[Track Info] [The Lyrics] [Explanation]

Fugazi - Track Info

01. Studio version (08:03)

02. Live (London, England - "Hammersmith Odeon", January 9/10th '86) (08:14)

03. Live (Sheffield - "City Hall", March 6th 1984) (08:39)

Notes: Unlike the studio version, in live versions the initial section "Vodka intimate... tears from the real" is joined to the rest of the song.
Live versions are also slightly different from studio versions: Pete’s backing vocals replace Fish’, there is a longer finale and several verses added here and there ("This is no place for children", "...and it is yours!", "We are all fugazi" etc.). Also, in live versions Pete sings "she crucified herself around my neck" instead of "she hung herself around my neck" of the studio version (in fact, in the "official" lyrics in the Fugazi album the word is "crucified", so it's Fish that changed it in the studio version!).

Lyrics by Derek William Dick (Fish)
Performed Live for the first Time: February 11th 1984

Published by Marillion Music, Charisma Music Publishing Co. Ltd., Chappell Music Ltd.

Fugazi - The Lyrics

Vodka intimate, an affair with isolation in a blackheath cell,
Extinguishing the fires in a private hell,
Provoking the heartache to renew the licence
Of a bleeding heart poet in a fragile capsule
Propping up the crust of the glitter conscience
Wrapped in the christening shawl of a hangover,
Baptised in the tears from the real, tears from the real

Drowning in the liquid seize on the Piccadilly line, rat race,
Scuttling through the damp electric labyrinth,
[Caress Ophelias hand with breathstroke ambition,
An albatross in the marrytime tradition,]
Sheathed within the walkman wear the halo of distortion,
Aural contraceptive aborting pregnant conversation,
[She turned the harpoon and it pierced my heart
She hung herself around my neck]

From the Time-Life-Guardians in their conscience bubbles,
Safe and dry in my sea of troubles,
Nine to five with suitable ties,
Cast adrift as their sideshow, peepshow, stereo hero,
Becalm bestill, bewitch, drowning in the real.

The thief of Baghdad hides in Islingtown now
Praying deportation for his sacred cow,
A legacy of romance from a twilight world
The dowry of a relative mystery girl
A Vietnamese flower, a dockland union,
A mistress of release from a magazine's thighs,
Magdalenes contracts more than favours
The feeding hands of western promise hold her by the throat

A son of a swastika of '45 parading a peroxide standard,
Graffiti conjure disciples testaments of hatred,
Aerosol wands whisper where the searchlights trim the barbed wire hedges,
This is Brixton chess
A knight for Embankment folds his newspaper castle,
A creature of habit, begs the boatman's coin,
He'll fade with old soldiers in the grease stained roll call,
And linger with the heartburn of Good Friday's last supper

Son watches father scan obituary columns in search of absent school friends,
While his generation digests high fibre ignorance,
Cowering behind curtains and the taped up painted windows,
Decriminalised genocide, provided door to door Belsens
Pandora's box of holocausts gracefully cruising satellite infested heavens,
Waiting, wai-wai-waiting, the season of the button, the penultimate migration,
Radioactive perfumes, for the fashionably, for the terminally insane, insane,
D-d-do you realise? D-d-do you realise?
D-d-do you realise, this world is totally fugazi

[Where are the prophets, where are the visionaries, where are the poets,
To breach the dawn of the sentimental mercenary]

Copyright © 1997 Fraser Marshall, Matthew Anderson & Bert ter Steege.


From Jeroen Schipper’s FAQ: Fugazi is a word that was used by Americans in Vietnam, and is slang concerning those who died in ambush (something like that), so the acronym is Fucked Up, Got Ambushed, Zipped In. (Presumably the ‘Zipped In’ refers to body bags - Ed.)

This explains pretty well what Fish is trying to say with the album: "This world is totally fugazi". Fugazi is close to a popular net-acronym, Foobar, which is derived from Fubar and means "Fucked Up Beyond All Recognition" (sorry for the language...)

Fugazi is definitely not a Vietnamese word as there is no Z in the Vietnamese alphabet.

Torch said: Fish is, as usual, pissed and depressed. He clutches his "vodka intimate" as he courts "isolation", playing the role of the lonely martyr. His apartment, or "cell" is in Blackheath, a not unappealing area of London that reminds one that he described the first three albums in the MC sheet music book as "SCRIPT was bedsit thoughts, FUGAZI was hotel thoughts and MC is home thoughts. "

The cover of the album displays a decadent and depressed rock star very obviously modelled on Fish (less the beer gut!) in an expensive room... the Jester has gone up in the world since SCRIPT but not necessarily is he any happier. Fish did contemplate suicide around this time.

