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Motion Pictures song meanings
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  • +2
    General CommentOne of the most depressing songs I've heard...though not unusual for Neil. The key element here is Neil, in the first verse, establishes himself as the "unreliable narrator." From even this early point, we do not believe Neil. He seems to be assuring himself, rather than us.
    "but I hear some people have got their dreams...(pause, quick instrumental) I've got mine." This hesitation conveys Neil's helplessness--he knows he may not have dreams.

    The second verse demonstrates Neil's characterization. He discusses nature, then concluding, "yes, I've got mine." His dreams are simply not to have any. Appropriately titled, "Motion Pictures," he deviates from the standard of dreams--fame, success, wealth--often associated with Motion Pictures. Neil just wants a simple life, living in peace, without the fabricated glamour of fame.
    Shakey_Oneon February 11, 2006   Link
  • +1
    My InterpretationI have a somewhat different interpretation to what most people seem to be getting out of this song. Its a song about him being on the road and being a traveling entertainer. The people hes speaking of when he says he wouldn't trade places with hes talking about the people who are in the mountains/plains. He understands that he cant become that person without starting again from birth and forgetting everything hes learned about the world due to his unique perspective. he IS the motion picture to them, and they are the motion picture to him.
    He admits that being on the road bores him, but the motion picture he creates for the people in the mountains brings them happiness and in turn creates a situation that he cannot run from or "shut off" unless he were to start all over again.
    lyricaln00bon April 12, 2018   Link
  • 0
    General Commenti agree with part of your interpretation. i disagree with the fact that you call it depressing. although at first i thought it was about neil wanting a simple life and abandoning the glamorous one but then taking a bitter turn and staying in the "motion picture" world, i now don't think so. he mentions motion pictures as a home away from home which "brings smiles to eyes" (in the last verse he is regarding to a motion picture of himself). well the original motion picture brings smiles to people's eyes but has a hidden purpose which is glamour and greed. at the end, instead of running away from this world, neil instead decides to take it head on, fighting it with its own style. while on the outside he is making himself seem "pretty" to the motion picture world, he is actually destroying it as a hidden purpose. that is his motion picture
    KTBon May 24, 2006   Link
  • 0
    General Commentbadge I think you misread his lyric:

    "Well all those people, they think they've got it made
    but I wouldn't buy, sell, borrow, or trade
    anything I have to be like one of them
    I'd rather start all over again"

    I believe he's referring to movie stars/rock stars who think they have it all just because they're rich. He's saying he wouldn't buy sell borrow or trade anything he has (his memories, amazing music, experience, knowledge, love, hate, etc.) to be like one of those materialistic celebrities (in the spotlight, popular). Some people would like to be like them but he doesn't, and that's his point.

    Also I might add I believe this song was directed at Carrie Snodgress, his wife at the time.

    Shakey, I think you got some of it right but I don't think Neil is as unreliable as you think. The pause before "I've got mine" isn't hesitation.. I think it symbolizes him digressing and thinking happy thoughts in his mind (about the mountains) for a bit before he says the "I've got mine". I think it's lyrically/musically genius.

    And then the second verse he describes his dream (nature it seems) and then reminds himself that yes, he does have his own dreams.

    This song has always sounded like one of Neil's happiest in my opinion, not depressing. His lyrics and tone seem more hopeful than anything.
    hammy02on December 27, 2008   Link
  • 0
    General Commentheadlines, as opposed to headlights
    TheWrongGirlon February 21, 2011   Link
  • 0
    General Commenti think this song is very melancholy and depressing... yet never without a most important sense of hope underneath, and deep within.
    something like bittersweet, perhaps.
    TheWrongGirlon February 21, 2011   Link
  • 0
    General CommentReally good song... think it's about life being kind of boring
    DJgifon April 16, 2012   Link
  • 0
    My InterpretationThe meaning here is somewhat similar to the title track of the album. In that song, Young remarks that even though he lives a life of fame and success, "those seagulls are still out of reach" - he still hasn't found satisfaction. And in "Motion Pictures", he says that he'd rather "start all over again" than exist as a movie star leading a illustrious but meaningless life.

    And yes, "headlines" is much more suitable than "headlights", considering that the subject matter: movies, celebrities, and fame.
    Dionysuson December 20, 2013   Link
  • -3
    General CommentHow can you buy/borrow anything you have? Unless, of course, you have a severe split-personality disorder....Neil Young doesn't....he should have left it at "anything..." other than this, c'est une chanson magnifique!
    badgeon July 24, 2007   Link

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