"King's Crossing" as written by and Steven P. Smith....
The big problem is the main attraction
Dominoes are falling in a chain reaction
The scraping subject ruled by fear told me
Whiskey works better than beer

The judge is on vinyl, decisions are final
And nobody gets a reprieve
And every wave is tidal - if you hang around
You're going to get wet

I can't prepare for death any more than I already have
All you can do now is watch the shells
The game looks easy that's why it sells
Frustrated fireworks inside your head

Are going to stand and deliver talk instead
The method acting that pays my bills
Keeps the fat man feeding in beverly hills
I got a heavy metal mouth that hurls obscenity

And I get my check from the trash treasury
'Cause I took my own insides out
It don't matter 'cause I had no sex life
All I want to do now is inject my ex wife

I've seen the movie and I know what happens
It's a Christmas time
And the needles on the tree
A skinny Santa is bringing something to me

His voice is overwhelming, but his speech is slurred
And I only understand every other word
"Open your parachute and grab your gun
Falling down like an omen, a setting sun

Read the part and we turn out fine
It's a hell of a role if you can keep it alive
But I don't care if I fuck up
I'm going on a date with a rich white lady

Ain't life great?
Give me one good reason not to do it
This is a place where time reverses
Dead men talk to all the pretty nurses

Instruments shine on a silver tray
Don't let me be carried away
Don't let me be carried away
Don't let me be carried away


Lyrics submitted by Mopnugget, edited by Jate, Fclssns3, ian1774721, Mellow_Harsher, dogcity, TheBee, sloathe

"King's Crossing" as written by Steven P. Smith

Lyrics © Universal Music Publishing Group

Lyrics powered by LyricFind

King's Crossing song meanings
Add your thoughts

184 Comments

sort form View by:
  • +7
    General Comment
    The method acting that pays my bills
    Keeps the fat man feeding in Beverly Hills;
    method-actors go to some awful extremes to really get into their character's skins, Elliott is humourously refering to his drug-use as method-acting because he writes songs about it and it sells. People love it; they buy it and this is what makes the fat man, probably head of a record label he's signed to rich and happy. Here is a quote from Kierkegaard whom I know Elliott was a fan of because he named his albulm after one of his books:
    "What is a poet? An unhappy man who hides deep anguish in his heart, but whose lips are so formed that when the sigh and cry pass through them, it sounds like lovely music.... And people flock around the poet and say: 'Sing again soon' - that is, 'May new sufferings torment your soul but your lips be fashioned as before, for the cry would only frighten us, but the music, that is blissful.'"
    – Søren Kierkegaard (Either - Or)
    It's Christmas time;
    Christmas is the combination of the two things that America loves most; Christianity and consumerism, its is the hardest holiday not to use; when everyone else is made happy by material objects: things that don't bring you any joy at all, all you want to do is get high
    And the needles on the tree
    A skinny Santa is bringing something to me
    His voice is overwhelming
    But his speech is slurred
    And I only understand every other word;
    this parts rather obvious no need to explain it
    Open your parachute and grab your gun:
    in the westcoast tar comes wraps in a peice of plastic twisted and sealed off, this is called a parachute, your gun is your needle
    Falling down like an omen, a setting sun
    Read the part and we turn out fine
    It's a hell of a role if you can keep it alive;
    it's a hell of a role: the ups and the downs of junkie life are are more extreme than any non-junkie's life, but the price you pay is that it'll kill you sooner or later
    But I don't care if I fuck up
    I'm going on a date
    With a rich white lady
    Ain't life great?;
    a rich white lady is China White, you normally only find it on the East Coast and thereabouts unless one of your friends goes on a trip there and bring some back
    IsisIsInvisibleon May 08, 2009   Link
  • +3
    General CommentI think NishFets is right. King's Crossing would be a main attraction for junkies, right? The 'dominoes falling in a chain reaction' are the events in his life that he hasn't been in control of because of heroin.'The scraping subject' is another addict, probably the one that introduced him to heroin, or gave him good shit. 'The judge is on vinyl' may be code for, 'my reasons for destroying myself are pretty clear, if you've heard my music, so there's your excuse.' 'Decisions are final, and nobody gets a reprieve' is clearly talking about how suicide works. Not sure what the tidal wave metaphor is. It's pretty obvious that the third section is about the music industry. 'I've seen the movie, I know what happens' is interesting. I think he may be referencing the 1996 film, "Trainspotting." He's saying that he knows about what heroin can do, that the film is too alarmist, and that he doesn't care. At first I thought that the 'skinny santa' part was a nod at our favorite person, Charlie. But on second inspection, it appears to be a drug dealer. 'Open your parachute and grab your gun' seems to be a war reference. Like he feels that every day of working for the record company is a battle. This makes sense in relationship to 'read the part and return at five, it's a hell of a role, if you can keep it alive.' 'This is the place where time reverses' is very similar to "Riot Coming" (Time's running backwards from me and you). Maybe this is how it feels to be on heroin. At the same time, he is potentially pondering what it will be like after he dies. If he will be aware of what's going on, or have some degree of existence. In this fantasy realm, he pictures the other dead people in a morgue, and perhaps being autopsied. 'Don't let me get carried away' could be his frightened, helpless plea as they are wheeling him in to be cut open. It could also be his acknowledgement of the melodramatic nature of his fantasy. He doesn't want to become the caricature the record company is trying to turn him into.
    dowhatisayon February 17, 2011   Link
  • +2
    General CommentMan this song is a masterpiece, it's just so perfect in every way. It's surprisingly bombastic for Elliot Smith, but he pulls it off so well.

