: Taking Tiger Mountain
(By Strategy) :

Album cover


When I got back home I found a message on the door
Sweet Regina's gone to China crosslegged on the floor
Of a burning jet that's smoothly flying:
Burning airlines give you so much more.

How does she intend to live when she's in far Cathay?
I somehow can't imagine her just planting rice all day.
Maybe she will do a bit of spying
With microcameras hidden in her hair.

I guess Regina's on the plane, a Newsweek on her knees
While miles below her the curlews call from strangely stunted trees.
The painted sage sits just as though he's flying;
Regina's jet disturbs his wispy beard.

When you reach Kyoto send a postcard if you can,
And please convey my fond regards to Chih-Hao's girl Yu-Lan.
I heard a rumour they were getting married
But someone left the papers in Japan.
Left them in Japan, left them in Japan...

Alternative hearings:

The painted sage == the patron saint (-- John Spokus)

Regina's jet disturbs his wispy beard == Regina's cat disturbs his wispy beard (-- John Spokus)

Left them in Japan == Let there be a Japan

Of a burning jet that's smoothly flying: == All the burning jet craft smoothly flying (-- Kelly Higgins)

Chih-Hao's girl Yu-Lan == teahouse girl Yu-Lan (-- Tymothi Loving)


According to Russell Mills, the original title of this song was Turkish Airlines, derived from a 1974 disaster when a Turkish Airlines DC-10 exploded at Orly Airport killing all passengers. The song of curlews at night is supposedly an omen of disaster. -- Craig Clark (quoting More Dark Than Shark)

The reference to curlews in trees is nonsensical: curlews prefer to huddle on the ground.

More Dark Than Shark reproduced a page from one of Brian's notebooks which showed an earlier version of the lyrics for verse two of this song -- deletions are shown in square brackets:

So I took stock, undid the lock
And sat down in a chair
I saw how she'd got the cash
The room was nearly bare
Maybe she will do a bit of spying
With microcameras hidden in her hair

I'll light a lonely candle in [your room] the hall
Watch the/her shadows dancing on the wall

But even though she stripped my room
And stole [the stereo] my favourite [books] things
[I hope she won't forget me]
[I'll think of that nice tea she made
Each time the ketle sings]
I'll jump to see if she's returned
Each time the doorbell rings


These are your orders -
Seems like it's do it or die
So please read them closely
When you've read them be sure that you eat them up -
They're specially flavoured
With Burgundy, Tizer and Rye
Twelve sheets of foolscap: don't ask me why.

We hit the jungle
Just as it starts to monsoon:
Our maps showed no rainfall
All the boys were depressed by this circumstance
"Trust in the weather" said less agricultural men
Who gives birth to more farmhands, don't ask me why.

Fifteen was chosen because he was dumb,
Seven because he was blind:
I got the job because I was so mean,
While somehow appearing so kind.
Drifting about through the cauliflower trees
With a cauliflower ear for the birds,
The squadron assembled what senses they had
And this is the sound that they heard...

Back at headquarters,
Khaki decisions are made
File under "Futile":
That should give you its main point of reference
It's all so confusing, what with pythons and then deadly flies
But to them, it's a picnic
Don't ask me why.

Thirteen was chosen because of his luck,
Eleven because of his feet:
One got signed up for exceptional pluck,
Another because he was mute.
Roaming about through the gelatine swamps
With a gelatine eye on the stripes,
The squadron assembled what senses they had
And this is the sound that they heard...

Back in Blighty, there was you
There were milkmen every morning
But these endless shiny trees, never used to be that way.
Back in Blighty, there was you,
There were milkmen every morning
But these endless shiny trees,
Never used to be that way.

Alternative hearings:

When you've read them == When you've learnt them (-- R Carlberg)

Twelve sheets of foolscap == Twelve sheets the fools kept (-- Tony Lewis)

"Trust in the weather" said less agricultural men == Trust in the weather to bless agricultural men (-- Steve Christman) == trust in the weather to bless agricultural man (-- mason)

"Who gives birth to more farmhands, don't ask me why."(-- Newton)

khaki decisions are made == cocky decisions are made == konky (sp?) decisions, as in konked up or crazy (-- Roger Ivie).

what with pythons and then deadly flies == what with pythons and then tse-tse flies (-- Chris Adams) == what with hyphens and then deadly flies (-- Sardonicusj)

There were milkmen every morning == There were new men every morning

In Judy's Jungle is it "endless shining truths" not "shiny trees"? That's what I sing!!!! (-- Eddieandhilary Street)

david mellonie: I'm old enough to have been listening to Eno since he started with Roxy Music, and even my daughter now loves the music. i'd like to add my thoughts to the suggestions for lyrics - 'Judy's jungle' in particular. The third line, 2nd verse, I'm certain should read: 'Imagine the rainfall' and then goes on: 'All the boys were depressed by their circumstance'. Anyway, have fun!