He is a "bleeding heart poet in a fragile capsule", a capsule perhaps being the room with its rich trappings that only fool him into liking life for so long before they give way to depression; perhaps the capsule is his social survival suit; the shawl of a hangover, the public image that could crumble so easily. "Propping up the crust of the glitter conscience"... he the poet is keeping the illusion of glitter and glamour alive?

"Wrapped in the christening shawl of a hangover", his only comfort that is also pain, the baptism is not of Holy water but of reality and the tears it produced that bring him back to the world like a newly Christened child ready to face everyone.

On the Piccadilly line of the London Underground he begins to crack up and the contemplation of trivialities and profundities that highlight how "fucked up" (fugazi) the world is appear to him. He is drowning in reality, as he becomes dangerously aware of it. There is a liquid seize (seas pun... ), presumably a seizure caused by over drinking, more reality seas to drown in as he is sober and under no illusions. Rat race! Everywhere are commuters, nine to fivers all in suits with "suitable ties", such as wives and kids as well as neck ties. He is their side-show as they all stare at this rebellious rock star. (More on this in a sec).

He is "scuttling through the damp electric labyrinth... ", damped with reality... the Underground is a rather prosaic place. Also electricity dampening is dangerous as if Fish sees the imminent explosion of it all.

"Caress Ophelia's hand with breaststroke ambition"
Ophelia drowned herself after (Shakespeare’s) Hamlet had feigned hating her and had accidentally killed her father. So to caress her hand with breaststroke ambition, you are feeling the water slightly with ambition to swim heroically through it, and you will find yourself eventually "drowning in the real". However there is a darker illusion here than just swimming after the dead to drown yourself... to caress a girl's hand to comfort her, when you really secretly want to stoke her breasts, and this is seen as "the albatross courtship, marrytime tradition"... maritime superstition is never to set sail on a Friday, or (as in "The Rime Of The Ancient Mariner") to kill and albatross as it is bad luck... all human courtship’s are caresses that masquerade as concern and love and are in face lustful desires that lead to courting the albatross, protecting something for your own safety and gain, traditionally ending in marriage, marry/mari time tradition.

"And then the time life guardians in their conscience bubbles... "
... commuters on the train all reading familiar commuters magazines like Time etc. and perhaps the Guardian too, so he sees a row of Time Life Guardians... or just that they guard their magazines. They exist in "conscience bubbles" not glitter consciences, but bubbles to protect them from drowning in the real. Fish however is "safe and dry in my sea of troubles", a lovely oxymoron. So he gets a sense of comfort from being in the role of the poet pained after glimpsing their enclosed existences. He is cast adrift (as at sea) as their "side-show"... for them to watch as a diversion from the main business of life, a "peepshow", something a little risqué and subversive they secretly pay some attention to as a novelty, and as their "stereo hero" the hero of their stereo systems as it plays out their songs; also he is cast as a stereotyped rock star. He is ‘becalmed, bestill bewitched’... becalmed at sea when the winds have dropped and you are stuck, as he is by being cast adrift with his bleak visions, but comforting himself and "bewitched" by what he sees.

"Sheathed within the walkman wear the halo of distortion Aural contraceptive aborting pregnant conversation"
The condom
(and indeed oral contraceptive pill metaphor - Ed) metaphor illustrates that the walkman wearers on the train (as he is probably one) are sheathed within it and in their own capsule/bubble that we all seem to have to have to survive, wearing a halo of distortion... mmm... radio distortion... headphones are a kind of halo over someone that give off a sound that is distorted to all who hear the beat of it in the carriage and the jarring of it. It is "aural" as it is worn in the ear, and "aborts pregnant conversation"; well does it? I don't think people would talk on the Underground regardless of wearing walkmans.

"She turned the harpoon and it pierced my heart She hung herself around my neck" As the albatross is hung round the mariners neck, and has it's revenge on the crew... she turns around his concern/lust and defeats him, but he must carry her around his neck now like a millstone weighing him down, a constant burden. I don't know what the hell the "thief of Baghdad" bit is on about so I won't pretend to! Anyone? Vietnam images crop up again... a Dockland union... at about this time the London Docklands were being redeveloped into luxurious yuppie flats and the cost of property in a previously cheap area was rocketing, hence their were many cases of vandalism... also there was violence at the Wapping offices of the Sun newspaper during a strike. The lyric probably refers more to the former, as a Union would be impossible between the residents, but it is an interesting pun on "unions" and the newspaper strikes.

