"Piccadilly Palare" as written by and Steven Patrick/armstrong Morrissey....
Off the rails I was and
Off the rails
I was happy to stay
Get out of my way
On the rack I was
Easy meat, and a reasonably good buy
A reasonably good buy

The Piccadilly Palare
Was just silly slang
Between me and the boys in my gang
"So bona to vada. oh you
Your lovely eek and
Your lovely riah"

We plied an ancient trade
Where we threw all life's
Instructions away
Exchanging lies and digs (my way)
Cause in a belted coat
Oh, I secretly knew
That I hadn't a clue

(No, no. No, no, no. You can't get there that way. Follow me...)

The Piccadilly Palare
Was just silly slang
Between me and the boys in my gang
Exchanging Palare
You wouldn't understand
Good sons like you
Never do.

So why do you smile
When you think about earl's court ?
But you cry when you think of all
The battles you've fought (and lost) ?
It may all end tomorrow
Or it could go on forever
In which case I'm doomed
It could go on forever
In which case I'm doomed

Bona drag...


Lyrics submitted by JohnnySandbox

"Piccadilly Palare" as written by Steven Morrissey Kevin Alexander Armstrong

Lyrics © Warner/Chappell Music, Inc.

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Piccadilly Palare song meanings
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  • +2
    General Commentsince i added these lyrics, i might as well comment on them.. if memory serves me correctly, "Piccadilly Palare" was the slang used by gay men of London back in the 1960's. These are some of the slang words used in this:
    "Eek" means "Face"
    "Bona" means "Good"
    "Riah" means "Hair"
    "Drag" means "Clothes"
    "Vada" means "Look At"


    Yeah, that's pretty much it. Any Morrissey/Smiths fans can IM me on AIM. My screen name is JohnnySandbox, or you might catch me on HimsaHxC.
    JohnnySandboxon September 23, 2002   Link
  • +1
    General CommentI thought that this time around, I would analyse a song from Morrissey’s solo career, rather than a "Smiths" Song, due to the fact that many of the people I know seem oblivious to it (regardless of it’s overwhelming fame and success). "Piccadilly Palare" is a song that I’ve known for years but have only just begun to appreiciate it’s lyrically passionate and typically "Morrissien" beauty. Before I begin, it would help if I gave a breif summery about the song’s theme. The Song is based on the life of rentboys (Male prostitutes) in the 60’s, A life both feared and envied from Morrissey’s Point of View, But more about that later.

    The phrase "Off the rails" is used to describe someone who has stopped obeying the general rules of a society, whether these rules are what parents place before their children, or that the government place on the public. This shows that the protaganist of the story is no longer bound by such rules. The next line shows that the protaganist is also happy with his position of being unruly and wild, "and off the rails, I was happy to stay" which brings Morrissey’s opinion of ABSOULUTE freedom from society to hand. That being "Off the rails" is not neccessarily a bad thing. "GET OUT OF MY WAY" can be easily defined as being another trait of our outlandish protaganist’s opinion.

    The protaganist is described as being "On the rack" (On the game?) showing that he is up for prositutuion. "Easy meat and a reasonably good buy" is a comical way of expressing his availability as a prositute once more "Easy meat" (Suggests body or cock) "Good buy" (implies that he neds to be purchased)

    In order to understand the chorus of the song, you need to understand what "Palare" actually is. "Parlare" was a slang language used mainly by homosexuals in the 60’s. Naming it the "Piccadilly Palare" links the set place of the song in with the subject (because London was the main area in which rentboys recieved "buissness" and is therefore where the song is set) "The Piccadilly palare was just silly slang" introduces the concept of this slang language through the eyes of our protaganist, therefore to the listener. Describing it as "Silly slang" shows that our protaganist is very light-hearted about the subject, which again shows his confidence in his job and lifestyle. "Between me and the boys in my gang" is a clear representation of our protaganist’s position as a rentboy. The fact that this exclusivly gay language is shared "between" him and the "boys in my (his) gang, shows that he is part of a click of other gay rentboys in the form of a gang. (Which was custom to ensure their saftey)

    This is where it gets slightly complicated. The next verse is spoken in "Palare" so I’ve set up a translation key...

    bona - good
    drag - clothes
    vada - see, look at
    eek - face
    riah - hair


    When translated, this verse spells out...

