Peter Hammill - A Black Box 1980

  1. Golden Promises
  2. Losing Faith In Words
  3. The Jargon King
  4. Fogwalking
  5. The Spirit
  6. In Slow Time
  7. The Wipe
  8. Flight


    GOLDEN PROMISES

    Besieged in the battlements of Babylon,
    still looking for the hat-peg to hang your head upon -
    now you've found a place you think is Avalon:
        you can talk to anyone here.
    You can throw your arms around your nearest neighbour
    and the smiling ones'll tell you that you've saved her,
            that she's saved you...
        They offer the golden promises
        the instantly divine;
        you swallow the golden promises
        hook, sinker and line.
    
    If you choose to throw your soul around the attitude
    reasoning and independent thought go down the tube
    as you go slavening after every inane platitude -
        how weak you find yourself here.
    Do you really need to lose yourself completely?
    How come you seem to rate it all so cheaply?
            It's so weak-kneed
        to go for the golden promises,
        mail-order holy vows;
        you go for the golden promises -
        I think you really ought to know better by now.
    
    So I do my best and I do my nut,
    I try to explain all these angles
        but you turn away.
    oh, now you're looking in the white of my eyes,
    and you know what I'm going to say: -
        don't go for the golden promises,
        don't go for the easy way...
        It's right here on the doorstep:
        fool's gold - don't throw your life away.

    LOSING FAITH IN WORDS

    I just can't see why you can't see what I mean,
    but I can't make things any plainer, the words get in the way -
    is that quite what I mean?
    If not now, then certainly sooner or later
    we've got a problem with communication -
    look, I scrabble with my hands
    I try to get some head-room from the elevation
        but you just don't understand
    
    Most of the things we say mean we most of the time
    treat our speech with derision,
    flap our hands in body-telegram - I know that gets through
    so much better than anything said with precision.
    We've got a problem with communication
    and it's getting quite absurd...
    Well, I think I'm going to flip out from the sheer frustration,
        yes, I'm losing faith in words.
    
    We've got a problem with communication,
    only getting through in anagrams -
    I try to get some linkage from articulation,
    I try to get some head-room from the elevation,
    I try to pull back something from my education...
    Yes, I try to, try to, try to but I just don't understand,
    I try, I just don't understand,
    I talk, you just don't understand.
    
    Sometimes I don't know why I bother,
        but I'm bothered.

    THE JARGON KING

    He prescribes the subject
    he proscribes outsiders
    his terms have a golden ring.
    He wants to find some order
    quantifying chaos
    in words that all the children sing.
    He tabulates the lexicon
    vocabulary minimised
    bow down to the Jargon King.
    
    All questions become so simple
    if we eat the inane answer
    if we all agree to ju-ju speak
    we fit into the formula
    we all without exception
        approve the rule.
    
    We don't understand
    he must be clever
    he must be clever
    he must be right
    he must be right
    we don't understand
    
    Closed the ranks and barricades
    imposed the secret language
    complexity all catch-phrased
    word-drugged any anguish
    pigeon-holed allusions
    shut the vault behind us
    It's an obvious conclusion
    we'll be the chattels of His Highness.
    
    Bow down to the Jargon King
    and his minion code-words.
    
    Here comes the reign

    FOGWALKING

    Everything clumsy slow-motion,
    I look for the source.
    Buildings loom up like icebergs
    on collision course.
    I don't want to go in there,
    I just want to be alone,
    unpick the stitches of time
    in London
    in the no-go zone.
    
    I've been kicking around like a dog,
    lost myself in the blank mass of fog,
    it's some kind of service.
    All humanity's fall-out is there,
    slumped in doorways
    and mouthing cold air -
    I have heard this.
    
    Fogwalking, fogwalking.
    
    Since the curfew
    the streets are half-dead,
    all the good folk asleep in their beds,
    it's so easy to go off the rails
    when the fog spores
    are breeding inside by head.
    
    Fogwalking: there's a presence that I sense
    Fogwalking: the neck muscles tense
    Fogwalking: it's right here inside me,
    try to find a defense - oh, no.
    
    Fogwalking through the wreckage,
    fogwalking through the worm-eaten
            Night Apple,
    fogwalking through what used to be
            Whitechapel.

    THE SPIRIT

    Such distance to the tips of the fingers,
    the ganglion loom jerks inside;
    the body grows steadily stranger
        but the spirit won't be denied.
    
    That sharp halogen flash jars the eyeball,
    the limbs pump in overdrive;
    the body grows seemingly weaker
        but the spirit won't be denied.
    
    Yeah, the ash-mark stands out on the forehead
    as the vacuum sneaks up on the eyes;
    the body becomes a constant traitor
        but the spirit won't be denied.
    
    And they call that living a normal live,
    but normality's not standardised.
    Though the body gets ever more root-bound
        the spirit won't be denied
    
        Yes, the spirit survives.

    IN SLOW TIME

    Dance the dance
    till show time
        ... the show goes on
    Dance the dance
    in slow time
        if that's what you want
    
    Dance the dance
        in the back of the car
        in the cocktail bar
    till show time let it ride
    Dance the dance
        I feel I've been here before
        this could be anywhere at all
    in slow time.
    
    Danced the dance, or it soon will be;
    danced the dance, I'll be back here with me
    in no time.
    
    In no time danced the dance
    It's show time dance the dance
    in slow time.

    THE WIPE

    (instrumental)


    FLIGHT

    Flying Blind
    I alway forget how crazy things are
    so sometimes it catches me off my guard
        when they make sense.
    The line on the road trail the arrow in the sky,
    I search for the mote in my brother's eye
        beneath the pence...
        a time of blunt instruments.
    Still uncertain when I've woken
    or what constitutes a conscious mind,
    though the thought remains unspoken
        I know I'm flying blind.
    