"A mistress of release...hold her by the throat"
We get release from cover girls, who contract more than they favour, i.e. respond to money more than love... Magdalene meaning ex-prostitute as perhaps many models are reformed prostitutes? (I happen to think that the more likely meaning of this passage is a dual pun on contracts as in binding agreements - the payment of monies for sexual favours and the other meaning that the women are contracting diseases from those they sleep with. I can’t really remember that the AIDS story was really that big at the time; I always imagine that it’s about syphilis and slightly less appalling diseases, but I may well be wrong. I also think Torch is very wrong in his ideas about models! - Ed.) hold her by the throat, forcefully controlling her by her desire to be rich. Live Fish adds "they've all got you by the throat", as we all are slaves to greed.

"A son of the swastika of ’45....’
The ugly face of neo-fascism rears its head, as an NF member parades his Aryan style peroxide hairdo to emulate the Hitler youth, a son of the swastika of 1945. People graffiti racial insults; they are disciples to it as they follow the messages they spray rather than express their own thoughts, just following a cause blindly. These disciples conjure not the New Testaments, but Testaments of hatred with aerosol wands conjuring them up. Aerosols whisper as they spray and this is Brixton chess. In 1981 racial rioting in Brixton reaching very high levels with bombing and murder abounding. In chess there are black and white pieces fighting each other, pawns controlled by higher authorities.

‘Knight for Embankment... newspaper castle’
On the Embankment sits a businessman folding his newspaper, a very common sight. He is perhaps a merchant banker or the like as he is a Knight for Embankment... his castle is paper... within is his whole empire of stock listings, mere figures. He, like so many of his kind is a creature of habit begging the boatman's coin as he sits by the river wanting the money to pay his way to the afterlife (money placed on your eyes at death to pay the boatman to cross Styx.) He'll fade with old soldiers of his paper castle as the stock listings fade when they become greased stained with tomorrow's fish and chips, a stock list like a roll call, grease stained roll etc. The food would cause him heartburn, a common complaint of older gentlemen, but Good Friday's last supper would cause burning as this last supper is a nuclear holocaust that the final section is obsessed with.

"Son watches father scan obituary columns..." "This is no place for children" Fish whispers on "Brief Encounter". A son watches his dad looking for people he was at school with and has lost touch with as he wonders if they are dead or alive. His generation eat this high-fibre cereal and that, ignorantly clutching at all the straws the marketing men offer us, and digest every other kind of healthy ignorance of reality. They cower in suburbia behind the curtains and windows taped up in case of a nuclear explosion.

This zombie like existence is mass murder of personalities and existences, "decriminalised genocide" the houses being "door to door Belsens" i.e. concentration camps for estates of holocausts. Missiles cruise the skies, infesting the heavens, waiting for the button that Reagan or Gorbachev, we were told could so easily press in the early 80s. This is the penultimate migration as we all flock home to hide before finally dispersing in a bomb blast. We are the fashionably insane as it is unfashionable to care and crazy not to; the condition is terminal as there is no hope for it and it will lead to our destruction. You are mad, it seems, not to realise the world is totally fucked-up, fugazi being a term coined by Vietnam soldiers to describe their predicament, all fucked up. Bear in mind "The Deer Hunter" is a favourite film of Fish's.

"Where are the prophets?"
Where are the prophets, poets visionaries to tell us the "sentimental mercenaries" time has arrived, and we can fight but care too?

‘Blackheath’ An area of Lewisham, South-east London. In 1381 it was the mustering point for Wat Tyler’s peasant uprising against the poll tax, but is now an area of open land. There are many expensive houses in the area.

‘Piccadilly Line’
The Piccadilly line is an underground line running from Cockfosters in the north of London via Central London to Hammersmith and out to Heathrow in the south west. And nowhere near Blackheath which doesn’t even have a tube station. It’s approximate route is shown on the map below.

Fugimap.GIF still to be included

Ophelia actually appears on the cover to Script for a Jester's Tear. She’s the red head in the picture over the fireplace.
They apparently wanted to use the famous one but couldn’t get permission. This is the ‘famous one’:

It’s called Ophelia (strangely enough) and is by Sir John Millias, one of the foremost painters in the Victorian Pre-Raphaelite tradition.

‘An albatross in the Marrytime...hung herself around my neck’
In Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s (1772-1834) epic poem, ‘the Rime of the Ancient Mariner’, the protagonist shoots and albatross, traditionally seen as a good luck omen by sailors. He is beset by all kinds of problems, such as the ship being becalmed, being stalked by a black barque crewed by skeletons and a that follows him across the ocean. He eventually acknowledges his guilt by wearing the dead bird around his neck. He eventually returns to England, and pays penance for his crime by retelling his story to all he meets. Apparently the more of the story is that birds who s*** on you should not be killed. That’s what Bruce says anyway. The story is far too long to repeat here, but if you’re interested, why not follow the link below?

Click here for info on ‘the Rime of the Ancient Mariner

These are three publications that can been genuinely be seen being read by the hat suit and ties on the Tube. (e.g. people like, erm, me!) They are liberally inclined publications targeted at professionals. The Guardian is a broadsheet newspaper, the other two glossies.

