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Soma Bath

This song is by The Legendary Pink Dots and appears on the album Only Dreaming (1981).

Powdered Heaven, dressed in plastic, pulled the shades down on his eyes. Pinprick pupils soaring skywards. Offer him no alibis. But then, who needs them? He's quite perfect. Perfect body, perfect teeth that flash sublime and blind the kids who spread their legs for their belief. Who cross themselves at the drop of a parable; who shriek they're saved when they've touched his jeans; who swear his wisdom's just infallible and beg for mercy -- in his dreams. Another day. Another sermon. Broken bread, forgotten lines. A line for comfort keeps him human. The needle trembles, band on tight. Another little perforation ventilates him and paints him white. A wordless song, a prayer to no-one, helps him whistle through the night. They found him on his throne of porcelain. A rusty chain draped 'round his neck. Incapable and incoherent. His eyes switched off but a king no less! The jury all wore black chewed razors. Witnesses looked D.O.A. O.D'd, amoral, senses skewered. Dribbling lies and tooth decay. They declared his guilt. Defense said nothing, sobbing as the judge turned blue. Washed their hands, said "Lord forgive us, for we know not what we do..."

Drown. In your Soma Baths. I said drown. In your Soma Baths. What are we gonna do with you? (We have the technology! We have the instruments!)

AnnotationsEdit

Soma Bath (1)

Powdered Heaven, (2) dressed in plastic, (3) pulled the shades down on his eyes. (4) Pinprick pupils soaring skywards. Offer him no alibis.(5) But then, who needs them? He's quite perfect. Perfect body, perfect teeth that flash sublime and blind the kids who spread their legs for their belief. Who cross themselves at the drop of a parable; who shriek they're saved when they've touched his jeans; who swear his wisdom's just infallible and beg for mercy -- in his dreams. (6)Another day. Another sermon. Broken bread, forgotten lines. A line for comfort keeps him human. (7) The needle trembles, band on tight. Another little perforation ventilates him and paints him white. (8) A wordless song, a prayer to no-one, helps him whistle through the night. They found him on his throne of porcelain. (9) A rusty chain draped 'round his neck. Incapable and incoherent. His eyes switched off but a king no less! (10) The jury all wore black chewed razors. Witnesses looked D.O.A. O.D'd, amoral, (11) senses skewered. Dribbling lies and tooth decay. They declared his guilt. Defense said nothing, sobbing as the judge turned blue. Washed their hands, said "Lord forgive us, for we know not what we do..."

Drown. In your Soma Baths. I said drown. In your Soma Baths. What are we gonna do with you? (We have the technology! We have the instruments!) (12)


(1) In the Vedas, Soma is portrayed as sacred and as a god (deva). The god, the drink and the plant probably referred to the same entity, or at least the differentiation was ambiguous. In this aspect, Soma is similar to the Greek ambrosia (cognate to amrita); it is what the gods drink, and what made them deities. Indra and Agni are portrayed as consuming Soma in copious quantities. Human beings who consume Soma are probably under the belief that it bestows divine qualities on them.

In Aldous Huxley's dystopian novel Brave New World, Soma is a popular dream-inducing drug. It provides an easy escape from the hassles of daily life and is employed by the government as a method of control through pleasure. It is ubiquitous and ordinary among the culture of the novel and everyone is shown to use it at some point, in various situations: sex, relaxation, concentration, confidence. It is seemingly a single-chemical combination of many of today's drugs' effects, giving its users the full hedonistic spectrum depending on dosage.

Terence McKenna, an esoteric psychedelic enthusiast and intellectual, believed that soma was a hallucinogen, but was puzzled by its apparent complete, cultural disappearance

Can also be related to:

somatic

French somatique, from Ancient Greek σωματικός (sōmatikos), “‘bodily'”), from σῶμα (sōma), “‘body'”).

as in psycho-somatic, implying the mind-body connection.

To take a Soma Bath could perhaps be thought of as the sum total of sensory stimulation resulting from the hedonistic immersion of a drug whose effects intensify bodily sensation. The Soma Bath the character in this story has taken has apparently overwhelmed him with too much - resulting in his demise.

(2) Powdered Heaven would seem to indicate some kind of drug overdose from the following context - Heroin in powdered version? Amphetamines?

