Chapter 22

A postscript to the Mediterranean dream




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Is My Face On Straight? | Have Your Cake and Beat It


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Four Holes In The Ground


Neil Ingram:

'Four holes in the ground' is a jokey pun linked to the last line ('well, well, well, well, geddit?). The joke hides a bleak song that continues the introspection further. In a world of seemingly unlimited wealth and possessions, what is there of true lasting value (the pearl in the oyster of the previous song)?





Sometimes it seems that what remains of truth
and real value
Is wine shared with friends,
A sunset, music or some ancient statue,
Drinking the stars or touching hearts
with one whose love enfolds you

These possibilities - social interactions rather than solitary vices - are freely available to the rich and poor alike. They are the counterpoint of a materialistic viewpoint:

But if life is just a well stuffed purse
It couldn't get much worse
For me and you
Chickens in a Zoo.
"

'Chickens in a zoo', suggests that we may have become exhibits in a show - 'Welcome back my friends to the show that never ends.'

Jon Green:

"Chickens" and people who live to consume are a commodity, a very common commodity in the marketplace. There to be manipulated and exploited. They are (with their one string puppet shows) not very interesting. No one would go to the zoo to look at chickens.



Neil Ingram:

This carnival theme is developed further with references to fortune tellers and carousels:

And if life is just crystal balls and luck
I couldn't give a ...
And if life is just this carousel
Sometimes it's heaven.
But mostly its hell
Just a paper shell

The emptiness of the rock and roll lifestyle are being dissected with a precise anger. The irony is, of course, that the songs were being sung by a band that aspired to that lifestyle.

Jon Green:

I suspect we all aspire to something more than what we've got, in terms of material possessions. So the song is about all of us . . . in danger of becoming a sad paper replica of our selves.

Dig yourself a...

Neil Ingram:

hole, as the proverb goes.

well, well, well, well
... that's life.

Is a funny, but not entirely satisfactory ending. The problem remains, and we grin and bear it. "Mustn't grumble".





Jon Green:

Perhaps 'four holes in the ground' describes a life without spiritual meaning. Judging from the lyrics the four holes (voids) could be :

1) a well stuffed purse
2) crystal balls and luck
3) a carousel
4) a paper shell.

Taking the premise a step further, and given Peter's penchant for allegory, perhaps the 'four holes" correspond to the four psychological functions (as in "four went on but none came back"). If such is the case then surely this is how it breaks down:

1) a well stuffed purse
The Thinking function
For many of us, our incomes are profoundly influenced by how well we use our brains.

2) crystal balls and luck
The Feeling function
Crystal balls and luck are irrational pursuits - as were the "bone and globe" of In the Wake of Poseidon.

3) a carousel
Sensation
Life as a Cirkus ride of sensory experiences. The spinning motif (a carousel) is found throughout the Sensation album, Lizard.

4) a paper shell.
Intuition
If the four functions are not unified they may as well be "four holes in the ground" and the individual, instead of living authentically from his center, is a paper shell.


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Is My Face On Straight?


Neil Ingram:

Is My Face On Straight is the first 'English' song to appear on an Italian PFM album. It is an indicator to the kind of song that Peter Sinfield could co-write with the band (as compared with re-interpreting the songs they had written). It is an acerbic satire on modern social life, where we have to 'do our bit'. It applies as much to the annual office Christmas party (the 'turkey party convention') as it does to life within the biggest rock band in the world.





The song finds Peter Sinfield at his most sardonic: mocking those 'formal' situations where we are 'expected' to conform to the social norms of the group. It is a song for all those who have ever felt themselves outsiders, 'not quite belonging'. A new child at boarding school, or an adult joining a new company, it is all the same, really.

Inflate your waistcoat, wind down your eyes,

Here we have the grotesque characteristics of the 'hearty' dominant group. With an image from Orwell's Animal Farm, the overweight ('inflate your waistcoat') tiny piggy eyes, ('wind down your eyes'), with a forced jollity that masks its true purpose.

The best way to fit in is to conform, and:

Tie on your best smile, check your disguise.
Dry-clean your old jokes, practice despair,

Social acceptability does depend upon the status of one's family, so if in doubt it is best to:

Hide your relations under the stairs.

Sociability depends upon performing well at annual events, be they office Christmas parties, or sales conventions:

You're invited to attend the turkey party convention;
Isn't that nice?

Jon Green:

I think this is also a not so subtle dig at political parties, which (in the U.S.) meet at conventions and are represented by animal symbols (the donkey and elephant). There is no one quite so "conventional" as he who "follows the party line".




