The Uninvited Guest


Introduction: From Steve Hogarth's liner notes of Six Of One: "This song was written within a couple of hours of receiving the lyrics from John Helmer. We loved the lyric as soon as we set eyes on it - I was reminded of John Cooper-Clarke by the style and the rhythm... (we considered asking J.C.C. to narrate the lyrics on the 12 inch in his own inimitable Manchester drawl, but in the end, we didn't have time to do it.) We already had a musical idea written which suited the lyric perfectly... I added 'You can fly to the other side of the world... talk about old times' (We needed more words). So what's a fifteen stone first footer..? I'm not telling you. But you could ask a Scotsman."

Rich Tipper commented: "Can't remember where I heard/ read it but h also said the song is about AIDS. Put simply, the Uninvited Guest is the virus." 

In a later posting, Rich posted this from an old Web Holland mag (The Web - Issue 1-94):
"John Helmer: When I saw the band play The Uninvited Guest at the Hammersmith Odeon, I realised that this song was more or less about an unwanted invasion (...), that was one way to write about AIDS.

"Q: About AIDS? I think this comes as a big surprise for a lot of people... 

"John Helmer: Well that's what it is about. I read a story of Edgar Allan Poe, Mask of the Red Death, about a rich prince. Plague was spreading on his land and he decided to organise a party for all his friends, lock himself away from the rest of the world and let the plague hit the countryside. As soon as the plague had stopped, they would come out of hiding again to continue their normal lives. But, when the clock struck midnight, Death dressed up like a man in a red cape took him and his friends. I thought that was some sort of a metaphor for the reaction that some people show towards AIDS; something that can only happen to homosexuals and 'other people' and that if you lock yourself up in an ivory tower, it won't happen to you. A lot of reactions on AIDS were all based on the same feeling and this feeling led to The Uninvited Guest. He will knock on your door and your biggest fear is that this is the one thing you don't want to admit happened to you: you just can't believe it can happen to you as well. The only real direct indication to this is "I'm the evil in your bloodstream, I'm the rash upon your skin". 

"It is mainly about the unwanted disturbance of your life and sentences like "fifteen stone first footer" and "cuckoo in your nest" show the other bits that are based on the same idea. I think for me, it's about the seventies - when I was in my teens, there was much sexual freedom, everything was very free and easy and you could get experience with everything you wanted.

"In the eighties, everybody was more controlled and careful, and AIDS was basically the last straw: people were wary about with whom to share their table and bed. People tried to hide from all of this by locking themselves in, which gave me spooky images of The Uninvited Guest, and as a matter of fact it could also be you, at a party, being the person nobody wanted to know."

(I was recently re-reading through an article published in the Melody Maker just after the release of Hooks (Catch Their Fall - Melody Maker, October 14 1989). The reviewer was talking about SE and saying that it was a bit bleak. Over to H: "We did get to a point on the album when we were beginning to feel it all was all getting a bit too intense and we tried to inject a note of humour with The Uninvited Guest."

I certainly remember several interviews where a similar thing was said, and given the video too, it leads me to think that if Helmer had written it about AIDS, then maybe he didn’t tell the band. Let’s face it, it’s not a subject which invites great levity! As far as I’ve ever heard H mention it, it was always as this spoof, mock gothic thing. - Ed

From July 1992 issue of Record Collector (no. 155) by Linda La Ban - Hogarth: "It's sinister. I didn't write the lyrics; they were done by a chap called John Helmer. We were working down in Brighton and he would send his lyrics through on a fax machine. When this came, we all liked it immediately As luck would have it, we had been trashing around a musical idea which seemed to fit this perfectly, and we married the two. I added a few lyrics afterwards. It's a song about people you don't really want around but it's also about your conscience calling on you." 

‘I'm the Thirteenth at the Table’ & ‘I'm the Uninvited Guest’
Brewer’s: "It is said that the origin of sitting down 13 at a table being unlucky is because, at a banquet in Valhalla, Loki once intruded, making 13 guests and Balder was slain. In Christian countries, the superstition was confirmed by the Last Supper of Christ and his twelve apostles. "
‘Banquo’
From Jeroen Schipper’s FAQ: "In Shakespeare's Macbeth, Banquo is one of Macbeth's friends. Eventually (you'll have to read the whole thing to find out the details) Macbeth has him killed. Later, Banquo's ghost (or many say just a 'mad vision' of a ghost that Macbeth has) shows up at a banquet he is holding in honour of Macbeth's ascension to the Scottish throne. Macbeth goes crazy, because he thought he had had Banquo killed." 

‘Cuckoo’
Cuckoos are birds that steal other bird’s nests, often by pushing out other’s young. 

‘Fifteen Stone’
From Jeroen Schipper’s FAQ: "A measurement in the Imperial scale, which the British are notoriously bad at giving up, despite having gone metric in 1971! 15 stone = 15 * 14 = 210 pounds * 0.4536 = 95.25 kilograms!" 

‘First-footer’
From Jeroen Schipper’s FAQ: "First-footer is a Scottish term relating to the New Year (Hogmanay). A first-footer is a person who is the first person to enter your house on January 1st. When this person comes into your house, you must give him all the food he/she wants! In other words, after The Bells (midnight on 31 December) you have to ensure that your 'first footer' is a tall person who should be carrying a small lump of coal, which would traditionally go onto your fire (remember it's cold and dark at New Year in Scotland!). The early hours of 1 January are traditionally spent going from house to house in your neighbourhood visiting people and welcoming in the New Year (drinking!)." 

‘And you could fly... talk about old times’
In one book of Horace’ Odes, it is said of Nemesis, the Greek goddess of retribution, that you could get on a boat and row to the other side of the world, only to find that the rower behind you was Nemesis. (cf. Assassing)
Lyrics: Steve Hogarth & John Helmer

No comments:

Post a Comment

Thanks for your comments.

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