"On the Bus Mall" as written by and Colin Meloy....
In matching blue raincoats,
Our shoes were our show boats
We kicked around.
From stairway to station
We made a sensation
With the gadabout crowd.
And oh, what a bargain,
We're two easy targets
For the old men at the off-tracks,
Who've paid in palaver
And crumpled old dollars,
Which we squirreled away
In our rat trap hotel by the freeway.
And we slept-in Sundays.

Your parents were anxious,
Your cool was contagious
At the old school.
You left without leaving
A note for your grieving
Sweet mother, while
Your brother was so cruel.
And here in the alleys
Your spirits were rallied
As you learned quick to make a fast buck.
In bathrooms and barrooms,
On dumpsters and heirlooms,
We bit our tongues.
Sucked our lips into our lungs
'Til we were falling.
Such was our calling.

And here in our hollow we fuse like a family,
But I will not mourn for you.
So take up your makeup
And pocket your pills away.
We're kings among runaways
On the bus mall.
We're down
On the bus mall.

Among all the urchins and old Chinese merchants
Of the old town,
We reigned at the pool hall
With one iron cue ball
And we never let the bastards get us down.
And we laughed off the quick tricks--
The old men with limp dicks--
On the colonnades of the waterfront park.
As 4 in the morning came on, cold and boring,
We huddled close
In the bus stop enclosure enfolding.
Our hands tightly holding.

But here in our hollow we fuse like a family,
But I will not mourn for you.
So take up your makeup
And pocket your pills away.
We're kings among runaways
On the bus mall.
We're down
On the bus mall.
We're down
On the bus mall.
Down on the bus mall.
Oh oh oh


Lyrics submitted by EyesSoBright, edited by thendofthetour

"On the Bus Mall" as written by Colin Meloy

Lyrics © BMG RIGHTS MANAGEMENT US, LLC

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On the Bus Mall song meanings
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  • +3
    General CommentI love this song so I have to be anal and make some corrections. Sorry.

    "our shoes were our showboats"
    "we made a sensation with the gadabout crowd"
    "we're two easy targets"
    "who paid in palaver"
    "your parents were anxious" i think
    "one iron que ball"
    "and we laughed off the quick tricks"
    "the colonnades"
    Imposs1bleon January 24, 2005   Link
  • +2
    General CommentOK - just going to interject here!

    WHY IS EVERYONE SO PREOCCUPIED WITH WHETHER THE CHARACTERS ARE MALE OR FEMALE??

    THAT
    IS
    NOT
    THE
    POINT
    OF
    THE
    SONG.

    Alright - yes, the song is obviously about two youths (My first impression was that they were male, but again, it really doesnt matter,) who run away from home and learn how to live on the streets by turning tricks (aka prostitution.)

    However, that's just the surface.

    There are more subtle points to this song - such lovely things. Like how the two have a bond between them... They're in it together, there is love there (whether that goes onto romantic/sexual love DOESNT MATTER EITHER.) It's the partnership, the companion ship - they are all eachother has in the entire world! "...we huddled close... in the bus stop enclosure enfolding.... our hands tightly holding..."
    That's the most important part of the song. The two of them turn tricks and do whatever they can to survive.. then at that moment they realize that all they really have is eachother. It's beautiful.
    kaotic73on April 10, 2012   Link
  • +1
    General CommentThe Decemberists are from Portland. There is a bus mall in Portland, which is is where, on 5th Ave and 6th Ave between SW Jefferson St and NW Irving St, public transport runs constantly and for free. The male prostitutes in this song are not travelling, so much as whoring around by using the free part of the public transit system to get around.
    joelsephon November 05, 2005   Link
  • +1
    General Commentoh yes and the line " we'll fuse like a family" meaning that they will finally start acting like a family. and "we'll sleep in on sundays" just makes me think of families.
    chikadee747on September 22, 2007   Link
  • +1
    General CommentAlright, so, I'm not here to argue whether or not the characters in this song are gay prostitutes, runaway lovers, or whatever - I just want to make an observation.

