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Please explain the lyrics to "End of the Innocence"" (2 Viewers)

Michael Varacin

Stunt Coordinator
Joined
May 24, 2002
Messages
210
This song always relaxes me, but I can't figure out exactly what it means. I give up. Can someone help?


Remember when the days were long
And rolled beneath a deep blue sky
Didn't have a care in the world
With mommy and daddy standin' by
But "happily ever after" fails
And we've been poisoned by these fairy tales
The lawyers dwell on small details
Since daddy had to fly

But I know a place where we can go
That's still untouched by men
We'll sit and watch the clouds roll by
And the tall grass wave in the wind
You can lay your head back on the ground
And let your hair fall all around me
Offer up your best defense
But this is the end
This is the end of the innocence

O' beautiful, for spacious skies
But now those skies are threatening
They're beating plowshares into swords
For this tired old man that we elected king
Armchair warriors often fail
And we've been poisoned by these fairy tales
The lawyers clean up all details
Since daddy had to lie

But I know a place where we can go
And wash away this sin
We'll sit and watch the clouds roll by
And the tall grass wave in the wind
Just lay your head back on the ground
And let your hair spill all around me
Offer up your best defense
But this is the end
This is the end of the innocence

Who knows how long this will last
Now we've come so far, so fast
But, somewhere back there in the dust
That same small town in each of us
I need to remember this
So baby give me just one kiss
And let me take a long last look
Before we say goodbye

Just lay your head back on the ground
And let your hair fall all around me
Offer up your best defense
But this is the end
This is the end of the innocence
 

Garrett Lundy

Senior HTF Member
Joined
Mar 5, 2002
Messages
3,763
Mind you, this is all my interpretation :P

(Verse One)Remember when the days were long
And rolled beneath a deep blue sky
Didn't have a care in the world
With mommy and daddy standin' by
But "happily ever after" fails
And we've been poisoned by these fairy tales
The lawyers dwell on small details
Since daddy had to fly

First verse is refrence to childhood and the divorce of (the songwriter's) parents.

(Refrain) But I know a place where we can go
That's still untouched by men
We'll sit and watch the clouds roll by
And the tall grass wave in the wind

Doesn't refer to any actual "Place", more of a state of emotional detachment from the world, where the singer, and his (Hers?) lover can be together to forget about the world.

You can lay your head back on the ground
And let your hair fall all around me
Offer up your best defense
But this is the end
This is the end of the innocence

"Best defenses" meaning emotional barriers the lover erects to protect herself from the probable loss of the singer (Likely a soldier). "End of the innocence" is the ending of the childhood part of his life, as the singer moves into the cold, brutal realities of going to war.

(Verse Two)O' beautiful, for spacious skies
But now those skies are threatening
They're beating plowshares into swords
For this tired old man that we elected king
Armchair warriors often fail
And we've been poisoned by these fairy tales
The lawyers clean up all details
Since daddy had to lie

The second verse is more complex. Line one is taken from the song America the Beautiful. The second line intones that America may not actually be so secure beneath the veneer of security. Line three is the turn (of industry) from the manufacture of consumer goods into munitions, while line four tells of whom gives the order to do so. "Tired old man we elected king" could refer to any political leader, but may also be refrence to big business.
Lines five and six refer to our perception of the military (As America's gift to the world) of being undefeatable, but the truth that we make military mistakes quite often and soldiers (And civilians) die needlessly because of it (Such as was the case in the Viet-Nam conflict, and many more recent ones in the middle-east). The line "Since daddy had to lie" doesn't refer to the songwriters father, the father-figure that the government assumes (Ala Big Brother).


(verse three)Who knows how long this will last
Now we've come so far, so fast
But, somewhere back there in the dust
That same small town in each of us
I need to remember this
So baby give me just one kiss
And let me take a long last look
Before we say goodbye

I dont have an easy interpretation for line one. Lines two through four are about growing pains in society (leaving the past, metaphored by quaint small towns)
The last three lines are the singer's words to his lover, before he says goodbye (and possibly off to war).
 

