The barons of the industry put inspiration on Hitler’s tongue
Then the century crashed hard with a loud sound like a starting gun
It’s a race for acquisition and to make more things that glow
I’ve got a knack for dodging bullets and flying zeroes
So I act like I am rich, try and make it my whole look
Because poor people don’t exist when times are good

Mozart’s foster parents put cigarettes out in his ears
When he got old enough to stutter, he said, “I don’t listen but I-I-I, I can hear”
The eloquence of traffic, yeah, the mill pond’s sad lament
It’s a requiem of moments, I keep living through them
But where is the monster in the closet? I can’t find the hangman inside his hood
I guess evil don’t exist when times are good

Doctor Oppenheimer winced when he felt the broken piece of his pacemaker
Unbuttoned his shirt on a subway platform, clutching his chest while his vision blurred
He saw the bane of his creation. The destroyer of the world
Yeah, truth can lead to solace or a lifelong bender
It’s like wading through a wasteland where a town you loved once stood
You just cry each time you think of when times were good

Napoleon’s tailor dressed him in a giant hat and funny platform shoes
He said, “Anyone can be a hero, you just got to force people to look up to you”
So when you’re talking on the hotline to a suicidal soul
Don’t let your voice sound like hot coffee, more like a scented pillow
And strive for understanding over being understood

Just don’t let yourself forget when the times get good
When times get good
When times get good


Lyrics submitted by benk0202

Napoleon's Hat song meanings
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  • +1
    General Commentfirst of all, the verse about the baron's of industry is about the capitalists who caused WWI (the alliances in the war were based on debts owed between counties), and thus WWII (the huge debts placed on the Weimar Republic allowed for the rise of Hitler), which would fit the flying zeros, even though i think the line is an economic reference.

    the mozart verse, i invite anyone else to give it a try, since mine is complete speculation. the verse is about any child who is abused as a source of income and thus loses their childhood innocence. sort of like how michael jackson is so creepy now because he was famous at such a young age.

    The Doctor Oppenheimer is indeed Robert Oppenheimer, "the father of the atomic bomb." Most telling is when he visited Japan he was asked whether he felt guilty, he replied, "It's not that I don't feel bad about it. It's just that I don't feel worse today than what I felt yesterday." Like Einstein, he was against the further use of the bomb and the arms race.

    The Napoleon verse seems pretty self explanatory, i mean, how else would a diminutive Italian could become the most revered Emperor of France.
    kill-in-tonson September 07, 2006   Link
  • +1
    General CommentI think most of this song is a reference to WWII. He talks of industry and power as inspiration for Hilter to try and take over the world. Then he talks about a race for "acquisition" and "things that glow". This strikes me as an allusion to the nuclear arms race and space race between the United States and Russia during the cold war following WWII.

    Dodging bullets and flying zeroes also fits with WWII. Zeroes were planes flown by the Japenese during the war.

    When he talks about acting like you're rich at the end of the first verse it seems like he means if people think you are poor you will basically be nothing to them, you won't exist - so you should act like you're not.

    I don't have much to say about the second verse but the third verse begins by mentioning Oppenheimer, the creator of the Atomic Bomb and thus essentially the ender of WWII, though at a great cost. I think Oberst is talking about Oppenheimer's death and saying at the end of his life maybe he realized what destruction he had caused - "the bane of his creation".

    I don't think the line "wading through a wasteland where the town you loved once stood" is about New Orleans. I think he meant it to be about Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The two Japanese cities reduced to "wastelands" after the atomic bomb was dropped on them.

    lastly I wanted to comment on the Napoleon line, I do think Oberst meant this to be about Napoleon Bonaparte. Though there is some evidence that Napoleon was actually normal height, his recorded height is 5'2" which has led most to believe he was a very small man. This is where the phrase "napoleon complex" comes from, used to describe someone who overcompensates in some aspects of their lives to make up for their height.

    Anyway, my writing was probably terrible but I hope at least somewhat understandable.
    klarebear12on June 15, 2008   Link
  • 0
    General CommentWhen I saw that Saddle Creek had created an entire CD dedicated to helping those victimized by Hurricane Katrina, I was so moved and, at the same time, excited. "Napoleon's Hat" is, in my opinion, by far the best song on the album. 100% of the proceeds of buying this disc go to those affected, and I think it's great Conor supported this cause.

    I didn't realize this at first, but the song does comment on the actual situation the song was written FOR. "It’s like wading through a wasteland where a town you loved once stood. You just cry each time you think of when times were good." It's so unbelievable; I can't imagine what that may be like.

    However, there is a simple correction in these lyrics. He says, "So I act like I am rich. Try and make it my WHOLE look ‘cause poor people don’t exist when times are good." He's saying that he tries to pull off looking wealthy because it's this kind of person that experiences really good times.

    I particularly love the Mozart line--does anyone know if it is actually true?

    Finally, I think the unknown line in the third verse starts with, "Doctor, I've been..." but I can't figure out what else he says. Any ideas?
    thetownbutcheron September 19, 2005   Link
  • 0
    General CommentThis song is very beautiful and moving.

    Stating the obvious, I know, but Napoleon is Napoleon Bonaparte whose role in the Louisiana Purchase played a major part in the history of New Orleans. He was said to be very short, hence the platform shoes.

    I've listened to the first line of the third verse, and the closest I can get is: "Doctor Oppenheimer winced, he felt the broken piece of his pacemaker"

    I know the Doctor Oppenheimer part is correct, I just don't know what comes after that. Maybe once someone gets the actual cd, the jacket will have the lyrics.
    sigvenon September 19, 2005   Link
  • 0
    General Comment"I guess people don’t exist when times are good." should actually be "I guess EVIL don't exist when times are good."
    girlslamenton September 20, 2005   Link
  • 0
    General CommentI believe Conor does in fact say "Doctor Oppenheimer."...and I don't think Oberst is referring to Hurricane Katrina in that verse. Although, that's what the COMP is dedicated to, I think he's referring to Rob Oppenheimers creation of the Atomic Bomb and the destruction it caused. This is why Conor says "he saw the bane of his creation, the destroyer of the world"; once the bomb detonates you could basically call where it hit a "wasteland" 'cause nothing survives.
    BrightEyes4uson September 20, 2005   Link
  • 0
    General CommentEdited.
    benk0202on September 25, 2005   Link
  • 0
    General CommentThis whole song is eye opening, for the hurricain and also regular life.

    "It’s like wading through a wasteland where a town you loved once stood. You just cry each time you think of when times were good."

    "And strive for understanding over being understood"

    Money well spent is all I can say.
    LunaFlyon October 04, 2005   Link
  • 0
    General CommentI am pretty sure that Conor wrote this song before the Hurricane, but it is weird how coincidental it is.
    _smogalerton December 12, 2005   Link
  • 0
    General Comment"got a knack for dodging bullets and flying zeros.."

    flying zeros.. what's this a reference to?
    .partly.cloudy.on December 20, 2005   Link

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