I spent a few days, recently, with Lee Saunders,
whose album "A Promise of Peace", is highly thought of by many
Pink Floyd Fans, and which has been addressed here on Echoes in
some ever-burgeoning detail.
Saunders is a mid-30s Englishman from Brighton,
a city of over 300,000 in southern England.
He has his own socc, er, football team (AFC St.
Georges - named for the patron saint of England) and lives for
soccer the way many Americans follow "real" football or baseball.
Indeed, St. Georges won "The Double" the last two years running,
and has lost but one game this season (while Saunders was in America!
He found out about the loss via transcontinental telephone!).
Saunders formed his team in 1996, and now, in
its third year, St. Georges is presently on top of the league
and chasing its third championship. Of this, Saunders is enormously
Although his recent trip to America was his first,
Saunders has an absolutely remarkable knowledge of many things
American. He also has a detailed understanding of world history
that astounds (in conversations, he intertwines events from four
centuries ago with those of the 20th century, and his theories
and conclusions are all but bereft of ignorance); he has an expansive
grasp of world politics; and he has a *low* tolerance for hate,
bigotry, elitism and, in his words, "stupid people."
We spoke at length about many things, but I thought
- for our intent and purpose here on Echoes - I'd address some
of the vagaries, puzzles and themes imbued in "A Promise of Peace."
Mike McInnis is preparing an analysis of APOP, and I'll not get
into interpretations of the recording, but rather address only
those clues and allusions that may have escaped those other than
Britons (as so many did me!).
Let's begin with the album cover: the Union Jack
flag (which - he pointed out pointedly!) is the flag of Great
Britain, NOT the flag of England) was selected for use "Because
the album is a reflection (of events) through an Englishman's
eyes," Saunders explained.
"I also used it because the flag has been used
over the years by The National Front Party in England. The National
Front is a fascist/Nazi party. " Saunders said he's "taking back"
the flag and all for which it stands. "To me, the Union Flag represents
a Democracy. My grandparents fought under that flag in the battle
for good against the evil Nazis. I find it sickening that an English
Nazi party even exists, nevermind it using the Union Flag."
In our far-ranging discussions, it became evident
to me that Saunders sometimes assumes Americans are as in tune
with English/British culture and history as he is with the that
of the States. On more than one occasion, he had to clarify events,
beliefs and assumptions of mine that were flat wrong. Saunders
told me that the flag is called the Union Flag when on land, becoming
the Union Jack when at sea. So, in the song "Not Just A Phoney
War, "it's referred to as the Union Jack because of the subject
matter - that being the evacuation of Dunkirk by the Royal Navy.
Hence "Tommy sleeps wrapped in a Union Jack/on a beach..." is
a metaphor for "Tommy" (who represents, in the song, ALL British
soldiers) being protected and saved by the Royal Navy. More on
Saunders said there are ghost images of "ghost
sailors" behind the flag on both the cover and the reverse. (Check
it out: in good ambient light, look closely and carefully at the
blue field surrounding the flag - the ghosts appear!).
"I had always known that one of my relatives
died at sea," Saunders recalls. "Archie Bell, a great uncle on
my mother's side, was torpedoed (while aboard a ship) by a German
U-Boat in 1941. Just recently (post-APOP release), the Ministry
of Defence in London was able to release information regarding
his demise." (If anyone's interested in the details of Archie's
life and death, write me personally, please).
During The Second World War, a radio announcer
known as "Lord Haw-Haw" would broadcast German propaganda on frequencies
picked up by radios in Great Britain. At the end of "Soldier On
Tom" (which begins with a snippet of Morse Code and a report from
The BBC Home Service), Lord Haw-Haw can be heard ("Germany calling
... Germany calling") in the mix below the hauntingly evocative
cries of Sharon Woolf (very Clare Torry-ish voice and movement!).
"It has been said that my grandfather was involved
in the capture of Lord Haw-Haw, and he actually was part of the
escort of the traitor to a Scottish P.O.W. camp, where the man
was hanged as a traitor."
The photograph on the reverse of the CD (not
the liner notes) shows a VE Day party in 1945. The little boy
at front right is Lee Saunders' father. The photograph was taken
VE Day, May 8, 1945. "A Promise Of Peace" was released May 8,
1995, precisely 50 years to the day of that party, which celebrated
the end of the war in Europe.
Now, in discussing the album and lyrics, I asked
Saunders about a misspelled word. I didn't know the half of it!
