And then the past recedes
And I won't be involved
The effort to be free
Seems pointless from above
You're looking down at me
I'd rather stay below
Than have you staring up at me
There's nowhere I want to go
Ay, this business of how long we try to stay alive
Why to be here you first got to die
So I gave it a try
And what do you know
Time was so long ago
And things come back you see
To where they don't belong
And every drop of sea is the whole ocean
I lied to the greatest thieves
About anything and everything
I'm a figure of forgotten speech
I'm out of reach
I can't play it safe
But I might just in case
I'm disguised as a reaching hand
I'm a working man
I don't understand why clockout
Comes so slow every time
That's one line I stay right behind
Yeah


Lyrics submitted by owenparry26

The Past Recedes song meanings
Add your thoughts

31 Comments

sort form View by:
  • +2
    General CommentIn my opinion, this song is about John leaving the Red Hot Chili Peppers, and his history with the band.

    "And then the past recedes
    And I won't be involved
    The effort to be free
    Seems pointless from above"

    The past recedes, his past with the band has receded. When he was really addicted to heroin and cocaine, he often got in fights with Anthony and the band. He would mess up purposely on shows, as he didn't like how famous they were becoming. And I won't be involved: He literally won't be involved with the band anymore. The last two lines are kinda hard. Maybe he's thinking about how he wanted to be free from the band at that drugged out time in his life, and now looking back, or looking above, he sees it as pointless.

    You're looking down at me
    I'd rather stay below
    Than have you staring up at me
    There's nowhere I want to go

    I think these lines can be attributed to John's desire not to be famous. He left the band for the second time, on good terms, but because he wanted to pursue different paths and wasn't really comfortable around all the fame they were getting. So he says "You're looking down on me, I'd rather stay below". Than have you looking up at me" He'd rather stay below, as an audience member (not literally). He doesn't want them looking up at him, he doesn't like the fame. "There's nowhere I want to go", I guess he doesn't want to go anywhere with the band now?

    "Ay, this business of how long we try to stay alive
    Why to be here you first got to die
    So I gave it a try
    And what do you know
    Time was so long ago
    And things come back you see
    To where they don't belong"

    To me, these lines chronicle John's drug use. You have to "die" to go on later in live, and come to peace with yourself, according to these lyrics. John "died" when he started getting addicted to heroin and other drugs. I guess, looking back, he knows it was pretty much death. He says that time was so long ago, and how things come back. In my opinion, it's about how his drug addiction can come back to haunt him. Things come back to where they shouldn't be. I dunno if he went into relapse after he got clean, but if so this could possibly be talking about this. Or maybe he still feels the shame of his addiction years later.
    fcbman15on June 17, 2013   Link
  • +1
    General CommentHave any of you guys seen the video for this? It pretty much kicks madonna right in the nuts
    graham beanoon July 30, 2005   Link
  • +1
    General Comment100% agree with Relapser. ESPECIALLY on this song :)
    mayxivon October 27, 2006   Link
  • +1
    General CommentI agree with Zephyr47. This was the first John Frusciante solo song I heard, and I was just happy out of my mind the rest of that day:)
    Venice_Queenon May 19, 2007   Link
  • +1
    General Commenti'm disappointed that no one takes the time to crack open a dictionnary when they don't understand words like recede...
    the song says quite the opposite, the character is more comfortable living in the past than breaking free from it... the character doesn't want to make that effort because then there's nothing to hold on to..
    ultimatejerkon September 18, 2007   Link
  • +1
    My InterpretationIt's about his life, and how he doesn't and didn't intend to be famous or anything like that at all.

    'You're looking down at me
    I'd rather stay below
    Than have you staring up at me
    There's nowhere i want to go'

    --In his interviews he said he never intended to get popular.
    To me he is one of the most humble musicians ever.

    'Ay, this business of how long we try to stay alive
    Why to be here you first got to die
    So I gave it a try
    And what do you know
    Time was so long ago'

    --He reflects upon his drug addiction and how he now sees things in a different light and embraces things in a different way. He was pretty much dead when he was addicted to drugs.

    'I can't play it safe
    But I might just in case'

    --Refering back to his drug addiction and how it might be a better idea to stay off drugs.
    timf08on June 17, 2009   Link
  • +1
    General CommentI love songs that have lines that embrace opposites...

    "I can't play it safe, but I might just in case"

    The overall tone of this song is very upbeat from the get-go, but there is something else...maybe a bit of experience? not necessarily in the guitar playing, obviously john frusciante is very experienced in that, but in life?

    the "voice" of this song sounds like it is coming from someone who is full of life experience and is pondering the everyday struggles that we all go through. remembering mistakes in the past, wishing for them to go away, and then finally realizing that you have to move on and can't dwell in the past.

    "And things come back you see, to where they don't belong"

    the best part of the song in my opinion is the closing verse

    "I'm disguised as a reaching hand, I'm a working man,
    I don't understand why clockout comes so slow, everytime
    that's one line I stay right behind"

    The simple acknowledgement that there is never enough time to do what you want in life but always enough time to work...brilliant
    FarEastKonaBlendon August 16, 2009   Link
  • 0
    General CommentI put that "yea" in at the end because I think it might be the most exciting point of the whole song, I don't really know where to start when describing what I like about it though.

    Very complex song to say the least, in my opinion. Sorry, having trouble coming up with anything provacative to say here - it would be nice to eventually get a grasp on the songs meaning though.
    owenparry26on April 04, 2005   Link
  • 0
    General CommentI agree with you guys. What I don't get though, is figuring out who "you" is? Is it the past itself, the "risk" (as in drawing it up as a person), or simply just a pal whom he speaks to(in that case, what does he imply with: "Seems pointless from above. You're looking down at me....")?

    Needless to say; this song rocks. I can't stop listening to it :) I am really happy that musicians still can make these kind of contribtions to help keep music alive. I am getting worried about the future of music with all that crap on the tv/radio...

    Btw, has any1 figured the solo out? :)
    tarekon July 17, 2005   Link
  • 0
    General Commenti think its about when the past disappears or goes away, he doesn't want to be a part of it and hes happy where he is.
    zephyr47on September 07, 2005   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