This Heat song meaning
August 15, 2007 10:23 AM   Subscribe

One of the best bands ever on Earth was the London postpunky combo This Heat. But what was their tune "The Fall Of Saigon" actually about?

For those who don't know the band, they were a very experimental trio who sprang from the ashes of 'progressive' band Quiet Sun and released (in their late 70s-early 80s lifetime) only three records - an album, "This Heat" and a 12" single "Health & Efficiency," both on David Cunningham's (he of the Flying Lizards) label Piano, plus an astounding album for Rough Trade entitled "Deceit." They were associates with Essential Logic, the Raincoats and other fine bands. Utterly unique, challenging and compelling. Their lyrics were political and pointed, sarcastic and cynical, but never really overwrought nor dogmatic. They tackled issues such as consumerism, the zombie-like mentality of many people and the roots of our Western perdisposition for "rule" to our Roman heritage with humor, understatement and sly wit. But for me, their most compelling song (lyrically) was "The Fall Of Saigon," which features such lyrics as "we ate Soda, the embassy cat" and "the ambassador's wife had the liver," together with some presumably funny asides. But I'll be damned if I can figure out exactly what the song means to say, or if its origins are based in some real story. An internet search offers no real clues, but This Heat were the sort of band which one can only imagine having written such a song with some specific relevance. Can anyone provide an analysis of the song or its background for me?
posted by Dee Xtrovert to Media & Arts (14 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
 
Without even checking the full lyrics, surely it is about the Fall of Saigon

Sorry if I missing something here and stating the obvious
posted by poppo at 10:37 AM on August 15, 2007 [1 favorite]


Do you recall if in the very beginning of the song someone says somethign like: President Truman it is with great regret that I must inform you that Siagon has fallen, the enemy awaits your surrender?
posted by goml at 10:39 AM on August 15, 2007 [1 favorite]


I found a transcription here:
This Heat - The Fall of Saigon

We ate Soda, the embassy cat, poor Soda`s coda,
no more da Capo - she`s decapitated - running `round the room,
half-baked, the other part is bacon,
and still sizzling in the frying pan,
we ate the TV,
we ate the armchair,
we ate the telephone,
we ate the celophane,
My God how we got so far, only to reach so low...
the Russians saved the janitor...

Soda was a little tough to eat, no wonder she was hard meat
out on the roof with the feline goose...
But Soda had a heart of gold, the ambassador`s wife had the liver,
"Please deliver us from evil" she cried, "I know all about cats
and their heavy vibes..." she was very hip, ambassador`s wife...
posted by Eater at 11:40 AM on August 15, 2007


Poppo, well I guess it's sort of about the fall of Saigon in the sense that that's its title, but read the lyrics and tell me exactly what's going on if you can!

Gomi - no. But it wouldn't have been Truman anyhow, right?

Eater - thank you so much.

But what does it mean, even in an impressionistic sense?
posted by Dee Xtrovert at 11:48 AM on August 15, 2007


I'd say after seeing the lyrics now that it is specifically the story of the folks who were stranded in the American embassy during the Fall of Saigon. It's a bit whimsical, but I don't think there's much there that could be interpreted otherwise. Hopefully someone else has a more authoritative answer :)

Pretty cool in any case!
posted by poppo at 12:27 PM on August 15, 2007


I agree with Poppo.

You have awesome taste in music, by the way. Deceit blows my mind.
posted by nasreddin at 12:31 PM on August 15, 2007


I'd agree with Poppo here as well. I'd say the point here is to illustrate the embassy situation with a massive dose of black humor.

Incidentally, I once took an undergraduate course called "Post-Punk British Literature" and my final paper was a critical analysis of This Heat's two full-lengths. If I recall correctly, this song was one of the main pieces I focused on.
posted by evisceratordeath at 12:57 PM on August 15, 2007


I'm sorry, but I'm not American by birth, so the details of the fall of Saigon are pretty elusive to me. Were the people stranded in the embassy Americans exclusively? Why were they stranded?