Len Kopel: It is not "One got signed up for exceptional pluck" but "One Ought signed up for exceptional pluck". "One Ought" is the Number Ten, in keeping with the usage of numbers for the members of the imaginary platoon.


"One of the recurrent themes of rock music is a preoccupation with new dances. And it's taken by intellectuals as the lowest form of rock music, the most basic and crude. So I was interested in combining that very naive and crude form of expression with an extremely complex concept like Taking Tiger Mountain, which would be a sort of double joke. First of all the joke of me doing a dance number and secondly the fact that it also has a complex symbology that discusses another question. The idea is paraphrasing the dance as a dance between two technologies. One of McLuhan's contentions is that conflict, international conflict, is always conflict between two technologies, not two moralities. Moralities are dictated by those technologies. I've taken the conflict between the regular-type soldiers and guerilla-type technologies. I've called the regular soldier-type ones, since they're mechanically oriented, clockwork ones. The guerilla tactic ones are electronic... I'm not subscribing to any political point of view. It's to do with this technological rift. Technological rifts have always produced hybrid art forms... For the soldiers, it's a set of emergencies. For the guerillas, it's a set of opportunities." - Brian Eno (More Dark Than Shark)

Tizer: a fizzy drink, which had rather a dated image in the 1970's and was marketed with the slogan "Tizer -- The Appetiser". It seemed to belong to a byegone era, like "Blighty". In the mid-1990's an attempt was made to update Tizer's image with exciting "rave"-style graphics to attract Young People.

Foolscap: a size of paper used in offices at the time, around 13.5 x 17 inches. At one time it had a watermark of a dunce's cap on it, apparently.

cauliflower trees: A pun on "cauliflower cheese".

a cauliflower ear for the birds: A cauliflower ear is an ear that's become swollen, often through boxing. "Ear for the birds" is a play on "eye for the birds".

Blighty: Britain, home, a word used by British troops in the earlier part of the 20th century.

The whistled tune is a slowed-down version of the popular World War II army song, Colonel Bogey, as featured in Bridge On The River Kwai.

Brian Jones adds:

Although you mention, correctly, the whistled "Colonel Bogey March" and its connection to the movie "Bridge On The River Kwai," I don't think your notes are complete without a rundown of the parallels between the song lyrics and the movie.

At the start of the movie, William Holden is a prisoner in a japanese POW camp. He escapes, and is ordered back to the jungle to stop the building of the bridge. In the movie, much is made of the disconnect between desk-warmers and the soldiers doing the actual killing and dying. ("But to them, it's a picnic/Don't ask me why.") And with its rundown of the attributes of the team members, the lyrics also satirize the movie cliche of the "one of each type" strike teams that always seem to be put together in war movies.

Now, in case it's not totally obvious that I'm taking this waaaay too seriously, I'll simply point out also that the lyric is obviously "Trust in the weather to bless agricultural man/Who gives birth to more farmhands, don't ask me why." The second line makes no sense at all without the first line as I've written it.

Thanks for a great site about one of my favorite albums of all time. Used to get me quite a few stares in the army barracks in the early '80's, I can assure you. Everybody else was listening to Billy friggin' Joel.


Well, I rang up Pantucci,
Spoke to Lu-chi,
I gave them all
They needed to know.
If affairs are proceeding
As we're expecting,
Soon enough
the weak spots will show.
I assume you understand that we have options on your time,
And will ditch you in the harbour if we must:
But if it all works out nicely,
You'll get the bonus you deserve
From doctors we trust.

The Fat Lady of Limbourg
Looked at the samples that we sent
And furrowed her brow.
You would never believe that
She'd tasted royalty and fame
If you saw her now.
But her sense of taste is such that she'll distinguish with her tongue
The subtleties a spectrograph would miss,
And announce her decision,
While demanding her reward:
The jellyfish kiss.