"I've seen that many, many people just see the
surface (of words *and* events), and don't really look or listen
closely," Saunders observed. "Sometimes they see or hear what
they *think* they see and hear, especially when it comes to politicians.
Too many people are lazy, and just hear and see things at face
value, (Adolf) Hitler being a prime example."
Saunders misspelled the word "Furher" (Führer)
intentionally, but few seem to have noticed. "I think that word
proved my experiment," Saunders said. "It *does* happen and people
*do* take things at face value. But a German noticed. Lets hope
people begin to take closer note of their leaders - and their
leader's words - in the future."
Some of the lyrics in "For A Thousand Years"
are taken from a Hitler speech in "Prelude" (and the spoken-word
mix gives the song a heavy, Nuremberg feel.) "For A Thousand Years"
alludes to Hitler's references to a "Thousand-year Reich," and
later on on the record Winston Churchill also mentions a thousand-year
Empire in the statement "If this Empire lasts a thousand years
"It wasn't so different, really, in that *both*
sides seemed to want to build a thousand-year power complex like
the Romans," Saunders said. "Each side thought of the other as
in the wrong, but both sides wanted a thousand-year reign." The
phrase "Our propaganda is true" is also a reflection, Saunders
said, that not everything is what it seems, as in powers trying
to attain a Thousand-Year Dream.
Now, back to "Tommy." As mentioned, Tommy represents
Every Man, but Saunders intertwined some more English culture
that may escape those from other countries.
"You have 'tommorrow', in the title 'For All
Our Tommorrows' " Saunders said. "But it's also seen by some as
'Tom-Morrows.' So I combined Tom, short for Tommy, and the old
English meaning for Tomorrow. The spelling of 'Tommorrow' is correct
within the songs."
The song "Overlord"? There's a *lot* going on
there that many may have missed.
"The operation for the D-day landings was Overlord,
and I thought that Over Lord, as in "when will it be over, Lord?"
to be quite apt," Saunders said. "And I think the use of the Lord's
Prayer is ironic, since services were held in great mass before
departure (for battle). I mean, didn't the *enemy* believe in
the same god? Even though Hitler was the main icon within Nazi
Germany, many Germans still believed in a god."
Saunders sometimes gets on a roll when discussing
the impetus and meanings of his songs. "The name ("Overlord")
cries out for some divine intervention before the blood flows,"
he continued. "Like some great act from a higher being would put
a stop to the mass killing that was about to start, and stem the
flood of blood from both sides. It's that flag mentality again,
and the powers-that-be were raising a banner for all to blindly
Let's bring in a little English history and cross-century
ties, now. In "The Killing Grounds Of Falaise," there is a passage
"Once more dear friends unto the breach." Although it's not an
*exact* quote, Saunders uses it to herald back to Shakespeare's
"Henry V" (Act III, Scene 1), in which a speech within the play
celebrates the famous battle of Agincourt, which, like Falaise,
was fought in northern France, only several centuries earlier.
Knowing now, as do we, that St. George is the
patron saint of England, it becomes evident that Saunders weaves
references to the flag, the saint, blind(ed) loyalty and England
into craftily constructed passages.
The lyrics mentioned above, "Once more dear friends
unto the breach" conclude the idea with the phrase: "... for St.
George and England they teach."
"That line questions the blind faith in which
soldiers, sailors, even children at school were taught to follow
flag and country," Saunders said. "It certainly wasn't without
precedent - and it's still done today (Falklands War) - but the
leaders preyed upon young men's patriotism to justify their means
and wishes. (Margaret) Thatcher being re-elected on a wave of
patriotism ... was that the hidden agenda (of the Falklands War)?"
The speech in "Henry V" begins with: "Once more
dear friends ...", and ends with "Cry - God for Harry! England!
and Saint George!" Saunders also pointed out to me that the film
"Henry V" (Sir Lawrence Olivier) was made *during* the war to
help boost morale among the English at home. "That gives an even
*more* justified reason why I should throw in Shakespeare, and
its double, double-meaning."
Now here's something rather more personal and
approachable about Lee Saunders - his passion for socc, er, football
(as it's called everywhere but the USA) is consuming and unfailing.
As is his sense of country and patriotism. So it should come as
no surprise that Saunders' football team is called "AFC St. Georges,"
and they fly the English flag (a bright red cross on a white field).
