The Vineyard is the first track on Augie March's 2002 album Strange Bird (Ra, BMG Australia). As per usual for Augie March, the song was written by Glenn Richards. As per usual, this is only my interpretation of the lyrics.

The Vineyard was the first single from the album. A promotional video was released, which depicted the band playing to an audience of old men who appeared to be members of some sort of strange Masonic/Stonecutteresque guild, wearing large furry horned hats. It transpired that this was the real life garb a Melbourne-based actors guild. A nurse was apparently on stand-by during filming, in case the old men overexerted themselves.

Being the first single, it is also the first track on an EP released a few weeks before the album. This EP, strangely enough, was also entitled 'The Vineyard'. The other 4 songs on the EP were all home demos recorded by Glenn, most notably including fan favourite "Sunday Morning Records".

  1. The Vineyard
  2. Difficult Stuff (demo)
  3. Addle Brains (demo)
  4. Sunday Morning Records (demo)
  5. Driving On Paradise (demo)


An earlier version of the following lyrical analysis was originally posted by me to the Augie March mailing list.

THE VINEYARD: AN ANALYSIS

The Vineyard of the title is Heaven. Melodically and harmonically, the music has appropriate hymn-like qualities, with a strong Beatlesque tinge at times.

"The golden sun is ever gentle in the Valley of Making,
Where it's the middle of the Autumn when it isn't high Spring"

This is describing the weather in Heaven ("the Valley of Making" refers to God being in Heaven when he made the Earth.) Basically the weather in Heaven is pretty nice, not hot, not cold, as one would expect. Though, seeing as Glenn Richards lives in Melbourne, I doubt he knows what good weather is.

"There are men of many colors and women of all races
Wearing white, white linen and smiles on their faces - "

These lines evoke the idea of Christians of all denominations and races living together in harmony. And it wouldn't really be heaven if people wore black and were frowning, now, would it? In other words, these lines are talking about some of the cliched views of Heaven.

"There are roses round the edges of the grand property,
The words "Labor, Ardor, Langor" are its lovely trinity"

Glenn is describing Heaven as a sort of grand country property - the vineyard of the title. The use of the word "trinity" quietly reinforces that it's about Heaven. I think the trinity of Labor, Ardor and Langor have something to do with the Protestant Work Ethic - some writers attribute the success of Western civilisation in the modern age to the Protestant Work Ethic, which placed religious significance on the joys of hard work and that kind of this.

"And when you see just how they dress and how they speak and act too,
Well all you'll want to do is dress up in their white linen too"

This bit is a bit like Daryl Somers - essentially saying "you'll never never know if you never never go." These lines seem a little sarcastic to me, like we should be thinking these lines are saying "let's not give any reasons why Heaven will be good, but just assume that it better be!"

"And you said holly-hey, and with a teary tilt
For you were rudely made, and shoddy built
Between the thumb and the forefinger,
Barefoot pressed, he hoists his trouser leg,
She lifts her dress."

This section is referring to the material nature of life on Earth; specifically our "rudely made" and "shoddy built" mechanical bodies and our method of conception (based on the suggestiveness of the last two lines here).

The implication here is that life in Heaven is not material, it is a place for souls; but that since who we are too much a product of our rudely made and shoddy built bodies, Heaven might not be the place for us.

"O these men of many colors in their creamy white suits
With their different colored hands dig in the soil for the roots
Of the dreamy conversation that the slender women make
As they sip from slender glasses by the vineyard lake -"

These lines emphasise the culture-bound nature of conceptions of heaven. Why are men of many colors going to want to be working on a vineyard? Heaven might be a bit more like frolicking in a wild tropical Eden, than a nice Barossa Valley estate, for all we know.

"Blue rose and drew the curtain back on the morning
Blue rose and every little thing was gilt and suffering no more."

I think that "Blue" works best as the name of a character - whose soul "rose" (through the hole in the roof, possibly) to heaven. Drawing the curtain back on the morning in this case might be a metaphor for entering heaven, when you finally become enlightened and that kind of thing. And so everything in heaven is gilt - covered in gold - owing to the sunshine from the Golden sun. And of course, not one single living thing is suffering in heaven.

"If you could see the people laughing and not hear the sound it makes,
Then you could keep the good opinion that the tone of voice takes,
If you could see the people laughing and not hear the sound it makes - it goes"

So after Glenn has built up this wonderful cliched fantasy of Heaven, these lines are where he starts taking aim at destroying it. He suggests here that laughter is impossible in heaven, for laughter tends to be based on cruelty much of the time ("comedy is tragedy with different lighting.")

"There's a woman there among them who with red red eyes,
Says you haven't been a'working hard enough on your lies,
The golden sun is ever gentle and one lie follows another in.."

Hang on, a woman with red red eyes - ie, crying (could this be the Virgin Mary? her statues seem to cry a lot) - in Heaven? Lies are abundant in heaven? What kind of Heaven is this?

"The only way to get there is by singing, brother, singing,
There are women of all races, men in white white linen,
And the only way to get there is to sing, sister sing, sister sing"

This is a stab at organised religion, the idea that going to church and singing some hymns and all the other associated rituals will get you into heaven, no matter what else you've done.

"Where the wars were not for wearing, the ghettoes never got
To each lonely, lonely person their own shovel, their own plot.
Have you ever heard a rattle way on down when people sigh,
Way on down the silly rattle says you're happy when you die."

The conclusion to this song is that Heaven is just a nice fantasy we have invented to stop us from getting depressed about hellish this world is, to stop us thinking about wars, ghettoes, etc. The idea that we will get to Heaven if we're good little Christians is just a "silly rattle" deep down in the human psyche that stops us digging a grave for ourselves ("their own shovel, their own plot") and killing ourselves right now.


The EP somehow debuted at #31 on the ARIA national Australian singles chart, by the way.


I have emailed the band's manager requesting permission to have these lyrics on e2.

He replied:
"Tim
100% fine mate, cheers
Matt"

CST Approved