It's times like these when a neck looks for a knife
A wrist for a razor, a heart is longing for bullets
Tension is high under sea and over sky
Pressure drop, people are acting foolish

Ooh - but it's easy to see!
Ooh - we could dance and be free.
Ooh - to that 2-tone beat!
But it looks like it's gone...

Gangsters and clowns with a stereotyped sound
It's coming like a ghosst town - someone always knew it
Hatred and shame, a racialist game
Cycles of blame - someone sang me through it.

Who? well it's easy to see.
Ooh - we could dance to be free.
Ooh - to that 2-tone beat!
But it looks like it's gone...

I asked Jerry, he told Terry, Terry sang a song just for me,
Lynvall gave a message to me,
Rhoda screamed and then she asked me,
"Where have all the rude boys gone?"


Lyrics submitted by knifefight

Where Have All The Rudeboys Gone song meanings
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20 Comments

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  • +1
    General CommentThis song is a metaphor for the loss of good popular music, but it's particularly about The Specials, the groundbreaking multi-racial ska group from the late 70's/early 80's. Many references to their songs, such as, "Gangsters", "Stereotype", and "Ghost Town".
    jsbxon May 22, 2004   Link
  • +1
    General CommentAlso mentions of the label that The Specials were on, 2-Tone; and Rhoda Dakar (The Bodysnatchers) who wasn't an official member of The Specials but became increasingly involved with the band after the split of The Bodysnatchers.
    knifefighton June 03, 2004   Link
  • +1
    General CommentRude Boys are nicknames for people involved with ska, dating back to Bob Marely (some refer to him as the original rude boy). Go to a ska show nowadays and if you see someone dressed in two-tone (black 3 piece with a white shirt and a black tie) skanking, they're probably a rude boy.

    They could just be a poseur, but it's very rare to see one nowadays, but they're out there.
    nullseton October 28, 2004   Link
  • +1
    General CommentThere is a lot more going on in the song. If anyone remembers back to the 90's ska music was getting pretty popular in the United States. This is what was often referred to as the Third Wave of ska. Ska originated in Jamaica in the 60's and experienced a brief revival in England in the late 70's. This revival was also called 2 Tone, after the label responsible for the new found interest in the genre.

    This song is full of ska references, but in general its about the disappearance of ska music and what the music meant to Mr. Leo. Ska has always been about unity, and it was upbeat and positive and uplifting and you could dance to it.

    I'm probably missing a lot of the references but in the first verse Pressure Drop is the name of a Toots and Maytals song. Gangsters is the name of a song by the Specials, Clowns I think is referencing the English Beat cover of Tears of a Clown, Sterotyped Sound, stereotype is another song by the Specials so is Ghost Town. In the Chorus, Jerry is Jerry Dammers, organ player for the Specials and founder of 2 Tone records. Terry Hall and Lynval Golding of the Specials are also mentioned. As is Rhoda Dakar, who isn't a Special but recorded a song with them in 1982 called The Boiler.
    GoKillMiceon November 10, 2004   Link
  • 0
    General Commentwhy has no one posted on this amazing orgasmic song yet. Ted leo is fucking amazing, his lyrics are pure gold, rich with meaning. anyways, this song is about the departure of good music and unoriginal music being popular. This is apparnent in "gangsters and clowns with stereotype sound" gangsters =rappers clowns + heavy metal ala insane clown posse
    goodmusic44on May 11, 2004   Link
  • 0
    General CommentThat's awesome, I didn't even pick up on any of that. Thanks, guys. TL/RX rules. I wish they had some more Hearts of Oak lyrics on here.
    Lerxson September 28, 2004   Link
  • 0
    General CommentI dont get when he says where have all the rude boys gone. What is he referring to with rude boys?
    nra4everon October 25, 2004   Link
  • 0
    General CommentTed Leo is the man.
    hermajestyon January 09, 2005   Link
  • 0
    General CommentMaybe I'm way off on this. But if you've seen the video (from the CD) at the very end is a painting/drawing of a man's face that says '52 & '02 at the top and "Roots Rock Rebel" at the bottom. My theory is that it's a picture of Joe Strummer who was born in 1952 and passed away in 2002. Also, he was known for his passion of Jamaican music which ties in with the ska and Rude Boys. That's just my two cents, not really about the song necessarily, but I wanted to see if anyone else shares my belief.
    AB1979on February 17, 2005   Link
  • 0
    General CommentYes, that would be a picture of Joe Strummer; "Roots Rock Rebel" is a line from "(White Man) In Hammersmith Palais" by The Clash, the first song to mix Jamaican reggae/ska with punk rock. But yes, it seems everyone's worked out most of the references in here.
    blindsuperheroon March 08, 2005   Link

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