~ The Secret Language Of Birds ~



The Jasmine Corridor

  • "Nice place to say goodbye. Smells good, looks good, was good. Faces east. Always the optimistic light. Nothing ever really ends".
    * Ian Anderson in the album booklet.

  • This personal song is about Anderson's own demise.

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The Habanero Reel

  • "On a lighter note, I think quite a few people know that I'm keen on spicy food,  particularly those who have visited our website . I use a lot of chilli peppers when I cook at home and the generally accepted number 10 strength killer is the habanero - in the Caribbean a close relative of this is the Scotch Bonnet, which I also refer to in this song. 'The Habanero Reel' is just an ode to capsicum, which gives off that excessive, burning heat. Of course, the best thing about it, as I say in the song, is that it is strictly legal!"
    * Ian Anderson; from the Papillon Press Release "The Secret Language Of Birds"

  • "The Capsaicin experience: the endorphin rush. We're not just talking Chicken Tikka Massala. Can repel intruders. Probably illegal in your town after all, in that context".
    * Ian Anderson in the album booklet.

  • The "Scotch Bonnet" and the "Habanero" are two species of chile peppers:

    * Luud de Brouwer

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Panama Freighter

  • "Lonely Planet guide to traveller's romance. Pragmatism. Cynicism. You take U.S. dollar?"
    * Ian Anderson in the album booklet.

  • "I'm not the only lonely planet rider in this one-horse town": 'Lonely Planet' is a series of tourist guide books for independent travellers ie backpackers.  They tend to inform one about the 'real' country rather than just the resorts and tourist traps.  Hence Ian's use of the phrase suggests the song's narrator is a backpacker just passing through. It further implies that this isn't the most salubrious of locations.
    * Neil Thomason

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The Secret Language Of Birds, Pt. II 

  • "Semantic set-aside. You with me? "
    * Ian Anderson in the album booklet.

  • " . . . . don't take the Admiral on board.
    This Hardy's not for kissing . . ."
    Horatio Nelson (1758 - 1805), admiral of the English fleet which defeated the French at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805.  However, Nelson was mortally wounded by a gun-shot during the battle, and his famous last words, as his friend Captain Hardy held him in his arms, were: "Kiss me, Hardy." Of course, this has been the source of many rather juvenile jokes for British comedians. In this age of elaborately self-conscious sexuality, it is easy to forget that such a heart-felt final gesture was not considered 'funny' in previous centuries. In the context of this song, I have no idea what Ian is saying! For a start, Captain Hardy was the one who gave the kiss. In this song, the implication is that the Hardy-character might be on the receiving end of one, from some source or other, which seems to necessitate this pre-emptive warning. Perhaps this is just stream-of-consciousness, like the appearance of Long John Silver in 'Mother Goose'?
    * Andy Jackson

  • "Berkley Square": A reference to the song 'A Nightingale Sang In Berkley Square' (lyrics Eric Maschwitz, music Manning Sherman, composed in 1940). Berkeley Square is situated in the upmarket area of Mayfair in London, and Ian pronounces the word in the English fashion. 'A Nightingale Sang In Berkeley Square', was sung and recorded by Frank Sinatra. The original lyrics to this song are to be found at Rick's Music Pages.
    * Koen Wynkoop, Andy Jackson

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* Berkeley Square, London

Boris Dancing

  • "I've always had a soft spot for Boris Yeltsin, I wrote the music to 'Boris Dancing' based on a visual image of a CNN news report from when Boris was seeking re-election. He was filmed in Red Square, sweating profusely, bright red in the face, boogieing frantically in front of a young Moscow rock band.  He nearly died from a heart attack just a couple of days later.  The song is in several rather difficult to follow time signatures, as when Boris was dancing he wasn't quite on the beat.  'Boris Dancing' is just a celebration of his strange, individual dance style."
    * Ian Anderson; from the Papillon Press Release "The Secret Language Of Birds"

  • Dear fragile human bear Boris campaigned in multiple time signatures all of his own in Moscow's Red Square before nearly dying. All to preserve the memory of the Frug, the Twist, the Mashed Potato and the Bolshevik Boogaloo. Hand on heart but not any longer, hopefully, on button.
    * Ian Anderson in the album booklet.

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Circular Breathing

  • The deep breath that goes on forever. Strangely detached but objective view from a height. Pink Floyd's 'Learning To Fly' meets L.S. Lowry meets Status Quo's 'Pictures Of Matchstick Men'. Or not".
    * Ian Anderson in the album booklet.

