This song is for the rats
Who hurled themselves in to the ocean
When they saw that the explosives in the cargo hold
Were just about to blow

This song is for the soil
That's toxic clear down to the bedrock
Where no thing of consequence can grow
Drop your seeds there
Let them go

Let them all go
Let 'em all go

This song is for the people
Who tell their families that they're sorry
For things they can't and won't feel sorry for

And once there was a desk
And now it's in a storage locker somewhere
And this song is for the stick pins and the cottons
I left in the top drawer

Let 'em all go
Let 'em all go

I wanna sing one for the cars
That are right now headed silent down the highway
And it's dark and there is nobody driving
And something has got to give

I saw you waiting by the roadside
You didn't know that I was watching
Now you know
Let it all go

Let 'em all go
Let it all go


Lyrics submitted by I'm a Pirate

Cotton song meanings
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18 Comments

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  • +2
    General CommentI find this song to be full of hope, and of taking risks, not of giving up dreams. Basically, we are all afraid of change, but there comes a time when we have to let go of the destruction that we know and face what seems impossible, but has to be better then what we're living in now.

    The rats jump into the ocean, to probable death, but they're eluding certain death. They're clinging to hope of survival in the unknown.

    Dropping your seeds represents letting go of what you're saving for the "perfect situation", which will never come, and taking that risk in that which is available to you. (Seeds represent potential for growth, remember).

    The verses about apologizing to the family about what you can't be sorry for, and the cotton and "stick pins" (needles) represent addiction (heroin). Here's really where one needs to let go and leave one's known hell for the difficult and frightening path of change.

    Finally, the cars: we're all driving through our own lives, desperate and alone. Something has got to give. So here, I've seen you, and I'm watching you, and now you know that I'm interested. I've taken a risk and stepped out of my known, safe, lonely solitude, and "now you know".

    I'm the rats jumping, I'm the addict leaving my drug - whatever it is - behind, I'm dropping my seeds before you, and what will be will be. Perhaps something will grow.
    witeowlon October 02, 2005   Link
  • +2
    General CommentI've been a big Darnielle fan for a while but never paid particular attention to this song until I heard it on an episode of "Weeds" (a decently entertaining show).
    I listened to the song in its entirety soon after and the line, "This song is for the people
    Who tell their families that they're sorry
    For things they can't and won't feel sorry for" hit me hard. It was even completely personal, I just thought about how it applied to so many people, and even some of my good friends more than me. Apologies for things like taking a less lucrative career path, straying from one's birth religion, even being gay or enjoying things like sex and partying. There is so often such a generational disconnect in values preventing honest communication between a man or woman and his/her parents. And very often, rather than explain such things it's easier to just sigh and grant a dishonest "apology" to assuage their fears and disappointment. And I think that's a shame.
    Great song.
    bcontraton June 08, 2009   Link
  • +1
    General CommentThis song is for the rats
    Who hurled themselves in to the ocean
    When they saw that the explosives in the cargo hold
    Were just about to blow

    There are numerous reference on We Shall All Be Healed to the friends that John lost to addiction, and how Darnielle himself escaped the death sentence of these drugs. John is one of these rats - he saw where Meth and Heroin, possibly among other drugs, were leading him and he jumped ship before things got too bad.

    This song is for the soil
    That's toxic clear down to the bedrock
    Where no thing of consequence can grow
    Drop your seeds there
    Let them go

    Plants growing up in harsh conditions are a recurrent theme in Darnielle's work (see Pale Green Things, Wild Sage and In The Hidden Places). It represents his difficult upbringing in the clutches of an abusive Stepfather, a toxic man by all accounts. John is also one of those seeds, feeling like he can become nothing of consequence.

    Let them all go
    Let 'em all go

    This song is for the people
    Who tell their families that they're sorry
    For things they can't and won't feel sorry for

    This verse needs little explanation; this is John, again, who apologizes to his family in the throes of his addiction, yet it is something that he desires, that kind of escape and oblivion. Also his home situation no doubt in some sense led to his substance abuse problem, so how can he apologize for something to the people partly responsible?

