: Wrong Way Up :

UK press advertisement, 1990

UK newspaper advertisement, 1990


I am the crow of desperation
I need no fact or validation
I spin relentless variation
I scramble in the dust of a failing nation
I was concealed
Now I am stirring
And I have waited for this time.

I am the termite of temptation
I multiply and fly my population
I am the wheel I am the turning
And I will lay my love around you.

I am the sea of permutation
I live beyond interpretation
I scramble all the names and the combinations
[I] penetrate the walls of explanation
I am the will
I am the burning
And I will lay my love around you.

I am the will
I am the yearning
And I will lay my love around you.

(We can't make out the other words being sung in the background. If you can, e-mail Mal / Tom)

Alternative hearings:

I scramble all == I ramble off

There are few things == Very few things...


Michael Engelbrecht: You have written some kind of ironic 'self portrait' in LAY MY LOVE? And it's a love song, too.

Brian Eno: Well, it's quite interesting, that you are the first person that noticed that it's a self portrait (laughs), which was so obvious to me. But I never said it to anyone, because I don't like to tell people things like that. Nobody else ever mentioned it. And I mean, it says: every line begins "I am", "I", "I", "I", "I", "I". So that song was kind of a joke on myself. I've always said in the past, I don't like to write songs in the first person singular. There are so many rock songs with "I do this", "I want", "I need", "I woke up this morning", "I gotta get next to you, girl" - that kind of thing, "I gotta feel your body". And I've always said, I don't want to write songs like that, 'relationship songs' I call them. So I had this idea, I didn't want to write songs that started with "I". I didn't want to write songs that ended with "you" - that was the other thing I didn't want. And I didn't want "love" in between. So I didn't want "I love you" as a message, how ever it was filled out and disguised. I didn't want that as a message.

And so, partly through John Cale's influence, he said "Oh, come on. Just do it!" And so I thought "Well, maybe I break my own rules for a change. And not only will I use the word "I", I use it at the beginning of every single sentence!" (laughs) So I realized this was going to be some kind of a love song. But I thought "How could you do something with the love song form that is maybe original?" The first part of the song that I had written was "I'm gonna lay my love around you", which in English has a nice feeling: it's like someone laying a bouquet of flowers around somebody else, or laying a cloak over the shoulders, or something like that - this notion of surrounding someone. But I thought "That's nice, but it's too sweet alone, it's too simply romantic". So these other images starting coming up, and they were kind of nice, because they undermine the romantic quality. You start thinking "Would I really like to have this person laying his love around me, this person who is 'the termite of temptation' and 'the crow of desperation'?"

And then, of course, I should say, there are all the autobiographical parts of it. The way that the song is written is described within the song: "I spin relentless combinations", "I multiply and fly my population", because within the song I'm spinning, I'm shuffling the same cards over and over again. So it's not only an autobiographical song, it's a - what do they call it - a self-referential song.


Night-time is falling on the Louvre.
It's been a lazy afternoon.
We walk to the house, the air is clear,
The water’s still moving in the pool.

You say
the same
One word;
we fight.
We're in
a game.
Let it all
fade away.

One word.
One sound.
It makes
the world go 'round.
You'll see
you can't win--
the same place
but not the same spin.
If it fades away,
I don't mind.

We were miles away, we were miles away,
We were miles and miles away.

Remember this oil by Augustus John?
These are the ones I found in Rome.
There are few things I keep for long.
When does your plane leave for Cologne?

I recall
the train --
People danced
One world
we're in.
We'll find
the same thing.
Never mind...
with time,
we'll dance again.
If it all fades away...

One word --
I saw --
that's all it took
to turn them around.
Strange world,
no sound.
The same things
are everywhere around.
You'll see,
with time
we'll dance again.
Let it all fade dancing away.

All the sounds I heard
on a summer night,
and the quiet words
we exchanged. I felt
she was pulling back
to emphasize --
I was falling
into Mona Lisa's eyes.
And she turned,
and she turned,
she was far away.
She was miles away.

One word,
I found,
that's all it took
to turn him around.
She watched.
He sighs.
He waits for
a touch of her eyes.
And then
she turns away.
She won't let him
touch her any more today.