Now we checked out this duck quack
Who laid a big egg, oh so black
It shone just like gold.
And the kids from the city,
Finding it pretty, took it home,
And there it was sold.
It was changing hands for weeks till someone left it by their fire
And it melted to a puddle on the floor:
For it was only a candle, a Roman scandal oh oh oh,
Now it's a pool.
That's what we're paid for
That's what we're paid for
That's what we're paid for here.

Alternative hearings:

spoke to Lu-chi == spoke to Lucia

Spoke to Lu-Chi = Spoke to the G, as in the Government. I guess I just like my mysterious conspiracies big. (-- Roger Ivie)


In my Biographical Dictionary "Lu-chi" is spelled "Lu Chi" (261-303, a Chinese poet) (-- R Carlberg)

quack: possibly linked to the "doctors we trust" line

"...A fantasy about low life. The speaker represents an unidentified organisation hiring someone for a job, the Fat Lady of Limbourg is an expert on something - some unspecified substance. Limbourg is a town in Belgium famed for its very large asylum. The inmates outnumber the townsfolk. The Fat Lady is one of the inmates, and her past may or may not be real. 'That's what we're paid for' - we're just doing a job - we have no feelings about it! A Burroughs-type song." - Brian Eno. (More Dark Than Shark)

A friend of mine told me a story about the last verse of "The Fat Lady of Limbourg." Unfortunately, I only remember the barest details. He said the the part about the "big egg oh so black" and "only a candle, a Roman scandal" was a reference to what I believe he said was some work of classic Roman literature, which involves somehow a black egg that's a candle or something. I really don't remember anything else, but perhaps someone else knows something? (-- Sardonicusj)

Clifford J. Doerksen: It always seemed to me that the Fat Lady was functioning as a sort of human medical testing device, and that the "samples" in question were human in origin, probably urine (the least disgusting possibility I think, compared to other sorts of imaginable samples). In point of fact, there was a time when Western doctors diagnosed diabetes by tasting a patient's urine for sweetness, so this isn't so far out. Thus, the line "She'd tasted royalty and fame" is another pun: it means that the clientele hiring her special diagnostic services included persons royal and famous, not that she herself had been royal or famous. Apparently, however, the Fat Lady had come down in the world by the time of the song and her involvement in the enigmatic conspiracy it describes. Anyway, I trust that this will help add to the confusion.

=brian: Meanings of lyrics for the Fat Lady of Lindburg: IMO: this song is about the record industry. The 1st verse is about prostituting yourself to get your music recorded and published. In the 2nd verse, the fat lady is a rec. ind. exec. who decides what gets published. This person was once a famous musician. In the 3rd verse, the "big egg oh so black is shone just like gold" is a demo record that might go gold. Records are often referred to by DJs as "stacks of wax". Candle's are also wax. After all the connections and effort, the worst thing that could happen to a musician is that their demo should get trashed before it is listened to. That's what happens here. Great web-site.


I can think of nowhere I would rather be
Reading morning papers, drinking morning tea:
She clutches the tray
And then we talk just like a kitchen sink play
Nothing ventured, nothing gained.
Living so close to danger,
Even your friends are strangers
Don't count upon their company.

This is for the fingers,
This is for the nails:
Hidden in the kitchen,
Right behind the scales.
What do I care?
I'm wasting fingers like I had them to spare,
Plugging holes in the Zuider Zee.
Punishing Paul for Peter,
Don't ever trust those meters
What you believe is what you see.

In my town, there is a raincoat under a tree.
In the sky, there is a cloud containing the sea.
In the sea, there is a whale without any eyes.
In the whale, there is a man without his raincoat.

In another country, with another name
Maybe things are different, maybe they're the same.

Back on the trail,
The seven soldiers read the papers and mail
But the news, it doesn't change.
Swinging about through creepers,
Parachutes caught on steeples
Heroes are born, but heroes die.
Just a few days, a little practice and some holiday pay,
We're all sure you'll make the grade.
Mother of God, if you care,
We're on a train to nowhere
Please put a cross upon our eyes.
Take me - I'm nearly ready, you can take me
To the raincoat in the sky.
Take me - my little pastry mother take me
There's a pie shop in the sky.