And thank you for the compliment on my musical taste. "Deceit" blows my mind, too. I had a cassette of it and a few songs from the first album and used to play this during the war when I was stranded in Sarajevo, whenever we could steal electricity from a cable that went to the government offices. It's the soundtrack to the anarchy of war for me, but I think it's also beautiful and funny and very wise.
posted by Dee Xtrovert at 12:59 PM on August 15, 2007 [1 favorite]


From the link I provided above:

The original evacuation plans had not called for a large-scale helicopter operation at the U.S. embassy. Helicopters and buses were to shuttle people from the embassy to the DAO compound. However, in the course of the evacuation it turned out that a few thousand people were stranded at the embassy, including many Vietnamese. Additional Vietnamese civilians gathered outside the embassy and scaled the walls, hoping to claim refugee status. Thunderstorms increased the difficulty of helicopter operations. Nevertheless, the evacuation from the embassy continued more or less unbroken throughout the evening and night.

At 03:45 on the morning of 30 April, the refugee evacuation was halted. Ambassador Martin had been ordering that South Vietnamese be flown out with Americans up to that point. Kissinger and Ford, livid with Martin's regard for the lives of the Vietnamese being equal to those of the Americans, quickly ordered Martin to evacuate only Americans from that point forward.

Reluctantly, Martin announced that only Americans were to be flown out, due to worries that the North Vietnamese would soon take the city and the Ford administration's desire to announce the completion of the American evacuation.[34] Ambassador Martin was ordered by President Ford to board the last evacuation helicopter.

posted by poppo at 1:50 PM on August 15, 2007


Read the Wikipedia article, D. X. The Fall of Saigon was the event that made clear to the entire world that the U.S.-backed South Vietnamese forces had irrevocably lost the war in Vietnam. The U.S. had to evacuate American personnel by air; some lucky South Vietnamese got out, before the U.S. administration ordered an end to their evacuation.

The North Vietnamese forces ignored the eventual surrender of the besieged forces and took the city by force, a military sack. You can imagine what happened to the South Vietnamese left behind.
posted by ikkyu2 at 2:07 PM on August 15, 2007


Gomi - no. But it wouldn't have been Truman anyhow, right?

Thanks for the reply, but I'm not gomi(child). We get confused often because the "i" and lower case "L" look alike. I'm goml (getoffmylawn).

There is another song out there in the atmosphere somewhere and the very first line IS President Truman, it is with great regret that I must inform you -----OHHHHH maybe it was Siapan!!!!!... not Siagon ! Oooohh, back to google I go...
posted by goml at 2:08 PM on August 15, 2007


This famous photo of the evacuation of the Saigon embassy might give you some perspective. My impressionistic interpretation:

We ate Soda, the embassy cat

Possible reference to the evacuation of the U.S. embassy.

poor Soda`s coda, no more da Capo - she`s decapitated - running `round the room

"da capo" = musical term meaning "repeat from the beginning." This line seems to mean something like "no more repeating the same thing over and over (carpet bombings? Vietnam war?), since the head (U.S. advisers) has been cut off.

half-baked, the other part is bacon,
and still sizzling in the frying pan,
we ate the TV,
we ate the armchair,
we ate the telephone,
we ate the celophane,
My God how we got so far, only to reach so low...
the Russians saved the janitor...


Possible reference to the Domino Theory - e.g., that the fall of South Vietnam would extend Soviet ("Russian") dominance in the region.

Soda was a little tough to eat, no wonder she was hard meat out on the roof with the feline goose...
But Soda had a heart of gold, the ambassador`s wife had the liver, "Please deliver us from evil" she cried, "I know all about cats and their heavy vibes..." she was very hip, ambassador`s wife...


References to the rooftop evacuation of the embassy.
posted by googly at 2:19 PM on August 15, 2007


thanks for asking this, i totally forgot about this heat.
posted by andywolf at 5:23 PM on August 15, 2007


Uh checkmark please, people ARE keeping score you know
posted by poppo at 1:15 PM on September 4, 2007


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