  • "Circular breathing". This is the breathing technique used by Australian aborigines when playing the didgeridoo. It's an art not many people get to master, but a basic explanation is that the individual blows through the instrument with air reserves, carefully controlled from the cheeks, whilst drawing air through the nose. Carefully, they must then revert back to 'diaphram ' air, or lung air. Then the procedure is repeated over and over again. Try to do this with a straw in a glass of water, and you can see how hard it is to keep the bubbles constant!
    * Adam Bodkin

  • The practice of circular breathing isn't restricted to the aborigines, of course. Rahsaan Roland Kirk, author of Serenade to a Cuckoo and flute/saxophone genius in his own right, was also a master of the technique, as evidenced by the songs "Many Blessings" on "The Inflated Tear" and "The Business Ain't Nothin' but the Blues" on "I Talk With Spirits", among others. He was also known for his ability to play three saxophones at once and incredibly well.
    * Sean Albright

  • Again, there is a suggestion of 'natural life', and the timeless cycle of life and death (as represented by the tail-eating serpent, or uroboros, illustrated on the cover of the 'Ring Out, Solstice Bells' EP).

  • "Hands cupped to my ears". This produces that sea-shell sound of waves, which is caused (I think) by the blood flowing through the body. The idea of a natural flow or rhythm, perhaps.

  • "Lowry matchstick figures". A reference to the English painter L.S. Lowry (1887 - 1976) whose industrial cityscapes were populated by crowds of thin, black, 'matchstick' men and women. Like Henri Rousseau he can be considered a 'naive' painter, and the best website featuring his work is Lowry's Virtual Gallery. Like many songs in the past, there is a suggestion of the dichotomy between the natural landscape and the industrialised world.  John Constable, living in the early years of the 19th century, could still paint unspoilt, pastoral scenes, in which the great cloud formations suggested Nature's over-arching power. By Lowry's day, the typical landscape in Lancashire consisted of Satanic mills, factories, smoke-stacks, and an anonymous bustling mass of workers whose lives were ruled by the factory whistle.  The weather had disappeared entirely from these paintings; the lakes were tainted with pollution.

"A Manufacturing Town" (1922) by L.S. Lowry
* Courtesy: Kevin Lees,
Lowry's Virtual Gallery

  • "Under a Constable sky..." refers to painter John Constable. An example of his work is "Stonehenge" (1836). Note the sky ... (Thank you Andy):

  • To "fly into a Constable sky" would suggest a flight back into the Natural world, high above the blackened city. A similar idea is expressed in 'Part Of The Machine'.
    * Andy Jackson

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The Stormont Shuffle

  • "Peace, Love, Misunderstanding. Decommissioning the vipers' tongues. Two part tune: north and south, slippery Sams, moaning Minnies. Doublecross, double talk, double trouble".
    * Ian Anderson in the album booklet.

  • " 'The Stormont Shuffle' was written at a time when things were beginning to enter into that peace negotiation period. 'The Stormont Shuffle' is a two-part tune: one is more the Republican, southern kind of Catholic, slightly wilder, hairier, tinged with the Samisen, and the other part of the tune is a bit more dour, a bit more Protestant, a little bit more furrowed eyebrow, a bit more the loyalist kind of thing. I had these two little flute tunes which symbolised for me those two opposing factions and I put them together and tried to draw them together . . ."
    * Ian Anderson in "A New Day", March 2000

  • The title 'Stormont Shuffle' can only refer to Stormont Castle, in Northern Ireland, where the British and Irish governments have been holding talks with the radical organisations to hopefully agree peace in Northern Ireland.  The shuffle could be a double reference - is the track musically a 'shuffle' (c.f. Fairport Convention's 'Aunt Sally Shuffle')? Additionally, the peace talks have certainly been a shuffle - progressing rather slowly, with all the participants reluctantly shifting their positions and dragging their feet.

* Stormont Castle

  • There's a nice parallel between the two instrumentals on the album refering to politics as a dance.  As I think Ian has already mentioned, 'Boris Dancing' was in part inspired by (ex-) President Yeltsin's rather shaking dancing during his election campaign, but also Yeltsin's dancing in trying to stay on top of the volatile political situation in Russia, constantly changing his dancing partners (Prime Ministers in particular).
    * Neil Thomasson

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Last modified: December 2 - 20000

Jan Voorbij (1998-2009)