The Sisters of Mercy Ultimate Resource Guide
1959 and all that

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1959 and all that: Taken from: 1959 and all that
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Bad Vultee
Body Electric
Damage Done
Detonation Boulevard
1959 and all that:
  • Detonation Boulevard
    An echo of Dylan's Desolation Row?, or perhaps, The Sweet's Desolation Boulevard.

    Long distance information
    A quote from the Chuck Berry song Memphis, Tennessee. Is this supposed to echo the line '...stuck outside of Memphis...', from Dominion?

    Pink noise, white noise
    Pink and white noise are two forms of random noise; pink and white are also apparently two forms of amphetamine.

    Both a mythical source of fantastic wealth hidden somewhere in the jungles of Central or South America (variously an individual, a city or a whole region), and a (vast) American car.

    Ensenada (note the spelling) is a resort in Mexico which by many accounts, is a wretched hive of scum and villainy, in which you could `catch something weird' very easily. Andrew supposedly has numerous anecdotes about Mexico, presumably relating to his trip there in 1985. The band were stuck in LA for a few days waiting for a flight back to England, so Andrew and John Martin, the tour manager, decided to hire a car (despite neither holding a driving license) and headed way down Mexico way. It is reported that the rest of the band were inspired by this reckless derring-do and went to Disneyland.
    ? Is this a typo, or a commonly used alternative spelling? Alternatively, might the mis-spelling be relevant?

    Tomas de Torquemada (1420-1498) was the one of the first, and certainly the most famous, Inquisitor-Generals of the notorious Spanish Inquisition, established by Ferdinand V and Isabella of Spain in the fifteenth century. The avowed rôle of the Inquisition was to find and try heretics, specifically false conversos (Jews and Muslims who had converted to Catholicism in order to escape religious persecution, but carried on practicing their previous faiths in private). The methods used tended towards the extreme, and the name Torquemada is usually used as a symbol of cruelty and sadistic zeal, although recent revisionist histories have suggested that the Spanish Inquisition have suffered from a bad press over the years.

    Andrew has previously cited Torquemada as a hero / influence, references include The Gothic Rock Black Book by Mick Mercer.

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1959 and all that
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Doctor Jeep
1959 and all that:
  • I Love Lucy
    A television show, which Americans apparently find funny.

    Pee Wee
    Disgraced children's TV star Pee Wee Herman.

    Literally `Army of God', the Hizbollah are a revolutionary Shiite Muslim faction, which rose to prominence during the war in Lebanon in the 1980s, and have since been involved in numerous terrorist actions aimed at Israel and America.

    businessmen from South Miami
    ? Cocaine smugglers

    Album Oriented Rock (or Album Oriented Radio, the stations that play it) - ghastly mainstream classic rock predominates.

    Cal ... napalm
    Strictly speaking, napalm is a thickening agent. The name is a contraction of naphthenate palmitate, both(?) aluminium based compounds. This can be processed into a reddish brown powder, (dust and gasolene / rust and gasolene, you might say) which is then mixed into gasoline (or a similar active ingredient) to form a thick, sticky gel, i.e. the substance more generally described as `napalm'.

    Cal is almost certainly Cal Worthington, the dodgy used-car salesman's dodgy used-car saleman. Worthington is well known in the US for his commercials, which always feature the cheery proclaimation "It's Cal Worthington and his dog Spot!". 'Spot' is featured as some sort of animal, although rarely, if ever, a dog. Cheap Americana through and through. A somewhat contrived alternative explanation would be that 'Cal' is a back formation referring to the Viet Cong, who were indubitably dogged by napalm (i.e. Viet Cong = VC = Victor Charlie = Charlie = Cal).