    The drug references are thick in this one.
    Muzzyon October 30, 2008   Link
  • +2
    General CommentOh wow, that is so eerie. I've listened to this album a million times. I know every word, but somehow I didn't notice the "because I love you" until I read this forum. What's weirder is that I was in Los Angeles a few weeks ago and wrote "1. Because I love you." on his wall on Sunset...
    cregitarianon November 25, 2008   Link
  • +2
    General CommentLikely no one will read this as it will be pg 8 of the comments but I haven't seen this suggested anywhere else (unless I missed something) so here goes...

    What if the king is Elliott? The king is crossing from a junkie to straight, or from life to death. His 'subject' tells him whiskey is better than beer if your aim is to be a junkie or to kill yourself with drink.

    Then what if the judge is also Elliott? He is the one on vinyl after all. And he is the one making the decisions (to die, to use drugs or both). Then he's saying if anyone hangs around with me their going to get hurt (by the tidal wave), there is no escape.

    Then he says he's ready for death and that he expects it to come - the shell game of his life is already in play, the dominoes are already lined up...it's going to happen, he just doesn't know when.

    But he knows why: The record industry and drugs. He knows his disatisfaction with his life, with getting paid to 'take his own insides out' or bare his heart and soul on his records for money, will eventually lead him to 'fuck up' and use drugs again. He knows how that 'movie' will end, he will OD.

    The last verse has a dual meaning for me. On the one hand it alludes to the results of an overdose (or a suicide attempt for that matter) in that he is in the hospital fighting for his life. But it also reminds me of the record version of 'Pretty Mary K'. In both he's a soldier who is taken with the beauty of the nurses and who is relying on the nurses care to save him. There is something like a plea for nurturing care by women in both songs.

    And yes, the time reverses bit is meaningful in light of what happened, but likely doesn't mean what it feels like. I think it means that if he is saved by the nurses, then the inevitability of his death by OD is stopped.
    frejaon June 07, 2010   Link
  • +2
    Song MeaningBasic summary:

    This is a song about Smith's regret over using his Good Will Hunting residuals/added fame on heroin and crack cocaine.

    The carnival game metaphors are an extended metaphor for the gamble he takes every time he shoots up. You get the repeated implication that Smith is walking a boardwalk (The Santa Monica pier perhaps), possibly the location where we was going to buy some heroin/crack.

    As he looks at his surroundings, he realizes that he is gambling every time he shoots up, because an overdose could kill him.

    Alternately, the carnival imagery is not literal, but rather a reference to the balloon that the heroin came in.

    The core narrative is about Smith's internal dialogue as he nears a relapse and his feelings after he does relapse.

    "Give me one good reason not to do it" is not a suicide allusion, it is cry for help, begging someone to give him a way out of shooting up again.

