El Dorado

Introduction: In a pre-release PR piece from label earMUSIC, the song was described as follows, "El Dorado examines the notions of political entitlement and the modern challenges for the UK". 

In an interview for Prog magazine, h described the track as follows, “It’s really about a sense of foreboding and a feeling that everything is going to change in this country. I was trying to paint a picture of someone mowing their lawn in a quiet garden as a storm comes towards them. It’s an ecological storm, a financial storm, it’s a humanitarian storm. It’s a feeling that there is a sort of watershed coming. I don’t know what it is, but there is just a foreboding. If there is a central theme to the record, it’s that and the fact that we brought this about on ourselves and a sense of shame. El Dorado is for me about the fact that there’s a sense of shame over the migrant crisis. It’s about the way that this country has responded to the refugees spilling over from Syria, which is a war that we’ve stoked the fire in, even if we haven’t created it.”


Editor's Note: In an interview entitled Afraid of Something that I conducted with h for the Web UK magazine in Summer 2016, h stated that some of the lyrics in El Dorado that appeared to have obvious links to specific incidents in recent months were actually written before they happened. He laughingly refered to this as 'Hogstradmousness'. I have included these incidents in the Explanations below, but approach with caution!

“El Dorado”
El Dorado was a mythical tribal chief from what is now Colombia, and who supposedly covered himself in gold dust which he then washed off in a lake while his tribe threw gold trinkets into the water. Over time, the word has come to mean a lost city filled with gold.

“The enchanted English walled garden”
The use of walls to change the microclimate of a garden, principally by providing protection from frost and wind. Typically, they are divided into quarters with a pool and/or fountain at the centre.

Steve Gutteridge in the comments added, "A walled garden is also a metaphor for being introverted and inwards-looking, and closing yourself off from the outside world and its troubles, living in blissful ignorance."

“The capricious dance of lavenders and cabbage-whites”
Cabbage white is a term typically used for two related species of butterfly common to England. Pieris rapae are smaller than Pieris brassicae, which typically emerge later in the season. They’re normally found during April–May and July–August, and are white with black spots on the wings. Their name derives from the fact that they feast upon cabbage leaves and are widely regarded as a pest.

“The gold took more lives than Uranium, Than Plutonium”

Uranium and Plutonium are two members of the actinide series of elements, with the atomic numbers 92 and 94 respectively. Although Uranium was used in the original atomic bombs, but subsequently nearly all atomic weapons use Plutonium. Most nuclear power stations use Uranium.

“Pandemonium”
 A term originally coined by John Milton between 1660-70 in his epic Paradise Lost. It refers to the capital city of Hell, derived from ‘pan’ meaning ‘all’ and the Greek word ‘daim┼Źn’ meaning ‘demon’.

Today, the word is used to mean a state of noisy uproar or chaos.

 
"Denied our so-called golden streets"
Steve Gutteridge in the comments added, "From Wikipedia: 'London streets are paved with gold' is a saying that came from the 19th century story of Dick Whittington and his cat, loosely based on the 14th century Lord Mayor of London, Richard Whittington. The saying, which expresses the idea of a 'land of opportunity', is partly ironic, since Dick Whittington found when he went to London that the streets were in fact grimy and poverty stricken."

“I see them waiting, smiling [...] Or lost to the world in their upturned boats”
A reference to the EU’s  migrant crisis from 2012 onwards, largely precipitated by the civil war in Syria that began in 2011, but also including Afghans, Iraqis, Kosovans, Albanians and north Africans.

In 2015, more than 1 million attempted to reach the EU by sea, many attempting to reach Greece. Over 3,000 died in the attempt. Frequently this is a consequence of people traffickers charging vast sums to enter overloaded, poor quality vessels, frequently in bad weather conditions, resulting in capsizes.

The response of the UK to the migrant crisis has been tepid and frequently blighted by racism and xenophobia in the right wing press. A notable, but temporary, change of tone occurred in 2015 after the body of three year old Alan Kurdi was photographed washed up on the beach near Bodrum in Turkey. The death humanised the debate after headlines denouncing ‘swarms of refugees' and led to an increase in donations and pledges to provide assistance.

1,000 migrants were resettled in the UK in 2015 and Prime Minister David Cameron pledged to resettle a further 20,000 in the next five years. The UK has one of the lowest acceptance rates of migrants in the EU and has opted out of a wider EU resettlement scheme. The effect of Brexit upon this number cannot yet be ascertained, but is likely to reduce the numbers accepted still further.


“The people at the borders […] Running from demolished lives Into walls”
Once refugees reached Greece, they found themselves stuck in camps, with limited ability to travel onwards to their intended destinations, often hoping to join family members in other EU countries. Processing was time consuming. Many migrants had no documentation and all required new papers before they could leave and the Greek authorities struggled to cope with the numbers arriving.

Carla Barros added
"[the line] makes me think of a literal wall: the 4-metre razor-wire fence built by Hungary in the Summer of 2015 along its borders with Serbia and Croatia with the purpose of stopping refugees from entering the country, as they tried to reach northern Europe."

“Polonium”
Polonium is the chemical element with atomic number 84. It has relatively few uses, but has been used or alleged to have been used in a number of poisonings.

