We should shine a light on
A light on
And the book of right-on's right on
It was right on

I killed my dinner with karate
Kick 'em in the face, taste the body
Shallow work is the work that I do

Do you want to sit at my table?
My fighting fame is fabled
And fortune finds me fit and able

And you do say
That you do pray
And you say
That you're ok

Do you want to run with my pack?
Do you want to ride on my back?
Pray that what you lack does not distract

And even when you run through my mind
Something else is in front, oh, you're behind
And I don't have to remind you
To stick with your kind

And you do say
That you do pray
And you say
That you're ok

And even when you touch my face
You know your place
And even when you touch my face
You know your place

And we should shine a light on
A light on
And the book of right-on's right on
It was right on


Lyrics submitted by Mopnugget

The Book of Right-On song meanings
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  • +3
    General CommentIn my interpretation, the lyric of "Even when you touch my face"/"You know your place" is correct. It shows how intimate the relationship is and the determination of her superiority.

    "The book of right-on" could also very well be the bible. It represent a foreshadow she has, or the one she is in love with, as soothing words to win the lover's heart.

    When she says "And you say that you do pray, and you say that you're ok", she's telling how she's rejected in the relationship, as it refers to how she told her lover to "Pray that what you lack does not distract".

    The whole song basically tells the story of a female with a superiority complex facing rejection in love.

    She proves that she is powerful by saying "I killed my dinner with karate / Kick 'em in the face, taste the body / Shallow work is the work that I do" and later tries to persuade the lover to "sit on my table", saying "My fighting fame is fabled / And fortune finds me fit and able"

    When she is rejected, she shows her true face, she is not civilised as she said before. The "sitting on my table" part is changed with "run with my pack / ride on my back" showing the bestial side of her, the last line of "Pray that what you lack does not distract" mocks how the lover said he prays, showing her anger.

    She then says that she is too good for him, telling him to "stick with your kind".

    Again, she is rejected, and she insist on acting as the superior one, saying "even if you touch my face, you know your lace". But the way she sings it is much less cocky and sounds more like she's regretting it showing her lover the bestial side of her.

    The song ends with the same stanza that it started with, saying "You were right, I am sorry, let's shed some light on our relationship" in a cocky way.

    At least that's what it means to me. JN is singing about the stubbornness and ego of people in love and how it makes them suffer, however still refuse to admit that they are wrong.
    eskimotaroon July 14, 2007   Link
  • +2
    My InterpretationAm i the only one that thinks it maybe about the war too? Just a thought.
    claudiaaaon January 09, 2010   Link
  • +1
    General CommentI think this song is a statement towards religious nuts, people that disrespect animals, and living in nature (pack on the back) she says those lines as though someone could be jealous of the freedom that she has, and from the previous lines she could be hinting that zealots and fanatics are the ones that have sealed their fates and thus are the jealous ones. Which I can agree with.

    If you read this joanna and I've misinterpretted your words then I'm sorry. No matter what they mean to whomever, they still are amazingly writting and sung. BRAVO.
    t4pyroon December 23, 2006   Link
  • +1
    General CommentPersonally, I think this song is a metaphor relating her romantic behavior to that of a wild, fighting animal. For instance, "My fighting fame is fabled" could be her telling her new conquest that she really doesn't break as many hearts as they say, and that she can be trusted. "We should shine a light on" could be Joanna saying that they should tell the truth about their pasts. However, at the end this same line could mean that the truth is evident that she really is a heartbreaker; throughout the song there are lines that show her lover begrudgingly accepts this, such as, "And you say that you're okay". "I killed my dinner with karate, kick 'em in the face, taste the body, shallow work is the work that I do" could illustrate the way she has behaved with past lovers. Kicking them in the face and tasting the body shows a tendency to crush their dignity and be more interested in the physical aspects of the relationship. At the end where it says "Even when you touch my face, you know your place" could mean that even though she has told her lover that they are equals in the relationship, they both really know that she has the power. This is a hauntingly beautiful song that creatively describes a situation that many can understand. I love it.
    giddygirlon December 25, 2006   Link
  • +1
    General CommentIn my interpretation, the lyric of "Even when you touch my face"/"You know your place" is correct. It shows how intimate the relationship is and the determination of her superiority.

    "The book of right-on" could also very well be the bible. It represent a foreshadow she has, or the one she is in love with, as soothing words to win the lover's heart.

    When she says "And you say that you do pray, and you say that you're ok", she's telling how she's rejected in the relationship, as it refers to how she told her lover to "Pray that what you lack does not distract".

    The whole song basically tells the story of a female with a superiority complex facing rejection in love.

    She proves that she is powerful by saying "I killed my dinner with karate / Kick 'em in the face, taste the body / Shallow work is the work that I do" and later tries to persuade the lover to "sit on my table", saying "My fighting fame is fabled / And fortune finds me fit and able"

    When she is rejected, she shows her true face, she is not civilised as she said before. The "sitting on my table" part is changed with "run with my pack / ride on my back" showing the bestial side of her, the last line of "Pray that what you lack does not distract" mocks how the lover said he prays, showing her anger.