    Line-by-line analysis:

    "The king's crossing was the main attraction
    Dominos are falling in a chain reaction
    The scraping subject ruled by fear told me
    Whiskey works better than beer"

    The first stanza details the events that lead up to his relapse. First it is beer, then someone, possibly his drug dealer or another addict, offers him some whiskey. The line "Scraping subject" alludes to the practice of trying to get every last bit of black tar heroin from a piece of tinfoil, scraping it back up to the top and smoking the remnants in fear of getting dopesick.

    "The judge is on vinyl, decisions are final
    And nobody gets a reprieve
    And every wave is tidal
    If you hang around
    You're going to get wet"

    The judge in the second stanza is a metaphor for Smith's conscience and his fear/knowledge that he will never get clear. He can recover and go straight for a while, but he will always end up back in the prison of his addiction. The judge is on vinyl because the cycle of his addiction has been detailed in almost all of his previous songs. The ruling is there before the court case even begins.

    "I can't prepare for death any more than I already have
    All you can do now is watch the shells
    The game looks easy, that's why it sells
    Frustrated fireworks inside your head
    Are going to stand and deliver talk instead
    The method acting that pays my bills
    Keeps the fat man feeding in Beverly Hills
    I got a heavy metal mouth that hurls obscenity
    And I get my check from the trash treasury
    Because I took my own insides out"

    In the third stanza, Smith considers suicide as an alternative to relapsing. The carnival metaphors return, possibly bringing us back to the present tense of the narrative as he waits to buy the heroin/sits at home with the balloon of heroin on his table. He bemoans his helplessness in the face of the drugs and warns the listener that "The game looks easy, that's why it sells." Every addict starts out thinking, "I'm not going to be *that* guy. I won't be an addict" but then you inevitably become one and life turns into a shell game, waiting for the bad batch that will put you in the ground.

    Smith is a "Method actor" because he is getting inside the 'character' of Elliott Smith by relapsing on drugs because he cannot write without them. On a second level, he is also bemoaning that the Hollywood money from Miss Misery and the added fame of his Oscar Nomination has lead only to more money to spend on heroin. The trash treasury is wordplay on heroin's street name, "Junk." It also seems like a commentary on Smith's awareness that his addiction makes someone very rich.

    "It don't matter because I have no sex life
    All I want to do now is inject my ex-wife
    I've seen the movie
    And I know what happens"

    Here, Smith discusses anhedonia; the inability to find pleasure that is common among schizophrenics and heroin addicts. He cannot maintain an erection/orgasm. Even when you're clean, the lack of sexual functioning, ability to feel pleasure or an orgasm can continue for months. Heroin is his 'Ex-wife.' He was clean for a while, but now he is going back to her. The lyric further employs wordplay to put Smith in a feminized position. He feels emasculated because he cannot function sexually and now he is being penetrated by the feminine heroin. The movie metaphor, a reference to living near Hollywood, his music appearing in films and the perceived 'glamor' of heroin in media, continues.

    "It's Christmas time
    And the needles on the tree
    A skinny Santa is bringing something to me
    His voice is overwhelming
    But his speech is slurred
    And I only understand every other word"

    This stanza places the narrative in time. It's December. Alternately, it is a metaphor for Smith feeling like this is the end for him. He juxtaposes the innocence and purity of the baby Jesus with his own defiled state. The pure Jesus could also be a metaphor for switching from smoking black tar heroin to injecting the more *pure* china white. Also, pine needles turn into heroin needles for injecting. "Santa Claus" is a heroin dealer making a delivery to his house, possibly because Smith is dopesick and can no longer go out and get it himself. The dealer is high too. Maybe the shoot up together and the dealer begins to nod.

    "Open your parachute and grab your gun
    Falling down like an omen, a setting sun
    Read the part and return at five
    It's a hell of a role if you can keep it alive"

    Smith feels at war with himself, so he extends the acting metaphor from before to imply that his 'method acting' of heroin addiction is part of his audition for a war movie.

    "But I don't care if I fuck up
    I'm going on a date
    With a rich white lady
    Ain't life great?"

    Smith gives up on sobriety and dives back in to full blown heroin addiction. The "rich white lady" could be either high grade china white heroin or possibly cocaine, which is sometimes referred to as, 'White girl.' However, I'm not sure about the cocaine interpretation. Smith did have a problem with cocaine/crack, but, "White girl" is a bit hip-hop for his sensibilities.

