Interpretations of Secret Oktober

It has been a long time (August!) since I have taken the time to really look and analyze a song’s lyrics to determine what the heck they could possibly mean.  I have a few song suggestions left from our friends and followers (and always open for more!).  Out of that list, I chose the song, Secret Oktober.  Why?  Simple.  It is a song that I have been thinking about a lot.  First, Seven and the Ragged Tiger has been an album mentioned a lot lately.  We have been doing reviews of this album.  On top of that, its 30th anniversary just happened.  As part of that, the band did a podcast in which the making of this song was discussed.  I also had a personal anniversary fairly recently in which I saw this song performed in Brighton a little over 2 years ago.  It was a memorable moment for Rhonda and myself.  Yes, everyone around us then knew that we loved the song and were super excited to finally see/hear it live.  It was a song that caught my attention the very first time I heard it.  Like many others, I heard it for the first time at the end credits of Sing Blue Silver.  What is this song, I thought?  Where do I get it?  Let’s just say that I did get that Union of the Snake single pretty quickly after that.  While I may love it, do I really know what it is about?

As always, when I do a blog post like this, I start with a little clip.  As a b-side, there was not an official video made but it was played live some throughout its 30 years.  Here is one of the most recent live performances of it in 2011 in St. Augustine, Florida.

Here are the lyrics:

Wise on a birthday party in a world full of surprising fireworks
And sudden silence shh
Lying on a strangers bed the new day breaks like a speeding train or an old friend
Ever expected but never knocking
Holding your own in a battered car all night parties cocktail bars
And smile when the butterfly escapes the killing jar

Sure eyes awake before the dancing is over wise or naked in secret Oktober

Freefall on a windy morning shore nothing but a fading track of footsteps
Could prove that you never been there
Spoken on a cotton cloud like the sound of gunshot taken by the wind
And lost in distant thunder racing on a shining plain
And tomorrow you’ll be content to watch as the lightning plays along the wires and you’ll wonder

Sure eyes awake before the dancing is over wise or naked in secret Oktober
Sure eyes awake before the dancing is over wise or naked in secret Oktober

So what could these lyrics mean?  What kind of theories are out there?  There are a few out there on the internet.  The first theory is that it is about rethinking one’s life on a birthday.  Life used to be a lot of parties but that life has gotten tired.  Second theory is that it is about someone thinking about suicide.  A third theory is that it is about Simon’s attempts to meditate and have out of body experiences.  Of course, we recently learned that the song was written and recorded in one night, done quickly as they needed a b-side for Union of the Snake.  Interestingly enough, the meaning of the song was also an Ask Katy question.  Simon responded that it was about escaping one’s birthday.  So, do any of these theories hold up?

Theory #1:  Rethinking life and choices on one’s birthday
The first line definitely fits this idea since it is a birthday party and being wise means that one might have learned something.  The new day could also imply that it was the day of a new year and it could be that one is thinking of those all night parties and cocktail bars.  Maybe the memories do bring a smile to one’s face.  Then, the second verse sort of throws me.  Is it about the thoughts one will have in the future if the first verse was about the past?  The future then will be stormy with the references to thunder and lightning?  I’m just not sure this completely follows the theory.

Theory #2:  Suicide
The only thing that I could see connecting to this idea is the gunshot.  The last line of the second verse, though, doesn’t fit.  “And tomorrow you’ll be content to watch as the lightning plays…”  If you are going to kill yourself, you won’t have a tomorrow and you won’t be content.  Right?  Am I missing something?

Theory #3:  Simon’s attempt to meditate
In all fairness, I don’t know much about meditation.  One line that is referenced with this theory is that line about the butterfly escaping is how his soul is escaping his body.  Another idea is that the footsteps line along with free fall and cloud are all words and phrases to show Simon’s out of body travels.  I suppose this theory is possible but then there are lines about the battered car and about the all night parties.  Those seem to be very in body experiences.  I think I need a lot more information on this theory or else, I’m just not seeing it.
What do I think?  I think this song talks a lot about what life was like for Duran in 1983.  Were there all night parties and cocktail bars?  Absolutely.  Did they wake up on a stranger’s bed?  I’m sure.  Did they leave very little evidence of being there?  Quite possibly, especially if it was just a one night deal.  Did some of those mornings greet them like a speeding train?  I have no doubt.  Hangovers aren’t always so fun and that is what I immediately thought of.  Perhaps, they would wonder if they were wise in these choices to party all night.  No matter, these experiences, these interactions were short lived and temporary as are elements in nature like clouds, wind and thunder.  Yes, they will wonder in the future about this lifestyle.  
So, what do the rest of you think?  Do one of those theories hold up?  Am I on the right track?  Do you have any even better theory?  Please share!

5 thoughts on “Interpretations of Secret Oktober”

  1. Interesting. I think it's an easy answer to say it's about birthdays – given that Simon's is in October and all. But for me, it's too easy of an answer and it doesn't completely make sense. I won't even entertain the idea of suicide because I don't even see it to try and explain it that way. I have always thought it was about their lives at the time. They moved from place to place without ever settling down. Crazy parties, making friends…moving on the next day as though they'd never been there. It's like living without ever really LIVING and rooting yourself.

    I love this song. I love the imagery, the lyrics, the music….and how it makes me feel when I hear it. I wish they'd play it just a little more often. 🙂 -R

  2. @EasternViolet here. I don't dare comment on the meaning here. Simon's lyrics are often streams of consciousness, where one line might not be narratively connected to the next. But one thing that is worth mentioning is how I recognized the lyrics way before I ever heard the song. In the book – each of the band members fill out their own biography. (At least this is my impression). Nick's is pretty quirky, John's is detailed, Andy and Roger's pretty sparse and predictable. But Simon's is just prose. And in that are the lyrics to Secret Oktober. Angela had the book with her at Durandemonium (I had a copy when I was younger, but it was destroyed in a flood) — so I had the chance to flip through it again after so many years. I wonder if more meaning can be gleaned?

    For me, the theme of escape is played over. I venture no further in my interpretation, however.

  3. I have that book. Perhaps, I should check it out as, as you point out, it might provide more insight. I always welcome that. As for not venturing into more interpretation, be brave. I am…or so I like to think! I'm probably just crazy! LOL


  4. Secret Oktober just won the “Best B-Side” Music Award off the so-called “DD portion” on DD TV, by the way.
    The theory I put most credit on is the #1, “Rethinking life and choices on one's birthday”.

We (Amanda and Rhonda) appreciate discussion and differences of opinion. We respectfully ask that you fully read the blog before bitching us out. If you're only here to take us down a notch, note that we moderate replies (meaning we're not printing rude comments). Thanks a bunch!

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.