    She then says that she is too good for him, telling him to "stick with your kind".

    Again, she is rejected, and she insist on acting as the superior one, saying "even if you touch my face, you know your lace". But the way she sings it is much less cocky and sounds more like she's regretting it showing her lover the bestial side of her.

    The song ends with the same stanza that it started with, saying "You were right, I am sorry, let's shed some light on our relationship" in a cocky way.

    At least that's what it means to me. JN is singing about the stubbornness and ego of people in love and how it makes them suffer, however still refuse to admit that they are wrong.
    eskimotaroon July 14, 2007   Link
  • +1
    General CommentI agree with those who see religious imagery in this song. I think of this song almost as a conversation between the singer and a god she doesn't believe exists, or between her and the concept of god where she is outlining how she tried to consider the idea, but in the end it didnt make sense to believe it.

    I interpreted the first lines to mean that the bible (the book of right-on) may have a lot of good things to say (even if you dont believe in god) but that those things are being ignored and instead people are using the book of right-on to promote less pleasant things (people using the bible as a weapon of hate, for example). So in that sense the narrator is saying "we should shine a light on" that sort of hypocrisy.

    When she says "i killed my dinner..." and "taste the body" i see this as rejecting faith in god (her meal ticket to salvation? just a thought). I was raised Christian and there were constant references in church about god filling you up, making you full etc, so that you'll not "hunger". I see her as saying "thanks, but no thanks. I'll make my own way." Then the following part she offers the idea a temporary spot: "do you want to sit at my table" like saying "look, if you want to debate this idea, bring it on. Because i have no doubt that i'll win this one" (her fighting fame is fabled).

    Same with the part "do you want to run with my pack/do you want a ride on my back" - its like the singer is being offered fellowship and a crutch to lean on, but she basically responds "no thanks, i don't need a crutch" I connect this back to Peach Plum Pear, where she says "i was riding its back when it used to ride me" and i get the imagery of being taken for a ride, not having control of the situation. She doesn't want to ride on anything's back, she wants to be strong and walk on her own (and not be taken for a ride).

    With "and you do say/that you do pray/and you say/that you're ok" I see her as sorta saying "you're telling me you pray, and that everything is fine and God takes care of it, but there's something missing in your life or you wouldn't have sought out a crutch like religion in the first place", which i see again in the part where she says "pray that what you lack does not distract" almost like saying a person's belief in god is like putting the blinders on, so that you can believe that everything is going to be ok because its in god's hands. Maybe i think this because i've met too many Christians who were actually pretty messed up but were almost self-brainwashed into believing that they were ok because they could "give their burden to jesus".

    anyway, that's always been my take.

    francis_oh_francison December 07, 2008   Link
  • +1
    General CommentAnother good one from Joanna
    myrdason February 10, 2010   Link
  • +1
    My OpinionTo Whom it May Concern,

    My name is Eric Sutherland and I am an employee at Neumos. I wanted to express my opinion regarding the Capital Hill Block Party and what that event means.

    The block party is a festival that I and countless others look forward to every year. It is a significant Summer event that brings the people together and generates invaluable traffic for our local businesses. The Block Party also creates community by bringing people together in a positive, festive and creative event. In my opinion, events the size of the Block Party are essential for helping maintain Capital Hills sense of community/. What I fear is that we could become a city that does not have a three day neighborhood festival that strengthens the bonds between people, enlivens and entertains, and also furthers the success of local businesses which in turn, benefit the hundreds of people employed by those organizations.

    As an employee of Neumos, the three days of Block Party is important to me as it provides me with a much needed paycheck during the month of July. Without that paycheck, July is a meager month, and in my experience, lower income employees like myself can suffer the most when we loose work. Especially in the current economic climate. I understand that shortening the festival is the aim of some, but I strongly oppose this idea and would rather see the festival carried out as it has, for three full days.

    The benefits of the Capital Hill Block Party greatly outweigh the perceived downsides of the festival, and for someone who is directly impacted by the Block Party, I hope that we can continue as we have in the past, with three full days of productivity, music and enjoyment.

    Thank you for your time and consideration,

    -Eric Sutherland






    I have to say, I don't quite agree with the consensus on the thread that this song is about romantic relationships or religious subjects... there is nothing so specific in the lyrics that points directly to that.

    One of the beautiful things about song writing is using vagueness as a canvas for listeners to project their own mentality and experiences onto the music.

    And I think that's what Joanna Newsome is doing quite effectively here; riding the line, sitting right on the fence, in that grey area where ambiguity flirts with clarity.

    Let's talk about children, wolves, and how it relates to forming identity.

