Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Anecdote # 808

if you were to go on an international plane flight
and if you were to take along the scrabble tiles
A E E E G H H I J L N N T T and U
and if you were to scramble them into
as many phrases as you could come up with
and if you wrote each phrase down on your little notepad,
eventually you have one called thela hun ginjeet.

that's exactly how I arrived at that title on a flight to london.
the song was originally titled "heat in the jungle"
but robert correctly suggested a better title was needed,
something in keeping with the manic-africanesque
nature of the song, but less obvious.
so I used the same letters as "heat in the jungle"
to make anagrams on the plane.
the one I liked was thela hun ginjeet.
but what does it mean?
who cares, it sounds good and sings even better.

and if I had a dollar for each time I've explained it,
I'd be writing this from a sundeck in maui.

The True Story of Thela Hun Ginjeet.
the notting hill gate area of london at first glance seems like most semi-residential british neighborhoods with an occasional store or pub among crowded rows of little huts the english call "houses". only if you ventured down a side street might you detect the seedy underbelly where race riots had occurred in recent years and policeman had been killed.
a naive american guitarist would likely have no knowledge of such events.

in 1981 king crimson was in a studio in notting hill gate
recording our "honeymoon" record (i.e. our first) to be called discipline.
mulling over the shooting of john lennon the previous year
I was hoping to draw a disturbing lyrical picture of someone
who had been molested by someone with a gun
now being interviewed and questioned about it.
hence the working title "heat in the jungle".
all I had written to that point were phrases a person might say:
"he held a gun against me...this is a dangerous place", that kind of thing.
robert had a good suggestion,
"ade, why don't you take your walkman tape recorder and walk around on the streets saying your phrases into it. that way you'll pick up background noises and it will sound more like a real interview."

it was a nice sunny day so I set out walking through the neighborhood
practicing various ways of saying my phrases into the walkman recorder.
"he held a gun against me"...a car drove past.
oh, that'll sound nice in the background.
"this IS a dangerous place"...good, good, a dog was barking that time.
maybe I'll just go down this side street, it sounds a bit more noisy.

as I sauntered down a side street still speaking into my recorder
I noticed across the way a few ornery-looking rastafarians.
they were eyeing me.
they slowly crossed to my side of the street.
I rewound my tape recorder a bit to see how it was sounding.
suddenly I was surrounded by five or six rastas.
they were very agitated.
"what's that!? what you got dair?" looking at my walkman.
"nothing it's just a..."
"give it here!", the ringleader scowled
and he wrestled my tape recorder from me.
he turned it on and it said, "he had a gun...this is a dangerous place!"
it was like pouring kerosene on a ant hill.
"what gun?!! where do you see a gun? we don't have no gun!!"
now they were really worked up,
all shouting in that strange dialect.
under my hawaiian shirt I was wearing a talking heads tour t-shirt.
I showed them the shirt and said, "look I'm in this band, we're making a record..."
"you a policeman!" he shouted. "what gun?...you a policeman!!"
boy, they were mad now.
I really thought my life was in danger, my heart was racing.
they kept shouting incongruous things in my face.

then it was like a switch turned off.
they just let me go. backed away.
I don't know why, but they crossed over to their side of the street*.

so I started walking back towards the studio shaking like a leaf.
as I rounded the corner two policemen pulled up beside me
in a small white toy the english call a "car",
they asked me to stop.
they got out and began to question me.
what was I doing? where was I from? did I live around here?
they asked for my tape recorder and began taking it apart!
amazingly, they were looking for drugs.
they thought I was a drug dealer.
why else would a white boy with short hair be lurking in such a nasty place?

at last I made it back to the studio, my nerves shot,
I could barely make a sentence, I was so shaken up.
as I told everyone in the studio what had just happened to me,
robert secretly signaled the engineer to record what I was saying.
those bits of my mangled explanation
are what you hear on the record.

and thus a fictitious song about being molested
turned into a real live being molested.

* turns out the mean rastafarians were running an illegal gambling place
and when they saw me talking covertly into a tape recorder...

34 comments:

  1. 'Dust' particle download - $1.49

    Signed copy of The Bears 'Eureka!' - $20

    Finally learning the true 'Thela Hun Ginjeet' story after 26 years! (and all 'Anecdotes' in Adrian's blog) - PRICELESS!!!

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  2. amazing story! I always thought it was a New York story for some reason. I guess it has that vibe. I guess those guys weren't Talking Heads fans! Didn't Dennis Brown open for the Talking Heads? You should have told them you knew Dennis. He was really loved by the Rastas.

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  3. I had heard that story before but had always assumed it was a New York story as well.

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  4. I'm so tickled to know the real story! I had only heard shadowy explanations that were supposedly set in NYC. Having lived in New York, I used to have Thela Hun Ginjeet playing in my head when walking around variously questionable neighborhoods, at night, like under the bridges in Brooklyn, full of abandoned warehouses, by the East River, getting hassled by tough kids from the projects. "This is a dangerous place" in Adrian's voice frequently echoed in the tiny particle of brain lodged in my thick skull.

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  5. Brilliant - absolutely PRICELESS!

    Strange about the NYC reference, I also mistakenly thought this was set in New York City.....

    What a life Adrian! - you really should consider putting it all together -

    Anecdotal Evidence - The Life and Times of Adrian Belew.