Alternative hearings:

She clutches the tray / And then we talk just like a kitchen sink play == She brushes the tray / And if you talk it's like a kitchen soufflé (-- Jim Sullivan)

She clutches the tray == She crashes the tray

And then we talk just like a kitchen sink play == And then we talk just like the kitchen's in flame (-- Enowannabe) == and then we talk just like the pigeons in May (-- Sardonicusj)

This is for the fingers, This is for the nails == Places for the fingers, places for the nails

Punishing Paul for Peter == Time I should call for Peter (-- mdh)

Don't ever trust those meters == Don't ever trust those bleeders (on the grounds that Peter and Paul both died as martyrs) (-- Jim Sullivan)

Back on the trail, The seven soldiers read the papers and mail == Back on the train, the seven soldiers read the papers again == Back on the train / the seven soldiers read their papers in vain (-- Sardonicusj)

But the news, it doesn't change == No good news... It doesn't change (-- Frippless)

Swinging about through creepers == Sneaking through the reebles (-- R Carlberg)

a little practice and some holiday paya == little practice and some holiday pay (-- Sardonicusj)

Mother of God, if you care == Farther along, if you care (-- R Carlberg)

I notice you haven't got my favorite alternative (or dual) hearing for Mother Whale Eyeless -- "parishes caught on steeples". And in the following line -- "heroes are bought but heroes die". Pleasantly ironic. (-- Barbara Manui)


Punishing Paul for Peter: compare the expression "Robbing Peter to pay Paul".

Steve Ray adds (somewhat mind-bogglingly, in the EnoWeb's opinion):

"Punishing Paul for Peter" could easily be a reference to masturbation, breaking the heart of the celibate apostle for your own peter's benefit. "Wasting fingers like I had them to spare" is consistent with this, as is the furtive tone. And, different direction but same tone, he's fingering a dyke, to boot. A "raincoat" is, currently at least and probably in 1974, a euphemism for a condom. That verse could easily be taken for a prophylactic error; the raincoat is under the wood rather than over it. A whale without any eyes would look like a spermatozoa -- is it a sperm whale? "Sperm" doesn't have any "i"'s either. And if I'm right so far, then the whale would contain a man without his raincoat.


Monica sighed, rolled onto her side
She was so impressed that she just surrendered.
She was moved by his wheels, she was just up from Wales
He was fuelled by her coals and he was coming to catch her.
Lose the sense of time, nail down the blinds
And in the succulent dark, there's a sense of ending.
Joking aside, the mechanical bride
Has fallen prey to the Great Pretender.

Let me just point out discreetly,
Though you never learn
All those tawdry late-night Weepies
I could make you weep more cheaply.
As the empty moon enamels
Monica with spoons and candles
Bangs around without the light on
Furniture to get it right on.
Subtlely a lonely fishpool hums with little eels
Often things that travel widely
Stay at home; the Trout obliges.

Monica sighed, rolled onto her side.
She was so impressed that she just surrendered.

Alternative hearings:

I could make you weep more cheaply == Designed to make you weep more cheaply

Subtlely a lonely fishpool hums with little eels == Settled in a homely fishpool, hung with little eels == Settled in a homey fish-pool / Hundred little eels (-- Sardonicusj)

Subtlely a lonely fishpool hums with little eels == Settled in a homely fishpool hungry/hundred little eels (-- Enowannabe)

Often things that travel widely == Often thinks that travel widens == Often thinks not travel wide, and (-- R Carlberg) == Auden says that travel widens (W. H. Auden was an English writer and poet (1907-1973). I believe the reference is to one of his poems. Certainly it makes more sense than "often things that travel widely" in that context. (-- George Arthur)

I always thought the lyric in The Great Pretender "Designed to make you weep more cheaply" was "desire could make you weep more cheaply" which fits in better with the idea of this guy using this girl. (-- John Robinson)


"This is like the rape of a suburban housewife by a crazed machine... I like the vision of confusion in it. On the other hand it could be this way round: Monica is machine-like, accurate and proper, and the Great Pretender (also the Trout) disturbs her balance." - Brian Eno (More Dark Than Shark)

Weepies: Sad, tear-jerking films

I've always assumed the bit about spoons and candles was some sort of reference to heroin (-- Roger Ivie)


There are tins,
There was pork
There are legs,
There are sharks
There was John,
There are cliffs,
There was Mother,
There's a poker
There was you,
Then there was you

There are scenes,
There are blues
There are boots,
There are shoes
There are Turks,
There are fools
There are Rockers,
They're in schools
There was you,
Then there was you

Burn my fingers,
Burn my toes
Burn my uncle,
Burn his books
Burn his shoes,
Cook the leather,
Put it on me.
Does it fit me
Or you?
It looks tight on you.