‘The Thief of Baghdad’
A Muslim immigrant. The Thief of Baghdad, like Aladdin and Sinbad the Sailor, was a heroic character from the Arabian Nights - 1001 cliff-hanger stories told by the princess Scheherezade to postpone her execution by her husband Sultan Schahriah. The stories first appeared in Europe in a French translation in 12 volumes, translated from a 14th or 15th century source.

A borough close to Central London. It has a relatively high proportion of people from the ethnic minorities, but is certainly not particularly renowned for it.

‘Sacred Cow’
Fish makes mistake! It is Hindus not Muslims who venerate the cow. Muslims will eat beef as long as it is Halal.

Mary Magdalene is often mistakenly identified as the prostitute (So it says in Pears Cyclopedia) that is saved from a stoning when Christ ordered that the woman might only be legitimately be stoned if any thrower were free of sin himself (as any Monty Python fan knows, only men were allowed at stonings) The woman, as Christ knew, was able to go free. It is a sentiment similar to the ‘Mote in your eye’ of Incubus.

Magdalene is often used to mean prostitute (particularly by Fish!) The real Mary Magdalene, however, was cured of seven demons by Jesus, was present at his crucifiction and was the first to see the empty tomb after he rose again. Some texts, removed from the early editions of the bible by the Catholic Church apparently had her as Jesus’ wife, and mother of his children. (Blasphemy! He said Jehovah! (etc. etc.)

‘Brixton Chess’
Jeroen Schipper’s FAQ: Brixton is a suburb of London where there were major riots in April 1981. (See map above)

Jeroen Schipper’s FAQ: Has several levels of meaning. The chess game is used as a metaphor for conflict in general. The riots were partly race riots (for want of a better term), and "Chess" implicitly refers to black and white in opposition. It also suggests a larger game beyond the knowledge of the pawns - this refers to the political power play in the background. An inquiry into the riots partially blamed them on the economic policies of Margaret Thatcher's Conservative government, which seemed to inflict the poor with the economic cost of restructuring while leaving the more affluent (the Conservatives' major supporters) relatively unscathed.

Additionally, there were further riots in Brixton in the summer of 1996. A young black man died in police custody. A peaceful demonstration was held which enquired why black men were more likely to die in custody than white men. The police were unsympathetic to this clearly unreasonable request and the whole thing went pear shaped from there. Brixton is one of the main centres for Black British culture. Our (hopefully) soon to be ex-Prime Minister, John Major was born there.

‘Knight for Embankment’
Unlike Torch, I have never thought that this was a business man. I think it is about a tramp, who were sometimes called ‘knights of the road’.

Embankment is the name given to the banks of the Thames in London. The north is the Victoria Embankment, the south bank, Albert Embankment after the monarch and her consort. It is a popular saying that ‘An Englishman’s home is his castle’ and tramps, who are an all too common sight sleeping on benches on the Embankment, often sleep under newspapers. Furthermore, The old soldiers part reinforces this to me, as Britain has a proud tradition of treating it’s old solder’s appallingly, and ex-military men make up a woefully large proportion of the homeless in the U.K. He is also begging the boatman’s coin.

At the time of writing the song, there might have been a few WWII veterans still on to the streets. Maybe Fish would care to direct us?

‘Begs the Boatman’s coin’
The coin is used to pay Charon to cross the Styxx. (C.p. Incubus, Jigsaw)

‘Taped up painted windows’
The idea is that the paint will reflect the glare, and the tape will stop the glass shattering in the event of a nuclear explosion. Obviously, if you live in London, you might as well save the money. And this is a genuine tip that the government recommend you try in the event of a nuclear war. Raymond Brigg’s did a fantastic comic book, ‘When the Wind Blows’, which just about sums up the nuclear mentality. I believe there’s a film with David Bowie’s voice in it.

Belsen was one of the notorious Nazi death camps. It was located on Lüneberg Heath, N.W. of Celle in northern Germany. It was one of the camps where execution was by Zyclon B gas. (C.p. White Russian)

‘Pandora’s Box’
Brewer’s: To punish Prometheus (for stealing fire from the Gods), Zeus ordered Hephæstus to fashion a beautiful woman who was called Pandora (‘the all gifted’) because each of the Gods gave her some power which was to bring about the ruin of man. According to Hessiod, she was the first mortal female and was sent by Zeus as a gift for Epimetheus who married her, against the advice of his brother Prometheus. She brought with her a large vase or jar (commonly known as Pandora’s Box) which she opened and all the evils flew forth, and they have ever since continued to afflict the world. Hope alone remained in the box.

‘Sentimental Mercenary’
In a free fire zone?


Last Modified: 01 Aug 2003