Neil Ingram:

The 'ingroup' is very protective and supportive of those who are like it, because it is a way of reinforcing its own social identity:

You can leave your troubles at the door
We have ways to make you cheer .

At the same time, it is fiercely critical of those who do not 'fit in':

As long as you're not sick or poor
A negro or a queer.

Curiously, groups do not usually realise that they admit or exclude new members as a way of reinforcing their own identities. Most of the exclusion is done unconsciously, depending upon whether the potential new recruit is 'one of us' or not.

As the 'newbies' are drawn further into the group, they can be initiated into the ways of the group. They seem to 'settle in' and 'make progress'. The group is helpful and supportive, as long as the 'newbies' do not step out of line.

We can fit you with a suit of clothes
That will make you look like us,
An appointments book and a new outlook
A ladder or a truss

Some social groups are more influential than others. Rock-and-roll groups are richer and more influential than most, and the next few lines satirise what it is to be taken to the top of the mountain and be tempted with the pleasures of the world spread out below:

Have another cup of reality
Drink and drink some more!
You can own a boat, a house, a car,
Or live like Howard Hughes;
Come on what have you got to lose...
And if you're discreet there are pleasures sweet
You can even swap your wife

There is a cost, of course, and the first step is commitment and tacit acceptance of the group behaviour:

If you'll only sign the dotted line
You'll be fine... Oh so fine...





The stresses belonging to a social group have to be hidden from the other members at all costs. This can lead members to privately use and then abuse alcohol, prescription tranquilisers and 'recreational' drugs in an attempt to cope with 'reality'.

Thank you for joining here are your pills
The man in the white coat wilI send you the bill.
Would you like to meet
Our most distinguished member... a doctor Faustus by name!

Doctor Faustus is a character invented by Christopher Marlow, who sold his soul to the devil in exchange for unimaginable wealth. This is a chilling reprise of some of the themes that have been flowing beneath the surface of the songs on this album.


Is my face on straight?

'Is my face on straight?' is an informal way that women ask if their make-up is smudged or running. It also hints at people hiding behind masks (false faces) as part of a play or a masked ball (masquerade). We can all be very adept at such social situations, but it does not prevent us worrying about the 'little things':

        Will they laugh at the gate

        Oh I mustn't be late

        Will they let me through the gate

        Oh I mustn't be late

        Oh dear! Oh dear! I shall be late!
        Oh dear! Oh dear! I shall be late!
        Oh dear! Oh dear! I shall be late!



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Have Your Cake and Beat It


Jon Green:

Undoubtedly coined by Peter Sinfield, the title of the last track, Have Your Cake and Beat It, speaks to the human condition. Everyone wants to have their cake and eat it too. That is we all want to be pure of spirit while at the same time thriving in the material world. This would appear to be the album's major theme. The world became the world. Spirit became flesh. When the unconscious "ape" became the self-conscious human our faces were horribly changed.

        Each man to himself
        in a well cut suit of selfishness,
        just looks away,
And yet there are still times when, in the silence and shelter of the inner courtyard, we can get back in touch with the inner voice.

And for a moment the courtyard heard.

But all too soon the world intrudes and tells us again . . .

"Now go
chase the gold"


As we learned in chapter twenty, we are in and out of unity with nature and ourselves, back and forth between the inner and outer worlds.

"The term dervish literally means "threshold," and that picturesque description itself provides the crucial clue: the dervish calling has something to do with the meeting of two worlds (i.e. the world became the world). For the hermit, reclusion is the bottom line: he or she leaves the world and lives apart as a sign of renunciation and poverty of spirit. The dervish is drawn, almost in spite of himself, back and forth across that threshold. He or she lives at the boundary between pure solitude and the need to spill back into the world, still pointing like a weathervane in the direction of that other. Try as one might, the tension won't collapse."

- Sounding Solitude
by Rev. Cynthia Bourjeault
Raven's Bread
Vol: 2 No: 3 August 1998






In every song on the album there is a "now this - now that" dichotomy, contrasting the inner reality with the outer, confronting us with the tension. On The Mountain we are presented with the before and after of "ape" (human) consciousness. The pictures on the album's outer and inner sleeves (respectively, utopic and dystopic) also serve to illustrate this point.
From the primal scenes of The Mountain, through the quiet, thoughtful, "I'm on the outside looking inside" verses of Just Look Away, to the poetic reverie of The World Became the World's first two verses, side one represents the narrator "in the world but not of it".