Alternative hearings:

There are Rockers == They're in lockers

R Carlberg adds:

Comparing the version on TTM(BS) with that on 801 Live, the lyrics differ somewhat. On Tiger Mountain you have it correct down to: "There are Rockers" which is actually "Pair of knockers" followed by "They're in schools" which should be "Paris schools" On the 801 Live version however, the verses get mixed up, with "There are legs, there are sharks" dropped and "There was John, there are cliffs" is sung twice. When he gets to "Paris schools" it sound like he sings "Very true" instead (but NOT on the original). Last section begins, "I'll burn my fingers..."

Keith reckons:

I have a feeling Eno sings "They're In Lockers, They're in Schools" rather than They're Rockers or the ludicrous "Pair of Knockers".

Matthew McGee: Very cool site. I've been listening to Eno since highschool, and I'm glad to be able to finally end some arguments over lyrics with a couple of friends. I thought I'd write in to give my version of the lyrics for the song Third Uncle. The last stanza which starts with "Burn my fingers" I've always translated (after many stoned listenings) as:
Burn my fingers
Burn my toes
Burn my uncle
Burn his books
Burn his shoes
Cut the thread off
It's too long
It doesn't fit me or you
It looks tight on you

Thanks again for a great site!!


Put a straw under baby,
Your good deed for the day
Put a straw under baby,
Keep the splinters away.

Let the corridors echo,
As the dark places grow
Hear Superior's footsteps
On the landing below.

There's a place in the orchard
Where no-one dare go
The last one who went there
Turned into a crow.

Turned into a crow, crow,
Turned into a crow
The last one who went there
Turned into a crow.

There's a brain in the table,
There's a heart in the chair
And they all live in Jesus,
It's a family affair.

Alternative hearings:

The last one who went there == The last nun who went there == The last man who went there

Hear Superior's footsteps == His Superior's footsteps (-- Sardonicusj)


"According to Russell Mills, this song refers to the old Catholic practice of placing a straw under an altarpiece image of Jesus as a sign of reverence or homage. The song is about the omnipresent omnipotence of God." -- Craig Clark(More Dark Than Shark)

Superior's footsteps: Could refer to Mother Superior if you want to keep the Catholic theme throughout your interpretation of the song. Could also refer to the game "Grandmother's Footsteps" (no, we can't remember the rules).

I was reading through the lyrics and comments of this song, and noticed what I thought was a glaring oversight in the commentaries. Somehow I come away with the feeling that this is about a nun having an illegitimate child in the convent, and having to dispose of it, before Mother Superior, or anyone else finds out. Putting the straw under baby to keep the splinters away means that the baby is in a wooden box, as in preparing for burial. The implication is that the nun is feeling some anguish about the whole affair, and placing the straw is her "good" deed for the day, that is after killing the child upon birth. "Hear the corridors echo as the dark places grow," that is, wait until dark and listen to the sounds in the halls, especially Mother Superior's footsteps, until its all clear to go to the "place in the orchard where no one dare go". This would be the place to bury the child quickly and be done with it. It could also be where another illegitmate child was buried, although the last time the mother was caught and sent away from the convent, or perhaps even executed for murder- "the last one who went there turned into a crow" (a crow is an old symbol of death). The final verse about the brain in the table is a bit more along the lines of the earlier commentary about God being everywhere. But in the context of my interpretation, I think the lyrics are more along the lines of the old cliche "the walls have ears". In other words, she is surrounded by the furniture in her room who know of the deed that has been done, even if no-one else does. The table and chair are her accusers, as they are the witnesses, "and they all live in Jesus." The last line, "...its a family affair" is a subtext of that theme, but might also imply that the father is a monk, and that this whole event took place within the confines of a religious order. Also, I believe that this kind of sinister story, combined with the nursery-rhyme quality of the song, makes the tune even more "eno-esque", if you will. That may have been a bit long-winded, but I thought it might be worth contributing. ( -- Victor Manning)

