What does Between The Bars mean?

Elliot Smith: Between The Bars Meaning

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Album cover for Between The Bars album cover

Song Released: 2014


Between The Bars Lyrics

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
People you¡¯ve been before that you don¡¯t want around anymore
That push...

  1. 1TOP RATED

    #1 top rated interpretation:
    anonymous
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    Aug 24th 2007 !⃝

    Between the Bars is a love song written from the perspective of a bottle to an alcoholic... drink up baby, stay up all night, the things you could do, you won't but you might, the potential you'll be, that you'll never see" - is the bottle of whiskey urging the alcoholic to forget about his troubles. Don't worry! "People that you've been before, or you don't want around anymore, they push and shove and won't bend to your will" what does the bottle promise - "I'll keep them still" The lovely promise alcohol provides to the drinker. A brilliant song and a beautiful premise. Read them again and see if you don't agree. Yours truly, Mike in Denver

  2. 2TOP RATED

    #2 top rated interpretation:
    anonymous
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    Aug 25th 2014 !⃝

    "bars" are a double entendre, bars in music and bars as in pubs. heroin, alcohol, etc, doesn't really matter, what elliot is talking about is quelling the beast, taming that part of him that he's running from. and what numbs him to this pain (he realizes) is life passing him by, he can only fantasize about what he could have been. all in an abstract sense of course, elliot keeps it abstract enough that many thoughts can wander from these lyrics. brilliant song.

  3. anonymous
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    May 11th 2018 !⃝

    It's a woman to her baby. The bars are on the crib and it's a feeding in the wee hours.

    This interpretation has been marked as poor. view anyway
  4. anonymous
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    Dec 11th 2017 !⃝

    If it is from the perspective of a bottle!! It is a beautiful, genius idea. "The potential you'll be but you won't know" definitely seems to point to being lively while drunk. Love this!!!

  5. anonymous
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    May 31st 2017 !⃝

    He's talking to his love and is trying to protect them from the hurt. Rather than the deeper meaning of the bottle speaking this would directly be the singer to a loved one. He is seeing her hurt and wants to take it away and keep her safe.

  6. anonymous
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    Apr 29th 2017 !⃝

    Such a fascinating song. Elliott goes really deep emotionally with this. It explores his escapism. You have to look at this through the perspective of the alcohol singing the song rather than Elliott to understand it.

    "I'll kiss you again" is kissing the bottle.

    "People you've been before, that you don't want around anymore". is the thoughts in his head from before he started drinking telling him to stop but the he doesn't want to so he keeps drinking to "make them still".

  7. anonymous
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    Jan 14th 2017 !⃝

    Not only is it about alcoholism from the sense of a bottle of whiskey, it's also about the crippling and seductive rhetoric that abounds in love songs. It's a satire of one true love as from the perspective on an alcoholic, a 'you don't understand' underscored by a sarcastic surrender. I don't expect this interpretation to make sense, but if at least one person checks out Elliot Smith, I'll be happy :)

  8. anonymous
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    Aug 10th 2014 !⃝

    Love fucking hurts so you use drinking as an excuse to not think about them.

  9. anonymous
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    Jan 5th 2012 !⃝

    This is definitely about Elliott's heroine problem. The song title : bars (measurements) on a syringe

  10. anonymous
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    Jun 25th 2007 !⃝

    I have always thought of this song as someone using alcohol for seduction. "Drink up baby.. Stay up all night .. with the things you could do, you won't but you might".

    This interpretation has been marked as poor. view anyway
  11. dorianflawz
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    Dec 6th 2006 !⃝

    This song seems to be obvious in it's lyrics, about a person who has gone through life who has great potential and a great gift but does not use it, and instead ignores the gift. But rather spends the time manipulating people and getting into trouble, causing further isolation. And the "drinks" are to numb the pain the person's feeling, and the pressure. "Drive them away."


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