solders appallingly, and ex-military men make up a woefully large proportion of the homeless in the U.K. He is also begging the boatman’s coin.

At the time of writing the song, there might have been a few WWII veterans still on to the streets.

'Begs the Boatman’s coin'
The coin is used to pay Charon to cross the Styxx. (cf. Incubus, Jigsaw)

'Taped up painted windows'
The idea is that the paint will reflect the glare, and the tape will stop the glass shattering in the event of a nuclear explosion. Obviously, if you live in a big or strategic area, you might as well save the money. This was a genuine tip that the government recommend you try in the event of a nuclear war, as lampooned in Raymond Brigg’s fantastic graphic novel, When the Wind Blows, which just about sums up the fuckwittery of the nuclear mentality. There’s also a film with David Bowie doing some voices.

'Belsen’
Belsen was one of the notorious Nazi death camps. It was located on Lüneberg Heath, N.W. of Celle in northern Germany. It was one of the camps where execution was by Zyclon B gas. (C.p. White Russian)

'Pandora’s Box'
Brewer’s: "To punish Prometheus (for stealing fire from the Gods), Zeus ordered Hephæstus to fashion a beautiful woman who was called Pandora (‘the all gifted’) because each of the Gods gave her some power which was to bring about the ruin of man. According to Hessiod, she was the first mortal female and was sent by Zeus as a gift for Epimetheus who married her, against the advice of his brother Prometheus. She brought with her a large vase or jar (commonly known as Pandora’s Box) which she opened and all the evils flew forth, and they have ever since continued to afflict the world. Hope alone remained in the box."

'Sentimental Mercenary'
"In a free fire zone"?

Click here to read the (long) thoughts of former Freaks contributor Torch on Fugazi.

Where to get this song:

1 comment:

  1. Belsen was Hitlers favourite camp. They have pictures of the experiments that the Nazi's did on the inmates, like putting a cat or dogs head on a human body. I kid you not.

    ReplyDelete

Thanks for your comments.

All comments are moderated, so apologies if it doesn't appear right away!