She was miles away.
She was so many miles away.

Transcription provided by Dan aka Mukamuk.


When Señoritas walk at night,
Habañeros on the move,
It's music to their ears in the backroom.
If there's money to be made,
And it's a hundred in the shade and in the backroom,
She's sentimental like the last
Of the foreigners running past her to the backroom.
And if things aren't sweet in Mecca
She'll be begging for forgiveness in the vacuum.

They're taking pains with California,
And they're guaranteeing boredom for the monsoon.
And apart from what was offered
There were mothers buying orphans at the auction
Youre much better off in Twos
If you're coming to see the carnage in the backroom.
Doubled over on the table
I was concentrating harder in the backroom.
Weaving in and out of consciousness
Hiding out behind the entrance to the backroom.

It took longer than expected:
They had difficulty swallowing capsules.
We had a keener nose for trouble
Than the sniffer-dogs at Heathrow --
You'd be trousers down in no time in the backroom.
Almost nothing in the papers...
Told me it happened when they emptied out the backroom.

Alternative hearings:

Weaving in and out of conciousness == Weaving in and out of corridors

You'd be trousers-down == And have your trousers down

Almost nothing in the papers... Told me it happened when == Almost nothing in the papers told what happened in


So they rode the sea,
It went on and on
They were years away
Though it seemed so long
But the captain never told them what he knew
As the poor ship laboured on through the endless blue.

Oh the storm was strong
And the ship was so frail
But they stumbled on
Raising broken sails,
And they held the heavy sky on their open hands
And they dreamed of when their poor feet would touch the land.

Baby, we're going round in circles!
Where is this place we're going to?
Does anybody know we're out here on the waves?
And are any of our signals coming through?

We're going 'round in circles.
We have no single point of view.
And like the clouds that turn to every passing wind,
We turn to any signal that comes through.

At the edge of the sea
Were the signs of the dove --
But the wrong way out
And the wrong way up.
We pushed the empty frame of reason out the cabinet door,
No we won't be needing reason anymore.
Ooh oh oh oh oh oh oh oh, yeah yeah yeah, yeah yeah.

Alternative hearings:

So they rode the sea == So they rowed to sea

Though it seemed so long == Oh, it seemed so long

Baby, we're going 'round in circles == Maybe we're going 'round in circles

Were the signs of the dove == were the signs of the dawn (-- Matthew Harris)

I concur with Matthew Harris -I feel that "Maybe we're going 'round in circles" is more in keeping with the mood of the song. I also hear the line "were the sign of the dove" as "were the signs of the dock" and the line "we pushed the empty frame of reason out the cabinet door" as "we push the empty frame of reason out the cabin door" (Cabin stretches out for three syllables). (-- David Wheeler)


Michael Engelbrecht: There is another wonderful short story: EMPTY FRAME. I think this is one of the songs you can enjoy on very different levels. I have seen people start to dance and to whistle to this song. And on the other hand, if you listen to the lyrics, there is this very strange story about a ship turning around and around, a motif in many of your songs.

Brian Eno: Well, the sea image is always really interesting to me, because it has two factors, the idea of being out in a ship at sea: It's first of all the idea of being separated off from the rest of the world, so suddenly finding yourself alone. That's an important part of it. The second part is that you are not in control of the situation. You can influence the situation, you know, you have sails and you have a rudder and you can row. You can change your direction, but there's a huge current as well. So I like very much this feeling of being separated off and suddenly being surrendering to a powerful force of some kind. So you might want to go in that direction, but because this force is pushing you, you moved diagonally instead of in a straight line. That's a strong image for me, because it seems to me, it's what is happening to you all the time in your life, you know. You keep finding yourself separated off from the community that you feel you're a part of. You don't want to be, maybe, you would like to be part of everything, but you find that you don't quite fit in there. So, and then you notice that you don't have independent total control over what you are doing. You are actually subject to a lot of forces that are very strong, and you really are not even able to describe them. They are so strong that they are your environment: you don't notice them most of the time. You keep rowing in what you think is a straight line, but actually you are being moved in a circle or off into a diagonal, and you keep finding yourself in the same point again and again. And you think "Why did that happen? I thought I was going in a straight line, yet I'm back here, where I was last year and the year before", you know.

