From Lake Geneva to the Finland Station

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TallThinMan
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From Lake Geneva to the Finland Station

#1 Post by TallThinMan »

The "from Lake Geneva from the Finland Station" lyric from West End Girls was discussed by some professor in a new feature on the Dermot O'Leary show on Radio 2 this afternoon. Then West End Girls was played. http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b04l3jj3

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Suburban_Boy
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Re: From Lake Geneva to the Finland Station

#2 Post by Suburban_Boy »

Great find. Stars around 2:13 on the iPlayer programme.

Dead In Marseilles
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Re: From Lake Geneva to the Finland Station

#3 Post by Dead In Marseilles »

Funnily enough, I was thinking about that very line, and specifically the use of phrase 'the Finland Station' just the other day, but didn't know that it was being covered on the radio at almost exactly the same time! And I am interested to now see it being discussed here.

Even more amusingly (to me, anyway...), I am absolutely guilty of one of the things described by the Professor on the clip - I indignantly thought the lyrics were wrong and ungrammatical for years, but this was based on my arrogant lack of understanding of what was being said, and the context (I was 14 and a half when West End Girls was number 1). I wasn't a Pet Shop Boys fan at first, not until 'Surburbia' came out. When I heard West End Girls for the first time, I wasn't into it at all, and remained unimpressed for several months. If I'm honest, I thought the Pet Shop Boys were talentless poseurs at first. And when I heard that line about the Finland Station, I snorted contemptuously. I thought that the vocalist (I didn't know who he even was then) was just using a phrase to convey a sense of a long distance, and had randomly chosen Lake Geneva and a station in Finland as two points that were a suitably long distance apart, with the specific two locations chosen solely to make the lyric sound more exotic and interesting. As part of that, I thought Neil had only put the definite article in front of 'Finland Station' to make the line scan, or possibly even just to make it sound 'artier' and weirder. I even remember indignantly thinking, 'why THE Finland Station? So pretentious!!! He could have just said 'from Lake Geneva to *A* Finland station'!!!! And what a *bizarre* choice of locations, anyway...!'

Like Neil, I later studied history too. About two years later, I was reading about the Russian Revolution, and noticed that St Petersburg had terminal stations named after the main important destinations you could travel to from there. I noticed that there was a 'Moscow Station' and a 'Warsaw Station'. Something tinkled at the back of my brain... so I read further, and then found out there was also 'the Finland Station'. I felt very, very sheepish. But I *still* thought it was just a random line of lyric assembled to express the idea of a long distance, ie. all the way from Switzerland to the Western Edge of Russia.

Then, later on in the book I was reading, I learned about Lenin, the sealed train, and the fact that he made had made that journey under the protection of the German High Command all the way from, er... well, you know the rest.

And then I realised that I had been very immature and 'know-it-all' and arrogant, but also spectacularly wrong. What I had thought was pretentious gibberish was actually a carefully chosen, well-written and clever lyric that fitted the meter of the line brilliantly. It's just that I didn't know enough history to spot the reference it at first. All told, this was actually quite a good life lesson, as in, 'You should know that you're not always anything like as clever as you think you are. Older people will quite frequently know more than you do, and you should give them credit from time to time...'.

On another note, was it just me that found the slot in the Radio 2 show slightly annoying, in that the 'Professor' (who I suspect isn't real - surely there *isn't* a Syracuse University in London...?) told us that the lyric was in the song, and explained what the Finland Station was/is and the Lenin connection... but without explaining why any of it is in a song about West End Girls in the first place. Which is the bit that is *still* obscure to me, after all these years. OK, so it's about Lenin, I (...eventually...!) got that... but why refer to Lenin's journey at *all* in this song?

Although, in fairness, I suppose only Neil Tennant himself could explain that...?

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Sandy Shaw
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Re: From Lake Geneva to the Finland Station

#4 Post by Sandy Shaw »

We could have asked him for you yesterday. There is a Syracuse University in London btw.
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Propertius
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Re: From Lake Geneva to the Finland Station

#5 Post by Propertius »

Dead in Marseilles asks an interesting question: why did Neil include the Lenin (and Edmund Wilson) reference in the song? It may have just been for the sake of an imagery collage, given "The Waste Land" by T.S. Eliot as one of the song's sources. Neil cut a line from the Bobby O 1984 version of the song that went, "All you stopping, stalling, and starting, who d'you think you are, Joe Stalin?"

In the 1985 version of the song, the Lenin bit is a nice counterweight to the "built to last" phrase, which itself unexpectedly completes "here today" with something other than "gone tomorrow." Maybe the thing that's built to last, in light of other songs like "Opportunities," is consumerism, which survived Lenin? "Built to last" is both ironic and literal, I take it: it's a cheap slogan but Neil was portraying a world ruled by such slogans.

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billjermaine
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Re: From Lake Geneva to the Finland Station

#6 Post by billjermaine »

It's not a completely random metaphor. I think Neil liked the parallel of escaping by train from a state of exile (Newcastle / north of England) to a destination of freedom (London) which is partly what West End Girls is all about. It's a long train ride so I'm sure Neil reflected on the Lenin story on one of those trips into town.

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Patrick Bateman
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Re: From Lake Geneva to the Finland Station

#7 Post by Patrick Bateman »

billjermaine wrote:It's not a completely random metaphor. I think Neil liked the parallel of escaping by train from a state of exile (Newcastle / north of England) to a destination of freedom (London) which is partly what West End Girls is all about. It's a long train ride so I'm sure Neil reflected on the Lenin story on one of those trips into town.
So what about the Stalin reference? :wink:

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Re: From Lake Geneva to the Finland Station

#8 Post by Whie_Tulipes »

Does anyone else have anything to say? I'm very curious and trying to find a meaning for this part of the song

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Vince
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Re: From Lake Geneva to the Finland Station

#9 Post by Vince »

Not available it says. Anyone got a recording?
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