The cause of death in the 2006 murder of Alexander Litvinenko, a KGB agent who defected to MI6, was determined to be Polonium poisoning by agents working for the Russian state.


It was suggested that former leader of the Palestinian Liberation Organisation, Yasser Arafat, had been murdered with Polonium poisoning. While the element was detected in his body during a post-mortem, it was generally agreed that it was from natural environmental sources rather than an assassination.


“A man beheaded on a smartphone”
A reference to execution videos posted onto YouTube and social media by so-called Islamic State. Seven western and two Japanese hostages were beheaded by British citizen Mohammed Emwazi , known in the press as ‘Jihadi John’. He also led a group in beheading 21 Syrian soldiers.


Emwazi was killed by a drone strike in November 2015.

"Everything is everywhere"

Johnny Devereaux pointed out in the comments, "One of the main UK mobile operators is EE, which is an abbreviation of 'Everything Everywhere'."

"Handy"

Nathan Page pointed out that in addition to its normal meaning of 'useful, convenient', 'handy' is also German slang for a mobile phone.


"Under the patio"
Steve Gutteridge pointed out "'the body under the patio' entered British cultural heritage when a character in the popular UK soap-opera Brookside (1982-2003) was murdered and buried there. The character's name was Trevor Jordache." Steve went on to mention that this character was no relation to Marillion manager Lucy Jordache, but actually, he's (sort of) incorrect! Lucy said on the MOLF, "Interesting fact - the writer of Brookside was friends with my Grandfather and named the Jordache family in the show after him :-) We are the only Jordaches!"


“There's so much more that binds us than divides us”
Possibly a reference to the murdered Labour politician Jo Cox, MP for Batley and Spen in Yorkshire. The phrase is close to one from her maiden speech in Parliament on the 3rd of June 2015, from which the following is an extract:



“Batley and Spen is a gathering of typically independent, no-nonsense and proud Yorkshire towns and villages. Our communities have been deeply enhanced by immigration, be it of Irish Catholics across the constituency or of Muslims from Gujarat in India or from Pakistan, principally from Kashmir. While we celebrate our diversity, what surprises me time and time again as I travel around the constituency is that we are far more united and have far more in common with each other than things that divide us.”

Cox was assassinated by right wing extremist Thomas Mair on 16 June 2016 while conducting a constituency surgery. As he shot and stabbed the MP, Mair is alleged to have shouted 'Britain First' or 'Put Britain First'. Britain First is a far-right organisation, with strong anti-Muslim views. They denied any involvement. Asked to confirm his name when he appeared before Westminster Magistrates, Mair stated, 'My name is death to traitors, freedom for Britain'.


But our f e a r denies it While the papers stir it”
A reference to the language used to discuss refugees and immigrants in many British newspapers (particularly the Daily Mail, Daily Express and The Sun), particularly during the run up to the European Referendum in June 2016. Many commentators referred to such journalism as ‘dog whistle’ politics, implying that the sentiments expressed were thinly-coded racism.


“Metal in the air, Brimstone in the lungs”
Brimstone is a British air-to-ground missile system. During the Parliamentary debate in early December 2015 as to whether the UK should target the so-called Islamic State in Syria, many MPs referred to Brimstone’s targeting systems as ‘unique’ and stated that the use of the weapons would be of significant benefit in attacking IS.

Biblically, brimstone is another word for sulphur which, along with fire, was supposedly rained down upon the towns of Sodom and Gomorrah by God as punishment for their wicked ways. (Genesis 18-19).


“We are the grandchildren of apes, not angels”
Human beings (Homo sapiens) are apes. This is an image that h has employed on a number of occasions (monkeys in Dreamy Street, The Man From Planet Marzipan and a silverback gorilla in The Sky Above The Rain, and more obliquely in Cage from his solo album Ice Cream Genuis).

6 comments:

  1. A "walled garden" is also a metaphor for being introverted and inwards-looking, and closing yourself off from the outside world and its troubles, living in blissful ignorance.

    ReplyDelete
  2. "Denied our so-called golden streets"

    From Wikipedia: "London streets are paved with gold" is a saying that came from the 19th century story of Dick Whittington and his cat, loosely based on the 14th century Lord Mayor of London, Richard Whittington. The saying, which expresses the idea of a "land of opportunity", is partly ironic, since Dick Whittington found when he went to London that the streets were in fact grimy and poverty stricken.

    ReplyDelete
  3. "Modern Life, everything is everywhere"

    One of the main UK mobile operators is EE, which is an abbreviation of "Everything Everywhere"

    ReplyDelete
  4. "Under the patio"

    "The body under the patio" entered British cultural heritage when a character in the popular UK soap-opera "Brookside" (1982-2003) was murdered and buried there. The character's name was Trevor Jordache, no relation to Lucy! https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brookside#The_Body_Under_the_Patio_plot

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Steve; added to the main page. However, you're not quite right on your final point - see my addition to your point!

      Delete
  5. "...the children of apes, not angels" echos an often used sentiment by British Comic Author, the late Sir Terry Pratchett. He once said "I'd rather be a rising ape than a falling angel"

    ReplyDelete

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