Peter Hammill - In a Foreign Town 1988

  1. Hemlock
  2. Invisible Ink
  3. Sci-Finance (Revisited)
  4. This Book
  5. Time To Burn
  6. Auto
  7. Vote Brand X
  8. Sun City Nightlife
  9. The Play's The Thing
  10. Under Cover Names
  11. Smile
  12. Time To Burn


    Hemlock

    Here it comes up on the screen,
    the propaganda of the military-industrial machine.
    By now we find there's little choice:
    when our masters tell us 'smile' we rejoice.
    With the nuclear shield safely in place
    we're assured of the survival of the human race.
    
    The earth is flat and pigs can fly -
    Swallow hard and believe the lies.
    In these alleys all are blind -
    Skittles fall for the dreams of humankind.
    
    And nuclear power is safe as hell -
    Swallow hard young William Tell !
    The earth is flat and pigs can fly -
    If you swallow hard you believe the lies.
    
    In the banks the deals are made -
    Of course there's no profit in lending the third world aid;
    If the larder shells are bare let the people eat cake
    and thank the governments for the air.
    Meanwhile in the cells secret police
    champion freedom, offer justice, keep the peace !
    
    The pope talks to god, the ayatollah too -
    swallow hard and believe it true.
    The earth is flat and pigs can fly -
    If you swallow hard you'll believe the lies.
    It's a hemlock world
    
    It's a hemlock world that we must drink -
    Swallow hard and don't try to think.
    It's a hemlock world that we all face -
    Swallow hard on the bitter taste,
    on the aftertaste.
    It's a hemlock world.

    Invisible Ink

    Follow the instructions
    the envelope is sealed:
    We're waiting on an update
    something like the reinvention of the wheel.
    Who made the world so complicated ?
    Who made the watchword wait and see ?
    I wake myself up, shake myself up,
    take myself apart but still can't see
    the esoteric is lost on me.
    
    Follow the instructions
    they speak in many tongues
    in unlimited edition
    and the last step on the ladder is the bottom rung.
    The diagram is so confusing,
    anagrammatical mystery;
    I wake myself up, shake myself up,
    break myself apart and find in me
    the esoteric machinery,
    the esoteric invisibly.
    
    Follow the instructions
    tell us what you think;
    They lose something in translation,
    they might as well be printed in invisible ink.
    
    Esoteric machinery,
    the esoteric invisibly;
    The esoteric is lost on me,
    the esoteric invisibility.
    
    Who made the world so complicated ?
    Who put the alpha in the abc ?
    I wake myself up, shake myself up,
    break myself apart but finally
    the esoteric is lost on me;
    The esoteric, no time to think,
    The esoteric written in invisible ink.
    
    In invisible ink
    indivisible link
    ininvisible ink.

    Sci-Finance (revisited)

    You got some shares - it's a capital venture.
    You hedge your bets with a gilt-edged bond,
    you're stretched out tight by the terms of debenture,
    the game is on.
    
    You got a fortune on paper,
    how it shines on the v.d.u. !
    The simple truth is that sooner or later
    the market plays you.
    
    There goes the daylight !
    Night comes on the city so soon.
    In the dance of the typical capitalists
    what piper plays the tune ?
    
    Money's ideal, money's power,
    money's the drive that's more than skin-deep,
    hard at work through the twenty-four hours -
    Oh, but money's never cheap.
    
    You made some pretty deals, I hear you say,
    Judas and Faust are squeaky clean
    when the last of the deals have been cleared away
    what comes up on the screen ?
    There goes the daylight -
    Night comes on the city so soon.
    In the dance of the typical capitalists
    what piper plays the tune ?
    Only the money. Only the money. Only the money.
    
    But the deal includes us:
    We put ourselves into the stocks;
    When we built up the temple of the money god
    we opened up Pandoras box.
    There goes the daylight
    now there is silence on the floor,
    only money-computers chatter privately,
    no people any more.
    
    No people any more,
    only the money, only the money,
    is that what you want ? Is that it ?
    There goes the daylight.

    This Book

    Away from the past, this chance is the last,
    we are changing completely,
    we are moving the feast, we are motion.
    I've seen you become the bride of the sun,
    you surrender so sweetly,
    sacrificing yourself to devotion.
    This book is ended and I put it down,
    this book is ended and I put it down;
    I'm saved, I'm saving for the future.
    This book is ended and I put it down,
    find I'm befriended in a foreign town,
    I'm saved, I'm sailing for the future.
    
