"Sweet Painted Lady" as written by Elton John and Bernie Taupin....
I'm back on dry land once again
Opportunity awaits me like a rat in the drain
We're all hunting honey with money to burn
Just a short time to show you the tricks that we've learned

If the boys all behave themselves here
Well, there's pretty young ladies and beer in the rear
You won't need a gutter to sleep in tonight
Oh, the prices I charge here will see you alright

So, she lays down beside me again
My sweet painted lady, the one with no name
Many have used her and many still do
There's a place in the world for a woman like you

Oh, sweet painted lady
Seems it's always been the same
Getting paid for being laid
Guess that's the name of the game

Oh, sweet painted lady
Seems it's always been the same
Getting paid for being laid
Guess that's the name of the game, oh

Forget us we'll have gone very soon
Just forget we ever slept in your rooms
And we'll leave the smell of the sea in your beds
Where love's just a job and nothing is said

So she lays down beside me again
My sweet painted lady, the one with no name
Many have used her and many still do
There's a place in the world for a woman like you

Oh, sweet painted lady
Seems it's always been the same
Getting paid for being laid
Guess that's the name of the game

Oh, sweet painted lady
Seems it's always been the same
Getting paid for being laid
Guess that's the name of the game, oh


Lyrics submitted by pumkinhed

"Sweet Painted Lady" as written by Elton John Bernie Taupin

Lyrics © Universal Music Publishing Group

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Sweet Painted Lady song meanings
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  • +1
    General CommentWhat an ignorant comment. The song is clearly ironic and is, I think, one of immense pathos. It is not a 'tribute' to prostitution but makes it seem just as seedy as it really is. For example, the lady is not 'getting laid' but 'being laid', love is 'just a job'. And look at the descriptions of the sailors who use her ("many have used her...") - "you won't need a gutter to sleep in".
    Token-Briton December 16, 2005   Link
  • +1
    My InterpretationSo hear me out..Yes on the surface it's about prostitution but I think there's more than meets the eye (ear?). Keep in mind this album was released in 1973. Right around that time there was a movement in San Francisco for people to purchase historic Victorian houses and paint the exteriors in multiple bright colors. These repainted houses were called "Painted Ladies" and were somewhat controversial at the time since they were historic structures.

    I think this song personifies these "Painted Ladies" (houses) and make a comparison to the way people purchase, use/misuse, and eventually abandon them to the way a sailor treats a prostitute. Notice the Painted Lady has "no name" and doesn't speak, "love's just a job and nothing is said".

    The first part of the song sets up the prostitution theme but it's the 4th verse that flips to the metaphor: "Forget us we'll have gone very soon. Just forget we ever slept in your rooms. And we'll leave the smell of the sea in your beds." Isn't it interesting that "rooms" and "beds" are plural? I think it's also a commentary that while they (house owner/sailor) eventually leave once they've had their way, they do leave a lasting mark.
    TexasTimon May 15, 2013   Link
  • 0
    General CommentI think besides the obvious meaning, this song is also about promiscuous women in general. The sailors are also analogies for men who come and go, where its not about love, and where she has no say because she feels she doesn't have an option when fighting loneliness.
    LilGrim1991on April 03, 2009   Link
  • 0
    General CommentFor the life of me!WHY? anyone as good looking,(and I am NOT gay!)ultra-cool and rich to boot,as BT should wind up as a misogynist,and pay tribute to prostitutes i really don,t know!.Well! it,s probably because he isn,t.No,what i think that he might be trying to do is express that:-What a shitter life can be for some people and just what they unfortunately, have to do to get through ( not their promiscuity!). But like Token-Brit mentions there is no small amount of ironic pathos in the song : that, it is told from the viewpoint of the emptiness of the sailors that seek this kind of ...(love!),that come and go!.Yet the biggest irony of all to me is ;if, one was to roll their eyes over the lyrics!! is the recurring line of bernie,s which expressly mentions that-"THERE,S A PLACE IN THE WORLD FOR A WOMAN LIKE YOU!!!.
    harmoneeon July 29, 2009   Link
  • 0
    My InterpretationI've listened to this song and I've noticed there's a second meaning besides the one everyone knows it for. Seeing as Bernie is a painter, this would actually make a lot of sense.

    I always thought that Sweet Painted Lady could also be about a woman who an artist paints on to canvas and how she's sold to buyers at auction houses. How the artist sells away what he/she has created.

    "Opportunity awaits me like a rat in the drain
    We're all hunting honey with money to burn
    Just a short time to show you the tricks that we've learned"

    Opportunity awaits the artist as they sell the painting and the buyers are all vying for it ("with money to burn").

    "If the boys all behave themselves here
    Well there's pretty young ladies and beer in the rear
    You won't need a gutter to sleep in tonight
    Oh the prices I charge here will see you alright"

    The "boys" could refer to the buyers at the auction house and their dodgy deals in the past. The pretty young ladies could be a metaphor for the paintings being sold. "You won't need a gutter to sleep in tonight" as in the painting won't have to be stored away in a gutter and can be sold. And the prices could be just that-- the prices the buyers pay.

    "So she lays down beside me again
    My sweet painted lady, the one with no name
    Many have used her and many still do
    There's a place in the world for a woman like you"

    "The one with no name" as in the painting doesn't have a name and the artist lays beside her as the painting is hung in his/her room. Many have used the canvas and many still continue to. And art is still around, so there's a place in the world for paintings.

    "Oh sweet painted lady
    Seems it's always been the same
    Getting paid for being laid (to paper in art)
    Guess that's the name of the game"

    The way paintings have sold have always been the same, always been sold to people in auction places, etc... The artist gets paid for painting the lady to a canvas and the buyers then buy it and "that's the name of the game".

    Anyways, my interpretation.
    auburnstaron February 09, 2013   Link
  • -1
    General CommentBernie Taupin's mysogonistic tribute to prostitution.

    Elton makes it sound good, but the lyrics make one roll their eyes.
    AntBMSUon May 24, 2005   Link

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