"Halloween" appeared on Japan's third full album (LP), "Quiet Life", in 1979. With this album, the band became well-known internationally: not only big in .... Japan....
The cottage is windswept
Now there's only sorrow here
Follow evacuation signs
You're detached and broken
And so sentimental now
Remembering how we passed our time

Somebody waits for me
Far beyond our halloween

Germanic forces marching on concrete squares
Our love is just defenceless sound
And could we believe that all you said was true
We would be so determined now

Slowly emerging, dividing Germany
Everyone's lost in East Berlin
And only believing just what you want to here
We're waiting at stations once again

Lyrics submitted by marquicerise, edited by PeterCS

"Halloween" as written by Steven Severin John Alexander Mcgeoch

Lyrics © Peermusic Publishing, Universal Music Publishing Group, MUSIC SALES CORPORATION

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Halloween song meanings
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    My Interpretation1) First point to establish: the lyric has nothing obviously in common with the movie of the same name, released the previous year (1978). Though the title (and last word of the refrain) may well have been triggered by John Carpenter/Debra Hill’s first in a long series, there’s no sign of stalking, stabbings (in vengeance or otherwise) – or indeed, gore of any sort. (!)

    Since the musical dimensions of a song certainly inform the meaning(s) of its lyric, we can concede there is a repeated “growl and banshee wail” figure from the guitar in its refrain, and a double-tracked “high tension” alto-sax accompaniment to the verses (plus short break before the last verse) that indeed suggest heightened nerves, growing emotional-mental crisis, even a sense of panic.

    But the horror in this song is a psychological one: caused perhaps by a distressing romantic split, but then exacerbated by a slightly blurred but palpable sense of menace from the society around.

    2) The song was on Japan’s third studio album (“Quiet Life”, 1979), the middle of five in a brief, three-year recording career. ESTRANGEMENT and/or ALIENATION can be seen as the most consistent theme/s throughout the band’s work, almost a constant. Indeed, the band’s very name suggests an alienation effect from metropolitan England – ironically enough, its initial glamrock rebellious music and look made it big in the land of the ironically alienated name!

    3) Sylvian’s lyrics for Japan often comprise miniaturist shreds - lines and phrases carrying splintered impressions of moods, atmospheres, social states or architectural structures: making the whole text a highly-charged patchwork collage of uncertain signs. So with many songs, it may be asking a lot to look for one single, overarching and sure meaning. But after the preparations above, we can now try the detail of Halloween.

    4) The “windswept cottage” in the first verse suggests the abandonment of a (perhaps secluded?) intimate relationship, perhaps for two. As often in Sylvian’s lyrics, there is a strong impression of intense short-sightedness: the power is in a profusion of glimpsed, frosted details, without the whole picture. In verse 2, the ears are almost hypersensitively tuned to sound, to the impulses of music for example. But in this song, all the aural receptivity is not enough. In verse 1, we already begin to hear what seems the will-sapping effect of romantic dismay, a Separation drastic as that pictured in Munch’s famous expressionist painting & woodcut of the 1890s.

    This “Halloween” appears (first refrain) to be the nightmare of a relationship breakdown.

    But in Verse 2, things only get worse. “Could we believe that all you said was true / We would be so determined now” – if this were: “Could I believe (if I could believe)”, this might be describing the conventional aftershock of a betrayal and destruction of trust in a relationship. But the “we” now suggests someone’s news or confidence had been false. Because in this verse, ominous moves are afoot outside.

    “Germanic forces marching on concrete squares” – “German” might be more precise, but it doesn’t fit the scansion. And meaning-wise, it also suggests a vaguer identification. A type of collective herd behaviour, presumably the sort known from 40 years earlier in the same century, but by unknown troops? So we’ve moved from a Munch-type romantic estrangement to a social alienation with a present imminent menace. The life-jeopardising rumbling outside world of military manoeuvres: like Bergman’s The Silence (1963). An alien, not clearly understood language out there, and our sense of powerlessness.

    Verse 3 shifts us on from previous suspicions of (Nazi?) mobilisation to the second half of 1961, specifically Berlin. “Slowly emerging …” emphasises the inexorable growth of the mobilising threat. “We” now seems to be an assemblage of people cut off, disorientated and highly vulnerable to movements around, with no obvious communications or emotional bonds to those shrinking surroundings. And dependent on shaky rumour (“… just what you want to hear”).

    “Waiting at stations again” – another highly associative phrase, with complete uncertainty of destination & outcome. Anxiety is strongly suggested, and cheerless isolation felt individually by many (”we”). An anxiety to get moving – presumably to get out, to escape the encirclement.

    But the last word adds “again” – as if there had (temporarily) been some more settled, calmer state.

    Now dissolved. The Halloween now seems an existential endless migration of everyone near: disenchanted, trapped, under threat. Everything in flux. Everything at risk. Nightmarish. A general, society-wide Halloween.
    PeterCSon November 13, 2015   Link

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