    I like Ike
    `Ike' is Dwight D. Eisenhower, the 34th President of the USA; `I like Ike' was his campaign slogan in 1953. As a man who had an exemplary military career and was president as the Cold War developed, he can probably be seen as emblematic of atomic weapons. However, his rôle here is perhaps ironic. Eisenhower warned about the power and lack of morality of the 'military-industrial complex', showing considerable foresight. Stranger still: he was a Republican, but offers an odd contrast with his fellow Republicans Reagan and Bush, who respectively overshadow Floodland and Vision Thing.

    Janie ... Viet Cong
    The Viet Cong were communist revolutionaries in South Vietnam, who sprang out of the remnants of the Viet Minh.

    `Janie' is Jane Fonda, who had a prominent rôle in the anti-Vietnam war movement. Fonda was photographed posing with bemused Viet Cong civilians, much to the fury of conservatives across the States, and organised fund raising to assist Vietnamese victims of the war. Interestingly enough, she later married Ted Turner, owner of CNN and a significant partner in Time Warner (now AOL Time Warner); Time Warner own both the Warners record label and East West, the Sisters' nemesis.

    The capital of South Vietnam during the war; now Ho Chi Minh City.

    sold down the Mekong
    The Mekong is one of the main rivers in Vietnam. Being sold down the river was a phrase which arose from the slave trade. If the Mekong, which flows from Cambodia in to South Vietnam is taken as representative of the conflicting philosophies of the Vietnam war, then being sold down the Mekong could be interpreted as being enslaved by capitalism, or US cultural imperialism, or simply the thoughts of someone who whole heartedly supports the war. The line would therefore be in contrast to the (presumed) reference to Jane Fonda a couple of lines previously.

    guns and cars and accidents
    Whilst one is loath to put much creedence in videos, it may be worth noting that two of the more interesting interpretations in the Doctor Jeep video are for this line, which is illustrated with the Zapruder footage of Kennedy's assassination, as is the line `bye-bye mother', whilst George Bush is used to illustrate the line `Pee Wee reads the evening news'.

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1959 and all that
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1959 and all that:
Taken from: 1959 and all that
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Driven Like The Snow
1959 and all that:
  • "Driven like the snow" c.f. "and the cost of the blood on the driven snow" from Nine While Nine. Both songs are about the defilement of purity. Snow is used primarily as an image of purity, though it may also represent frigidity and drugs. Both DLTS and NWN were inspired by the break up of Eldritch's one and only love affair.

    Kill the lights in the middle of the road
    c.f. "Then he killed the lights in a lonely lane" - Leonard Cohen, The Master Song (from the LP The Songs of Leonard Cohen)

    It don't help to be one of the chosen
    c.f. "Where the chosen hold the highest card/On the field of honour where the ground is hard" from `Under the Gun'. It's interesting to compare the difference in attitude of the two songs; in DLTS the chosen is clearly a victim, whereas UtG's chosen is very much the aggressor. This is symptomatic of a general shift in Eldritch's lyrics post-Vision Thing.

    One of the few, to be sure
    Note the positioning of the comma, implying two ways of reading the line.

    When the wheels are spinning around
    c.f. "And the we'll turn round..." from This Corrosion.

    And given/Away to the west
    Obvious double meaning: "given away" in the sense that a bride is given away, and "given a way to the west" in the sense that going west is seen as an escape to freedom. The latter is particularly ironic given the album's strong condemnation of `western' values.

    Where the street fold round
    c.f. Where the street fold round and the motors start/And the idiot wields the power" from Under the Gun.

    two by two/Took alot to live alot like you
    According to the song the animals went into Noah's ark two by two. See the note above on Floodland for the significance of Noah's ark and the biblical flood. This is also a comment on the difficulty Eldritch found in conforming to the idea of being part of a couple.

    Some wild idea and a big white bed
    The (currently unreleased) Sisters track Come Together has a line "Some wild idea and a big black bomb".

    Like lipstick on my think it twice but never never learn...
    c.f. "And the lipstick on my cigarettes/Frost upon the window pane" from Nine While Nine.


