Which way the wind blows
This is probably a reference to the Raymond Briggs book and film 'When the wind blows'. The animated film is a very simple, almost childish, account of the slow death of a husband and wife following a nuclear war. The combination of the childlike innocence of the film's tone and all too adult theme fits in well in the context of 1959.
A girl who wrote to Eldritch suggesting he record a song just with piano and voice.
The " lone and level" quote also appears in This Corrosion, although in a modified form.
In the meeting of mined.
The more obvious spelling is `mind' (also `hold hold and sway' - one can hold and sway a mind), so why `mined'? The `mined' may be those who are the victims of the powerful, those whose talents are extracted and used for other's enrichment; those who are the subjects of the Dominion. The `meeting of the mined' could be likened to a political rally where the powerful hold and sway the mined's minds.
Streets of shame
The UK's newspapers used to have their headquarters in Fleet Street, London. This became known as the `Street of Shame', so this might be a dig at the media in general and their role in subjugating the public. Alternatively, it could be a reference to the Reeperbahn.
In the betting of names on gold to rust.
"Gold to rust" is obviously the corrosion of an ideal (similar to Mother Russia's "Gold to chrome"). I am not sure what `betting of names' refers to. A best guess is that it refers to Lloyds' Names: Lloyds Register of Shipping is the world's oldest insurance company, and works by using rich individuals to underwrite it - the Names. They each sign over some part of their huge wealth to the company, in return for a share in the huge profits. Gold doesn't rust, and they feel safe - their bets are certain. Of course, the irony is that they choose to overlook the fact that if payouts need to be made to claimants, they also have a share in the losses.
In the land of the blind/Be...king, king, king, king
There's a common saying "in the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king". This is not necessarily intended as a positive statement: H.G. Wells wrote a short story "In the Country of the Blind". In this, the sighted man is anything but king - he's unwanted, useless, and treated with total indifference by the blind inhabitants. In the end he goes back where he came from, his perceived advantage having proved to be a liability. All of which gives the line a wonderful twist.
Sackcloth and Ashes
A medieval form of penitence, popular with monks and other religious types, which involved wearing sackcloth and presumably doing something with ashes. Collins Dictionary has it as "public form of extreme grief".
"The bitter comes out better on a stolen guitar/you're the blessed, we're the Spiders From Mars" - Hang On To Yourself, David Bowie (from the fabulous Ziggy Stardust album). Eldritch is a noted Bowie fan and often cites seeing Starman (also from Ziggy Stardust) on Top of the Pops as the reason why he became a rock star.
"Bring on the wave".
As discussed above, in a nuclear attack, Hamburg could be obliterated by a tidal wave. Here Eldritch is comparing this form of obliteration with the 'little death' of orgasm.
"Raise your arms"
"It's hard to hold the hand of anyone who is reaching for the sky just to surrender" - The Stranger Song, Leonard Cohen (from the LP The Songs of Leonard Cohen). If you raise your arms in water then you sink. The connection with Cohen's image of raising arms to surrender seems particularly apt. In fact passages of The Stranger Song are reminiscent of many of the Sisters more melancholy songs, particularly Nine While Nine.
"Sitting here now in this bar for hours/Strange men rent strange flowers"
See Flood I.
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?
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.
The demo of the song was originally over 10 minutes long, but was trimmed to a shorter version for the official release. The demo doesn't have any extra lyrics.
I had a face on the mirror
Another drug song...
Ticket to Syria
Damascus is in Syria. Possibly this is reference to the "Road to Damascus" biblical episode, wherein non-believing Saul, travelling to Damascus, has a vision of God, changes his ways and becomes Saint Paul.
Tear it up and watch it fall
Just the perfect closing line.
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.
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.
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.