The Angel And The Gambler' was the first single from the Virtual XI album, and was released in two parts. Taken at face value, it seems to be a light-hearted song about an incorrigible gambler and an angel that is attempting to save him by persuading him to quit gambling. In a possibly unintended lyrical irony, an "angel" is also a term for a rich person who finances a gambler, allowing him to keep gambling using the rich person's money.
This is quite a long song nearly 10 minutes but it is a bit more repetitive than most of Harris's epic songs. It may not appeal to you at first, but it possibly will grown on you after a few listens, although it could have been a bit shorter and less repetitive.
This was from an idea that I had when I was driving on the M4 motorway to Wales! Thank God I had a small cassette recorder with me! The idea reminded me of The Who/U.F.O so I took it in that direction. It's got a very 70s rhythm feel to it which I like a lot.
On an ironic note, it could also be a song about the complementarity of good and evil, implying that these two notions need to co-exist and that it is impossible to envisage one without the other. Awareness of good automatically generates that of evil too, as all light unavoidably casts shadows. The same can be said about life that cannot be fully appreciated if death is ignored. 'The Angel And The Gambler' is in this way reminiscent of an episode in the old television series, The Twilight Zone, which highlights the absurdity of a world with only good and no evil in it. Here is a short summary of the story, as written by author Ray Kurzweil:
The gambler had not expected to be here. But on reflection, he thought he had shown some kindness in his time. And this place was even more beautiful and satisfying than he had imagined. Everywhere there were magnificent crystal chandeliers, the finest handmade carpets, the most sumptuous foods, and, yes, the most beautiful women, who seemed intrigued with their new heaven mate. He tried his hand at roulette, and amazingly his number came up time after time. He tried the gaming tables, and his luck was nothing short of remarkable: He won game after game. Indeed his winnings were causing quite a stir, attracting much excitement from the attentive staff, and from the beautiful women.
This continued day after day, week after week, with the gambler winning every game, accumulating bigger and bigger earnings. Everything was going his way. He just kept on winning. And week after week, month after month, the gambler's streak of success remained unbreakable.
After a while, this started to get tedious. The gambler was getting restless; the winning was starting to lose its meaning. Yet nothing changed. He just kept on winning every game, until one day, the now anguished gambler turned to the angel who seemed to be in charge and said that he couldn't take it anymore. Heaven was not for him after all. He had figured he was destined for the "other place" nonetheless, and indeed that is where he wanted to be.
Ray Kurzweil , The Age of Spiritual Machines
In the song, the first two verses introduce us to a compulsive gambler who is not very successful, but who keeps trying his luck anyway, hoping that things will change ("But you're not gonna win, you'd better go back again"; "But you're down on your luck and what will the next day bring"). Then, the first bridge brings us to see things from the gambler's perspective. He seems to be addressing God and wonders why an angel was sent to try and save his wretched and somehow meaningless life ("So what does it matter, so why don't you answer, so why did you send an angel to mend?"). Then, the next verses could correspond to the angel's quite sarcastic view of the gambler's life. Pay special attention to these lines:
Nothing to lose but so much to gain
A little danger, it goes without saying
But what do you care, you're gonna go in the end
Сякаш тук играта е разгледана като живота на човека, животът и всички рискове, които трябва да поемем, въпреки факта, че накрая всички умираме – напускаме казиното, образно казано. И наистина, има толкова много да придобиваме по време на земния си път, а незначителната опасност е неделима част от него, и от това чиракуване, към което много се отнасят с думата „жизнен опит".
It looks here like the game is now seen as life itself; life and all the gambles we have to take, regardless of the fact that we'll all die leave the casino in the end. There is indeed "so much to gain" during life, and the "little danger" is an inherent part of it and of this apprenticeship that many refer to as experience.
The following bridge evokes again the possibility that forviveness or damnation are both possible, whichever way life is led down on earth. But the gambler faces his responsibilities and gives in to temptation ("I'll suffer my craving, my soul's not worth saving, so why don't you go, just leave well alone") in a line strangely reminiscent of another one found in 'Sign Of The Cross': "Lost the love of heaven above, chose the lust of the earth below". The only difference here is that the gambler consciously rejects the angel and the redemption he could bring.
The last verses after the solos are composed of warnings given to the gambler by the angel, exhorting him to be careful in his choices and to base his judgement on experience and past mistakes ("You've made your mistakes, won't play it the same again"), as well as berating him for his foolishness to pursue his quest for futile pleasure ("You have been warned but still you plunge in, you play high stakes but there's nothing to win"). This could apply to all of us who gamble our lives in search of other sensations that may not be worth it in the end. Obviously, as the very last bridge points rightly out, the decision is ours to make, and certainly no one else's.
To conclude, a word needs to be added about the repetition of the chorus. Although this is a more than decent song, many people dislike it because of this repeatedness, and a friend of mine even jokingly dubbed this song 'The Angel And The Never-Ending Chorus'. This apparent abuse of the lyrics (the chorus is repeated 12 times before the solos and another 10 times at the end of the song!) may have some significance, although it is not clear which it can be. Maybe the "Angel" is simply hammering those words into the gambler's brain in order to make him react and ponder their true meaning. It certainly made a few Maiden fans react to it!