They are, I believe, the "Knights Templar."
"Isn't sport war in disguise?" Saunders asked
rhetorically. "And how many times have you heard a politician
invoke sporting metaphors to make a point, particularly in times
of conflict? Wasn't the World Cup Final in 1966 between England
and West Germany a replay of World War I and II," Saunders wondered.
"Deep in the minds of the people it was, and that's why the victory
for England was so sweet.
"Also, the angle the press will take when the
two countries in a football match. Also the slant with the World
Cup match against Argentina in the summer (1998), a replay of
the Falklands War. It's not one-sided either, both countries,
press, and supporters - even players - would have had that on
their minds. Its deep-rooted."
(Get Saunders on a football roll, and it's DAMN
difficult to direct his attention elsewhere!).
The chanting of "ENGLAND! ENGLAND! ENGLAND!"
between tracks 15 and 16 ("Poor Buggers, Pt. II" and "Tommorow's
Going To Be A Lovely Day") is a socc, er, a football crowd.
Saunders said audio tracks from films were used
on one track ("Not Just A Phoney War") to depict two things: "At
that early point in the war, World War II was sometimes dismissed
as 'The Phoney War'," Saunders said, "due to the fact that there
hadn't really been a lot of conflict and military action since
the official declaration of war against Germany was issued by
the British and the French.
"There's not a lot phoney about young men dying,
regardless of their flag."
Saunders - who is at times quite cynical, and
is dismissive of inherited authority - said he also intended to
tilt at the great epic war movies churned out by Hollywood and
some English studios, "Since the purpose, largely, of those movies
was to serve as a double-edged sword: entertainment, and a propaganda
"Most films we know now, were made after the
war, and the winners re-wrote history to glorify themselves,"
Saunders said. "Hence the line in 'Poor Buggers, Pt. I': 'And
do you think all those films with John Mills are true? Do you
think that Pathe news tells all the truth?' "
The album concludes with "Tommorrow's Going To
Be A Lovely Day."
"The opening line is how my father described
waiting for *his* father when he heard the war was over," Saunders
said. "My father waited for weeks and weeks for his return." Saunder's
father's father *did* ultimately return safely home from the bloody
battles in Africa.
I also learned from Saunders that the line "No
more chip shops in the cities that day and night copped the lot"
is about Fish & Chip shops, which sell the popular English food.
He said that a standing joke among English survivors - especially
civilians - was that "The bloody Germans blew up our Fish And
Chip shop." A sort of an English way - black humour - to deal
with a terrible situation. (The stinkin' bastards burned McDonalds?!?).
Finally, the album is dedicated to Saunders'
deceased family and loved ones: his mother, father, grandmother,
uncle, grandfather and a friend, in that order. (Their names are
listed on the album).
There's a lot to share with you about Saunders
and APOP, but this being a Pink Floyd list, I prefer to throw
out only a few bits of Saunder's intentions that may help others
(as they did me) appreciate the album in a sharper light. So I'll
not delve too deeply into Saunders and his life.
(Oh, hell! How 'bout this: Saunders, when a lad,
grew up in Hammersmith London, near the corner of Fulham Palace
Road, Hammersmith Broadway and Cromwell Road. Cromwell Road is
where Syd Barrett had a flat during his Pink Floyd days. There
are other Floyd-related anecdotes regarding Saunders and his music
that I'll save for another time.)
Back to the conclusion: Saunders was initially
mystified - upon release of APOP - by the frequent comparisons
of APOP to the music and works of Roger Waters. But he's come
to accept that - coincidentally yet undeniably - there are similarities
in music, vocals and devices.
Saunders, like Waters, had family die in the
war (albeit three generations removed, not quite like having your
father never return) and said such a circumstance "... affected
me not at all."
"But the death of both my parents - my mother
in late '83 and my father in early '85 (in the space of 14 months),
and my having to leave the University to raise my younger brother
who was 10 at the time, affected me far more," he recalled. Still,
unlike the resentful, soul-scarred Rog who seems to blame the
world for his pain, Saunders' outlook is flush with promise and
In conclusion, I trust most will appreciate the
bits Lee Saunders has shared with us. And in leaving, I can offer
a promise for the future: Saunders is preparing - imminently -
to return to the studio to record his second album. If there's
an indication of interest, I can share with you his plans for
upcoming albums (which is why Saunders was in the USA in the first
Let me know ... wayne.