And just as . . .

eagles flew from Urizen
Revealing how my mother's
face was horribly changed
By the apes ...


. . . it is with the sun breaking through the clouds in verse three of the title song, that the poet wakes up to the stark realities of survival in the physical world. After this "revealing", the narrator is no longer apart from the action, as he was in Just Look Away. In verse four he realizes he's trapped liked the rest of us.

Now we're all travellers some seekers
and some sought
Who leave the courtyard to be caught


In the first lines of the fifth and final verse all hope of introspection is gone as the narrator proclaims:

"You ... you've got what must belong to me,
I need! I'll bleed for more possessions.
You ... you've got no right to disagree
Bow! Kneel! Or fear my aggresions."

On side two, track one (Four Holes in the Ground) the focus has changed from third person to first, from detachment to involvement and, in verse one, Peter Sinfield, like the dervish "back and forth across the threshold", takes a time out from the rat race to ponder the meaning of it all:

Sometimes it seems that what remains of truth
and real value
Is wine shared with friends,
A sunset, music or some ancient statue,
Drinking the stars or touching hearts
with one whose love enfolds you


But soon enough the world and its cynical intrusions are again dominating our poet's thoughts and he is again not afforded the luxury of remaining aloof from the action. What is happening here happens "for me and you". Back and forth across the threshold.

But if life is just a well stuffed purse
It couldn't get much worse
For me and you
Chickens in a Zoo.

well, well, well, well
... that's life.


In the last vocal track on the album the narrator has completely "bought in" to the world assuming the role of recruiter for the grand parade of lifeless packaging.

We can fit you with a suit of clothes
That will make you look like us,

Come on what have you got to lose...
And if you're discreet there are pleasures sweet

Is My Face on Straight is a catalog of conformity detailing what happens when we make our Faustian bargain with the world.

For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?

- Jesus
Matthew 16:26

This tension between inner and outer is resolved in Peter Sinfield's instruction in the title of the last track :

Have Your Cake and Beat It

Go and get the gold. Go out into the world but then get out (beat it!) and find time for yourself to collect your thoughts and feel your feelings.

Will they laugh at the gate
Oh I mustn't be late
Will they let me through the gate
Oh I mustn't be late

Will the straight man let the late man through the gate?

"Enter by the narrow gate. The gate is wide that leads to perdition,
there is plenty of room on the road and many go that way;
but the gate that leads to life is small and the road is narrow,
and those who find it are few."

- Matthew 7.13-14


PFM logo

Neil Ingram:

Peter Sinfield's direct association with PFM ceased after the release of this excellent and underrated album. This was partly due to his increased commitments to ELP. The excellent Photos of ghosts website wrote to Peter Sinfield to find out more. This was his reply to them:

"The boys did ask me to write the lyrics to "Chocolate Kings". I remember it well one evening at Greg Lake's house, if I would write the words for what was to become that album. However they insisted, as folk do on the cusp of success, that I must pay more attention to what 'they' wished to say and that it must be much more political and anti the US involvement in Vietnam. Since I lean naturally to the left, as it were, that should not have been a problem. However I declined. One because I had other work to finish, two because I couldn't face the thought of more endless vocal sessions but most importantly because I could not comprehend the irony of a European band on the verge of acceptance in the USA wishing to piss on their audience. The political views of the band at that time went from left to right. . .I wonder if you can guess which one was the 'communist' with a holiday home in Sardinia."

The legacy of Sinfield's songs with PFM is considerable. There is a coherent set of songs that reveal the versatility of Peter Sinfield as a writer. He was able to produce lyrics consistently that fit the mood, metre and sound of the previously recorded songs perfectly, and which fitted into the contemporary trends in progressive rock. As such they provided the vehicle for PFM's assault on the UK, Europe and America. Most significantly, they also provided Peter Sinfield with the opportunity to make more personal social and political statements, often as undercurrents below the 'surface' interpretations of the songs. This is a technique that he has continued to employ with considerable success at each stage of his subsequent career.



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Sign the Dreambook Dreambook Read the Dreambook

Chapter One The Metaphysical Record In The Court Of the Crimson King In The Wake Of Poseidon Lizard The King In Yellow The Sun King Eight
The Lake Which Mirrors the Sky In the Beginning Was the Word In the Beginning was the Word...side two Eros and Strife Dark Night of the Soul...Cirkus Dark Night of the Soul...Wilderness Big Top Islands
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