"On Every Street" as written by and Mark Knopfler....
There's gotta be a record of you someplace
You gotta be on somebody's books
The lowdown - a picture of your face
Your injured looks
The sacred and profane
The pleasure and the pain
Somewhere your fingerprints remain concrete
And it's your face I'm looking for on every street

A ladykiller - regulation tattoo
Silver spurs on his heels
Says - what can I tell you, as I'm standing next to you
She threw herself under my wheels
Oh it's a dangerous road
And a hazardous load
And the fireworks over liberty explode in the heat
And it's your face I'm looking for on every street

A three-chord symphony crashes into space
The moon is hanging upside down
I don't know why it is I'm still on the case
It's a ravenous town
And you still refuse to be traced
Seems to me such a waste
And every victory has a taste that's bittersweet
And it's your face I'm looking for on every street


Lyrics submitted by Dasch

"On Every Street [DVD]" as written by Mark Knopfler

Lyrics © Universal Music Publishing Group

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On Every Street song meanings
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  • +4
    General CommentI think this is about a man looking for revenge on the bastard who stole his wife/significant other and ruined his life.
    The bastard in question is one of those slick bad boy "ladykiller"-types that some women so unwisely fall for. And the wronged man would dearly love to see him in the type of pain he's feeling-"your injured looks"-instead of the cocky, dismissive "What can I tell you...she threw herself under my wheels".
    "The fireworks over liberty explod[ing] in the heat" refers to the lust or sexual heat and the liberation the woman felt during the affair. The sleazy bastard acknowledges what a dangerous game it is: "Oh it’s a dangerous road and a hazardous load".
    The wronged man is consumed with rage and obsessed with revenge. He's always looking for this guy and sees his face everywhere, the way your mind plays tricks on you when you're looking for someone.
    In the final verse, he's reflecting on the futility of his obsession, and the toll it's taking on him. Every victory or clue that brings him closer fuels his obsession yet leaves him empty and unsatisfied. His prey always seems to be a step ahead. He doesn't know why he's putting himself through all this, but he just can't let it go. It's a corrosive obsession. It's eating him alive, this ravenous town.
    Anyway, that's my take. It reminds me of the movie "Unfaithful" to a degree, with a married woman getting involved with a slick guy.
    napieron January 07, 2006   Link
  • +2
    MemoryI was a 30something living in Dallas when this song first came on. I think learning to fly was on this lp. One hot summer day on my way home I stopped to give a lift to a fine looking young lady in jeans and a hard hat. She was walking along the frontage road. I pulled over, lowered the passenger side window and asked her if she needed a ride. The cold a/c spilling out of the window must have been too much to resist on a Dallas summer afternoon. Much to my surprise she hopped in. Her blonde hair held a certain musk that triggered all my senses to high alert. She was young, maybe mid 20s, taught and tan from construction work. I offered to stop for cold drinks at the liquor store. She accepted! The ready mixed margaritas hit the spot. I dropped her off at a modest frame house off the main highway. I got a great, hot kiss and my hands found that round *ass*. I asked for a number and she brushed it off. I looked for her all summer at the site she said she was working at. I went to the modest house but got no answer. This song reminds me of that time and that woman. I looked on "every street" but never found her again. lucky for me I think. she would have owned me
    randelon April 17, 2014   Link
  • +1
    General CommentThis song for me is just genius, the music, the subtlety of the writing, laced with irony... superb.

    I always think of it as a guy, still not moving on from a girl he was madly in love with, but who took him for a mug, and he only realised when it was too late. No matter how much he sees how bad she was for him, he can't stop seeing her face wherever he goes...

    Knopfler uses the analogy of a Private Detective, as the guy can't help but look for her, and every time he finds something out, he find more info he doesn't want to hear, although it ironically give his life some meaning... but still the guy can't stop.

    Although hugely underrated, the whole 'On Every Street' album for me, shows Knopfler's best writing.
    the placid casualon June 15, 2008   Link
  • +1
    Song MeaningI agree. I'd say it's about a lost love with the singer basically wondering about where she is now, using the metaphor of detective looking for a missing person in parts, coupled with the fact that no matter how hard he tries, he just can't forget her. "The lowdown - a picture of your face" - shows how he still keeps a picture of her.

    The ladykiller was obviously a factor in the split and she's fallen for him and been used which may contribute to her absence, or simply sought him for a bit of fun under the sheets. In any case, the man in question is perhaps sorry in principle but not particularly apologetic for his part as she threw herself on him, "under my wheels." After all, which bloke honestly could be when he probably doesn't even know she has a significant other and has done the same several times before? While it's possible the singer knows this character vaguely, he finds it hard regardless to hold contempt for him for this reason, hence the absence of such lyrics.

    The emotion the singer feels instead is hurt and confusion at why she irrationally left him for the tattooed stud. What angers him most is why she chose this guy over him where he clearly felt nothing for him, yet the singer loved her dearly and while she knows that's the case, she still won't go back to him; "Your injured looks," "Seems to me such a waste."

    "And every victory has a taste that’s bittersweet" This is another aspect to the singer's feelings. Unrequited love in any case is bittersweet with the sheer joy you feel for that person, but the pain that comes with the lack of reciprocation at the same time, also empahasised earlier in the song; "The pleasure and the pain." The bittersweetness in relation to the victory is also perhaps akin to his efforts to forget her; the more he manages to get over her, the more empty he feels with no feelings of love for anyone else - the extent of the vacuum she's left in his life.