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1959 and all that
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Finland Red, Egypt White
Flood I
1959 and all that:
Taken from: 1959 and all that
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Flood II
1959 and all that:
Taken from: 1959 and all that
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Good Things
Home Of The Hitmen
I Was Wrong
Kiss The Carpet
Knife, Paper, Stone And Gun
Lucretia My Reflection
1959 and all that:
  • "My welcome on board Patricia song"

    Lucretia Borgia is the obvious reference, but it might also be referring a number of other historical Lucretias. Eldritch: "Patricia always strikes me as a Lucretia-type person". [ATF] The Family Borgia were notorious power freaks operating in renaissance Italy, famous for their unscrupulous operating techniques, and much admired by Machiavelli. Lucretia Borgia was a notorious poisoner, c.f. Gift.

    Hot metal and Methedrine
    Methedrine is a form of amphetamine and is apparently best taken intravenously. 'Hot metal' is probably a reference to the needle, though it might be something to do with guns. The comparison between guns and drugs is a typical Eldritch riff, notably "a gun for a lover and a shot for the pain inside" from Temple of Love.

    "The drug of choice is Methedrine. It's like the eighth gear. I remember taking it once in Chicago, and waking up a week later wondering what had happened in between" - Eldritch (unknown source, quoted on the Dominion mailing list).

    "A former proprietary name for an amphetamine, methylamphetamine hydrochloride, a soft drug, but used by drug addicts." - Chambers dictionary.

    Dance the ghost with me
    This is probably a reference to Ghost Dance, the band formed by Gary Marx after he left The Sisters. Ghostdance is also a North American Indian movement which sought to achieve unity with the dead / dead souls in order to return to the lifestyle destroyed by the arrival of Europeans. This interpretation ties in with the situation Eldritch found himself in with respect to previous band members, and the arrival of Patricia signalling the return of The Sisters.

    A long train held up by page on page
    This line makes alot more sense if one thinks about weddings.

    A hard reign
    "Reign" is a pun on "rain". "A hard rain's a-gonna fall" is a Bob Dylan song.

    Once a railroad/Now it's done...
    "Once I built a railroad, now it's done. Buddy, can you spare a dime", American song of the 1930s depression. As an aside, 'Buddy Can You Spare A Dime?' was once piped into the Leeds DHSS offices where it was no doubt warmly received by the punters!

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1959 and all that
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1959 and all that:
  • "Half the lyrics aren't there any more because they were...illegal. It was originally: wise up, motherfucker. Now it's a hybrid of mine and Jim's, so I'm at somewhat of a loss when answering for it."[EAA]

    I take the above to mean that the song was (originally) about someone, with that someone not being Andrew, and that furthermore it was libellous. However it's hard to say who it's about, and if Steinman tinkered with the lyrics as well as the music then it probably hasn't aided analysis. Any ideas?

    English zloty
    The zloty is the currency of Poland. Prior to the collapse of the Eastern Bloc, the zloty was typically used as an example of a useless currency: if you went to Poland then it was difficult to find anything that you wanted to buy with your zlotys, and on leaving the country it was difficult, if not impossible to change zlotys back into a western currency. Even after the break up of the Soviet Union, it was, for a while, useless as a currency, as it suffered from rapid and massive devaluation. Thus the phrase `English zloty' could indicate either a bogus currency (i.e. much the same as `counterfeit dollars') or could be read as referring to sterling, but suggesting that sterling is no longer to be seen as a hard currency.

    Other than that, I'm not aware of allusions in the song, or phrases which need elucidation.

Taken from: 1959 and all that
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Mother Russia
1959 and all that:
Taken from: 1959 and all that
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Never Land (A Fragment)
1959 and all that:
Taken from: 1959 and all that
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Rain From Heaven
1959 and all that:
  • Flowers on the razor wire
    The line evokes images of both the flowers placed by pacifists on barbed wire fences, and the blooms of blood brought by application of sharp objects such as razor wire to the skin. Either would function as nice combinations of the poet's traditional interests of love and death; together the sense can only be amplified: this line goes all the way up to eleven.