So, all of those images of power beyond your own conciousness, beyond your own will, and of separation, are to do with the sea image for me. The other thing that's in there, is about a little ship that is always falling apart, that they always are trying to fix up again. It says in there "the broken sails". This is also a very poignant image to me of the notion of people constantly trying to repair their sails. What do you have a sail for? To catch wind, to catch the other forces that are around, the controllable forces. The wind is the force that you can do something about. The sea is not, you know. But of course, the wind also keeps breaking your sails, so you always have to sow them back together again. It's an endless struggle to try to keep going in any kind of a line. Because the other implication in this kind of song is "Why don't you surrender? Why don't you surrender to the tide and see where you go?" And in one of my old songs "Julie with...", that's what happened in that song, the people have surrendered. They've stopped, they've stopped rowing the boat and they suddenly have allowed themselves to become completely, not victims exactly, but to have fallen under the control of this powerful force.

Dove: traditionally the symbol of peace. Also the bird released by Noah from the Ark to see if there was any dry land hanging about.


A man was sleeping under a tree.
He wrote to me from Cordoba.
After the theatre, we went to his house.
He's very generous Cordoban.
We waited at the door, but he didn't come.
According to his father, he's very ill.

There was a long line of cars in front of me.
I came as soon as I could.
I left without paying, a suitcase under my arm.
I won't see you until Sunday.
I'll come as soon as I can.
I'll meet you alone in the shoeshop near the bakery.
By the two-storey house/very pretty/like a villa.
The lift stops between two floors.
You start to walk towards the station.
I walk towards the bus.
We'll have to wait at the station.
Leave the parcel on the top deck.
You start to walk towards the station.
I'll walk towards the bus.
You walk towards the station.
I'll walk towards the bus.
You walk towards the station.
I'll walk towards the bus.
You walk towards the station.
I'll walk towards the bus.

Transcribed by Dave Matthews.


Brian Eno: I'm sure everything I do is riddled with paying attention to chance, so... OK, here's a good example. I've been learning Spanish for about 36 years [laughter] And I'm still not very good at it, but...[music]... When I was reading my Spanish book, I was reading this set of lines, exercises, and I thought, boy, these read like a poem. These lines from the Spanish book are the text [lyric]:

Endless sleeping
Under the tree.
You wrote to me from Cordoba.
Drift of the fusion.
We went to his house.
He's a very generous Cordoban.
Waited at the door.
But he didn't come.
According to his father
He's very ill.
There was a long line of cars in front of me.
I came as soon as I could.
I left without paying.
Suitcase under my arm.
I won't see you until Sunday.
I'll come as soon as I can.
I'll meet you at noon
In the shoeshop near the bakery.
By the two-story house, very pretty, like a villa.
The lift stops between two floors.
Start to walk towards the station.
I'll walk towards the bus.
They'll have to wait at the station.
Leave the parcel on the top deck.
Start to walk towards the station.
I'll walk towards the bus.
You walk towards the station.

I thought, this is like an amazing poem, and what I read into it was: Two people who were probably lovers but who were also terrorists arrange to bomb a bus - "leave the parcel on the top deck." The is the last time they were talking about it before they were gonna do it, the next day.

And they'd sort of go, um, I'll meet you in the square by the bakery. The lift stops between two floors, right, don't forget that. Um, I'll walk towards the station, you walk towards the bus... just going through the moves again and again. But the way John - that's John Cale, naturally - the way he sings it is this strange combination - sinister and tender at the same time.

Pamela Z: And they teach you to say that the lift stops between two floors?

Brian Eno: Yeah, they need that a lot in Spain! [laughter]

Pamela Z: Do the people know, the Spanish book people?

Brian Eno: No, they don't know and I hope you'll never tell them! I mean for all I know this may have been a poem that this bloke had been working on for years. This was the only way they could get it published.

Pamela Z: I always wonder how strict the copyright laws are on those things.

Brian Eno: It's been a big issue in England for some years - is there morally such a thing as intellectual property? Can people claim rights to an idea? And it's an interesting question because I've never made any secret of the fact that I steal ideas wherever I can. But at the same time people steal ideas from me a lot as well.

