Is it me or the lyrics are quite dark?

Postby Oscillation » Mon Nov 05, 2007 12:44 am

I don't know, maybe it was the doses, the doses, or the ribbons, in her long
brown
hair

but i never considered that the roses and ribbons were a symbol of blood and brains....

love the song
love ship of fools as well

don't lend your hand
to raise no flag
atop no ship of fools
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Postby old man down » Mon Nov 05, 2007 5:11 am

Definitely not about a gunshot to the head.

If you research the Annotated Dead, roses refer to culmination, beauty, youth in its prime, etc. (Ever here the expression, Gather ye rosebuds..., same thing.)

When young, a lot of girls tempt a man, and choices to marry are many.

For the narrator in the refrain, Annie was in the prime of her life, he was in love with many girls, but there was something about her that made him choose her.

Time passes. Does the narrator go to sea during this time to make a living, leaving Annie alone, or do their lives remain together yet their interests drift apart? Who knows. It's meant to be ambiguous.

The words spoken to him that he would not say to another (lest he resign his life to nothing, laying beneath the "roses" till he dies from idleness, starvation) are "I love you."

I still wonder about the single pane window. Is that a lead in to a house that used to be kept up in that the window has many sub-windows but all of them are broken except one, and this continues with a sort of ghost house, fallen down house. Or is it instead about a small house, meaning limited means, and barely enough money left over for entertaining friends. Again, a fork in the road on what to think about, as well as both forks in its ambiguous telling.

Still, simply a song about life, love, and getting old.
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Masterpiece

Postby astroman99 » Mon Nov 05, 2007 5:38 am

Wow, I am so out of step on this one...the song is about lost love and youth as another poster brought to light...
to me this song is clearly a masterpiece... old Jer even put it in his favorite key...A maj
the vocal and music fit perfectly and develop the emotional content perfectly.
I can't believe this song is getting no repect here...of all places, what a way to start the work week.
When I am dying I will put on the stereo...Roses and Black peter and then say goodbye to this mess we call life!!
I guess its no match for hell in the bucket,now thats a song...
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Re: Masterpiece

Postby gratephulphish123 » Tue Nov 06, 2007 1:45 pm

astroman99 wrote:Wow, I am so out of step on this one...the song is about lost love and youth as another poster brought to light...
to me this song is clearly a masterpiece... old Jer even put it in his favorite key...A maj
the vocal and music fit perfectly and develop the emotional content perfectly.
I can't believe this song is getting no repect here...of all places, what a way to start the work week.
When I am dying I will put on the stereo...Roses and Black peter and then say goodbye to this mess we call life!!
I guess its no match for hell in the bucket,now thats a song...


i'd love to die to a meloncoly ballad like bucket :lol:
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Re:

Postby hollowdweller » Wed Mar 09, 2011 2:37 pm

old man down wrote:I still wonder about the single pane window.


Someone comes to a crypt or some sort of mausoleum.

An old man is there alone and tells him to come in and shut the door.

He tells him a story about how he left for the sea and how Annie told him something he will not reveal. I take it that she pledged to marry him when he returned.

10 years later he returned and she had died.

Many old coffins in the Victorian Era had a pane of glass where the head is so it times of poor embalming and no refrigeration loved ones could view the deceased.

The old man is looking in the window at his lost love. So much time has gone by that none of her family or other aquaintances still visit her resting place.

Possibly her body is so corrupted that her face is no longer recognizable, but he speculates that despite the ravages of time that the roses she was laid down on, the faded ribbons and her long hair the parts that still remain uncorrupted keep him by what remains of her.

It's one of my favorite GD songs. Really shows the beauty of Robert Hunters writing in that it could have been written 300 years ago rather than by a hippie songwriter in California.

I remember one time reading somewhere that Hunter said that Jerry had a great fondness for the sad, death connected ballad. Truly one of the Deads best songs I think as far as it's timeless quality and the use of the classic lost love theme.

Interesting also if you look on the Wood Brothers album Loaded they have a song Still Close. I'm not sure if it was inspired by "It Must Have Been The Roses" but it COULD HAVE BEEN!
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Re: Is it me or the lyrics are quite dark?

Postby williamsaut » Fri Mar 11, 2011 2:44 pm

sarraqum wrote:This is one of those songs I've listened to quite a lot but haven't paid much attention to the lyrics, until now. And it sounds pretty dark.
Murder, death maybe even suicide thrown in?

Red ribbons and roses in her hair....well, to me that sounds like someone having their brains blown out, for the lack of a better phrase.

If I tell another what your own lips told to me,
Let me lay 'neath the roses, till my eyes no longer see.
...if roses and red ribbons DO mean blood, then these lyrics clearly talk about murder and suicide.

I love this band, I can listen to them for so long and yet they can still surprise you.


Very nice sarraqum! Excellent read on those lyrics and imagery. Glad this thread got revived or I never would have read this.

