Lyrics to "The Riddle" by Nik Kershaw
I've got two strong arms Blessings of Babylon With time to carry on And try for sins and false alarms So to America the brave Wise men say Near a tree by a river there's a hole in the ground Where an old man of Aran goes around and around And his mind is a beacon in the veil of the night For a strange kind of fashion there's a wrong and a right But he'll never, never fight over you I've got plans for us Nights in the scullery And days instead of me I only know what to discuss Hope for anything but light Wise men fighting over you It's not me you see Pieces of valentine And just a song of mine To keep from burning history Seasons of gasoline and gold Wise men fold Near a tree by a river there's a hole in the ground Where an old man of Aran goes around and around And his mind is a beacon in the veil of the night For a strange kind of fashion there's a wrong and a right But he'll never, never fight over you I got time to heal Sly looks in corridors Without a plan of yours A blackbird sings on bluebird hill Thanks to the calling of the wild wise men's child.
Supposedly this song is just gibberish, even by Kershaw's admission. I remember listening to it on the radio in the car with my dad on the way to taekwondo and we were both wondering what the heck the riddle means. I guess we were duped like everyone else. Or were we...?
Actually I think Kershaw was lying in his interview, or else the song's meaning came through the rushed lyrics and his subconscious intent. I think this song has a lot to say about wars over oil. Especially with the military drumming and all the reference to Babylon, Aran, gasoline and gold. And the wars go around and around... but it's no riddle why. Where does oil come from? A hole in the ground. Aran is an ancient region in what is now Azerbaijan, between the Kura and Araks rivers. Like Babylon (Iraq), it has been fought over for thousands of years, and also like Babylon, Aran has some of the world's richest oil fields. Aran was, at the time the song was written, one of the most important oil refining centers in the Soviet Union. Reagan was US President still and the Cold War was not yet "over".
There's also a lot of Biblical reference. Clearly the river is the Euphrates river. Near the mouth of the river there is a tree called "the tree of life" in what is assumed to be the garden of Eden. The old man's name is Zoroaster (Zarathustra) who made his first appearance near the Ditya River in Airyanem Vaējah - the "expanse of the Aryans" (Iran). Aran was also the stronghold of the ancient Zoroastrian religion, where many famed fire temples burned beacons to symbolize the wisdom of God ( Azerbaijan means "Land of the eternal flame")