    Many of the other references are rather enigmatic and as with any song probably only bear relevance to the writer on a personal note, even if just in a metaphorical sense; you'd have sit Mark down with a pint to explain them. One however, is the fact that he seems to be in New York during the 4th of July celebrations: "And the fireworks over liberty explode in the heat." "The moon is hanging upside down" would tend to suggest that he's in Australia perhaps, or anywhere else in the Southern Hemisphere, where due to the angle of the earth and the way the sun hits it the moon is often said to appear upside down when compared to the Northern Hemisphere. Perhaps, this is supposed to emphasise the fact that he can take himself to the other end of the world, but not her out of his head, hence the following line, "I don't know why it is I'm still on the case"

    Finally, I think the chord riff-based instrumental at the end is a piece of onomatopoeic musical genius. Instead of being a reflective, brooding piece about his loss, its upbeat tones of defiance and optimism seem to reflect a confident desire on the part of the writer to finally move on and forget. It's the kind of piece that on its own would serve as the perfect soundtrack to the final scene of a classy film where the main protagonist drives off into the sunset with the top down, shades on, and beautiful girl in the passenger seat. The endings of Desperado and the alternative one to Layer Cake (if you've seen the DVD extras) particularly stick in my mind here, perhaps the Thomas Crown affair too; the essence of cool in other words, which this ostinanto arrangement soaks up like Oliver Reed and a case of Scotch. And it's this notion of coolness and a stiff upper lip that the singer hopes will see him through his sorrow.

    I've wondered on a bit haven't I? Still, Knopfler and Straits at their polished best well deserve it.
    thedashingdebonairon December 25, 2008   Link
  • 0
    General CommentI just wanna know what the line "A ladykiller, regulation tattoo" is supposed to mean!
    jawstoneon June 07, 2005   Link
  • 0
    General CommentI think thiss song is about a cop looking for a killer...I have an image in my mind where he is driving and scanning all the faces "on every street"…looking for the killer. He is working very hard trying to find this killer.

    "A ladykiller - regulation tattoo Silver spurs on his heels Says - what can I tell you as I’m standing next to you She threw herself under my wheels"

    This is a description of a thug…did this thug actually speak to the cop before fleeing?

    “And the fireworks over liberty explode in the heat”

    Is he looking for the killer on the fourth of July? Does anybody else have some ideas or analogy of these lyrics?
    Digioton November 11, 2005   Link
  • 0
    General CommentThis song it about a complex woman whom a guy has become obsessed with. It could be his old girlfriend or ex-wife, and he's tracking her like a PI. It may be an unhealthy obsession but it's hard to tell. The poster who thinks he's tracking a killer should learn the subtleties of language!

    He asks around at places like bars where he meets the "lady killer," who says she couldn't help hooking up (threw herself under his wheels). There doesn't seem to be jealousy over that. It's just a lead he's pursuing.

    He also searches for her in crowds during a fireworks display. The symphony is probably playing in NYC, hence "fireworks over Liberty..." I get the image of him wandering around a city with no real hope of finding her. The song has a nice instrumental ending that alludes to an endless search.
    Nick_Con June 03, 2006   Link
  • 0
    General CommentIn answer to the top poster: "ladykiller - regulation tattoo" just means a slick Rick who picks up women and has the "regulation" (typical) tattoo of a guy who cruises for babes. The woman may have a weakness for one-nighters and it could be part of the reason she left the (searcher) man. The intro lyrics imply that she's moody.

    For the poster who interprets the man as searching in rage: I think he's more melancholy than anything. No anger is indicated toward the lady-killer, just a gathering of information. They probably never knew each other.

    The fireworks allusion strikes me as mostly literal, with a symphony playing in sight of the Statue Of Liberty. People gather at those events and he's searching for her in large crowds out of desperation.

    I don't think this song has much of a hidden meaning once you study it, but it manages to keep a sense of mystery.
    Nick_Con June 03, 2006   Link
  • 0
    General CommentI always thought he was looking for a girlfriend who had killed herself - I guess I took the part about how "she threw herself under my wheels" literally. I always pictured that verse as taking place at the funeral, and the man who was driving the truck is stumbling through a semi-apology.

    I think the part about how he's looking for her face on every street is about how he's talking to people she knew and trying to sort of retrace her steps and figure out why she killed herself. I think some proof of this is the line "and every victory has a taste that's bittersweet." Lots of people kill themselves and their family never finds out exactly why, and every piece of information they get hold of just leads the way to more impossible questions...either way, even if you find out exactly why they killed themselves, they'll still be gone.

    The guitar solo at the end is genius...it's perfect for this song, even though it's very up-tempo and lively compared to the rest of the song (sort of like the end of Where Do You Think You're Going). If you could somehow hear someone searching, this is what it would sound like...if that makes sense.
    bars.of.a.rhymeon January 25, 2007   Link
  • 0
    General Commenti really believe that this is a story about a detective that is assigned to a "jane doe" case, a women who dies in a car accident but no one can tell him anything about it "there's gotta be a record... gotta be on somebody's books"...

    he is developing some kind of an obssesion of finding out who this girl was.
    if think the second verse is the investigation of the killer, probably a truck driver that couldn't risk a surprise break since he is driving with "hazardous load" so he ran her over as she "threw herself under my wheels".
    as the search continues he is having second thoughts "i don't why it is i am still on the case" but he is obssesed with finding out who she was so the search goes on, but every little bit of information he gets, or every victory to put in his words, has a taste of bittersweet since she is already gone.
    talshapon February 18, 2007   Link

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