Explaining ‘Andalusian Dog’, ‘Ha Ha Ha’ and other songs from Sticker Happy

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Orange & Melons (circa. 1929)

I already wrote a long-ish one about ‘Kaliwete’ — yes, that song, and no, it’s not what some people thought it was about. Now, it’s time we get into the other songs from Eraserheads’ first and only fifth album. I don’t really feel like writing a long intro so I won’t be dissing IVoS or Ben&Ben fans this time. By the way, I think I liked Hope Sandoval & The Warm Inventions’ Bavarian Fruit Bread better than Mazzy Star’s So Tonight I Might See. ‘Fade Into You’ is still the killer tho. And with Bavarian Fruit Bread, it seems that Hope Sandoval and MBV drummer Colm Ó Cíosóig were going for that ‘Fade Into You’ vibe so that’s probably why I liked it. It’s totally out of the topic, I know, but I just want to say that. Okay, let’s start with Un Chien Andalou.

“Andalusian Dog” was said to be named after Luis Buñuel and artist Salvador Dalí’s surrealist film Un Chien Andalou. Just like the 1929 silent film, there seems to be no connection between the song and its title. Nor was there any references to the silent film in the song except for its title. Given that YouTube wasn’t around yet in the early ’90s, it’s possible that Ely Buendia wrote the song without actually seeing the film.

Aside from its title, the only other connection I see between the song and film  is Buendia’s use of surreal imagery in the following lyrics: “You close your eyes, you touch the skies / You catch a hundred butterflies / You cut to pieces one by one.” By the way, you can watch Un Chien Andalou on YouTube. [link]

So what is it really about? It seems to be about drug addiction — rock & roll stars, junkies, drug overdose — though it could probably be interpreted in other ways. By the way, the line “Do you believe that happiness is a warm warm gun?” is a reference to the Beatles’ “Happiness Is A Warm Gun.”

“Andalusian Dog” is one of those old songs, written before Ultraelectromagneticpop, that appeared on the Eraserheads’ later albums. Here’s a [link] to a bootleg cassette of the band (c/o Schizo Archives) playing the song alongside other old songs on the radio in 1992. This was before they hit it big. “Shake Yer Head” would be included in Ultra, “Waiting for the Bus” and “Poorman’s Grave” would later appear on Cutterpillow (1995). A faster punk-rock version of “Unstrung Heroes” would be included in Happy Battle (1996), featuring FrancisM and Ely Buendia on vocals. Aside from the latter being sped-up in its album version, the final recorded versions of these songs remains practically close to their early acoustic versions.

Mazzy-Stars-dreamy-acoustic-rendition-of-Fade-Into-You-live-on-MTV-1994
Hope Sandoval of Mazzy Star performing ‘Fade Into You’

“Milk and Money” is another old song on Sticker Happy. A reggae version of the song appeared on Pop U. The song was said to be about the Cold War — you know, East vs. West Germany, USA vs. USSR, Capitalist West vs. Communist East. This song’s lyrics is really dark, like nuclear holocaust-dark. Maybe except for that line about phone sex.

If you listen closely to the closing seconds of “Maalalahanin”, you can hear someone saying “Wala nang sense ang mundo!” According to Pillbox No. 3, that was Mark Villena, a friend of the band who was with them during their first US Tour. This also became the inspiration for chorus of “Balikbayan Box”, which loosely chronicles some of the things that happened during the tour. By the way, Villena had a band called Tungaw where Ryan Villena, who’d later form Narda, played drums.

Needles to say, the balikbayan box in the lyrics is a literal balikbayan box (sorry guys, no hidden meaning there) and the names mentioned in the song (i.e., Haro, Meida, Levan) are actually their friends who were with them during the tour. And Sisar is the demon-summoning chef, in-charge of the kitchen. Simply, this is Ely telling his stories about the tour (Kailangan nang sumalang / Sandali magpapahangin lang) in the same way that Raymund Marasigan’s “Downtown”, is about his escapades in downtown LA.

I’m sure that “Ang hinaharap habang buhay hawak-hawak” is not a rough translation of ‘what the future holds.’ ‘Hinaharap’ here is a euphemism, as in breasts—boobs—suso. Could it be that “Ha Ha Ha” should be read as “ahh… ahh… ahh”? Backwards? I wonder how that chorus would sound like when played backwards. Obviously, the first verse is about desiring someone, longing for someone. Is it lust? Is it love? Is it a sin? ‘Halimuyak, hinaharap’ and ‘napalunok ng laway’ all paints obvious imagery though not as erotically charged as that Burger Machine jingle “Tikman” with its suggestive ‘Di mapakali, magdamag hinahanap. Nananabik tuwing naalala ang init.’

Maybe Ely Buendia going to Catholic school as a kid had something to do with this. Questioning those Catholic teachings he learned at young age. Could you be both blessed and a sinner at the same time? What makes one a saint? Does losing virginity makes a person less dignified? Is there life after death? There’s also a bit about sexual objectification thrown in there on the bridge (‘Di maaaring ariin ang pag-aari ng nag mamay-ari’). Like, when a guy says ‘she’s my girl’ as if she or her body is something that he can own.

Ely Buendia throws all these ideas and questions around without trying to sound too deep. With the suggestion that you don’t have to take it all very seriously (contrary to what some fans did with “Spoliarium”). It’s all very well thought-out but also very tongue-in-cheek. By the way, ‘Hare, hare, peace na, peace na’ sounds like or was probably written initially as ‘Hare, Hare, Krishna, Krishna,’ a reference to George Harrison’s “My Sweet Lord.”

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A scene from Un Chien Andalou (1929)

No, seriously, that’s really a scene from Un Chien Andalou.

(To be continued…) 

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