    "So Good to Look at. OH YOU
    Your lovely Face and
    Your lovely Hair"

    This shows typical flirting that is traversed between the protaganist and "The boys in his gang" The "OH YOU" is a stereotypical phrase used by gay men, if you didn’t already know. This verse introduces the main idea of Palare (gay slang) which again portrays to the listener that the characters are indeed gay rentboys.

    The "Ancient trade" that the boys in the gang "plied" to eachother suggests that they have completely abandoned all rules of normal society "Where we threw all life’s instructions away". The "exchanging" of "lies and digs" suggest that they have subjected themselves to a life of boarder-line criminality and corruption (if yet a little fufilling) "my way". "Trade" is also gay slang for sex (or the act of sex).

    The song now tweaks itself in a little more negative direction about the life of a rentboy. " Cause in a belted coat Oh, I secretly knew That I hadn’t a clue" The "belted coat" simply represents the kind of bondage outfit that might be suited to some of our protaganists clients. The way our protaganist "secretly knew that he hadn’t a clue" shows his uncertainty and perhaps fear in his current lifestlye, amongst all the corrupted glories it holds. The whisper of (No, no. No, no, no. You can’t get there that way. Follow me...) represents the quiet voice of society yeilding them to get back on the rails and in tune with a proper lifestyle. This is returned by the main chorus kicking in and kicking out the comment made by the laws of society


    The description that the protaganist gives about how he and the boys in his gang "exchange Palare" show (to an extent) just how much he adores his gang members and the "Off rails" lifestyle he leads. He says that the "Good sons" (those bound by the laws of society) dont understand the special bond that this corrupted, yet enthralling lifestlye brings him. "You wouldnt understand, Good sons like you never do". This could also be interpreted as a childish dig at those more fortunate than himself for being part of the society that keeps them safe and well looked after. This could be a desperate plea for help from our protaganist.

    For a final time, the song takes a hairpin swerve to the negative side of our protaganists lifestyle/prediciment by asking "Why he smiles when he thinks about Earls court?" Earls court is a famous landmark in central London, and is therefore relevent to our protaganists life. Society asks "Why he smiles" for the warped and distorted lifestyle he has led so far. He is also quseton "why he cries about the battles he fought and lost" implieing that he has never won any personal gains in his so-called "happily Off the rails" lifestyle. So why is it so great we ask?

    This is a spiteful attack at the conscience of our protaganist which makes him think and become fully aware that "It could all end tomorrow" Implieing that he could become warn out and useless as a prostitute and be left for dead (or perhaps involving rape or STI’s). He also questions that "it could go on forever" which implies that he would ware away his life, counting for nothing until the day he dies. It is understood that either way he is "doomed" to a shameful end. This emphisises that what our protaganist takes for granted, won’t neccessarily count for anything or even last in years to come.

    The final mockery made to our protaganist is the repition made quitely above the music, "Bona Drag" or "Good Clothes" as we now know it. (Bona Drag is also the name of the album in which this song is present). It seems to mock and sum up his lifestyle and bring it to a close within only 2 simplistic words, ironically said in Palare.

    What begins as an upbeat song about the joys of a life "Off rails" and free of society turns into a condemnent of our rentboy protaganist. This song shows both the joys and horrors of a life "Off the rails" and corrupted which also represent Morrissey’s admirations and fears about the 60’s rentboy lifestyle. It shows that corruption does not neccessarrily mean bad or wrong, yet it should be approached with caution. It also represents again, a very popular theme in terms of Morrissey’s work which is Instinct vs logic (freedom vs society) and this songs sings about both sides remarkably.

