MSH SfaJT Fugazi MC CaS SE HiE Brave AoS TSE R10 dotcom ANP Marbles SWE HitR StcbM L=M FEAR WFftO

White Russian

Introduction: From an unnamed article in No1 Magazine written by Debbie Voller on 30 May 1987, sent to me by Kristie English:

Fish: "This is a heavy, soul-searching song that touches on politics and deals with the Jewish problem in Austria. Torch is observing all these things that attack his conscience and make him feel he should act and face up to reality. There's a big fight between the two halves of Torch; the realist and the escapist. But he chooses to run away and catches a plane home. He's in a real mess at the moment!"

Editor's note: this song was difficult to catalogue due to its heavily political nature. I had great trouble choosing how much information to include about Nazi atrocities, but eventually decided that the subject matter was too important to treat lightly. The song was written at a time when Kurt Waldheim was elected President of Austria despite the widespread knowledge that that he was in all probability guilty of crimesin WWII. This coincided with a rise in neo-Nazi activity across Europe, a problem that sadly continues today. (Indeed, at the point of this current update, the dying seconds of the 20th Century, Austria have again voted to power a man with Nazi sympathies.) It is difficult to know when to say Marillion are just a band that we love and not to take it too seriously. Yes, of course, they are just(!) a band, but this song makes a serious and vital point, and I cannot justify leaving out the horrible obscene details of the Holocaust. As Fish says in the Gazza Ladra intro, 'It is now up to us...'

9mm submachine guns, made by the Uzi company. They are apparently popular weapons due to their high firing rate and low malfunction rate. They are also compact and light. I don't wish to cast aspersions on Fish's gun recognising capability, but if it was Uzis, there's a certain cruel irony afoot; Uzi are an Israeli company...

'Rue de St Denis'
Steve Ross said: "This refers to the 'red light' district of Paris - lots of pornography shops, prostitutes, drug dealers and other such activities of ill-report. The violent nature of its nightly inhabitants have led to many crimes in the area. Apparently in the early 1990's the government made a concerted effort to clean up the district through gentrification and policing (I don't know if this has been successful, though).

I don't know if Fish is referring to a specific incident or an unknown (to me anyway) historical event that took place there. He may be simply referring to the nightly chaos for which the Rue de St. Denis area is (was) infamous."

'Six million reasons'
The estimated number of Jews exterminated in the Holocaust during World War Two. The actual number of deaths has never been definitively calculated, but most figures fall in the region of 5.5-6.5 million for Jews alone.

'Heralds of the Holocaust'
Brewers: "
The Herald was an officer whose duty it was to proclaim war or peace, carry challenges to battle, and messages between sovereigns etc. Heralds had their attendants called pursuivants. Nowadays, war or peace is still declared by the heralds, but their chief duty as court functionaries is to superintend court functions."

The Holocaust is generally accepted to be the term specifically for the systematic murder of Jews by the Nazis. The Nazi regime murdered Slavs, Russians, Poles, homosexuals, trade unionists, communists and more for ideological reasons. In total, it is estimated that 17 million people deemed sub-human or undesirable by the Nazis were systematically murdered. Such numbers, in both instances, do not include casualties of military actions.

'Iced White Russians'
White Russians were those counter-revolutionaries who remained loyal to the Tsar at the time of the Lenin-led Bolshevik revolution of 1917. Also the name of the inhabitants of Byelorussia.

According to the
Clutching at Straws tour book, White Russians - a cocktail containing vodka, coffee liqueur, and cream or milk - were a band favourite on their 1983 US tour.

'Trying to score but nobody's pushing'
A reference to getting hold of ('scoring') illicit substances from a dealer (or 'pusher').

'Gulags and internment camps'
The Soviet Experience - Gulags

Compton's Interactive Encyclopedia says: "During the early years of the Soviet regime under Lenin, the Cheka (secret police) was given the authority to send persons to concentration camps without trial. By 1922 there were 23 camps in various locations. During Stalin's rule, from 1924 to 1953, the number of camps and prisoners greatly increased. Many so-called corrective labor camps were set up in northern Russia and Siberia, especially during the First Five-Year Plan, which lasted from 1928 to 1932, when thousands of wealthy peasants were driven from their farms. The Great Purges of 1936 to 1938 added many more prisoners to what were said to be essentially institutions of slavery.

"In 1922 the agency operating the camps, the Cheka, was replaced by the Unified State Political Administration (OGPU). In 1934 this agency was replaced by the NKVD (People's Commissariat for Internal Affairs), which, after several further reorganizations, was replaced by the KGB (Committee of State Security) in 1954.

"With the occupation of Poland in 1939 and the incorporation of the Baltic States into the Soviet Union in 1940, many citizens of these countries were sent to the camps. After the war with Germany began in 1941, many prisoners of war were added, never to be heard from again. Stalin also imprisoned Soviet soldiers who had been captured and returned, arguing that capture was the same as treason.

"After Stalin's death in 1953 many prisoners were released and some camps closed. During the post-Stalin relaxation in the political climate, it is believed that a number of camps were converted into more moderate corrective labour colonies. But beginning in the 1960s, under the rule of Leonid Brezhnev, the political climate hardened once more, and many more prisoners were added.

The German Experience - Internment Camps

Compton's Interactive Encyclopaedia says: "The first concentration camps were established in 1933 for confinement of opponents of the Nazi Party. The supposed opposition soon included all Jews, Gypsies, and certain other groups. By 1939 there were six camps: Dachau, Sachsenhausen, Buchenwald, Mauthausen, Flossenburg, and Ravensbruck. The outbreak of war caused a great demand for labour, and other camps were added. The most notorious was Auschwitz in conquered Poland. Inmates were required to work for their wages in food. So little food was given, however, that many starved. Others died of exposure or overwork. The dead bodies were burned in huge crematoriums in or near the camps.

"The most horrible extension of the concentration camp system was the establishment of extermination centres after 1940. They were set up primarily to kill Jews. This slaughter is known as the Holocaust. It is believed that from 18 to 26 million people were killed in them, including 6 million Jews and 400,000 Gypsies. Prisoners in these camps were also used for barbaric medical experiments."


Compton's Interactive Encyclopaedia says: "detention of political prisoners and members of national or minority groups who are confined for reasons of state security, exploitation, or punishment; under international law, a belligerent country may intern enemy merchant ships in its ports, property owned by enemy civilians (enemy aliens), and enemy civilians themselves; neutral countries are obliged to intern belligerent troops that enter their borders and belligerent war vessels and prizes that enter their harbours and fail to leave after stated time."

Songs with a link have explanations.

Click to access album
MSH SfaJT Fugazi MC CaS
SE HiE Brave AoS TSE
R10 dotcom ANP Marbles SWE


  1. I've often wondered what the phrase "Racing the clouds home" means. Do you think it is a reference to drugs?

    1. Not sure. Personally it brings back memories of my days as a pilot.

    2. ...specifically, this is a character quite understandably wanting to leave continental Europe in order to get away from what he is seeing, presciently as it has turned out, as signs of a rise in right-wing nationalism and anti-semitism, and the persecution and violence that could follow.

  2. 'racing the clouds home' just means trying to get under cover before a storm or downpour that one can see coming - in this context i take it as an allusion to seeing conflict, war, or some other danger coming, and wanting to run somewhere safe, rather than meet it head on or be caught up in it.


Thanks for your comments.

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