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Explanation
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Black-roof country, no gold pavements
"no gold pavements" - the folk-myth, now largely discredited, that Britain's richest city, London, is so rich that the streets a\re paved with gold. Believed to originate with the mediaeval myth of Dick Whittington, who with his cat arrived penniless in London and rose to become lord Mayor. Thousands upon thousands of people have moved to London from outside in search of a better life where the pavements are in one form or another made of gold. The vast majority are dissillusioned very quickly. The song is about people moving to London to seek their fortune and find a sort of magic only to discover the reality is bleak. But it doesn't stop them hoping.
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Explanation
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tired starlings
Starlings are a common species of bird which thrive in the south of England, especially in and around big cities like London. Their preferred roost is the country but they are also seen in cities, competing for scarce resources with established urban birds like pigeons and sparrows. "tired starlings" continues the metaphor of unwary outsiders coming in to the big city from elsewhere in Britain, drawn to London and discovering the place is large and anonymous and unfriendly to rootless outsiders. This song is about trying to make it in London and finding it tough and unwelcoming. It is about anonymity and rootlessness and isolation.
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Explanation
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Mmm, the sun goin' down, boy, dark gon' catch me here
Oooo, ooee, eee boy, dark gon' catch me here
I haven't got no lovin' sweet woman that love and feel my care
The occult significance of the crossroads. Nobody lingers here. the Crossroads is not a place to be after dark unless you are lonely and desperate and have nothing to lose - a place to bargain with dark forces at midnight for favours and privileges. The Voodoo God Baron Samedi is a deity to whom crossroads are sacred - in Haiti he is Baron Carrefour, the Carrefour being the French word for "crossroads". To the pre-conquest Mexicans, the God of the Roads would walk by night and claim souls of lonely travellers at crossroads, who were fated to walk the roads with him and never know peace again. In Europe, vampires and witches congregated here. In a place like the Deep South of the USA where all these myths and superstitions met and merged, the Mexican-Spanish, the European and the African, crossroads were trebly feared.
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Explanation
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I went down to the crossroad, fell down on my knees
I went down to the crossroad, fell down on my knees
Asked the Lord above "Have mercy, save poor Bob, if you please."
In the Deep South of the USA, the idea that crossroads have significance as a place where deals can be made with the Devil is a superstition brought out of Europe, and reinforced by the voudou mythos of former black slaves and the Carribean. In Europe, the crossroads was often the burial place of suicides and suspected vampires. In the Delta and the Carribean, it is the place to summon Baron Samedi, voodoo's Lord of the Dead and an achetype of the Christian Satan.
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Explanation
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Robert Johnson
Johnson was an indifferent blues singer and guitarist. He disappeared for a while in the 1930's, and when he returned, the quality of his singing and especially his guitar playing, had improved exponentially. From out of nowhere he had suddenly upped his game by several orders of magnitude. The rumour grew that he had sold his soul to the Devil for superhuman guitar-playing ability. This is a Deep South folk-myth explored elsewhere by Charlie Daniels- "The Devil Went down to Georgia" - in which Satan gambles a human soul against a golden fiddle. Crossroads are important in summoning Satan.
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Explanation
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I crossed the ocean
For a heart of gold
Comic author Douglas Adams insisted the sci-fi radio show he was writing and producing should draw on his favourite musical and cultural references. The two original radio series of "The Hitch-Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy" are replete with references to 1970's music which range from obscure to blatant. (Even the Bee Gees "Stayin' Alive" is used at one point.) Here, Neil Young's search that takes him from Hollywood and to Redwood and across oceans becomes the name of the most powerful galaxy-spanning spacecraft ever built.
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Explanation
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Sweet Jane, sweet Jane, sweet Jane
This may be an allusion to that substance known as sweet Mary-Jane, which enhances life's rich tapestry, and which can make a boring job as a clerk or bank teller a little bit more bearable, when you have some to come home to at night, and can smoke it while sitting by the fire with the radio on.
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Explanation
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And bats that with a kiss turn prince for you
A throwaway reference to vampires? Count Dracula, who always had a kiss for an attractive woman, would arrive in the form of a bat and then transform into his human form - The Prince of Darkness.
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Explanation
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'Cause you know what they say about honey bears
When you shave off all their baby hair
You have a hairy minded pink bare bear
A very useful gem here: in the gay world, a certain sort of gay man, large, physically imposing, generally muscular but running to a little fat, looking on the face of things as if he is ultra-macho, who cultivates a beard and lots of body hair, especially on the chest, is known as.... a bear. Here, Lou Reed is contemplating a shaven bear and wondering about what one would look like.
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Explanation
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with two pounds six, of willow wood in the
Two pounds six ounces (1200g) is the weight of a standard English cricket bat, which is traditionally made out of willow wood.
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Explanation
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it could be Geoff
Geoffrey Boycott, who played for Yorkshire and England and who is regarded as possibly the greatest English batsman of the twentieth century.
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Explanation
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and it could be John
There is a long litany of famous cricketers called John. John Small, John Nyren, John Hambledon, the famous John Wisden who gave his name to the cricketer's Bible, Wisdens, and four hundred and twentry-three others.
Harper may be alluding to John Snow, who partnered Yorkshire legend Geoff Boycott in the England team, and who retired about the same time this song was written.
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Explanation
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Silly Mid-On


