Poetry corner – “Fugazi” by Marillion

I’m no longer welcome at songmeanings.net (they can ban you for having the wrong political position, it seems) – so I might as well indulge my “lyric commentary” urges here.  Actually in the case of this song, I could just as easily flag it as “seemingly obvious things #2″…

Enjoy these posts while you can – the way the world is, I’ll probably get a cease and desist order.  From people who pretend to “own” the lyrics and, contradictorily, to be benefiting Mr D W Dick in doing so.

Vodka intimate: an affair with isolation in a Blackheath cell.  Extinguishing the fire from a private hell, provoking the heartache, to renew the license of a bleeding-heart poet…

So, Fish seems to have glossed over the actual trigger for the writing of this lyric.  If we take this literally – and he’s the sort of writer we can afford to take literally – the idea for the song must have come to him in a police-cell drunk-tank.  We’re in “Who Are You” territory here, and not only because of the mise en scene.

Feeling sick and sorry for himself –  wrapped in the christening-shawl of a hangover – but, upon remembering a prior upsetting experience on the London Underground, and finding himself baptised in tears from the Real, seizing the opportunity to channel his upset into a lyric.  Despite being acutely aware of the “Great Deception” the hypocrisy of writing protest-songs, about people whose experiences one can never truly understand, in order to earn a wage.  He uses the pejorative phrases “bleeding heart” – a knowing Roger Waters / Wall reference? – and “the glitter conscience” aka `champagne socialists’ (his image furthered  later by reference to inhabitors of “conscience bubbles” within the music-making world).  A pause.  A change of tempo.

Voice 1 – Drowning in the liquid seize on the Piccadilly line, rats race, scuttling through the dank electric labyrinth.  Sheathed within the Walkman, wear the halo of distortion (aural contraceptive, aborting pregnant conversation)

Voice 2 – Caress Ophelia’s hand with breathstroke ambition, an albatross in the marrytime tradition…She turned the harpoon and it pierced my heart, she hung herself around my neck

Puns proliferate, alliteration accumulates.  Two “trains” (ahem) of thought.  Voice two: indicating that during that memorable subterranean train journey, Fish was not alone, but with his then-partner, reminding us of the unhappy relationship he was shortly to exit from.  Voice one: picturing himself amongst the literal and colloquial rats, trying to blot out the conversation he needs to have with his partner, and (unsuccessfully) the conversation around him.

voice 1, completing the sentence: …from the Time-Life guardians in their conscience-bubbles.  Safe and dry in my sea of troubles.  Nine to fives with suitable ties – (I’m) cast adrift as their sideshow.  A peepshow.  A stereo hero. Becalm, bestill, bewitch.  (We are) drowning, drowning in the Real.

He’s taking refuge in the music of another hypocritical “protest singer”.  The first fellow-travelers (in the literal sense) to catch his eye are the ordinary workers.  The thought crosses his mind that as a (still fairly minor) celebrity (but a celebrity nonetheless), they might be drawing some amusement from his presence.  But the “peepshow” is two-way: he’s intensively watching the people around him, he can’t help it, even with his soon-to-be-ex-girlfriend at his side.  As we make our way to the “main” part of the song: the three b-words.  Easily mistaken for commanding phrases, not (self-directed) verbs.

The next verses are fairly self-explanatory.  Here’s a link: http://www.lyricsfreak.com/m/marillion/fugazi_20088836.html

Fish described this part of the song as (paraphrasing heavily) being suddenly surrounded on the train by London’s losers, the people most in need of help.  But unless Fish was now turning his personal-stereo off and listening very intently, to some dangerously unguarded conversation, we suspect his imagination may have been working overtime.

Howso it may be, we first meet a pimp and his whore (an ex-glamour model who presumably has sunk further into need, and so traveled further into vice: drugs may be involved).  Both are immigrants, each eager to be rid of the other, though deportation is the last thing Magdalene (her real name, we can assume) would want.

We then meet neo-Nazis (who, just like “18” himself, are not themselves “Aryan”, merely parading a peroxide standard) – they have been, or are caught in the act of, daubing “testaments of hatred” on a Brixton wall.  Finally, in this part of the song,  we encounter a homeless person, possibly a veteran of the army or navy.  He seems to have escaped from the pages of a certain Ralph McTell song. Amid “the roadways” of “the English capital”, some things never change.

Another pause.  Archetypal “dramatic” chords.  Fish’s imagination drifts off – he adopts a “global” view for the final verse.  A jibe at the misinformation / colloquial opiation perpetrated by Britain’s (90% hard-right-wing) newspapers.  And then a reference to the then-nascent orbital nuclear-defence system proposed by Reagan (a project later to be revived by Bush Junior and shamefully not retracted by Obama and Trump).  “Pandora’s Box of Holocausts gracefully cruising satelite-infested heavens” (never mind “the button“, here’s the space-junk: and the impending collision).  Live performances clarify that “we” are “waiting” for the apocalypse, and that “we” are as “insane” as our leaders.  We vote for the muthafukas after all.  We shout down the opponents of WMD possession as “naive” – more concerned about the loss of a few jobs in a fundamentally-immoral industry than our own security (indeed, advancing a perverse downside-up notion of what “security” is).

Having at last posed the (fumbled) question, the call to responsibility: “do you realise – this world is totally Fugazi?” (forgetting that “fugazi” is a noun, not an adjective), Fish appears to correct his stated position in the introductory verse.  Back in his police cell, he realises that as an “entertainer” he has a responsibility to inform, to incite political action.  To risk accusations of hypocrisy and write those damned protest-songs.  Because if he doesn’t, who will?  “Where are the prophets?”, and “where are the poets?”.  And (live version) “can you tell [him] whereabouts [he]’ll find the sentimental mercenaries?” – if not by starting with the man in the mirror.





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