Van Morrison: Fast Train Meaning
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Fast Train Lyrics
And you can't come back, can't come back together again
And you start breaking down in the pouring rain
Well, you've been on a fast train
When your lover has gone away, don't it...
anonymous Aug 6th 2012 report
“Fast Train” is a song about coping and, more specifically, dealing with the loss of a loved one. The manner of this loss is ambiguous and is really up to interpretation by the listener. However, whether if it’s death, divorce, or just a simple break-up, what really matters is that the “lover has gone away” and the singer is left with a prevailing sense of dread and loneliness because a connection in his life has been broken. The “you” in the song is referring to the singer himself as he is having an internal conversation about the point he is currently at in life.
In order to deal with the pain the singer gets on the metaphorical “fast train,” which represents a method of escape for him. Once again, the means in which the singer chooses to lose himself is also up to interpretation. People, when dealing with rough patches in life, may turn to drugs, alcohol, and other addictions or destructive behavior to cope with the pain of their loss and the singer may have done these things. On the other hand, the lyrics maybe taken literally meaning that the singer is actually jumping on a train and attempting to physically escape from his sad reality. However, no matter the coping mechanism, the singer is trying to run away from his problems instead of facing them. As a result, he has isolated himself and now lives in his own little world where nobody can reach him (“Ain’t nobody on your waveband”).
It is also important to note that in both Van Morrison’s and Solomon Burke’s cover version the song starts out with a rather apathetic tone as if the singer is trying to remain detached from the situation. However, as the song proceeds you can hear the instruments become more and more involved and the singer steadily gets more and more emotional as he fully realizes the depth of his situation as she (the lover) creeps in through the window of his mind and reminds him of all the good times they had. The singer also says that nobody can help him or “lend a helping hand,” but at the same time sounds like he doesn’t want or need help as he just wants to bear the burden of his pain alone. His refusal to move on in life is perhaps, in his eyes, an act of nobility as he feels that moving on would tarnish the memories that he and his loved one shared.
Finally, as the memories (and, possibly, the effects of the drugs/alcohol) fade the singer realizes just how shit his life has become. His life is stagnant as he cannot move on (“going nowhere”) and he is all alone because he has lost the person who was closest to him. As the song reaches its final phase the singer realizes the “fast train” is taking him “nowhere” and that his means of escape is actually destroying him. Sadly, the singer shifts back to an apathetic tone as if he has had this revelation before, but continued to get on the “fast train” even though he knows it ultimately would hurt rather than help him. The song ends on an ambiguous note and it is up to the listener to decide whether or not the singer has once again taken another hit, downed another shot, or perhaps, at last, found a measure of true salvation.
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