Since writing this to you last night, I had a chance to listen to Taking Tiger Maountain, and want to clarify a couple of comments. First, the lyric is definitely "the last NUN who went there", not "one" as the More Dark than Shark lyric reads. Both Eno and Robert Wyatt, who sings the repetition of that lyric, say "Nun". Also, the "brain on the table" and the "heart in the chair" could possibly be taken as literal- that is she's got pieces of baby all over the room, but who really wants to go there? However, I am reluctant to just pass it off as an anthromorphizing of convent furniture. Whereas Eno says he is more concerned about the sound of words than the meaning, his lyrics do retain some sense of meaning something. The words are connected grammatically in such a way that some kind of understanding may be conveyed. They're not just a string of unconnected words. Third Uncle comes close to that, but even here, the recurring "there was you" puts the rest of the song into a context that's understandable, that has meaning. Indeed, if the songs had no meaning, we probably wouldn't be writing wouldn't be writing essays about them. ( -- Victor Manning)


We are the 801,
We are the central shaft
And we are here to let you take advantage
Of our lack of craft:
Certain streets have certain corners
Sooner or later, we'll turn yours

We are the 801,
We are the central shaft
And thus throughout two years
We've crossed the ocean in our little craft (Row! Row! Row)
Now we're on the telephone,
Making final arrangements (Ding! Ding!)
We are the 801, we are the central shaft

Looking for a certain ratio
Someone must have left it underneath the carpet
Looking up and down the radio
Oh-oh, nothing there this time
Looking for a certain ratio
Someone said they saw it parking in a car-lot
Looking up and down the radio
Oh-oh, nothing there this time
Going back down to the radio
Oh, oh - oh, oh - oh, oh - here we go!

We are the table, the captain's table
Let's get it understood, let's get it understood
We are the losers, we are the bruisers
Let's get it understood, let's get it understood
We are the diners, the final diners
Let's get it understood, let's get it understood
Most of us tinkers, some of us tailors,
And we've got candlesticks, and lots of cocktail sticks
We saw the lovers, the modern lovers
And they looked very good, they looked as if they could
We are the neighbours, the nosy neighbours
We think just like we would, we think just like we should.

Oh, oh oh oh oh-oh-oh-oh, oh-oh-oh-oh-oh-oh-oh-oh, oh-oh oh-oh, oh-oh-oh-oh-oh-oh-oh-oh-oh

Alternative hearings:

Of our lack of craft == of our lack of funds (-- DJ Tommy B)

Going back down to the radio == Going back down to the rodeo

we are the bruisers == we are the cruisers

the modern lovers == the modern mothers (-- Pat Destefano)

We are the neighbours, the nosy neighbours == We are the neighbors, those nosy neighbors (-- DJ Tommy B)

We think just like we would, we think just like we should == We think just like you would, we think just like you should (-- R Carlberg)

Just a quick ??... The True Wheel- 3rd line. And we are here to let you take advantage of our lack of......thought..?? (-- Ctglass99)

I always heard the line as - "We've crossed the ocean in our little craft (Ra! Ra! Ra!)" - the "Ra" as a reference to the Thor Heyerdahl´s Ra II expeditions in the papyrus boat Ra II (1970) Thanks for such a enjoyable site. The discussions on Brian's lyrics are intelligent and insightful. (-- Ben Lancini)

Wade McCarthy: I have an interpretation of a line in "The True Wheel" that surprises me that noone has noticed. The line "we saw the lovers/the modern lovers==we saw the models/ the modern models". It has both a machinistic/sexual connotation that makes the second line seem open ended: "and the looked very good/they looked as if they could..."...do anything, probably sexual. Thanks, for leaving me one crumb to add to your large, layered cake.


"...I decided I wanted these picture-lyrics. Because love-songs don't do that. Love-songs make a number of statements - which I'm wary of doing - so I've avoided love-songs, and it's only on this album I've just done [ Before and After Science ] that anything like a love-song starts to appear."

Cut to Eno on the West Coast. It's Chinatown in San Francisco and he's shading his eyes to peer into the window of a small shop where stand displayed a set of postcard "stills" from a Red Chinese ballet-film called Taking Tiger Mountain By Strategy.

Freeze frame and roll the intro to "The True Wheel"...