    But only yesterday night
    I stood in the pouring rain, shouting at the thunder:
    I said "lord, I'm starting to understand the hidden mystery."
    Lord, the compass falls in my hand,
    I can sail to the far horizon...
    
    Could you conceive a mirror
    where you could never see yourself ?
    
    Away from the past, the iconoclasts,
    we are changing completely,
    we are breaking the mould, we are rapture.
    I've seen you astride the wind and the tide
    my dark angel, you greet me with a samurai sword,
    close the chapter...
    
    This book is ended and I put it down,
    find I'm befriended in a foreign town,
    I'm here, but I'm nearer to the future.
    
    But only yesterday night ...
    
    This book is ended and I put down,
    find I'm befriended in a foreign town,
    this book is ended and I put it down.

    Time To Burn

    Time to burn, we could talk all the problems through...
    Are the promises still unbroken,
    do the spoken words still ring true ?
    Oh, and where are you ?
    
    Time to burn, wakes and weddings, celestial choirs,
    and while one hand shakes on the bargain
    see the other stoke the suttee pyre...
    So we're all on fire,
    burning for tomorrow.
    
    So much time wish- and hoping,
    soon the future will come
    with a bridal wreath for the wedding
    in the hands of the prodigal son.
    So much left undone,
    here we are with time to burn.
    
    So much time wishful thinking,
    all the whitest of lies
    with the prodigal caught at the border
    and the order of service awry,
    no time for goodbyes,
    will we ever start to learn ?
    
    Time to burn, wakes and weddings become confused,
    all the faces over-familiar
    in the whirlwind of deja-vu...
    Oh, but where are you ?
    
    Time to burn, all our lifelines are gathered round
    with a speech from the back of a postcard
    all the memories free in one bound.
    Free, and gone to ground,
    free, and gone forever;
    Free, and gone to ground,
    so I will remember
    so much lost and found.
    Here we are with time to burn.

    Auto

    Here's a sensation I wouldn't trade -
    Pinpoint in the onrush,
    dancing to the rhythm of the wiper blades.
    Up ahead on the autobahn
    headlights like a lava stream:
    Up ahead in the distance is where we're going,
    where we will have been.
    
    Back in the motor, keep going overnight;
    We've got no certain destination
    but for all we know we might.
    So get back in the motor, let's drive it anyplace...
    Better to travel hopefully
    than to arrive, in any case.
    
    While you check out the map-book,
    just like a novel that's all out of joint,
    our passport into anonymity...
    Stick a pin into the vanishing point.
    I could drive for hours,
    don't even need to know the way to go;
    I could drive forever
    with some classical music on the radio.
    
    Back in the motor, back into overdrive
    and if we travel hopefully then we'll know we're alive.
    Get back in das auto, let's drive it anyplace,
    better to travel hopefully than to arrive in any case.
    
    We could drive forever,
    we could drive forever,
    I caught you thinking, I bet you were,
    that we could drive forever
    in the never-never land of the metaphor.
    
    Back in the motor, keep going overnight;
    We've got no key to the highway
    but for all we know we might as well
    get back in the motor, let's drive it anyplace,
    better to travel hopefully than to arrive in any case.
    So get back in the motor, let's get on with the drive
    and if we travel hopefully then we know we're alive.
    
    Get back in the motor.
    Let's get back in the motor,
    get in tune with the motor,
    get back.

    Vote Brand X

    Here's the modern political man, for sure he's nobody's fool,
    believes in media coverage as a promotional tool ...
    Trust in him because he's got the right face,
    just in case you harbour doubt
    here is a slogan to tout.
    
    He's such a principled man, all heart, ruled by his brain:
    You've seen the tv commercials, you've seen the poster campaign,
    you've seen the ads in the papers, there's nothing else to explain ..
    Just some words to maximise the market,
    just a message that will reach the target.
    Promises that turn to dust.
    He is a man you can trust.
    This is a man of the people in politics now.
    
    Politics now, it's just like selling soap powder,
    now money down, you lucky punters,
    full guarantee,
    five year's trial free !
    
    He's a man you can trust.
    He's a man you can trust.
    By dint of market research he knows which truths he should tell;
    He's got the mark of conviction, it serves the agency well;
    Yes, he's on course for election in politics now.
    Trust the propagandists' manifesto,
    trust the politician with the promo,
    trust the ads to buy your vote.
    
    Vote for brand x, it's just like selling soap powder,
    whatever next ? You lucky punters,
    full guarantee...
    Whatever next ?
    Show trials by decree....
    
    The show trials are free,
    the show trials come free,
    vote for brand x.

