"Birdland" as written by and Richard A Sohl Patti Smith....
His father died and left him a little farm in New England.
All the long black funeral cars left the scene
And the boy was just standing there alone
Looking at the shiny red tractor
Him and his daddy used to sit inside
And circle the blue fields and grease the night.
It was if someone had spread butter on all the fine points of the stars
'Cause when he looked up they started to slip.
Then he put his head in the crux of his arm
And he started to drift, drift to the belly of a ship,
Let the ship slide open, and he went inside of it
And saw his daddy 'hind the control board streamin' beads of light,
He saw his daddy 'hind the control board,
And he was very different tonight
'Cause he was not human, he was not human.

Little boy's face lit up with such naked joy
That the sun burned around his lids and his eyes were like two suns,
White lids, white opals, seeing everything just a little bit too clearly
And he looked around and there was no black ship in sight,
No black funeral cars, nothing except for him, the raven
And fell on his knees and looked up and cried out,
No, daddy, don't leave me here alone,
Take me up, daddy, to the belly of your ship,
Let the ship slide open and I'll go inside of it
Where you're not human, you are not human.

But nobody heard the boy's cry of alarm.
Nobody there 'cept for the birds around the New England farm
And they gathered in all directions, like roses they scattered
And they were like compass grass coming together into the head of a shaman bouquet
Slit in his nose and all the others went shooting
And he saw the lights of traffic beckoning like the hands of Blake
Grabbing at his cheeks, taking out his neck,
All his limbs, everything was twisted and he said,
I won't give up, won't give up, don't let me give up,
I won't give up, come here, let me go up fast,
Take me up quick, take me up, up to the belly of a ship
And the ship slides open and I go inside of it, where I am not human.

I am helium raven and this movie is mine,
So he cried out as he stretched the sky,
Pushing it all out like latex cartoon, am I all alone in this generation?
We'll just be dreaming of animation night and day
And won't let up, won't let up and I see them coming in,
Oh, I couldn't hear them before, but I hear 'em now,
It's a radar scope in all silver and all platinum lights
Moving in like black ships, they were moving in, streams of them,
And he put up his hands and he said, "It's me, it's me,
I'll give you my eyes, take me up, oh now please take me up,
I'm helium raven waitin' for you, please take me up,
Don't leave me here!"
The sun, the sign, the cross,
Like the shape of a tortured woman, the true shape of a tortured woman,
The mother standing in the doorway letting her sons
No longer presidents but prophets
They're all dreaming they're gonna bear the prophet,
He's gonna run through the fields dreaming in animation
It's all gonna split his skull
It's gonna come out like a black bouquet shining
Like a fist that's gonna shoot them up
Like light, like Mohamed Boxer
Take them up up up up up up
Oh, let's go up, up, take me up, I'll go up,
I'm going up, I'm going up
Take me up, I'm going up, I'll go up there
Go up go up go up go up up up up up up up
Up, up to the belly of a ship.
Let the ship slide open and we'll go inside of it
Where we are not human, we're not human.

Well, there was sand, there were tiles,
The sun had melted the sand and it coagulated
Like a river of glass
When it hardened he looked at the surface
He saw his face
And where there were eyes were just two white opals, two white opals,
Where there were eyes there were just two white opals
And he looked up and the rays shot
And he saw, raven comin' in
And he crawled on his back and he went up
Up up up up up up
Sha da do wop, da shaman do way, sha da do wop, da shaman do way,
Sha da do wop, da shaman do way, sha da do wop, da shaman do way,
Sha da do wop, da shaman do way,
We like Birdland.


Lyrics submitted by maggotbrain, edited by schwink

"Birdland" as written by Richard A Sohl Patti Smith

Lyrics © Universal Music Publishing Group, BMG RIGHTS MANAGEMENT US, LLC

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Birdland song meanings
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14 Comments

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  • +2
    General CommentThis song is based on a book called "A Book of Dreams" which is the memoirs of Peter Reich. Peter was the son of Wilhelm Reich, a contraversial psychiatrist and inventor who, in 1947, was imprisoned for his work and a year later died of heart failure while serving his sentence. The moment described in the song comes after the death of Peter's father, and some of the elements are actually in the book; such as Peter seeing his father come down in a UFO. It's a fascinating book.

    One other interesting point: this is not the only song based on "A Book of Dreams" Kate Bush also wrote a song about Peter and Wilhelm Reich called "Cloudbusting."
    GarryNovikoffon September 03, 2008   Link
  • +1
    General CommentThis song is about her son coping with his father's death. In order to come to terms with it, he imagines his father leaving earth in a spaceship, and wants to go with him instead of being left behind on earth.
    Acephalouson December 27, 2005   Link
  • +1
    General CommentEven though we know Peter and Wilhelm Reich were the inspiration and purpose of this song, it still has powerful imagery for those of us who did not have our father. Especially those of us who believe our fathers were misunderstood and bohemian in their social marginalism. The whole album is rare in its brilliance and depth. For me, relationships and broken relationships through extraordinary circumstances experienced by a child run through it.
    frazitexon March 30, 2013   Link
  • +1
    General CommentAbsolutely mind blowing... the grieving process writ large.
    AlexanderDumbasson April 04, 2015   Link
  • 0
    General CommentIt isn't about her son. Patti Smith married Fred "Sonic" Smith in 1980, and had a son in 1982. Fred died in 1994. Horses, the album this song is from, was released in 1975, five years before she even got married.
    Gilgameshon November 02, 2006   Link
  • 0
    General Commentthis song is so epic. and should have more comments.
    g0wthefl0won December 22, 2007   Link
  • 0
    General CommentThe guitar and distortion towards the climax of the song are nothing less than masterstrokes. What a fucking good record.
    butterboyon May 04, 2008   Link
  • 0
    General CommentI really like the way she keeps coming back to the line about the ship sliding open. You really feel the son's sadness, like the song is him talking and crying to himself, obsessed with this idea of being reunited with his dad, and he's just repeating the same things over and over to himself the way people do when they're crying. Well that was an unnecessarily long sentence.

    Note that I don't mean to disagree with GarryNovikoff's post about the song being about "A Book of Dreams". I've never heard of this book, but anything that so closely aligns with the lyrics is almost certainly the inspiration for the song. But of course, songs can have multiple meanings.
    kinkedmooseon December 06, 2008   Link
  • 0
    General CommentFor some reason I connect the lyrics of this song with Richard Hell's childhood in Kentucky. It's ridiculous, I know, but Hell's dad died when he was kid, and I think he was pretty devastated by that. It also reminds me slightly of some of Arthur Rimbaud's poems, his descriptions of childhood alienation, the feelings of guilt and the knowledge of being different. If you can understand that feeling, than it's easy to imagine wanting the sky to swallow you up, to lose yourself in the void of space because you are 'not human.'
    NellieWhiskeyon March 08, 2009   Link
  • 0
    General CommentIn 1975 Patti said this about this song:
    “The French let Jean Jaures out of prison but the Americans left Wilhelm Reich to die in his so everyday his little son Peter would go looking for his dad & hoped that he would come down & come & get him in a big black U.F.O - O-O-O .. “.

    So it's indeed about Wilhem Reich and its son.

    I think Distant Fingers was also.
    Reinton December 30, 2009   Link

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