The image of a love committing suicide by gunshot to the head ten years past ( 'Ten years of waves...blow in all good company' ) and a vow to never tell a secret shared or how the loss has changed one to the point of unsocial behavior ( One pane of glass in the window. No ones complainin' though, come in and shut the door' ) is quite dark indeed and I'm pretty sure you'll never find that one in the annotated GD books out there!!

What about Wharf Rat? A pale and pathetic story of loss and denial with loads of thick imagery. One of my favorite songs!! LOL

The name of the band is the 'Grateful Dead' after all. Most of their songs have some reference either tongue-in-cheek or a more straight ahead ref. to death and dying. I've always liked the Hunter/Garcia take on this. Most of their songs have a rather sinister undercurrent going on. The Weir/Barlow stuff is more straight ahead as in Estimated Prophet and Black-Throated Wind and can be quite creepy on the verge of out-right evil sounding as in Hell in a Bucket and Picasso Moon.

When Hunter's involved the music get's quite multi-leveled and can be interpreted in many different ways. 'The Complete Annotated Grateful Dead Lyrics' ISBN-10: 0743277473 has a wonderful forward by Hunter where he talks about his craft and some of the ways he's employed it to bring about a maximum of emotion and mental picture. But he won't reveal any sources. 'Dark' is surely a competent and accurate view of much of the Dead's work.
When the secrets all are told,
And the petals all unfold.
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Re: Is it me or the lyrics are quite dark?

Postby humboldt » Tue Apr 16, 2013 11:19 pm

Lyrics are quite dark. One of my top five songs from The Dead.

My interp. of the song can be summed up as:

Man loves woman, as in any relationship there is beauty, but underneath the beauty lies a bed of thorns. Man kills woman, takes off (this is the 10 years and the sea). Man returns and meets justice for his crime (single pane = jail cell).

No one visits him in prison, left with the memories.

Of course, there is much more pieced into this song, but that's the two-step abstract.
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Re: Is it me or the lyrics are quite dark?

Postby Staemius » Wed Apr 17, 2013 1:10 pm

No suicide or murder. Just a fellow who has gone crazy with grief after losing his love. Has not been able to let her go after 10 years - still obsessed and lost in grief. Single pane of glass = house and his mind are in shambles. VIsitors are welcome but people are too spooked by him to come around.
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Re: Is it me or the lyrics are quite dark?

Postby kalirae » Tue Dec 03, 2013 10:01 pm

Ok, I have to comment on this thread, because I'm surprised no one mentioned this strain of thought.
As a disclaimer, I was three years old when I realized that other music and bands existed besides Jerry Garcia. I remember the moment, that other people who played music actually had bands that sold tapes to put into the cassette player and had concerts, it was quite the epiphany. I just thought there was one band, and that was the grateful dead, and that's all anyone on the planet ever listened too. So this is coming from someone who was raised from the beginning with the imagery coming from these songs pretty much exclusively.

As a child, I always associated this song with death. I always saw a beautiful young girl, ribbons in her hair, either sick or passed away. As I got older, I always heard the line "one pane of glass in the window, no one is complaining though, come in and shut the door" as a led reference, you know, one pane out of four, but no one is complaining and c'mon shut the door is meaningful on a few levels. Learning about the patterns of the scene and the influence of and politics behind lsd on the scene and the band, it just made it more meaningful to me. I don't know how to put a lot of this into words, and probably shouldn't, but there is a reason so many folks through the 60's and 70's told me that acid wasn't the same as it used to be. It wasn't, and isn't. If you take the roller coaster that is the inside world of lsd production, distribution, and politics, you'll suddenly see the lyrics of the grateful dead in a whole new interpretive metaphoric way. It's like they followed what was going on within they're circus and reflected it through metaphors, perhaps not always even consciously . When this song was written, it was the beginning of the end. The 80's saw a massive explosion of availability for everyone to get high, the drug itself being a big draw, but with that the quality and consciousness of the actual molecule deteriorated. The ribbons faded, the 60's died. Owsley left the country. The government infiltrated a tight lipped community and eventually took control. (uncle sam, that's who I am, been hiding out in a rock n roll band--HA) But through all that, the family held together, they're was a love some would never leave. I always saw annie as this young beautiful icon of the 60's, ribbons in her hair, and Hunter admitting the death of what he knew was now a time past, 10 years, ships at sea, if I told another what your own lips told to me, I know so many who did 10 years on a life sentence for selling the reference right after to keeping your mouth shut is hard for me to hear any other metaphor. I saw the whole song one night after making certain discoveries about l.s.d's history and certain messages I had already heard in other lyrics. I saw things about the song that I knew I couldn't really express in words, but knew positively that it was very much about what was going on at the time, expressed in Hunter's past-timey metaphoric dreamscape world. I do still like others interpretations of it however, as the song does evoke a feeling of long-ago times. If I didn't feel so darned paranoid about the idea, and also think that maybe some things should stay out of public knowledge, it would be fun to write a whole dissertation on the subject of LSD history through Grateful Dead song lyrics. It really makes too much sense. Especially when you get deeper into it.
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