Between The Bars Lyrics - Elliott Smith

Review The Song (44)



Drink up baby, stay up all night
With the things you could do
You won't but you might
The potential you'll be that you'll never see
The promises you'll only make
Drink up with me now
And forget all about the pressure of days
Do what I say and I'll make you okay
And drive them away
The images stuck in your head

The people you've been before
That you don't want around anymore
That push and shove and won't bend to your will
I'll keep them still

Drink up baby, look at the stars
I'll kiss you again between the bars
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Where I'm seeing you there with your hands in the air
Waiting to finally be caught
Drink up one more time and I'll make you mine
Keep you apart, deep in my heart
Separate from the rest, where I like you the best
And keep the things you forgot

The people you've been before
That you don't want around anymore
That push and shove and won't bend to your will
I'll keep them still



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Beautiful metaphor | Reviewer: Samantha | 6/29/14

A deep emotional interpretation of the one who is afraid to love. "Drink up" means participate in a relationship with the one who cares for this wounded soul. ".Between the bars" does seem literal, yet could mean inbetween one night stands. The one who cares will wait for the one last time that he or she will finally give in and open his or her heart to love. A reminder that love is good and without it, we become who we don't want to be. We have a more difficult time accomplishing our potential without love.

My thoughts | Reviewer: Skitigdread | 10/23/12

My interpretation of the lyrics is about the life of a alcohol/drug abuser (possibly Elliot himself)who heartly desires to make something of himself and fullfill the dreams he has, but his weakness pushes him towards to bottle for short moments of relief and comfort where he can escape into another world where chains of pressure, anxiety and depressive thoughts seem further away.

The people you've been before
That you don't want around anymore
That push and shove and won't bend to your will
I'll keep them still

This tell me about the history of his life and the characters he's been (we all change and revaluate our lifes from time to time) overlapping into present and bother him. Old habbits and bad thoughts lingering around and wont leave him alone and the bottle tempts with "his" salvation.

Drink up baby, look at the stars
I'll kiss you again between the bars
Where I'm seeing you there with your hands in the air
Waiting to finally be caught
Drink up one more time and I'll make you mine
Keep you apart, deep in my heart
Separate from the rest, where I like you the best
And keep the things you forgot.

This is the most beutiful part imo. Puts on quite a visual display with a mix of reality and symbolic poetry where parts of it is happening and parts emotions coming to display. Imagine this guy, depressed over having so many dreams, but stuck in a life of failures, addictions and misory getting drunk and embracing this melancolic mode of hopelessness, looking towards the stars with tears in his face and feeling trapped and imprisoned in his depressive and destructive lifestyle that he has no clue how to turn around. He raises his hands and begs to be caught/seen in the hope that there is a god, but ofcourse, if there isn't.. the bottle can always offer the fraudulent solace god is unable to.

This is the bottle's ballad and lullaby for the less fortune of people.

Understanding | Reviewer: Anonymous | 10/12/12

I agree with Harlans interpretation. I think the lyrics could be song by alcohol but also could be from one addicted/traumatized person to another. Because if one cares and copes by reaching for a substance, then they may also care for an equally messed up loved one by giving them the most reliable offering they know. Its a statement that they understand and want to make it better. You are not alone.
Also somewhat agree with "hands in the air" surrender. Or maybe feeling they are so bad they need recognition for the damage they have done and has been inflicted upon them. Frustration, knowing this will eventually take them down, so give in and drink up. It's hard to stay clean/sober throw your hands up you might be damaged beyond repair anyway. Take solace anyway you can get it.

a reflection of everyone | Reviewer: jeanmalot | 4/19/12

I believe in retrospective it's easy to think this was about himself and his addiction to alcohol. However, each one of Elliott's songs, no matter how personal they seem, is able to relate to other people's lives in different ways, and that's why he's been such a great songwriter.
I like to think this song depicts a love relationship between two alcoholics, much like in "Leaving Las Vegas". It probably wasn't intended this way, but I don't care. It's lovely.

Lullaby | Reviewer: Anonymous | 3/26/12

It's the saddest lullaby I,ve ever listened.
It's the alcoholism wich is talking to Elliot, telling to fall in it arms and forget all about. People who push and surely love him "and don´t want anymore" beautiful and sad.