    Thanks again Adrian for another exciting installment.

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  6. Boy Robert knows a good track when he hears it! That is a great story glad you made it out OK but what a tale you've got to tell. Thanks for sharing this and all of your thoughts, anecdotes and music.

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  7. You could have shouted, "Look!!! Over there!!! It's Linton Kwesi Johnson!!!!" and when they turned to look you could have run away as fast as your feet would take you. But then we wouldn't have had the song.

    Great story!

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  8. Seems an opportunity to ask you Mr. Belew....

    Indiscipline's 'It'.

    A painting of yours?

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  9. I bet you've been asked what "it" is in indiscipline as often as anything else. I suspect there is no answer to that question and it seems like a lot more fun to keep it that way.

    A lot like the briefcase in the moive Pulp Fiction, we never find out what's in there but that's one of the things that makes the movie such a classic. Quentin Tarantino is quoted saying that it was written into the plot as a an intriguing McGuffin, a plot device that has no real impact on the story.

    My guess is something along those lines. "It" was an intriguing McGuffin, that served as a vehicle for the music to ride on.

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  10. I don't think guitar fits.

    Try this:
    I would carry (my guitar) around with me for days and days

    playing little games like not looking at (my guitar) for a whole day

    and then looking at (my guitar) to see if I still liked (my guitar)

    In my logic (probably thinking too much) "It" would have to be something small enough to fit into your pocket.

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  11. I heard or read somewhere that 'it' was a painting by Adrian's first wife, and that the lyrics were taken from her description (over the phone?) of 'it'...

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  12. HAH!
    nice to hear the true story of Thela Hun Ginjeet!
    I always naively assumed that the title was some African dialect for 'It's a Dangerous Place', because of the way it was emphasized in the audio verite bits.

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  13. "On The Road" definition of "It" best describes what Discipline means to me. I once started an exchange-thing at work whereby a large group of us exchanged our five most beloved albums. Discipline, my #1, made quite an impact on many a new listener; I in turn got introduced to Tom Waits. Anyways, I was previously aware of the Thela anagram but was not aware of how genuine the dialog was.

    A million thanks to Adrian for his frequent elephantblog entries.

    -john k.

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  14. I guess I was quite far off when I thought 'Thela Hun Ginjeet' was based around some kind of Japanese Action-Manga Cartoon then!

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  15. I was doodling on a pad in a small room in Paris in 1987 listening to Discipline with my not yet wife when I started suspecting that Thela Hun Jingeet might be an anagram. Once that suspicion occurred to me, it was only a few minutes before Heat in the Jungle appeared on the doodling pad. It brought a whole new level of love for the song, which I already loved so much. 18 years later, we're very happily married.

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  16. 20 years. God I love, love, love the music!

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  19. Finally we know the real story!!!

    Thank you for this anecdote, i was discussing with my friends about Thela Hun Ginjeet a few weeks ago, now i can tell them the truth.

    ...This is a dangerous place...so keep your EYES WIDE OPEN...

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  21. 'It' is lime jello. Think about it: "I repeat myself when under stress...the more I look at it, the more I like it...I do think it's good." Now, who doesn't like Jello?

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  22. A friend mused at the pier concert in NYC 84 that AB didn't do the story part in the song because of the fact that the lyrics were about NYC. But as a matter of course, the monologue was dropped by the time we saw them anyway.

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  23. Wow, haha I can understand how you would be shaken up by all that. Well, you did make one hell of a good song out of it. By the way I'm seeing you guys next month on the 3rd in Nashville and I can't wait!

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  24. I always thought that went down in NYC...I DO have a sundeck (lanai) in Maui you can hang out on, though.

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  25. Yep, I to thought of NYC. Also thought it might have been a reference back to Fallen Angel - Red. Great story, thanks Adrian.

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  26. That is an awesome story! I had something similar happen to me when I accidentally wandered from Greenwich Village into the Needles Park area when I was visiting NYC. At least they gave you back your walkman.
    =)

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  27. I had always assumed in 'indiscipline' he was talking about a gun. Maybe I just missed the point.

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  28. I always thought "it" was cocaine.

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  29. I have my own fun story:

    Thela Hun Ginjeet sounds quite close in Spanish to TE-LA-VO-EL-CHI-CHI otherwise TE LAVO EL CHICHI what in English means, I CLEAN YOUR PUSSY.

    When in Barcelona, you'll find a small bunch of your audience singin' this along the song, that's our bunch of friends, I'll be the tall fat smiley one.

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  30. It sounded to me like it was a steel jet which carried honey-gin or something.

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  31. @TheWinker: This actually sounds more like "I clean your boob" I don't know how you call to pussy in Barcelona, but "chiche" as far as I know is an international 'nickname' for boob

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  32. Excerp from the song :
    « ...I finally unbuttoned my shirt and said look, look ; I'm in this band here y'know... I'm in this band and... We're making a recording y'know... It's just about New-York City ; it's about Carmin street ; the explanation is going nowhere but.. finally they just decided to let me go I don't know why. » — That may explain why some people might think the song is set in New-York city!

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  33. Ha! That's halarious and very interesting. I happen to be listening to Thela Hun Ginjeet right now! It seem to appriciate it more with this story about it. :D

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