This is a chart displaying all the permissible fielding positions in a game of cricket. It is apparent how suicidally close to the batsman the Silly Mid On (and Off) fielders have to get.
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Explanation
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a fleeting glimpse of a twelfth man
"A fleeting glimpse of a twelfth man" - cricket is played by an eleven man side. The Twelfth Man is the reserve or substitute who is only brought on if one of the preferred eleven is incapable of continuing play.
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Explanation
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Silly Mid-On
Silly Mid On is one of the recognized fielding positions in a game of cricket. It requires the fielder to stand insanely close to the batsman in the hope of catching the ball as he strikes it. A very hard, unyielding ball propelled by a very large bat and the muscle power of the batsman standing perhaps fifteen yards away. This is possibly why the position is called "silly" as the fielder in this position is in pretty much the direct line of strike of the batsman and very likely to be hit. Conversely, "silly" is being used here in the Old English term of "selig" - denoting a holy fool or a village idiot.
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Explanation
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freiburg
The German city of Freiburg. Judged as being out of range of Allied fighter bombers, neighbouring airfields were used as bases for Me-262 squadrons in 1944-45. Ironically it was one of the first Western cities bombed by the Luftwaffe in 1940. A bomber wing got seriously lost and thought they were over the French city of Dijon. The result was an embarrassing and costly own goal for the German Air force.
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Explanation
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To thee I dedicate this photograph
I'll even sign it "love to you" again
A cal-back to an earlier blue Oyster Cult song, Stairway to the Stars, in which the rock-star singer graciously agrees.
Yes, you can have my autograph/I'll even sign it/Good Health to you/On the cast! /Of your broken arm!
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Explanation
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You'll sometimes look
This line as also been interpreted as "your sometime love", which reinforces the necessarily transitory and ephemeral nature of fame, fashion and the whole rock star business. As at the time, Ian Hunter was facing up to the demise of his big glam-rock band Mott The Hoople and aware musical tastes in the middle 1970's were changing, it is especially poignant. The Blue Oyster Cult were fated to be at the very peak of fame and popularity for another year or two in the late 70's and early 80's, dwindling into semi-obscurity as tastes changed, and no longer able to fill big stadiums. Although they retain a dedicated fan base and have released several critically acclaimed albums since "Spectres", this was the high crest of their wave. The idea of a faded rock god holding on past his prime becomes tragic with hindsight.
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Meaning
This is the classic "rock-star" song about the performer who's made it big and is re-assessing his values and wondering if this is what he wanted in the first place. It opens with him negotiating terms of engagement with a groupie, who as the song notes is "too wild to care" with "animal stare", as if this is nothing new to her either and the singer is just another big-name scalp for her bedpost. He perceives the essentially shallow and meaningless nature of the encounter and realizes both of them are, indeed, just "goin' through the motions" of everything and playing their respective parts. Yet he still has the meaningless sexual encounter anyway, shore of anything that would make it meaningful or worthwhile: just another day at the office, so to speak. In the morning he writes her an autograph - knowing this is also playing the part and doing what's expected of him - and a little humanity reasserts itself as she weeps and asks to stay. But he realizes the autograph is just going to go into a book and she might take it out and look at it in twenty years' time and try to remember a name and a face. And this reminds the rock star of his own mortality and the fact his place in the world isn't all that exalted, when he comes to look at it.
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Explanation
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The misty gloom seems to soak up my sorrow
Mist, gloom and fog appear to be inseparable from the vampire encounter. Count Dracula, for instance, arrives on the English coast from a wrecked ship in the middle of a heavy fog giving way to twilight mist.

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Explanation
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If only you had been there my dear
We could have shared this together
The music video for this song is strangely different, as while the context of the track makes it clear this is a supernatural meeting between a human and a vampire, the video uses the words to tell a different story, of a young man trying to pull his girlfriend away from the abyss of drug addiction. While a tenuous case can be made for this interpretation, as here - she is offering him a drug experience and he is refusing - it is ultimately unsatisfying and somewhat banal.
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Explanation
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I wanna hear you scream
And every act of Justice requires its witness who can then stand up and testify: I saw Karma in action. I saw justice delivered. I can attest to the fact the guilty party felt it, in the guilt beforehand and the apprehensive wait, and then in the impact of the bullet and the scream. It is done and finished with.
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Explanation
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You'd better close your eyes
Bow your head
Wait for the ricochet
And there is absolutely nothing you can do about it. So in full acceptance that this is your fate, unjust and crazy as it seems, you should accept it, bow your head, take the due punishment and then move on. If you are able.
This is Karma, the Cosmic Balance reasserting itself - as you were hurt and delivered hurt, so shall you be hurt through the random actions of another.
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Explanation
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If you've been bad, lord I bet you have
And you've not been hit by flying lead
This is the operation of Karma. The man who has raged with anger and lashed out indiscriminately is about to take a stray bullet from somebody else who is in a state of blind rage. And he is fully aware of this, has a sense of his own guilt, and is ready for Karma to look his way and decree he should catch a ricochet from somebody else's fury.
"What ye sow, ye shall reap; ye have sown the wind, now ye shall reap the whirlwind".
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Explanation
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See the blind man shooting at the world
Bullets flying, taking toll
Effectively the Child in Time has done this: hit out blindly and indiscriminately against perceived injustice, regardless of who gets hit by the bullets and how blameless they are. The implied meaning is that everyone moved to angry rage and a desire for vengeance has at some point in their life done exactly this. And now Karma is about to happen.
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Explanation
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Sweet child in time you'll see the line
The line that's drawn between good and the bad
A song about anger, rage, guilt and redemption. It has a keyboards introduction which, as any music instrument shop owner will tell you, is as instantly recognizable and as iconic as that to "Smoke on the Water".

The opening lines are about hard experience acting as a practical teacher, demonstrating the difference between right and wrong. The Child In Time is aware of having responded to an injustice by doing an even worse thing and is resigned to his fate. This is the song in full:

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Explanation
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Ink on a pin
Underneath the skin
An empty space to fill in
Another nautical theme, making a tattoo (see "songs are like tattoos") The "empty space" to be tattooed is her heart - metaphor on metaphor.
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