    "We should shine a light on
    A light on
    And the book of right-on's right on
    It was right on --------------------------- “Shine a light on” quite a common way to say “illuminate” or to expose a certain truth. Now, the book of “right-on”: If there was a big book describing what is “right-on”, then it by virtue of being about what is right-on, it must be, RIGHT-ON... Right? On?

    I killed my dinner with karate
    Kick 'em in the face, taste the body
    Shallow work is the work that I do" -------- Playing with food? A forceful display of personality? Shallow work... are children not involved in what adults see as shallow? Depends on how you think but I’d say you might concede that it’s possible.

    "Do you want to sit at my table?
    My fighting fame is fabled
    And fortune finds me fit and able" ------------- I think of the kids table : ) And a kung fu movie.

    "Do you want to run with my pack? ------- first animal/canine reference which has everything to do with social structure.
    Do you want to ride on my back?-------- ride on my back; piggy back? another image of childhood.
    Pray that what you lack does not distract" --------- almost xenophobic! "you can join me, you're from another kind but as long as your deficiencies don't inconvenience me, you're cool to stick around."

    And you do say
    That you do pray
    And you say
    That you're ok ---------- is this not what everyone does when we want to be accepted or seek approval from others? Social dynamics, identity.... are we getting somewhere?? : )


    And even when you run through my mind
    Something else is in front, oh, you're behind
    And I don't have to remind you
    To stick with your kind ----------------------- kind of an oddball lyric to me. Almost as if this person joining the pack is needy and clingy and there's always something to look forward to outside them. Like a bratty little sibling. Children, again. (on the themes of being childish, there is something to be said for the way words are enunciated and the timbre of JN's voice... she once said she was disappointed in critics saying that her singing sounded childish, however, it's almost impossible not to think of an 8 year old Björk when you hear JN's voice. Nothing to be disappointed about... the way she sings is an effective way to curry favor with listeners: like a high forehead implies youth, so does this singing. ok lets move on...)


    And even when you touch my face
    You know your place
    And even when you touch my face
    You know your place------------------- okay, here's a lyric that for me, almost certainly implies some kind of intimate relationship. Certainly there are roles in intimate relationships. For example, a man wouldn't try to take on the role of his female partners best female friend. If he does, he's pushed the "girl looses attraction for boy" button. The big red button. With his fist. In this regard, as the lyric says, "you know your place".


    As for religion, the words "the book of" seems to imply something super heavy, revered, holy, etc. and the colloquialism "right-on" is the complete opposite of that... very hipster, actually, and putting together something very heavy with something very light is quite trendy these days; incongruity+irony=identity. (Oh and having the word "pray" in a song doesn't mean there's struggle with god going on. In this case the lyrics are essentially saying you're praying that you're ok.)

    The most reasonable explanation in my mind is that the song is about identity. And in a way, her voice sounding young further strengthens this connection I see, of seeking and hoping and creating identity. In a world where a young person, especially a young woman is told so many things, and one is bombarded with billions of ads and signals and sight/sounds and enough information and enough push-pull to stun an ox, (especially a kid like Joanna Newsome who grew up with no TV, radio, media, etc) then identity is very likely a huge issue. Isn’t it always?

    Ok, it’s about identity. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it until I decide to change it.
    snoggeron February 22, 2011   Link
  • +1
    Song MeaningI dont get the sense that this song is a call and response at all. The whole song is from her perspective and there is no need to overcomplicate it by adding a second narrator. That said, and despite what you may want the lyrics to mean, I do think there are religious AND moral undertones--it is obviously a point of contention between her and the one she is singing to that he/she didn't get or subscribe to any moral agenda while they were an item and hey, maybe he/she should have, maybe she wouldnt be singing this song to him if that were the case. Joanna Newsom has a number of clear references to religion and the Bible in her work so this is not surprising (Sprout and the Bean: "should we break some bread?" ; Sadie: "all day long we talk about mercy/lead me to water Lord I sure am thirsty,";). This is not to necessarily say Newsom is religious--her take is usually a bit cynical on religion and when she references it, one can tell she has a history and knowledge of Christianity but is too smart to preach it blindly without any new insights. In the ten years i havebbeen listening to her i get the sense she is wholly Post-Christian. Finally I dont think this song is about arrogance or superiority as someone else stated, but that it is simply a manifesto, and she is trying to show her boldness and fearlesness by talking about her kill and how fit and able she is at her proverbial table. She is not literally killing and there is no literal table: these are metaphors. The theme of boldness and dogged fearlessness I mention actually appears in other works of hers, like in 'Cassiopeia' where she states "like a Texan drying jerky, but his meaty mits can't hurt me." Hope this helps!
    eshaineson April 24, 2014   Link
  • 0
    General CommentThis is my favorite song of Joanna's, the wild animal imagery, the alpha female warning the male to be careful. Her musicianship on the harp is beautiful, the tune is haunting. If you get the chance to see Joanna in person, you should. She is great.
    gurlmomon October 25, 2004   Link

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