"Jolene" as written by Greg Brown and John Mccrea....
Well Jolene unlocked the thick breezeway door
Like she'd done one hundred times before.
Jolene smoothed her dark hair in the mirror.
She folded the towel carefully and put it back in place.

Yeah I want to pull you down into bed.
I want to cast your face in lead.
Well every time I pull you close
Push my face into your hair

Cream rinse and tobacco smoke
That sickly scent is always always there.
Jolene heard her father's uneven snores.
Right then she knew there must be something more.

Jolene heard the singing in the forest.
She opened the door quietly and stepped into the night.
Yeah I want to throw you out into space.
I want to do whatever it takes, takes, takes.

Well every time I pull you close,
Push my face into your hair,
Cream rinse and tobacco smoke,
That sickly scent is always, always there.


Lyrics submitted by Ice

"Jolene" as written by John Mccrea Greg Brown

Lyrics © Cake - Stamen Music

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Jolene song meanings
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  • +3
    General Commentthis song reminds me of my life and my life has pissed me off
    thefmon June 19, 2012   Link
  • +2
    General CommentI think you guys are on the right track, but a little off..

    " Well Jolene unlocked the thick, breezeway door,
    Like she'd done one hundred times before.
    Jolene smoothed her dark hair in the mirror.
    She folded the towel carefully and put it back in place. "

    From this, I imagine a scene of her getting ready to go to bed. As mentioned, tedius tasks, repeated often.

    "Yeah I want to pull you down into bed.
    I want to cast your face in lead.
    Well every time I pull you close,
    Push my face into your hair,
    Cream rinse and tobacco smoke,
    That sickly scent is always, always there. "

    I see this as the writer having an attraction to the girl. She's beautiful, he wants her beauty and what makes her HER to stay. But there is also the "cream rinse and tobacco smoke" smell that is always there - the mundane, repetitive parts of her life. Tobacco smoke, to me, seems like it's possibly from her father who she lives with, or from a job (server at a divey bar?) that she holds.

    "Jolene heard her father's uneven snores.
    Right then she knew there must be something more.
    Jolene heard the singing in the forest.
    She opened the door quietly and stepped into the night. "

    Here, she's realizing that the life she's living is repetitive, not spontaneous enough, and ventures out - but meekly (stepped quietly into the night)

    "Yeah I want to throw you out into space.
    I want to do whatever it takes, takes, takes.
    Well every time I pull you close,
    Push my face into your hair,
    Cream rinse and tobacco smoke,
    That sickly scent is always, always there.."

    He wants to rip her out of her world, he wants to show her what is out there. She's living in this plain and limited existence, and he wants to 'throw her into space' to show her that there is a huge world of possibilities. He'll do anything to get her to experience the world, because he absolutely adores her. The last mention of the sickly scent is kind of a last lament about the situation.

    I think the semen reference, while colorful.. a little far fetched? Heh.
    booneon December 22, 2005   Link
  • +2
    General CommentI am gonna just throw a thought into this conversation...

    Jolene was also a song by Dolly Parton about a woman named Jolene who stole her lover away from her...could this possibly be a "musical rebuttal" to Parton's song?

    whose to say it isn't?
    tell me what you think...any ideas.
    orangesodandgrapes93on February 25, 2010   Link
  • +1
    General CommentSometimes you have to LISTEN to the song to figure out what it is about. What I mean is, in this song, the emotion and emphasis comes in the chorus, especially the last half, where he smells her hair.

    I'm not saying that I figured this out yet, but I have some ideas.

    The chorus says: I want to screw you, you are as beautiful as a statue, as wondrous as the stars, but, but, BUT!!! There's a sickly scent in your hair.

    Either it's the nauseating mixture of "cream rinse and tobacco smoke" or something else. My bet is on something else.

    I thought of this because I used to know this girl, you know, friend of a friend of a friend... she was, like 16, and she used to... well, there's no other way to put it. She gave out free blowjobs to about anyone who asked. In addition, she was kind of trashy (bad hygeine)... to the point, she always had semen in her hair. I know a lot of guys don't have a really good sense of smell, but dried semen has a salty-sour, kind of rotten sweat smell. It could very well be called sickly.

    Then again, so could second-hand tobacco smoke.

    The semen theory makes the song incredibly disturbing when you notice that Jolene apparently lives with her father. EW!

    I don't know... But I will agree, it seems that Jolene needs to be saved... from something.
    angryredplaneton August 13, 2005   Link
  • +1
    General CommentWOW! Boone, I bow to you, the semen thing was just an idea, but your analysis is much more lucid. I obviously think that the smell represents something major about the meaning of this song.

    However, I am willing to admit that it could either be representative of 1) Jolene's father, or 2) a waitressing job or something... which opens me up to additional interpretations. Stale tobacco is a sickly kind of smell... BUT that scent is always ALWAYS THERE!!! YEAH YEAAAAAAAH!

    Consider this... "I want to cast your face in lead" - you are so beautiful that I would make a statue out of you... BUT! "I want to throw you down into bed" - this should be obvious to adults! BUT! BUT! What would keep a man from loving a lovely, sexy woman? Her situation? This makes me favor the 'father' interpretation rather than the 'bar waitress' one. (Or my own, of course)

    Whatever it is, I am not willing to budge from my point that the smell is the key to the meaning, no matter what it is. Once again, BIG props to boone for an EXCELLENT interpretation. I don't care how much John claims his lyrics are simple, to many (including me) they are modern poetry and thus subject to traditional analysis. Perhaps his forebrain was just thinking about a girl, but the result was art, rife with meaning. In the same way that "Never There" is appliccable both to women and to God/prayer, (for me) this song may have valid, multiple interpretations.

    Trying not to be too verbose!!! But I have to add, that, like Skaman, this song has one of the COOLEST guitar riffs EVER!!! The only other band I like that is so country is Lynyrd Skynyrd... and perhaps Meat Puppets (who managed to combine country with punk) (guess that comes from living in Nashville!)

    Props to all, and keep thinking!
    angryredplaneton May 09, 2006   Link
  • 0
    General CommentI love this song. It is one of my favorite CAKE songs of all time. "awww guitar" terrific
    MorningStaron May 28, 2002   Link
  • 0
    General CommentTis a wicked song isn't it? First heard it as a live version, the B-Side to The Distance and I've loved it since. Fantastic! What's it about though? Sorry if I'm being a bit ignorant there. I suppose I should work it out myself but I know I'll be wrong if I try. Any ideas anyone?
    MattBGon July 24, 2002   Link
  • 0
    General CommentUmm i'll have to just take a wild stab in the dark here, but i have always thought of jolene as someone that the speaker has wanted to save from the tiediousnous (spelling?) of her life. "like she has done 100 times before"

    He wants to save her image as she is now, throw you out into space, cast your face in lead, those lines show that he wants to save her, as innocent, as taken care of.

    But this is an off the cuff interpretation. So i am welcome to any other thoughts or views.
    MorningStaron September 05, 2002   Link
  • 0
    General CommentMorningStar, i'm gonna have to agree with you... Jolene seems to live a dull life and "she knew there must be something more"... He wants to rescue her from the boring life...

    but thats all just a guess... i'm welcome to any more ideas or comments...
    PinkKisses73on June 19, 2003   Link
  • 0
    General CommentI think he wants to get some of that. Esentially.
    ondraon September 19, 2004   Link

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