(3) Dressed in plastic would seem to refer to a body bag. Tangentially - the fan magazine of David Lynch's "Twin Peaks" cult T.V. show was entitled "Wrapped in Plastic" after the way in which the deceased body that the main plot revolved around was found. Also, it may be that the person in question is not dead, but that the bag which holds his drugs is plastic, thus the drugs themselves are dressed in plastic.

(4) Although this appears to sound like someone pulling their sunglasses down over their eyes to hide their state, the "shades" in question might be a play on "windowshades" as in pulling down a corpse's eyelids. The ritual of closing someone's eyelids, as seen on so many T.V. and movies does not happen so easily, however - until well into the 20th century, people normally died at home, where the corpse spent the interval between death and the funeral. The laying-out, which was done by hired women (often midwives), involved washing the body, closing its eyelids and weighting them with pennies until they stiffened. The pennies were, of course, an old offering to Charon - the boatkeeper of the River Styx - to pay the soul's way across the river into the dominion of the dead.

(5) Pupils contract under the effects of Heroin and Amphetamines both, as oppsed to psychedelics which dilate the pupils. His pupils offer him no alibis because they betray what the deceased was doing even after death?

(6) The possibly deceased appears to have been some kind of pop star who's status had been brought up to an almost religious fervor amongst the youth who followed him - at least in his dreams. There they would find sublime things in his flashy smile, and - "blinded" by the flash, these kids would initiate promiscuous behaviour like groupies. Groupies, apparently also known as "Backstage Betties," are those "sexy young thangs" who hang out in the back of the tour bus and try to bed their favorite rock 'n' roll stars and are an integral part of the decadent rock lifestyle. King Crimson's "Ladies of the Road" is a slightly euphemistic observation of such phenomena. Gilli Smyth of Gong has written about young hitchhiking girls and the like who give themselves away for the Goddess. Our deceased pop-star's dreams reach rather messianic heights when in them these kids are swearing that his wisdom is never wrong and beg him for mercy.

(7) Another sermon seems to refer to the dual-role of pop-star and priest (at least in this guy's mind). Broken bread refers to the breaking of bread at the Last Supper which is translated into ritual in the Christian church. Forgotten lines and a line for comfort could be a word-play on both "written words spoken or sung that he has forgotten or that comfort him", or lines of a drug like cocaine, or perhaps the lines of needle tracks or from the idea "to draw a line" meaning to find a good vein in which to stick a needle. This poor guy seems to not be able to handle his role and is looking to drugs for comfort.

(8) Definitely heroin here. The hypodermic needle trembles while the rubber band around his arm makes his veins easier to get to. The needle "perforates" him and thus "ventilates" him, then pales his complexion as the drug takes effect.

(9) Apparently Elvis was found on the toilet, dead. This song may not be about him specifically, but the archetype of the dead rock-star.

(10) "A king no less" would seem to support the Elvis reference, as Elvis was known as "The King". Finding the person in question incoherent would seem to imply that, at least when found, he was still alive.

(11) Judges chewing razors could be a reference to Occam's Razor, an idea used in critical thinking. Occam's Razor

OD'd amoral could be a word play on a D-Day moral - see "Before the End" as reference.

(12) The phrase "washing one's hands of" something, means declaring one's unwillingness to take responsibility for the thing or share complicity in it. In the New Testament book of Matthew, verse 27:24 gives an account of Pontius Pilate washing his hands of the decision to crucify Jesus: "When Pilate saw that he could prevail nothing, but that rather a tumult was made, he took water, and washed his hands before the multitude, saying, 'I am innocent of the blood of this just person: see ye to it'."

In Shakespeare's Macbeth, Lady Macbeth begins to compulsively wash her hands in an attempt to cleanse an imagined stain, representing her guilty conscience regarding crimes she had committed and induced her husband to commit.

"Lord, forgive them for they know not what they do" are Jesus' words from the cross, asking forgiveness for those who put him to death. More widely, of course, the plea was for all humanity.

The Judges here have taken the quote for themselves, and their sentence appears to be telling the guilty (the audience/listeners of this song?) to drown in their Soma Baths. They say they even have the instruments and the technology (another reference to the band itself?) which is when the synthesizer goes all crazy at the end of most versions of this song. "We have the technology" may be a reference to the voice-over during the title credits to the Six Million Dollar Man.

Video InterpretationsEdit

Soma Bath

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ee4T9cx5IMo

Soma Bath - Early Version

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N99-fukAclc

External links