    "Give me one good reason not to do it
    (Because we love you)
    So do it"

    This is actually an older song. Smith performed it for years before ever recording it. At his shows, he would sing this song and his girlfriend/close friends would yell out, "Because we love you!" This line was not part of his original writing, nor was it included in the recorded version until after his death. The line itself is a moment of clarity. Smith is begging for something to keep him away from the drugs.

    "This is the place where time reverses
    Dead men talk to all the pretty nurses
    Instruments shine on a silver tray
    Don't let me get carried away
    Don't let me get carried away
    Don't let me be carried away"

    Smith looks forward in time now, thinking about his next trip to rehab where they try and put you back into the state you were in before the addiction. The, 'Dead men' are the old addicts flirting with the nurse staff. The song closes by returning to the original metaphor of the carnival setting on the pier. He is getting carried away with his addictions and by the metaphorical wave that gets everyone wet.


    tawdryhepburnon December 18, 2011   Link
  • +2
    General CommentPossibly the most heart-breaking lyric ever committed to tape in rock history. It's impossible to not read between the lines and see this as an extended suicide note. Brilliant imagery showing that Elliott was one of the greatest poets of his generation, as well as an amazing tunesmith.
    shamone12on October 15, 2012   Link
  • +2
    General Commenti originally posted this as a response to another interpretation by "tawdryhepburnon," who, i believe, made many valid points. i'm sorry if i'm breaking the rules by re-posting it but i feel that it's important to note that addiction has it's own language.

    i disagree with you on a few points.

    you wrote: "Smith is a "Method actor" because he is getting inside the 'character' of Elliott Smith by relapsing on drugs because he cannot write without them."

    the dictionary definition of method acting is: "a dramatic technique in which actors identify as closely as possible with the character played by correlating experiences from their personal lives to the character."

    he is a "method actor" because his work is a catalog of his personal pain.

    in reference to the lines:

    "Open your parachute and grab your gun"

    you wrote, "Smith feels at war with himself, so he extends the acting metaphor from before to imply that his 'method acting' of heroin addiction is part of his audition for a war movie."

    actually, parachuting is a way to do meth. you put a little dab in a bit of tissue or piece of toilet paper and swallow it. the term "gun" refers to a syringe (i.e. happiness is a warm gun).

    lastly, in reference to the lines,"

    "It don't matter because I have no sex life
    All I want to do now is inject my ex-wife
    I've seen the movie
    And I know what happens"

    you wrote: "He feels emasculated because he cannot function sexually and now he is being penetrated by the feminine heroin. The movie metaphor, a reference to living near Hollywood, his music appearing in films and the perceived 'glamor' of heroin in media, continues."


    i don't believe the first two lines have anything to do with emasculation/penetration, but rather the fact that when you have a hardcore dope habit you are married to it. it's what you go to work for. it's what you center your life around.

    furthermore, the last two lines are a reference to the movie "trainspotting" which doesn't glamorize heroin use in anyway. unless dead babies and dead friend with aids are glamorize.

    i appreciate your attention to detail but i believe you have to have had an up close and personal relationship with smack to get a lot of the references.
    nicolereneon June 20, 2013   Link
  • +1
    General Commentthat piano intro...my god, haunting beauty, what sadness
    jack_the_braton October 19, 2004   Link
  • +1
    General CommentThis song is like none other I've heard. He has put his torments to verse, setting them within some of the most beautiful, poweful music that he's written. The most chilling moments come at the beginning and at the end of the song. The beginning, when we hear Elliott's lone voice struggling to rise over the clamor of street urchins, dealers, etc., paints for us a truly vivid and wrenchingingly painful picture from his memories of what we imagine are so many late night, back alley moments. The end, when he sees "dead men talk to all the pretty nurses" and "instruments shining on silver trays" reminds us who know how his final moments transpired of only one thing. "Don't let me be carried away" - this heartbreaking plea would have been answered by many thousands of us in a second. If only we knew how.
    acmon November 08, 2004   Link

Add your thoughts

Log in now to tell us what you think this song means.

Don’t have an account? Create an account with SongMeanings to post comments, submit lyrics, and more. It’s super easy, we promise!

Back to top
explain