    Love is a many splintered thing
    A pun on the song Love Is A Many Splendoured Thing written by Paul Francis Webster.

    cobalt red...cobalt blue
    Different forms of cobalt are variously coloured red and blue. This could quite easily be seen as emblematic of political divide. However, cobalt is not the only substance to have these colour qualities, so is there any particular reason why it is mentioned rather than any other substance? Two reasons spring to mind; firstly the cobalt bomb, a proposed Doomsday `superbomb' in which a hydrogen bomb would be encased in shell of cobalt. As the bomb exploded, the cobalt would be vaporised, and radioactive particulates would be spread throughout the atmosphere, poisoning the whole planet. Thus the women in the song might be seen as having awesome destructive power. Alternatively (or additionally) it might be noted that the word `cobalt' comes from the German word `kobald', meaning a goblin or subterranean demon, so named by miners because of the difficulty of working the metal, and thus it could quite usefully be seen as a pun. Note also that the eyes are red amd the voice is blue.

    Marx and Engels
    Whilst it is possible that the narrator is trying to persuade the woman in question of the various merits of Groucho Marx or Noel Scott Engels, it seems more likely that be is referring to Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, authors of the Communist Manifesto etc.

    God and Angels
    Oh come on, you must have heard of them.
    " - be there or wait another five years for God and all His angels to make that funny exploding noise in your head again." - postcard advertising the single `More' and publicising the appearances at Wembley Arena in November 1990.

    Tie a red, red, red, red, red ribbon
    A contrast to the paean to American values, Tie A Yellow Ribbon Round The Old Oak Tree

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1959 and all that
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Something Fast
1959 and all that:
  • Gimme something fast
    Possibly related to the `gimme speed' line in Amphetamine Logic?

    A city in Maryland obviously, but I'm not totally sure of the relevance. The use of `his' and `he' in this verse would seem to agree with `God' in the first line, although one might expect Andrew to capitalise the words if they did refer to God. The lack of capitals may well be important in deciphering the lyricist's intentions in this song. If the `he' who is still in Baltimore does refer to God, then we are still left with the slightly tricky question of `why Baltimore?'. There is a potential link to the Baltimore Catechism, in which case I take the line to be in contrast to the previous two: the first image being of a televangelist, and the last line indicating that the narrator prefers to believe in a God rooted more firmly in Catholic orthodoxy. That said, the narrator seems to distance himself from God: "God knows... / Some of us are not so sure", so perhaps it's the case that God is seen as being an irrelevance, stuck in past strictures. God knows what this song is about.

    The Baltimore Catechism is one of a number of Catechisms (documents explaining the Catholic faith, specifically explaining the meanings of the Apostle's Creed, the sacraments, the Ten Commandments and the Lord's Prayer) and as far as I know it doesn't represent any radically different approach to Christianity (although please correct me if you know better), so if it does represent religious traditionalism, I suspect that actual word was chosen at least in part because it fitted the rhyme scheme well, although it also offers the best ironic contrast with the essentially American image of corrupt TV preachers.

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This Corrosion
1959 and all that:
  • Disclaimer: much of the following explanation may seem like an extended and unwarranted dig at Wayne Hussey. In my opinion, every line of this song could be interpreted as attacking The Mission and specifically Hussey. I'd like to say that I personally have no axe to grind, and that the following is just my interpretation of a particularly vicious song - CS.

    the Ring
    Possibly a reference to the Ring of Niebelung from Richard Wagner's epic ring cycle. The wearer of the ring is conferred huge power, but in return for the power is required to forego human love. The sound of 'This Corrosion' is very Wagnerian: the bombastic, overblown choral chants are typical of Wagner's work.

