What does Scattered Black And Whites mean?

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Elbow: Scattered Black And Whites Meaning

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Scattered Black And Whites Lyrics


Been climbing trees I've skinned my knees
My hands are black the sun is going down
She scruffs my hair in the kitchen steam
She's listening to the dream I weaved today
Crosswords through the bathroom door
While someone sings the theme-tune...

  1. 1TOP RATED

    #1 top rated interpretation:
    chicamala
    click a star to vote
    Oct 17th 2005 report

    I agree that the song deals with childhood memories. The child comes home to a 'typical' family scene, his mum in the kitchen, his sister "buzzing" about the house. I believe his Grandfather is the person who sits in a "high back chair" and whistles, and tells stories that "flit between short trousers and a full dress uniform" (i.e. between his school days and his days in the army, possibly in the war).

    It's his grandfather's hand which is "massive" and the child has to "speak up" when he talks to him, presumably because he is slightly deaf. His Grandfather speaks about "people ten years gone" - his now long dead friends, as if the child knows them. "Scattered black and whites" could refer to black and white photographs of his grandfather's life, or the ashes of the people who are now dead.

    I agree with Kergen, that the song feels very sad - but I don't think the child is sad, I think the writer is sad now he is looking back on these memories. I think its about missing home and family life now everyone is older and perhaps his grandfather is now dead. Its about cherishing the memories and using them to comfort you ("I shelter here some days"), and I think the sadness perhaps comes from a sense of loss.

  2. Kergen
    click a star to vote
    Dec 12th 2004 report

    This song got me listening because the opening verses are obviously childhood memories "been climbing trees, I've skinned my knees, my hands are black and the sun is going down" but the song has a very sad feel to it which seemed unusual as childhood memories of this type would ordinarily be happy ones.
    The two don't seem to go together so I listened more to see why a child might be so sad.
    It really hit me when I started listening to the second part of the song. The lyrics have a kind of bewildered feel and are just observations of the subject's surroudings. There are two key passages: "He reaches out and I take a massive hand" and "he talks of people ten years gone like I've known them all my life" which really hit home when I suddenly thought that the song might be about people with learning difficulties who never grow (mentally) above a certain age.
    I think the song is about a much older person who still has the mind of a child and who, due to society's lack of understanding, has been kept in some kind of institute all their life. The "full dress uniform" could well be the warden type uniforms that mental asylum wardens used to wear.
    The clincher is the chorus "I come back here from time to time, I shelter here some days" indicating that most of the subject's time is spent dreaming of better days (now long gone) and only occasionally do they consciously observe the far less pleasant reality of their incarcerated existence.
    If the lyrics are indeed about this subject matter, the song becomes a fantastic insight into the terrible misery that these people must endure.
    There are a number of other clues in the lyrics but to really enjoy the song you should listen to it and find them for yourself.

    This interpretation has been marked as poor. view anyway

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