    Breaking into cold sweat on the white-hot coals
    the pennies from heaven drop through my soul:
        it don't relent.
    At the back end of dreams I'm amazed to awake...
    I offer my theories but just can't shake
        that seventh sense
        to which there's no defense.
    It seemed the time was for action,
    it seemed so cool to be that kind...
    my tongue writhed to form some retraction
        but I knew I was flying blind.
    
    I want things to be fast, down to the power-drive;
    I want the zero-gravity heroes to play dead,
            but stay alive.
    We want it to be slow, all the way to stall;
    we talk about a thousand things that never change at all.
    No, it never change...
    
    It was then that I knew I'd been thoughtless -
    something had slipped my mind:
    I'd strapped myself into the Fortress
        but the Fortress was flying blind.
    We got full clearance, so someone down there
    ought to know the truth of our disappearance -
    If even that still shows it accuses and blames me,
    but nothing was quite what it seemed.
    
    Sometimes things work out so strangely
        that it might as well all be dreamed.
    
    The White Cane Fandango
    
    The White Cane Fandango in Morse code,
    try to shake through the message,
    shake the load;
    only venial sin, running on the spot -
            till the dance begins.
    
    Where does a man go when the muscles cramp?
    Try to write out a postcard on a postage stamp
    with a drawing pin punching out the Braille
            for the whole within?
    
    Upset the contango on your future stock;
    paying backwardation, hold onto what you've got -
    such a sideways grin! Some day you may need
            to trade that in.
    
    If we ride this right
    the future will fall in our hands.
    If we survive the flight
    the future will work out -
            nothing's that black and white.
    
    Control
    
    The colour-coded charts are spread,
    but we're still gliding deep into the red,
        the radio is dead
        every valve blown open.
    The radar screen flicks monochrome,
    air traffic controller wants to get on home,
        waiting for a phone call
        to release him from responsibility.
    Nobody goes to see him any more
    except for the man from the ministry.
    
    He wanted to be, he wanted to be
    the man at the helm, in command of the flightpath;
    he's flying a chair, quite beyond control;
    he's going to have just one more chance
        at a barrel roll.
    
    All in a dream, all as a dream,
    the colours too bright, the music too deafening -
    the black-out world has just begun to show.
    These cracked-out words I offer...
        but I still don't know.
    
    Cool blue suffuse the colour gun -
    oh come in, come in number one:
        your time's nearly run.
    Speed-freeze the frame,
    the present and the past hold fast...
    It's too fast, the thing don't,
        the thing won't,
        the thing don't last.
    
    Cockpit
    
    The rolling dice clash together never make up the score;
    that old device, the ejector seat, glued to the floor.
    Everybody waits for everyone to make a show -
    no-one wants to be the first, admitting that they know
    how anythings that's gone down here
    could fit into an analytic groove...
        Wait for the tactical move,
        wait for some action we all can approve.
    
    Too much to drink, for the cup reaches down to the sea;
    too much to think, the barometer pressuring me.
    Rolling down the weather for an Easter parade,
    reeling out the Maydays in the hope of being saved,
    but the radio ham's out giving blood -
    no, no, no, he's not listening.
        The cricketer knows his "Wisden",
        the pilot has got his "Jane's",
        but the sum of this factual wisdom
        don't help us to fly the plane
        (no, and it never will...)
    Beneath the tartan two-piece something rips undone...
        Wait for the ladder to run
        wait for the snake that the ladder becomes.
    
    A passenger hits the cockpit, willing to chance his game:
    pulls out his gun and cocks it
    in the hope that it all might change. (oh, but it never will...)
    A fly-leaf from the library shows others have been here before,
        tried, failed and kicked out the door;
        the aircrew don't care anymore -
        not they just wait
        for the beat of the silk-worm wing,
        wait for the heat to come down on us
            - full force of the law.
    
    Silk-Worm Wings
    
    Full force of gravity pulls me down,
    I'll be better off out of there;
    aerobatic spin around,
    I'll take my chances in the open air.
    
    Sycamore silk-worm wings
    or Roman Candle to the ground,
    there's only one thing for shure:
        when the balloon goes up
        the aeronaut calm down.
    
    He say nothing is quite what it seems,
    he say nothing is quite what it seems;
        I say nothing is nothing.
    
    A Black Box
    
    Softly, the angels sing their time and space refrain:
    there's something in everything if you can only pin down its name
    Aerobatic thoughts at the back of my mind -
        Is it nothing but the looping line we all follow?
        Nothing but the spiral twist of DNA
    There'll be no looking back from tomorrow on today.
    
    So the wire is tripped, split-seconds defect to their successors;
    the umbilical cord is ripped -
    here we all are in free fall.
    I stall where I am, as if to see where I've been:
        only running down the looping line we all follow,
        only chasing down the spiral twist of DNA -
    There can be no looking on to tomorrow from today.
    
    Life/death/night/day - cold breath will surely fly away.
    Is the empire of sensation locked in a black box
        deep in me, encoded there somehow?
    It fires the imagination to fly on a wing and a prayer
        through my life - is that how it is?
    There'll be no looking back on this...
        this is now, which will be then -
        is this the means? All I know for shure is
            this is the end.
    
    No looking back from tomorrow,
    no, there'll be no looking back on today;
    better be looking on to tomorrow...
            better think on today.
    
    
    All lyrics by Peter Hammill
    


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