    kissed and toll'd
    Kissing a ring is a way of showing deference, especially toward one in power. This is a typical way of greeting the Pope, for instance. "Toll'd" is a way of announcing a death by ringing (tolling) a bell; this is also a pun on 'Kiss and Tell' which is a euphemism for gossiping and petty betrayal. Wayne Hussey's behaviour during The Sisterhood episide neatly fits this description. Hussey can be viewed as laying claim to something that was not his (the Sisterhood name), and then not using the power effectively. The two ways of using the Ring can be likened to the two meanings of this line: Eldritch uses The Ring as a means of ultimate power ("kissed and toll'd"); the bell toll'd for Hussey's version of The Sisterhood, and RCA were forced to kiss Eldritch's in the form of a cheque for 25 grand. Meanwhile, "kiss and tell" is all too descriptive of the embarrassing teary confessional that was typical of The Mission's modus operandi.

    And the we'll turn round
    Pun on "wheel" and "we'll". This is suggestive of gaining revenge.

    Gimme dream child
    Eldritch again, impatiently, demands the return of The Ring. The 'dream child' is therefore the possessor of The Ring: Wayne Hussey. It's a very accurate and perceptive description of Hussey.

    On the loan and on the level
    This is an adaption of the Ozymandias quotation used in Dominion with 'loan' substituted for 'lone'. This probably refers to Hussey's 'loan' of the 'Sisterhood' name; Eldritch is therefore comparing the fate of the Hussey Sisterhood with Ozymandias' colossal wreck. Ouch!

    sing This Corrosion to me.
    The 'Corrosion' is sung, and refers to the tarnished version of The Sisters' sound that The Mission were selling ('selling the don't belong').

    On daze, like this.
    Obvious pun on 'daze' and 'days'.

    The highered hand.
    This is a pun on 'hired' and 'highered'. The 'hired hand' could be an assassin. The 'highered hand' implies a moral authority, although it could mean domineering and dogmatic as in 'high-handed'. I think it's the former as '...hand/On heart' would seem to imply truth and honesty. Either way, ultimately 'This Corrosion' is regenerative as Eldritch closes the song screaming "Like a healing hand".

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1959 and all that
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Two In The Nose
1959 and all that:
  • The razor bites and the shriek subsides / he arches clutching at his sides.
    The opening couplet is taken from T S Eliot's 1920 poem Sweeney Erect, the eighth verse of which reads:

    "Tests the razor on his leg
    Waiting until the shriek subsides
    The epileptic on the bed
    Curves backward, clutching at her sides"

    Eliot's poem is one of a series of three Sweeney poems which deal with the infamous Sweeney Todd murders. Todd, a barber, murdered his clients and disposed of the bodies by using them as the fillings in the meat pies sold in the shop situated below the barbers. Charming.

    A people fed on famine
    Previous lines in Valentine introduce TV as a numbing influence on mankind's ability to deal with catastrophic events. A repeated image on early 80s TV was the African famine; there is, of course, an ironic oxymoron in being fed by famine. Eldritch, for once, misses his target as the Band Aid/Live Aid organisations in late 83/84 demonstrated that famine was the one thing that was still horrific enough to shock the populace out of their complacency. Of course this just spawned a series of increasingly reflex, meaningless 'charity events': the genre reaching its crepuscular zenith with the nauseous Freddy Mercury tribute concert.

    A people eat each other
    Literally so in the case of Sweeney!

    Waiting for another war and waiting for my Valentine
    It has been suggested that Valentine is inspired by the juxaposition of Falklands war and the Charles/Diana Royal Wedding on TV in 1981.

    Watch the body hit the files
    This may refer to the burgeoning UK unemployment count in the early 80s under the so-called Thatcher economic "miracle" (also "a people stand in line"), or possibly it might be a reference to the death toll in the Falklands War.