    Sun City Nightlife

    To the city beat on a treacherous curve
    up upon the high wire you're observed -
    You live as you live, you'll get what you deserve:
    High life, dig those highlights,
    sun city nightlife:
    You'll be like a moth consumed by a flame.
    
    It's a rich man's world, kick those beggars and fools;
    Conspicuous consumption the only rule,
    but the law of retribution will be terribly cruel.
    
    Oh, but you mustn't stop to think about your place upon the planet,
    if you did, you might steel yourself away
    and it doesn't really matter if the show goes up tomorrow.
    After all, this pretty place is day to day
    highlights of the highlife
    dancing at midnight
    dancing all moral existence away.
    
    Nightlife highlights highlife twilight
    oh, you mustn't ever think about you place upon the planet,
    don't look further than the bottom of a drink
    don't ever think about the way you'll feel tomorrow,
    don't stop dancing or the boat will sink
    all in all it's gone before you blink.
    
    Highlights of the high life
    sun city nightlife
    you'll be like a moth consumed by flame...
    Twilight of the high life,
    chimes at midnight...
    You're still dancing all moral existence away.

    The Play's The Thing

    How could he know so much ?
    How could he bear such knowledge ?
    How could he dare to write it in the plays ?
    What is it Shakespeare'd say
    if he came back today ?
    Surely he'd recognize these mortal coils.
    
    How do we carry on ?
    No-one knows where they fit in,
    no-one knows who they are
    or where they've been.
    What does the writer mean ?
    How do we play this scene ?
    What didn't Shakespeare know that we do now ?
    
    Stiffen the sinews,
    wear hard-favour'd rage,
    all history's drama,
    the world is a stage.
    
    "There is a history in all men's lives,
    figuring the nature of the times deceas'd;
    The which observ'd, a man may prophesy,
    with a near aim, of the main chance of things
    as yet not come to life, which in their seeds
    and weak beginnings lie intreasured.
    Such things become the hatch and brood of time..."
    
    Oh, but the show goes on,
    on through the seven ages -
    That of the world must mirror man's, in fact.
    Here comes the seventh act,
    see how the mirror's cracked,
    here comes sans everything for humankind.
    
    To capture the conscience
    of nations and kings
    all history's drama -
    The play's the thing, the play's the thing, the play's the thing.
    
    How could he know so much ?
    
    (The quotation is from "Henry IV" Pt. 2, Act III, Scene I)

    Under Cover Names

    No thanks for the memory, no thanks at all,
    no way we can wipe the state or contrive escape
    from the names we're called.
    No thanks for the memory, here it comes again,
    this life running on the spot, though we hide a lot
    with our cover names.
    
    We can no more change the past than shed our skins.
    
    But we keep on thinking that we might go someplace
    where not a soul knows what has gone before,
    with such headfuls of self-accusation
    that we don't even know our own names any more.
    
    No thanks for the memory,
    no thanks.
    
    Call them by a different name and turn about -
    We can no more change our spots than wash them out.
    
    No thanks for the memory, locked in the frame.
    No way we can change the pattern of things that happened
    under cover names.
    
    And we keep on skirting round the true confession,
    with fresh identities and best-laid plans;
    And we keep on working to outreach the shadow
    but the shadow will outrun the man
    with such headfuls of self-accusation,
    that no pseudonyms can hide our shame,
    lost in a jungle of our own creation,
    lost in a labyrinth of cover names...
    We can no more change the past than live again.
    We can no more shed our skins than know our real names.
    
    Nobody knows our real name,
    nobody knows their real name,
    we hide under cover names...
    No thanks for the memory.

    Smile

    The jokes are everywhere,
    the secret deal's complete -
    Money talks, some good advice,
    the politicians run like clockwork mice,
    all fits the masterplan.
    
    A database on the telephone
    and cable sunshine floods your home
    so, times are good ?
    Fat cats get fatter day by day.
    Those who sit it out will make their way,
    so things can't be that bad.
    
    Ooh, a smile has set upon this land,
    ooh, a selfish grin of ignorance;
    Ooh, you simply have to play the game...
    The joke's on us:
    This is more and more ridiculous.
    
    Everything's great,
    objectivity taboo,
    self-satisfaction pumping up
    minor achievements to cover up
    all the failures and mistakes.
    And if you don't smile along
    you're a public enemy, you don't belong -
    The black lists are in the mail.
    There isn't any room for doubt,
    we'll all be equal when we share it out
    but outsiders will get nothing.

    Time to Burn

    (Instrumental)


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