Budapest By Blimp
Thomas Dolby Lyrics

On the corners of boulevards I call your name
Now and again they play our tune
In the grip of a tiny hand over a flame
Pale as the phases of the moon ...
In the cafes and shopping malls I see your face
turn into mist on evening dew
but a book and a photograph just aren't the same
there is a train that's leaving soon

...Budapest by Blimp

Over pillars and palaces I'll hold your hand
Until the fog is lifted
May be better you hold me close than understand
How far away I've drifted
In the face of a tragedy too bleak to know
The death of some grand illusion
All the treasure we pilloried, splendour we stole ...
They never told you that in school


...Budapest by Blimp

...Que je voudrais vous presenter, messieurs et dames
Regardez bien, je vous en prie
Here's a map and a diagram, a shrivelled page
Ripped from the book of history
See the priceless antiquity frozen in time
Built on the ashes of the Jews
And for your curiosity, beauty sublime
Signed in the blood of Zulus

Not really a goosestep, more of a limp

...Budapest by Blimp


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Most interesting comment from YouTube:


Here is an interesting blog in which Thomas Dolby explains the meaning to the song by personally answering a teacher's letter...

Hello, I am a teacher at Mira Loma High School and I am currently teaching
NIGHT by Elie Wiesel and I was thinking of using the lyrics from “Budapest
by blimp” as an example of entertainers trying to raise the consciousness of
society to the atrocities that have been inflicted on humanity.

This being said, I was wondering if there was any way that you could help me
to learn more about Thomas Dolby’s inspiration for the song?
Or what the blimp symbolizes?
Or anything else related to the song?

If you can not help help me with this, can you steer me to someone who
possibly can?

Anything is appreciated.

Many thanks,
Michael Bender
English Department
Mira Loma High School


Michael, this is quite timely as the song features in my current video podcast. I’m sometimes reluctant to spill the beans about everything that was going on in my head when I wrote a song, because sometimes people form their own opinions and make connections that relate to their lives, and I don’t want to supplant those with my ‘official’ version. But I’ll tell you a little bit about ‘Budapest By Blimp’.

On the surface it’s a nostalgic love song written for a woman I left behind in Europe. The US places a high value on everything European, which it equates with class and substance. American immigrants over the years have mourned the loss of their old world values. I use terms which work both in the US and back home: ‘on the corners of boulevards’, and ‘in the cafes and shoppping malls’. Many of the terms refer to American attempts to emulate Europe—’under pillars and palaces…’ always made me think of Washington DC. It seems I’m missing European charm and history. A train whistle blows mournfully in the distance.

But things are not quite what they seem. In the second verse it starts to turn a bit nasty. I complain ‘how far away I’ve drifted’. It’s all a ‘tragedy’, a ‘grand illusion.’ And it’s not at all the way they taught you in school.

An innocent child’s voice comes in—sounding less like a happy Hungarian schoolgirl, more like an orphaned refugee. The instrumental textures become a bit more unnerving, and strange voice samples almost sound like tormented ghosts from the past. The song crashes into an instrumental with a strong sense of urgency to it, like fleeing through cobbled streets at dusk.

The worst case scenario hits…. your imagination fills in the blank. A wolf howls. The fog clears. And an obscene, rouged Cabaret-style face appears, welcoming you (in pidgin French) to what’s left of Europe’s splendour: ‘a shriveled page, ripped from the book of history.’ All those riches America holds in such high esteem are really ill-gotten gains, amassed in Europe at the expense of all the tribes and races we trampled to become the great continent we were. It’s an ugly smack in the face for Imperialism through the centuries. We end the song floating over a huge, delusional crowd, packed into a spendid city square for a night rally, chanting for some imaginary leader. But the leader won’t give them what they want to hear. Over the tannoy he screams that the march of nations is ‘not really a goosestep—more of a limp.’ Overhead looms our massive gas-filled dirigeable, which could ignite and explode at any moment, leaving nothing but a crumpled, smoldering iron frame.

I never made a video for this song, because as you can tell, it would require a huge budget and a cast of thousands. But even if I had them at my disposal, I’m not sure I’d make the video. I think the song already tells the story the way I want it told. I’m delighted at the thought of your kids listening to it, 20 years after I recorded it, and still picking up on the imagery. I hope this helps! TD

All comments from YouTube:


Dolby is sadly considered a 'one hit wonder' in the US, due to the popularity of She Blinded Me With Science.  I've always been a fan of his, and his deeper cuts are brilliant.  His music is so layered and lush.  People are missing out.

Mason Hancock

It's better that way.

Harry Nicholes

Str🎱 🔥. End of Story.

Jurgen Kogel


Björn Sunde

If still so..M I S S I N G O U T..Alla grande!!...Genius!!!:-)

William Boulton W.

@Charles Pugh II I used to have a Sansui 8500 amp and two Sentry 500 speakers. I actually only played albums for many years and I was late in the day getting a cd player. I can remember playing this on cd (so loud that neighbors two blocks away were looking for the source :) ) A good system makes all the difference. You've got to be in the mood but sometimes louder is way better.

16 More Replies...

Kathryn Burke

This song should be studied by anyone serious about music. Artfully done, always surprising and a gift each time you listen. The man is a genius.

Juan Manuel Monfrini

@Harry Nicholes es un esfuerzo distinguir entre la batería y la caja de ritmos. Todo muy sutil, muy bien puesto. Un grande sin dudas.

Mauricio Garrido

@Harry Nicholes Absolutamente

Harry Nicholes

So many layers.

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