    And once there was a desk
    And now it's in a storage locker somewhere
    And this song is for the stick pins and the cottons
    I left in the top drawer

    Let 'em all go
    Let 'em all go

    Here he can finally show that this song is all about him, in every verse. He's chosen to leave his addiction behind him. He has to let it go.

    I wanna sing one for the cars
    That are right now headed silent down the highway
    And it's dark and there is nobody driving
    And something has got to give

    Again, this is him - aimless, starting again, alone, afraid, and feeling like there's nobody in control. Feeling like something is going to give. But always moving forward.

    I saw you waiting by the roadside
    You didn't know that I was watching
    Now you know
    Let it all go

    Let 'em all go
    Let it all go

    And John knows that when you feel this way, alone, directionless, and wrapped up in your own hurt - someone understands. Hell, he understands, he was there, even though you didn't know he was watching. Now you know. Let it all go.
    TerminalHopeon October 08, 2009   Link
  • 0
    General CommentI think this in this song John starts out by saying that he's going to tell us all something that is very important. He is adressing everyone from the people who save themselves, to the very earth we live on. To lairs and people who are just lost and driving around wondering why something won't just give. To everyone: Let it all go. Detach yourself from the things in your life that you don't need, let go of all the problems, and let go of yourself. Because that's all you can do.
    HarvestGloomon November 24, 2004   Link
  • 0
    General CommentIt seems like he's addressing a number of different things in this song. I think the first one might be about people who commit suicide when it seems like some unavoidable tragedy is about to occur in their lives.

    The one about toxic soil might be about the place or society where someone grows up. It's about the kind of places where it's impossible to make something of yourself becaues of your surroundings. Dropping your seed there represents giving up on your dreams.

    The car stanze is about people who have no guidance and have lost control of their lives (hence there's nobody driving).

    I'm not so sure about the rest of the song. The line about stick pins and cotton I find baffling, unless it's about people he once knew and will probably never see again.
    Raving Lunaticon March 02, 2005   Link
  • 0
    General Commentthis song is just flat out awesome. i couldnt believe my ears when i heard it on the Showtime show "Weeds"
    and i'm also excited that i am going to get to see them here in Kalamazoo, MI in a week!
    coheedandcambriaon October 04, 2005   Link
  • 0
    General CommentThis song is for the people
    Who tell their families that they're sorry
    For things they can't and won't feel sorry for

    A lot of people have been there, that pressing of the things you hold dear and the ones that your friends and family hold dear, and having to make that decision. The backing down and faking and lying about who you are and what you love and... Just that little bit speaks volumes to me, let alone the rest of the song...
    yimenoon December 04, 2005   Link
  • 0
    General CommentAwesome whiteowl... You put in to words precisely what I was having trouble saying.
    smashingthewineon January 25, 2006   Link
  • 0
    General CommentThis song is an inspired homage to many of John Darnielle's friends and acquaintances in California and Portland, OR who succumbed to methamphetimine addiction. "All of the songs on We Shall All Be Healed are based on people John used to know. Most of them are probably dead or in jail by now." Not only is it a eulogy for those who were lost, but it is also for those, like himself, who were able to survive and escape from that lifestyle.

    This song is for the rats
    Who hurled themselves in to the ocean
    When they saw that the explosives in the cargo
    hold
    Were just about to blow

    The most explicit reference to drugs is the reminiscence of a desk in which drug paraphenelia (i.e. cottons, needles) would be stored.
    qualia32on September 09, 2007   Link
  • 0
    General Commenti always saw this as a song of disappointment. the first half of the song seems like he's talking about cowards (jumping ship) and selfish (can't and won't feel sorry) people he's known in his life. basically, he's remembering the past, how it's affected him, and the all of the things he's left behind.

    and as the person above me stated, "cotton" is a slang term for a small piece of cotton used to draw-up your drug of choice into a syringe.
    velvettton February 02, 2008   Link

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