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Incubus

Introduction: The story of a woman that left the boyfriend in whose pornographic films she had starred to become a mainstream actress. On the verge of her big break as the star of the show, on the opening night in front of the critics and about to launch into her soliloquay, she suddenly spots her former lover in the crowd and, terrified that he might expose the sordid past she thinks she's left behind, forgets her lines thus sealing the fate of the show and her career as the critics pen their reviews.

Tales of men threatening to destroy women for daring to leave them is not a subject that perhaps plays quite well in the #MeToo era, no matter how brilliant the song itself might be.

Transcript of the introduction given by
Fish on the show filmed at the Chippenham Golddiggers for the BBC's Sight and Sound series, broadcast 17th March 1984 (and hence all the references to watching his language):
"Here's where we shave the bone oh-so close! Do you remember, for those that have seen us before, on the previous tour, there was a story regarding a song called The Web, which was about a relationship that had split up?

"Now, if you can imagine standing, for the gentlemen, in your local pub, and, of course, six months later, the ex-girlfriend has got to walk in with the new boyfriend. The ex's boyfriend is like one of those ex-Rugby League types, like 'Do No Mess' on the forehead.

"Now, for the first ten, fifteen minutes of the conversation, it's just a total bitch - I've got to watch my words here - total bitch, and er, it's like, 'Hello darlin', it's a really nice leather coat you've got there. I wonder how much that cost? I wonder what you did for that?'

"Now, when the boyfriend goes to the toilet, for a wee-wee, it's a case of the immaculate Polaroid photograph... <mimes holding out a Polaroid photograph to her> pffff, in front of her and she freaks - eeeek! Suspender belts and stockings - <calls from audience> don't panic! - leather thongs tied around the wrist to the bed and it's one of those nasty photographs which upset a lot of people - especially watch the BBC - and as the boyfriend comes back from the toilet, you retrieve the photograph and place it, once again, back in the pocket.

"I'm really watching my words!

"And, the girlfriend, of course, is very, very scared. 'I want to see it!' You watch, you walk outside the pub, and as you walk outside the pub you say, 'It's been great to see you again, still looking immaculately beautiful' and like she's 'No, no!' And she buying like various men's magazines that we've never bought but we've heard about. The Reader's Wives columns, searching for a year, looking for her photograph. 'Not in this week's, please...'

"This is about the danger of taking such Polaroids. This is about the nightmare and this is called Incubus..."
'Incubus'
Pear's Cyclopedia: "A nightmare, anything that weighs heavily on the mind. In medieval times it denoted an evil demon who was supposed to have sexual intercourse with women during their sleep."

Incubi are supposed to impregnate women using the sperm that succubae had stolen whilst sleeping with men. They were first identified in 2400 BC Mesopotamia, where an incubus was named as the father of the Sumerian king Gilgamesh.


The face that launched a thousand frames'
A pun on 'the face that launched a thousand ships'. This line is from Christopher Marlowe's Dr Faustus (1354), a rendering of the folk tale of a man who sells his soul for his heart's desires. (another famous version is by Go√ęthe). Faustus utters this line having ordered the demon Mephistopheles to conjure up Helen. Helen was the wife of King Menaleus, and said to be the most beautiful woman in the world. She was abducted by the love-struck King Paris of Troy, thus precipitating the ten year Trojan War, which kept Odysseus from his shroud spinning wife for so long. (c.f. The Web)

'I, the mote in your eye'
Based on Matthew 7:1-5 in the King James Version. It means don't point out a minor shortcoming on my part if you have larger flaws yourself.
Since writing this, I received the full version of the biblical story from Paul Wouters:
1 Judge not, that ye be not judged.
2 For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again.
3 And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother's eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?
4 Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye?
5 Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother's eye."
'No flower to place before this gravestone'
Flowers are a common symbol for the female genitals, for obvious reasons. A graphic example is Gerald Scarfe's disturbing animation of two flowers in the What Shall We Do Now section of the film of Pink Floyd's The Wall.

Gravestone becomes a simpler image once the flower image is understood. The grave also hearkens back to the idea that the porno director is getting turned on (the 'erection' line previously), but the object of his desire is not there - the erection is useless...


Greg Baran emailed me to add: "I have a different take on this. The lyrics actually go:
"The darkroom unleashes imagination in pornographic images,
In which you will always be the star,
Untouchable, unapproachable, constant in the darkness,
Nursing an erection, a misplaced reaction,
With no flower to place before this gravestone,
And the walls become enticingly newspaper thin."
"Taken in context, 'the darkroom' or a dark room where one might be alone, 'unleashes imagination', because in the dark, imagination becomes that much more prevalent, 'in pornographic images, in which you will always be the star', obviously he's fantasizing about someone who's 'untouchable, unapproachable' but 'constant in the darkness', constant in his imagination, to which he is 'nursing an erection', masturbating, which is 'a misplaced reaction', because the reaction of getting an erection at imagined sex, and masturbating to it, is 'misplaced' compared to the real thing.

"Then 'with no flower to place before this gravestone', would elude to the fact the he ejaculated, and the sperm that could have been a life is now dead, but he has no flower to place before the grave (or gravestone), and 'the walls become enticingly newspaper thin', as if, after his preoccupied masturbation, he is now aware of the world around and wonders if people could hear what he did through the 'newspaper thin' walls."


'A irritating speck of dust that came from absolutely nowhere'
The spoken bit you can't hear properly! We're back to motes again!

Maintain the obituary'
An obituary is, of course, the printed notice of a death, usually accompanied by a biography. Here, however, the death it refers to is more metaphorical.

She's on stage and in the audience she sees here former lover, the man who has the incriminating films, and she forgets her line. In theatrical parlance, she 'dries up', as her theatre colleagues panic off-stage. As the prompter is trying to feed her the line, and as her former lover debates whether to destroy her career by revealing her seedy past, the theatre critics are penning their damning reviews.



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2 comments:

  1. ‘A irritating speck of dust that came from absolutely nowhere’

    specks of dust often get inside cameras/lenses and ruin pictures

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  2. In a nutshell, this song (and imo, most of this album) was inspired by Fish, who was in a pub, and he saw his ex girlfriend's new boyfriend at the bar, and rather than start a fight, he ran through all the other options of what he could do for petty revenge,focusing here on the smutty pornographic polaroids he'd taken of her when she used to love him. Eventually, he decided to reach cathartis by writing "Script".

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