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1959 and all that
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Vision Thing
1959 and all that:
  • sniff
    Before the crash-bang-wallop opening, there is a brief sound which sounds something like a reversed cymbal. According to Andrew it is a sniff:

    Chris Roberts:"...`Vision Thing', the title track, starts with `25 whores in the room next door...'" Andrew Eldritch:"No, `Vision Thing' starts with a sniff"

    ...or, perhaps, a snort.

    two thousand Hamburg four
    A postal code. Prior to re-unification, 2000 was the code for the Hamburg region. Sub-area 4 included the Reeperbahn, the road around which Hamburg's red-light district is based. At the time when Vision Thing was written, Andrew lived in the vicinity.

    Vision Thing
    The phrase was initially used by George Bush in his campaign for the 1988 election. (Apparently originally used in Time in 1987). When it was suggested to Bush that his plans were all to do with short term issues, and that he lacked ideas that might be more significant in America's longer history, he dismissed the question by claiming that he did indeed have '...the vision thing...'. Since then it has been the subject of journalistic rhetoric to ask whether or not particular politicians have `the vision thing', with varying levels of irony.

    As it turned out, the invasion of Nicaragua in order to depose General Noriega seemed to indicate that was Bush's vision was for the USA to become the world's policeman, using it's military might to interfere in foreign countries which had the audacity not to be American pawns. A fairly expensive interpretation of foreign policy, and thus a '...billion dollar vision thing...'.

    One million points of light
    The phrase 'one thousand points of light' came out of the same election campaign. Bush used it in his acceptance speech for the Republican nomination (? confirmation) and again in his presidential inaugural speech.

    The phrase (as used by Bush) is a metaphor for the many community based welfare schemes etc. that exist in America, both charitable and centrally funded. The argument is that these many small points of light provide better illumination than a single beacon (i.e. centrally operated schemes).

    "You can't overlook the fact that Vision Thing is about the American political divide and it's fuel of choice, the blinding disparity between Bush's promised "points of light" and those which he helped deliver (from Panama)." [C14]

    These points of light delivered from Panama are a reference to drugs, specifically the drugs allegedly imported to the US with the knowledge and/or aid of the CIA in order to generate money to maintain funding of the Nicaraguan Contras. The actual points of light are presumably referring to the affects on vision caused by hallucinogenic drugs, and might also be seen as a metaphor for illumination achieved via mind-altering substances. Of course, if you can understand the intricacies of the whole Contra scandal, replete with subtexts and countertexts and a multitude of ironies, then untangling Andrew's lyrics should present no problem!

    A little more mad in the methedrome
    A pun on Polonius' aside in `Hamlet': "Though this be madness yet there is method in't" (Act 2, Scene 2)

    "There is a reference to a line from Hamlet about madness and method. (Why Hamlet? Go figure.)" [C14]

    The spelling of methedrome harks back to previous references to methedrine, of course.

    Blizzard king
    Presumably excess (via allusion to Jim Morrison) and cocaine, and therefore Manuel Noriega. A blizzard refers to a vast amount of cocaine, and the king would be the overseer of the drugs operation. The next line could refer either to Noriega, or to the drugs (or, of course, to both) as both were `brought home'.

    "...I am the lizard king / I can do anything..." - Morrison, `Celebration of the lizard'

    snacirema eht ynlo
    The garbled sample towards the end of the `Canadian Club mix' of VT is reversed. When played the right way round, it says: "Only the Americans would build a place like this in the middle of the jungle ... Only the Americans would want to". It is taken from the film Apocalypse Now and can be heard on the `definitive' double CD soundtrack album available on Elektra, (track 15, `Dossier #III', to be precise). However, there are several edits of the film, and the quote is not necessarily to be found in all of them. It certainly isn't in the UK widescreen video. Clarification of any cinematic releases or commercial video / laserdisc versions which definitely feature the quote would be appreciated.

Taken from: 1959 and all that
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We Are The Same, Susanne
When You Don't See Me