    Has anybody else recognized glaring references to Margaret Atwood's novel "The Handmaid's Tale"? Before I read about the song being about prostitution and trying to make a living, I could always realize similarities. In the second verse, all the women of Gilead are "easy targets" because they're used simply for their ability to bear children. It turns out that the "old men," as are later mentioned as having "limp dicks," of the society are the infertile ones. For the fourth verse, one of the main characters, Moira, turns out to be a bit of a promiscuous woman, who escapes Gilead in order to "make a quick buck." All the other women in the society, Handmaids, Aunts and Wives, bite their tongues and don't acknowledge Moira's rebellious backlash, hence the "sucked our lips into our lungs."

    The chorus really solidifies the parallels with the book. Gilead is in essence a "hovel" and the Handmaids certainly do "fuse like a family" in order to make life livable. They are refused access to makeup ("take up your make-up") and many save their vitamins, as well as other items, for safekeeping or later use ("pocket your pills away"). Although the end of the chorus clearly mentions males, "kings among runaways," I almost see it as the Commanders speaking - they DO feel and act like kings among this "gadabout crowd" of ready-to-bear women.

    The portion about "old Chinese merchants" can be seen as a reference to the shopping trips that the women must make everyday - they are surrounded by Chinese/oriental individuals, both salesmen and tourists. "We never let the bastards get us down" is almost the exact phrase that the main character, Offred, finds chiseled into her room's floor - "Nolite te bastardes carborundorum." Although the phrase is very comical and incorrect Latin, it translates to the lyric in the song. Finally, the Commanders' infertility grows into a big joke among the Handmaids, hence them "laugh[ing] off the quick tricks and the old men with limp dicks..."

    Anyway, now that I've chewed your ears off, I'm finished haha. Nonetheless, On the Bus Mall is one of my all-time favorite Decemberists songs. It's really beautiful.
    OKRadiohead97on June 26, 2008   Link
  • +1
    General CommentI always took the line, "I will not mourn for you", to be related to the way the one boy's family felt about him. His mother was "grieving" for him, either because he'd come out, or because he'd run away from home.

    The narrator is also family, but doesn't condemn him.
    CatAtomic99on January 14, 2010   Link
  • +1
    Lyric CorrectionThis song's been mostly scrubbed down, but one important lyrics correction left:

    We bit our tongues / Sucked our lips into our lungs / Because we were falling
    is actually
    We bit our tongues / Sucked our lips into our lungs / 'Til we were falling

    (It's definitely not "because," nor "and," no matter how I try to hear the syllable that way.)

    To be really direct here, performing oral sex on a man usually involves covering your lips with your teeth, and doing it in an enthusiastic fashion (as a professional must) can cut off your air long enough that you get dizzy. This lyric is both a poetic description and an accurate one.

    Biting one's tongue is not usually part of the process, but that seems more figurative to me, as in swallowing one's pride before doing something demeaning. [I do not consider either oral sex or even professional sex to be *necessarily* demeaning, but the people in this song are not in a good situation.]
    gementon September 27, 2010   Link
  • 0
    General Commentwhat you said ^

    sweet, this song is amazing.
    odalisqueon January 24, 2005   Link
  • 0
    General CommentThanks for the corrections, I almost regret posting these lyrics. I was very excited to just hear it, and nobody had posted the lyrics yet, so I thought I would give it a try. Normally, I know the differenct between too and two, it was just the excitement...I swear.

    I'll edit it as needed, thanks!
    EyesSoBrighton January 25, 2005   Link
  • 0
    General CommentHey Eyes, I wasn't getting on your case or anything, I think it's great you took a chance and posted the lyrics, don't regret it. Just thought I could provide some insight.
    Imposs1bleon January 29, 2005   Link

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