Mark Pfeiffer

Screenwriter
Joined
Jun 27, 1999
Messages
1,339
Seems pretty obvious to me that it's a none too complimentary view of Ronald Reagan and his administration's legacy. Not saying this to be political, just knowing the singer and when the song was out.
 

Mark All

Second Unit
Joined
Dec 10, 2002
Messages
256
It's a deceptively relaxing song. I find the tune itself relaxing but the underlying message far from being so. Co-written by Don Henley and Bruce Hornsby in 1987, it's really a political rant/protest song hidden inside of a coming of age tune. Quite skilfully done though. One really should view its underlying message in the context of the times--corporate greed, military expansion, Reaganomics, crooked lawyers, etc. I don't know why the third verse was added. The song would have stood very well by itself as a Country song without the political message buried in it.
 

StuartK

Grip
Joined
Feb 21, 2002
Messages
24
I always thought that the meaning behind this song was pretty obvious (spelled out in the title). Much like the songs on Elvis Costello's "Armed Forces," it mixes the personal with the political.

It basically looks at the idea of, as the song title indicates, the end of innocence. The point at which ideals are shattered. Where cynicism sets in.

Each verse looks at it from a different point of view:

1) The first verse - Children idealize their parents when young. The world can't harm them, as long as Mommy and Daddy are around. But as they get older, they start to see the flaws in their parents and realize that their family life may not be ideal.

2) The second verse - People idealize their governments and tend to not question their actions. the idea of "my country, right or wrong." But time often shows, again, the cracks in what was thought perfect. I don't think its government specific (could apply to Johnson, Nixon, Reagan, Bush, Clinton, Bush Jr.).

3) The third verse - People fall in love and think its going to be forever. But love is another ideal, and soon one learns, is often fragile and fickle.

The chorus is largely an illusion to Thoreau and Walden. The idea of going back to nature to cleanse oneself of the corruption in the world. Here the philosophical is paired with the personal..that love provides a similar escape. Its a bit more cynical than Thoreau, however. The escape can only be temporary, and eventually the reality of the outside world will catch up. It may also reference to the Walden Woods project, in which Henley amongst others successfully tried to preserve Walden as a place of historical and philosphical significance, while others wanted to use it for commercial development.

In a lot of ways, it strikes me as a more political 80's version of "Somewhere" from "West Side Story."

At least that's my humble take on it.

-Stuart
 

Mark Pfeiffer

Screenwriter
Joined
Jun 27, 1999
Messages
1,339
It's definitely a Reagan reference. The song was released in, what, 1989, 1990? Not to mention that "mommy" and "daddy" were also well-known pet names for Ronny and Nancy.
 

Michael Varacin

Stunt Coordinator
Joined
May 24, 2002
Messages
210
Thanks for the insight! I always had some ideas, but you all have given me some extra's to think about.
I'm 27, so I was quite young when this was out. I never thought about the Regan reference, which is why the "Tired old man that we elected king" never quite made sense.


I guess this is one of those songs that can take on a different meaning depending on one's interpretation. Either way, I thinks it's a wonderful song for it's ability to completely take me away into what seems like a "trance" every time I hear it. I find it very relaxing, yet stimulating at the same time, if that makes sense.
 

Garrett Lundy

Senior HTF Member
Joined
Mar 5, 2002
Messages
3,763
Let this be a leason to you... Your average three minute radio song can have as much symbolism as a two hour film.
 

First Billion

Auditioning
Joined
Nov 12, 2011
Messages
1
Real Name
First Billion
Well, right now it's about the end of the innocence, Penn State football and saying goodbye to "this tired old man that we elected king," Joe Paterno. That's what it's about today. Tomorrow it'll be about something else. That's the beauty of poetry. :(
 

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