"It was so exciting! I thought 'That's the sort of lyric I want!' There was 'Tiger Mountain' which gave it a medieval, almost folksy, flavour - and 'By Strategy', which was very up-tempo and modern.

"So I bought the set and started carrying it around with me and thinking about it. And when I got to New York I went to stay with this girl called Randi and fell asleep after taking some mescaline and had this dream where this group of girls were singing to this group of sailors who had just come into port. And they were singing 'We are The 801 / We are the Central Shaft' - and I woke up absolutely jubilant because this was the first bit of lyric I'd written in this new style.

"Because I didn't know what it meant - but I got the feeling of 'Christ, this means something, this is interesting'. Except it wasn't specific, you know?"

-- Brian Eno, quoted by Ian MacDonald, in New Musical Express, November 26th 1977

"This track started from a dream. I was staying in the Drake hotel in New York with a girl called Randi N---. I had a dream about her and a group of other girls (Randi and the Pyramids) and guys singing the song ... They were sort of astronauts, but with all the psychological aspects of sailors.

... The other strange thing about this song is its inadvertent links with the Cabala. I found out, long after I had written the song, that the number 801 means 'Alpha and Omega' or 'the first and the last' in the Cabala and that this entity is a circular concept ... The number 801 (which, with all the rest of the chorus refrain, was plucked unaltered from my dream) has another meaning which I find interesting. In the Cabala, the twenty-two Tarot cards are arranged such that they rest on the paths between the Tree of Life. Each of the paths has a number, and each of the numbers corresponds to one of the cards in the Major Arcana of the Tarot. The paths 801 describe a pyramid whose individual sides are STRENGTH, THE FOOL, and THE MAGICIAN.

"...Apparently, rumour has it in America that 801 derives from Eight Nought One, the initials of which spell... Very ingenious, I thought, although it had never occurred to me." -- Brian Eno (More Dark Than Shark)

Re eno's kabalistic speculation on the numbers: the number eight is the letter chet and merely the eighth letter. The number 0 (pronounced "oh") could be vav or the word and the number one is alef and does signify the first. Chet (eight) does sound a little like tet (nine) but it is the final letter tav (another T sound, like tet) which is the last letter. 400 and 1 or 401 is actually a lot closer to the first and last. (-- mason)

the captain's table: To be invited to sit at the captain's table is a special privilege.

The voice on the retuning radio noises at the end of the track is probably that of the presenter Richard Baker.

I was wondering if there's any evidence that the "we saw the lovers, the modern lovers" line is a reference to Jonathan Richman's band "The Modern Lovers." As Jerry Harrison was a member of the Modern Lovers who later joined the Eno produced Talking Heads, I thought there might be some connection (of course in 1974 when Tiger Mountain came out the Modern Lovers were fairly obscure, but maybe Brain One was hip to them). (-- Russell Schaffer)

I always thought he was saying "We saw the bombers, the modern bombers", instead of "lovers". I was surprised to see no one else thought so. Fits in with the overall WWII aesthetic more, it seems to me. No response sought. Just a tidbit. (-- Xpin Loki Freign)

zero (the unsignified): Regarding The Third Wheel: In Alvin Toffler's 'Future Shock' (1975?) he posits that, since the dawn of modern man (Homo Sapiens) there have been about 800 generations of man: ie, 800 average lifetimes. And we are the 801st. Whilst I am sure that Eno genuinely received the lyrics in a dream, one has to wonder where he received them from... I've always pondered the fact that this lyric contains the names of three bands - two of whom took their name from the lyric. I harbour a secret desire (ooops - no longer secret!) to form a band called The Central Shaft - unless it's been done?

Simon Fluendy: Nice page! Regarding the true wheel on Taking Tiger... The line 'Looking for a certain ratio' relates to a speech by hitler regarding the number of jews in europe. This was later used as the name of a Caberet Voltaire type electro/industrial post-punk band, you may recall. Someone told me that 8 0 1 was also an indirect reference to this, but this may be bollocks.


In the haze of the morning, China sits on eternity
And the opium farmers sell dreams to obscure fraternities
On the horizon the curtains are closing
Down in the orchard, the aunties and uncles play their games
(Like it seems they always have done)
In the blue distance, the vertical offices bear their names
(Like it seems they always have done)
Clocks ticking slowly, dividing the day up.
These poor girls are such fun,
They know what God gave them their fingers for
(to make percussion over solos) [typing percussion]

China, my China, I've wandered around and you're still here
(Which I guess you should be proud of)
Your walls have enclosed you,
Have kept you at home for thousands of years
(But there's something I should tell you)
All the young boys, they are dressing like sailors.

