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White Paper

Introduction: In an interview for Prog magazine, h said, "It's about several things. It's a sort of sister story to The Leavers in some respects. It's about trying to settle into domestic life, about wanting to live passionately and in the moment. There's also the thing about slowly coming to terms with the fact that you're getting old, and you better get used to the fact that what you are railing against is very beautiful and natural.

There's a line in the song of 'I used to be centre stage, time I should act my age', and that really is what this song is about. It's about at one time feeling you were the most important person in the equation, and having to come to terms with the fact that you'd better stand at the side and watch something beautiful going on, rather than try and occupy that space yourself, with your own ego."

Darren Moore pointed out that the song begins with chords that call to mind the opening piano refrain from Neverland. "Neverland was about being in a relationship and wanting to be out of it (somewhere else even). White Paper is about being in a relationship and deciding that even though the temptation to stray (the "beautiful things" being the female members of the audience who throw themselves at him!) he wants to stick with his family."

'White Paper'
A 'white paper' is a document that attempts to summarise a complex issue in order for its audience to attempt to understand an issue, often in order to make decisions.

The term originated in the British Parliament, and derives from the colour of the cover of the document, which distinguishes it from more comprehensive 'blue book' reports. It is claimed that a 1922 report by Churchill about riots in Palestine was the origin.

'She is painting forty different shades of white'
The colour white in western culture symbolises purity and innocence. However, in Shinto cultures, white is the colour of death; indeed, white paper is placed over domestic shrines when a death has occurred.

There is also a suggestion of a play on the title of the 2011 novel by EL James Fifty Shades of Grey.

'I'm painting forty different shades of green'
The colour green has connotations of youth, naivety, inexperience and jealousy, but also – not necessarily apparent here, nature and hope.

'But innocence is never news, The black keeps bleeding through'
There is a suggestion of the printing/bibliographical use of the word, where in a stain or mark on the paper comes through what is printed upon it.

Black also has connotations of depression (as in the expression 'Black Dog'). It is also possible that the line is intended to reference the character Johnny Nice from The Fast Show, a series of sketches featuring painter Nice, who while painting bucolic scenes would enter into fits of despair as soon as he even thinks about the colour black.

'Only to reveal our worldly blues' 
The use of the word 'blues' to mean depression or worldly woes appears to derive from a 17th century British expression 'blue devils', used to refer to hallucinations experienced with severe alcohol withdrawal.

The term has been used to describe the musical form since at least 1912 when the first blues song was copyrighted; Hart Wand's Dallas Blues.

'And watch from the shadowed wings'
A reference back to the preceding lyric about being centre stage. The wings are the sides of the stage shielded from the sight of the audience.

'My eyes that hurry to see no more are painting, painting faces of my lost girl'
According to Steve Hogarth, this line is from a poem called Black Marigolds, a translation by Edward Powys Mathers in 1919 of an 11th century love poem by the Kasmiri poet Bilhana Kavi. It is referenced in John Steinbeck's 1945 depression-era novel Cannery Row, hence the acknowledgement to all three in the lyrics booklet. The full text of the Mathers' translation can be found here, but the relevant section is as follows;

Even now
My eyes that hurry to see no more are painting, painting
Faces of my lost girl. O golden rings,
That tap against cheeks of small magnolia leaves,
O whitest so soft parchment where
My poor divorced lips have written excellent
Stanzas of kisses, and will write no more.

Song Listing:

Songs with a link have explanations.

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  1. Hi Fraser, in my opinion, maybe the phrase "forty different sahdes of white" refers to the shades of white that the Eskimos can see because of their habitat (snow and ice). It is known that they see up to 40 different shades of white.
    Symbolizes the monotony, fashion, to desire the same things that capitalism proposes, going every like sheep to the same place
    ...But just it's another POV :)
    Best regards,
    Gustavo De Jesus
    Staff member of The Web In Spanish

  2. During the song, when h sings "walking in the park", Mark plays a keyboard line that sounds like the one which links Kayleigh and Lavender. "I was walking in the park" is, of course, the opening line to Lavender.

    Stephen Wicks

  3. It was a decision she makes to seek to keep her mentally out of the world to not be of thus world and a moment most importantly to which she remembered with her Father before she came to earth.


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