Predicting his own death | Reviewer: Anonymous | 2/3/12

This song is about him and his demons. He knows that one day he'll die if he keeps drinking and doing drugs BUT he sees no choice. Ultimately he died (or possibly was murdered by his girlfriend) in a fairly "clean" state, but he died young nevertheless. He saw his inevitable future and that's how I read his song.
A beautiful song for sure.

Alcohol death | Reviewer: CRISTINA | 12/8/11

Actually I think he wanted to die drinking...he is drunk, talking to God(or himself). He knows no one is listening, and everything he says will be forgiven even from him...He doesn't like his live...Sad, but such a great song. One of the most deep feelings.

My interpretation. | Reviewer: Anonymous | 6/10/11

This song is about a person that's afraid of change. They're inadequate, but they don't want to be like this. They know they could be better than what they're doing right now, but they're just too afraid to try.

She's depressed and sad. She's not trying to kill herself by self medicating herself, she's just trying to temporarily feel better. Which will eventually lead to her downfall. She's drinking to forget.

And, she's making all these elaborate plans of how everything is going to be different, and everything is going to change and suddenly issues won't exist anymore.

Then again, just my interpretation.

Yo'

Wow, this song just hurts. | Reviewer: Anonymous | 4/16/11


It's as though I'm singing it to my ex-girlfriend. She was bi-polar (actually, that was just their best guess, they didn't know what the hell was wrong with her). She could never sleep, had voices in her head, wanted to die, could never sit still, could never accomplish anything, in and out of hospitals all her life... and she would tell me that I was the only thing that ever kept her still.

God damn, Elliot.

interpretation. | Reviewer: Harlan | 1/9/11

Elliot smith is by far my favorite musician of all time. He suffered from depression, he was a junkie for many years and according to wikipedia he may have been sexually abused as a kid.. just to give you an idea, he doesnt have a very stable background. the song to me is about his drinking.

The people you've been before (junkie, traumatic past ect ect)
That you don't want around anymore (obviously he wants to move on)
That push and shove and won't bend to your will (but no matter how hard he tries he cant get over it)
I'll keep them still (but a drink will fix everything)

the song to me is a personifiction of alcohol. the lyrics are sung to the listener by alchol and if you read the lyrics again with this in mind... the rest is pretty self explanatory.

Narsil | Reviewer: Anonymous | 8/27/10

Speaking as an alcoholic, I think the song is being sung by alcohol incarnate. Between the bars, in that it is a seduction by alcohol, the drinker being away from drink, but not for long - between the bars.

It really speaks to me, this one, the way that alcohol likes you on your own, away from everyone, where you can forget your troubles and your missed potential. Forget the people you used to be.

Miss your music Elliott.

About loving someone | Reviewer: Quintus | 8/26/10

I appreciate your interpretations. Mine comes from reading the lyrics and not really from any knowledge of Elliott Smith.

To me, it's about loving a self-destructive person. It's about telling her lies, and at the same time acknowledging that they are lies. He says that because they are together, She will be a different person, even though he doesn't really believe that. Evidently, the person being sung to believes the relationship to be doomed because of his/her imperfections stemming from past trauma.

It's difficult loving someone who has experienced great trauma. Think of Jenny in "Forrest Gump." She can't be still and have a normal relationship.

He's telling her to drink up because he knows it's a lie. Symbolically (and in truth), drinking is akin to suspending rationality. Same with gazing at the stars. This is Romeo's song to Juliet. Only, in this case, it is not their families that will cause their demise, but their own psyche's and destructive tendencies.

Songwriters don't only write songs to others, they write songs to themselves. These words are so touching, not only would I want to speak them to someone else, I would want someone to speak them to me. Perhaps Elliott wrote this song to someone, or maybe it's what he would like to hear from her.

About a single moment | Reviewer: Quintus | 8/26/10

The song is about a moment. Basically, he's saying "For a moment, let's forget the truth: That you're too screwed up for this to last." He's proposing that they drink and believe in beautiful lies for just a night. "Between the bars" means "even though you are imprisoned by past trauma and memories that cause you to behave destructively."

It's not about alcoholism. He basically means, "drinking the kool-aid" for lack of a better phrase. Pretend like you're going to be just fine for a night, even if in your rational mind you know that you're just going to mess everything up by becoming that person that you don't want to be, but have tendencies to be.