I remember a man who
Jumped out from a window over the bay
(There was hardly a raised eyebrow)
The coroner told me,
This kind of thing happens every day.
You see, from the Pagoda, the world is so tiny.

Alternative hearings:

China, my China, I've wandered around and you're still here == China my China, life wandered around and you're still here (-- Sardonicusj)

from the Pagoda, the world is so tiny == from a pagoda, the world is so tidy.

My hearing of China My China (TTMS) suggests the second line to be "...selling dreams to obscure paternities." This suggests to me more of the traditional Asian concept of reverence for ones forefathers. (-- Simon Baker)

Curtains are closing = Curtains are floating. In Ran, there's a scene in the mountains wherein a camp is encircled by white curtains floating in the wind. That's the sort of picture I've always had here (-- Roger Ivie)

I often hear Eno singing "In the haze of her morning..." Sometimes I hear him singing "In the haze of her mourning..." And very occasionally that word before "vertical offices" sounds like Eno cursing under his breath... ( -- Steve Flack)


On the horizon the curtains are closing: The Bamboo Curtain, the Chinese equivalent of the Iron Curtain

my China: my friend (Cockney Rhyming Slang: "me old china [plate]" -- my mate)

All the young boys, they are dressing like sailors: I remember there was a catch-phrase "Hello Sailor" said in a camp voice during the early '70s in Britain, the implication being that many sailors were gay. That's one possible reference. It was common in the Victorian era for young boys to wear a sailor suit, too, as a kind of smart outfit. So that's another possible reference.

Francesco B.: Few word about the lyrics of "china my china", in "taking tiger mountain". I think about the passage "they know what God gave their fingers for (to make percussions over solos)" as a homage to Erik Satie, one of the most influent composers for Eno. In fact, Satie used typewriters as musical instruments (probably he had been the first to think about a similar thing). Great site, all interesting! Compliments, but especially THANK YOU!!


We climbed and we climbed,
Oh, how we climbed
My, how we climbed
Over the stars to [the] top
[Of] Tiger Mountain
Forcing the lines through the snow.

Alternative hearings:

My, how we climbed == Climbed, how we climbed (-- R Carlberg)

Over the stars to [the] top / [Of] Tiger Mountain / Forcing the lines through the snow == Over the stars to top Tiger Mountain, forcing the lions to the snow (-- R Carlberg)


The title of the album comes from a Maoist opera entitled Taking Tiger Mountain By Strategy (A Modern Revolutionary Peking Opera). While in San Francisco, Eno came across a series of postcards depicting scenes from the opera: seven of these postcards are reproduced in More Dark Than Shark. -- Craig Clark

"I nearly always work from ideas rather than sounds. Titles. It's that title that just fascinates me. It's fabulous. I mean, I am interested in strategy, and the idea of it. I'm not Maoist or any of that; if anything, I'm anti-Maoist. Strategy interests me because it deals with the interaction of systems, which is what my interest in music is really, and not so much the interaction of sounds." -- Brian Eno (More Dark Than Shark)

The album cover features a series of lithographs by Brian's friend Peter Schmidt. An edition of 1500 lithographs was produced (sold separately, not included with the album). In 02000 and 02001 two of these lithographs were auctioned at eBay.com. Here are scans of part of them.

ttm lithograph


Mike J. Weber sent us the cover of the book of the original Chinese Opera -- possibly the postcards Brian saw were similar:


Then again on eBay we saw these Taking Tiger Mountain stamps for sale...

We stamped and we stamped, oh how we stamped

Ad for TTM


Craig Clark, Jay Sachs, Phil Gyford, Frippless, Jim Sullivan, Tony Lewis, R Carlberg and the nameless denizens of the alt.music.brian-eno newsgroup who worked together in 1995 to create the transcriptions on which the EnoWeb's lyrics pages are based.

The references are not intended to indicate the "meaning" of the lyrics -- it's well-known that Brian did not intend his lyrics to have a set meaning and often selected words for the way they sounded. The references may, however, suggest some of the reasons why some words or phrases got chosen rather than others.

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