-- From Mondo 2000

An magazine article in 1990 identified the Spanish book as the Hugo Spanish in Three Months guide. -- Tom


Up on a hill, as the day dissolves
With my pencil turning moments into line
High above in the violet sky
A silent silver plane - it draws a golden chain

One by one, all the stars appear
As the great winds of the planet spiral in
Spinning away, like the night sky at Arles
In the million insect storm, the constellations form

On a hill, under a raven sky
I have no idea exactly what I've drawn
Some kind of change, some kind of spinning away
With every single line moving further out in time

And now as the pale moon rides (in the stars)
Her form in my pale blue lines (in the stars)

And there, as the world rolls round (in the stars)
I draw, but the lines move round (in the stars)

There, as the great wheels blaze (in the stars)
I draw, but my drawing fades (in the stars)

And now, as the old sun dies (in the stars)
I draw, and the four winds sigh (in the stars)

Alternative hearings:

Spinning away - like the night sky at Arles == Spinning away - like the night sky above == Spinning away - like the night sky I love (-- Nick Stathopoulos)


We can be reasonably confident that this is the definitive version of these lyrics, as they were printed on the back cover of Opal Information Number 18 (1991).

This song's imagery of circling nature of the world and other natural phenomena is reminiscent of some parts of "The Belldog". -- Tom

"SPINNING AWAY is a very easy one for me to talk about, because it has a feature that I like a lot, and that I have used before as well. I like very much to have contrasts of speed. For instance I like to have very very fast staccato rhythms, chopped-up rhythms, which very liquid vocals running over the top of them. Maybe the best example of this is not on one of my records, but on the Donna Summer song "I Feel Love" with Georgio Moroder playing. The synthesizer part on that is very very technological and mechanical, Kraftwerk almost, but her singing over it is just like a beautiful liquid feeling going on over the top. Anyway, I have that kind of feeling in Spinning Away, something of two very opposing qualities: a rhythm that is staccato, off-balance slightly. If you listen to the way the drums begin on that song, they have a strange, off-balance feeling. Their sound is crisp. The vocals on the other hand, and the violins are not played in the same mood, they're in almost a different musical universe. They float on top of this sea of action, you know, this sea of activity. And the violins play in a different time signature: dam dam dam dam dada over taka tak taka taka taka tak taka taka... Well, actually I'm not very good at talking about that particular piece of music (laughs)." -- Brian Eno, interviewed by Michael Engelbrecht.


I'm a man of many colours:
Only yesterday I was blue.
Ten days from now, I'll be different
And so will you.
Written there in capital letters
So as not to be misunderstood
Making sure I'm clear,
Telling bad from good.

Two weeks ago in Tokyo,
A man from Islamabad:
Selling shells back to the rebels,
Shells they never had.
All is clear: I can see for miles and miles.
I can hear your footsteps in my heart.
Somebody make me an offer
I've got to get away from here, ooh, ooh, ooh.

Driving hard through the snow-drift
Like a moth to a naked light
To keep an appointment in Zurich
With a man who hears footsteps in the night.
Tired of what he's been doing,
What it's done to his life...
Getting most if what he needed
Has left him with less than he had.
All is clear: I can see for miles and miles.
All I hear are your footsteps in my heart.

Alternative hearing:

Robert P.M. Hart: On 'Footsteps' (which to me is obviously lyrick'd by John rather than Brian, given his recorded fascination with the mercenary/arms-types in the past), I hear the line as "getting most of what he needed" rather than "if". Also, on 'The River', I hear the line as "innocent to all the peasant gods we knew".


I was dreaming
It's a hundred and ninety degrees
We were crawling around on our knees
Till the sun came up at quarter to three

But the time we had
Dirty clothes and dirt on our walls
Swinging on the bathroom doors
Thinking we were having a ball
Until somebody said they'd
Been there, done that
Been there, don't wanna go back
Been there, done that
Been there, don't wanna go back

Yesterday I called you on the telephone
To tell you I was feeling alone
Where you been for the last few days?
I want you back
Put my feet back on the ground
I don't need the lost and found
I need somebody to tell me when I've
Been there, done that
Been there, don't wanna go back
Been there, done that
Been there, don't wanna go back

A broken heart
Won't get you much further than a cold heart
We're getting, getting better, we're running back
Running back, back to you and I'm feeling that
You're the money or the good times
When I've been there...