The person being sung to (maybe it's a song to himself) is imprisoned by trauma. Waiting to be caught is just what it suggests. The person wants to be saved. He's singing a lullaby of lies to someone who is doomed. Proposing she/he believe in all of the potential and promises. He's placing himself in the role of savior. But as we all know, you can't save a victim of molestation. It's up to her to deal with her demons.

Just a thought... | Reviewer: Ava | 7/20/10

This is exactly how I feel. I feel as though the interpretation of this song can be explained merely as the soul speaking to oneself. Like tonight, I stay up all night contemplating suicide - I won’t tonight but I might. I consider all the potential I have that I may never see and the promises that I can only make because internally I know that I may not live long enough to fulfill them. Sometimes I drink to forget, but every time I drink I try to forget everything that I can’t cope with. There are different people or personalities that I try to be and that I show to people because I’m trying to cover up the horrible, depressed person that I truly am. I am so tired and do not want to be those multiple personalities anymore. This song could be interpreted for someone who is an addict, however, I believe that this song is about one struggling to be oneself; even when that person they truly are wants nothing more than to disappear.

OY VEY! | Reviewer: julius | 7/4/10

This is an interesting discussion (although I only read 5 or 6 interpretations - i got my english degree, i don't need to read another critical book :) Anyway, this reminds me of an assignment i did for a class where we had to interpret a poem/song and i picked Waltz #2 (i think that's the name... It's Waltz # Something - "I'm never gonna know you now/but I'm gonna love you anyhow"). Anyway this song is tied for my fave Elliott song (btw, I LOVE him.... I was so devestated when he died... I first heard his music by coincidence about 15 years ago when I was a freshman in HS and lied to my parents and went to NYC to see Mary Lou Lord play at some little room in NYU and he opened up for her. He got on the stage and there were maybe 5 people watching and I stood on the side and he started playing and singing.... Tears were running down my face pretty quick... I think I made him very uncomfortable with THAT one. All I could find of his music at the time way the "Needle in the Hay" 7" so I guess it was a while ago... Anygways, this song, to me, is pretty straightforward although it's up for interpretation whether he's speaking from the p.o.v. of alcohol itself to himself or as himself to another person. I feel like he's telling the subject (of the song) that he'll be just as messed up as them (as the "deal soldiers line up on the table :P he he) but he'll still watch out for them... In rehab/recovery they talk a lot about "frienamies" or whatever: people who are your friends but, now that you're (trying to be) clean/sober, are your enemies because of their participation in the imbibing. Some of the lines ("Drink up with me now
And forget all about the pressure of days
Do what I say and I'll make you okay
And drive them away
The images stuck in your head") makes it sound like he's either a "frienamie" or alcohol itself. And the people that were coming around that he'll "keep still" seems like the clean/sober alcoholic (summary of song by me would be: alcohol trying to convince alcoholic to stay addicted... but some of the stuff is not so positive The whole "I'll kiss you between the bars" honestly conjours up an image in my head of one New Years in Philly in an area called Old City with maybe 20 or 30 bars in a 4-block radius. I walked out of one bar to go to another w. my friends and out of the bar atmosphere and on the street I realized.... I was drunk. (a "kiss" if you want to call it that, from my friend alcohol. Although this kiss was pretty gross; i'm not a big fan of the booze...) btw, another thing you do in rehab is write a "break up" letter to whatever substance got you addicted and in rehab because an addict relates to the drug (alcohol being a drug) much like a victim/passive participant in an abusive/doomed to awful failure relationship relates to the aggressor. Anyways, some of the lines sound like they could come from a "letter to alcohol" if the p.o.v. were reversed ("Drink up baby, stay up all night
With the things you could do
You won't but you might
The potential you'll be that you'll never see
The promises you'll only make" and "I'll kiss you again between the bars
Where I'm seeing you there with your hands in the air
Waiting to finally be caught
Drink up one more time and I'll make you mine
Keep you apart, deep in my heart
Separate from the rest, where I like you the best
And keep the things you forgot"). so that's my (long-winded - sorry!) interpretation...



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------ Performed by Elliott Smith

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------ 09/30/2014

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