    A highly sexual and elaborate begining to a near perfect album.


    Loves_young_dreamon December 03, 2008   Link
  • +1
    General CommentRe- Loves_young_dream

    "On The Rack" refers to Piccadilly Circus, it was well known for Male prostitution.
    (Its a reference used in lots of "period" writings.. see this article with kenneth brannagh branaghcompendium.com/…)

    Trade = A person looking for sex, not sex itself. "Rough Trade"... Easy trade

    Plying an ancient trade = prostitution, the oldest business on earth!

    I don't see any sort of bondage reference in " a belted coat", I think "Cause in a belted coat, Oh, I secretly knew That I hadn't a clue " is just a reference to the fact the Subject of the song doesn't really fit in to this world, and maybe has someone to help him learn the ropes, so to speak,
    (as this is when suggs kicks in with No no no, you cant go down that way.. follow me)

    Earls Court (and Nottinghill) were a "Gay Ghetto" in the 50s and 60s and into the 70s, with the Colherne pub and the man 2 man book shop etc, there was a thriving large gay community.
    I find this last verse a little confusing, but the change in pronoun makes me think the subject is singing of/to someone else.
    i can only think its about Gay Lib as it was at the time, The more open lifestyle available in earls courts bars and community to be smiled about, but the Battles to get this far are something to be cried at.
    slowdowon January 31, 2009   Link
  • +1
    My OpinionRent boys would hang about, leaning on some railings at Piccadilly Circus. This was called 'The Meat Rack'. Hence 'off the rails', 'on the rack' and 'easy meat'

    Things that I'm less sure about:
    'Exchanging lies and digs (my way)' Digs are a room or apartment so I guess this means he would take the men back to his place (in Earls Court?)

    'Cause in a belted coat
    Oh, I secretly knew' Maybe a belted coat was a secret sign? + Polare was a secret language.

    'That I hadn't a clue' The whole song is written in the past tense so I think it's an older man looking back at his wild past.
    moznotmozon March 18, 2013   Link
  • +1
    General CommentEarl's Court is still big on the scene.

    Exchanging lies and digs, is just what young lads do all the time anyhow.

    Maybe it's an analogy for the music business, but I think he just likes that sort of thing.

    You don't have to be particularly cultured to know about polari ( en.wikipedia.org/wiki/… ), you just needed to be paying attention a bit if you lived in the UK anytime between the 1950s and now.
    matthewsheffieldon February 06, 2014   Link
  • 0
    General CommentI always thought the lines:
    "we plied an ancient trade
    Where we threw all life's
    Instructions away"
    refers to the narrator and his friends turning tricks. It's funny because in the album sleeve for bona drag there's a picture of Morrissey looking like a male prostitute working a street.
    Kaguthon April 11, 2004   Link
  • 0
    General Commentyeah, "drag" is a word for men dressing in womens clothes
    sambo28on September 22, 2004   Link
  • 0
    General CommentI think in some ways this is a metaphor for the Smiths. They were a "gang" who had their own language.

    I especially think the line "Oh, I secretly knew
    That I hadn't a clue" refers to him starting out in the music business. The song is comparing his situation with naive young kids who come down to London and end up selling their bodies.
    Aurora2on October 26, 2004   Link
  • 0
    General CommentYa, your right Aurora2. The song uses prostitution as an analogy for the music business. Morrissey you sly dog.
    Kaguthon February 10, 2005   Link
  • 0
    General CommentAs the first person said it's clearly about "Palare" or "Polari". Not about prostitution or 'The Smiths'...
    Drag means 'Clothes' in Palare, Bona means 'Good'.

    Morrissey has an open fascination with Carry-On films. See - 'Everyday Is Like Sunday' video.
    Kenneth Williams was a star of said films.
    'Round The Horne' was a programme in which Kenneth Williams would talk to another man in Palare. Julian and Sandy.
    This is Morrissey documenting said pursuit in the wonderful form of song.
    Thierry14on April 08, 2005   Link

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