Transcribed by Dave Matthews.

Alternative hearings:

But the time we had / Dirty clothes and dirt on our walls == But the time we had / Dali clocks on down our walls == By that time we had / Dali clocks and Dada walls (-- Mark Linimon)

I don't need the lost and found == I need anything lost and found == And when I end up in the lost and found (-- Mark Linimon)

Running back, back to you and I'm feeling that / You're the money or the good times == Running back, back to your own fear That everybody owed that good times (-- Mark Linimon)

You're the money or the good times == And you embody all the good times


Crime and punishment down in Tuscon
Back to normal in the sun
Playing Blackjack in the Drive-In
Shooting snake-eyes in the mud
And when the moonlight came out, we were gone, long gone.

They found a body on the race-track;
No identifying signs
In his pocket was a notebook
With a number inside
And Guadalajara's just a few miles down the line.

She adored the broken-hearted
And those who showed her a bad time
They didn't care for her body
They took advantage of her mind.
So they took her ideas and they left her behind.

Alternative hearing:

When the moonlight came out == when the moonlight prevailed (-- shawn o'neal)

Playing Blackjack in the Drive-In == Playing Blackjack in the garden (-- Matthew Harris)


Snake-eyes is a score of two with two dice.

I've never heard Eno or Cale talk about this song, so this is conjecture, but much like "Lay My Love" was Eno deliberately trying to write a first-person song, I suspect "Crime" was a deliberate attempt to write an *American* song, something Eno's never really done (with the exception of "America is Waiting").

The main riff is a honky-tonk piano that, to my American ears, instantly conjures westerns (movies), Cowboys & Indians, shoot-em-up saloons in ramshackle desert towns. It's a cliche, in fact. And the lyrics name-drop an unusual number of Americanisms: "Tuscon" (Arizona), "Guadalajara" (Mexico, across "The Border"), "drive-in" (outdoor movie theater, now essentially extinct), "snake eyes" (rolling double ones when gambling, as you point out), "the racetrack" (probably horse-racing as in Britain's "derby" -- and always connected to gambling).

The narrative mostly paints a picture of a southwestern American town circa 1850 (the one puzzling detail is the drive-in, which didn't exist until around 1950). As the saloon piano pumps away, scoundrels are gambling and evading the law. Someone's been murdered at the racetrack, possibly for the information in their notebook (a phone number, or perhaps a tip on which horse to bet on). Whoever did the deed is well on his way across the border to Mexico. And the town whore's been taken advantage of, but not in the way one would suspect: the scoundrels wanted her ideas, not her body. This final "twist" is the only real Eno-ism in a song that is otherwise an affectionate (?) pastiche of Americanisms.

That's all. Just something that struck me while listening this week. Take care, and thanks for the great site. -- Dan


So deep in the water
Sleep, dark as the night
Somehow it seems it was all another dream
Soon dissolved in the light.

Oh, we were by the waterline.
Vague, the song of the night.
Innocent to all the peasant gods with you,
So, we drink to be renewed.

On the long, deep river
Where the moorhens cry
As the first sun quivers in the open sky...

Oh, she came down the river.
Soon, all the leaves were still.
The current was strong and the river was so long.
So, we drink to be renewed.

In the long cool evening,
Where the peacocks shiver
And the boat starts down the silver river way...

I remember you saying,
As her deep eyes opened,
In the first light seeing her,
"Here is someone new".


Brian notes in his diary that he wrote "The River" on the birth of his daughter Irial (11th October entry).

Alternative hearing:

Robert P.M. Hart: On 'The River', I hear the line as "innocent to all the peasant gods we knew".

Wrong Way Up Postcard

Promotional postcard from Land Records



Dan (Mukamuk), Brian M. Frick, Dave Matthews, Ulrike Kersten, Craig Clark, Jay Sachs, Phil Gyford, L. Bruce Higgins, 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.

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