Uh thick cloud caught uh piper cubs tail
The match struck blue on uh railroad rail
The old puff horse was just pullin' through
'N uh' man wore uh peg leg forever

I'm on the bum where the hoboes run
The air breaks with filthy chatter
Oh I don't care there's no place there
I don't think it matters

My skin's blazin' through
'N my clothes in tatters
'N the railroad looks
Like uh "why" up the hill of ladders

One shoe fell on the gravel
One stick poked down
Gray of age fell down on uh pair of ears
An eagle shined through my hole watch pocket

Uh gingham girl baby girl
Passed me by in tears
Uh jack rabbit raised his folded ears
Uh beautiful sagebrush jack rabbit

'N an oriole sang like an orange
His breast full uh worms
'N his tail clawed the evenin' like uh hammer
His wings took t' air like uh bomber

'N my rain can caught me uh cup uh water
When I got into town
Odd jobs mam ah' yer horse I'll fodder
I'm the round house man

I once was yer father
Uh little up the road uh wooden
Candy stripe barber pole o
'N above it read uh sign "painless parker"

Licorice twisted around under uh fly
'N uh youngster cocked 'er eye
God before me if I'm not crazy
Is my daughter

Come little one with yer little
Ole dimpled fingers
Gimme one 'n I'll buy you uh cherry phosphate
Take you down t' the foamin' brine 'n water

'N show you the wooden tits
On the Goddess with the pole out full sail
That tempted away yer peg legged father
I was shanghied by uh high hat beaver mustache man

'N his pirate friend
I woke up in vomit 'n beer in uh banana bin
'N uh soft lass with brown skin
Bore me seven babies with snappin black eyes

'N beautiful ebony skin
'N here it is I'm with you my daughter
Thirty years away can make uh seaman's eyes
Uh round house man's eyes flow out water

Salt water

Lyrics submitted by Screwjack

"Orange Claw Hammer" as written by Don Van Vliet

Lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC

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Orange Claw Hammer song meanings
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  • +1
    General CommentA pirate/hobo rides a train and recollects the events that led to the conception of his daughter. He speaks with a "little one with little dimpled fingers" possibly meaning a young child, "give me one" means he wishes to lead her to the goddess, using the cherry phosphate as a bonus/bribe. The goddess is the boat that he was shanghaied on, where he met the soft lass with brown skin.
    "God before me if I'm not crazy, is my daughter" may mean that the "daughter" is just a young girl of the same or similar ethnicity of the soft lass with brown skin that reminds him of what his daughter could look like, but the 30 years would mean that his daughter would not be portrayed as a young girl, so perhaps the abstractness of the song is used to show that perhaps he is unstable, though good writing suggests using concrete, discrete language, and Beefheart definitely does in other songs like "well" and "the dust blows forward 'n the dust blows back"
    the fact that he found his daughter or a young girl that reminds him of his daughter brings saltwater tears to his eyes, once again referencing his life as a sailor.
    Perhaps the multiple references of being a father means he's in an ethnic area, and all of the women there remind him of his daughters, or could even be his daughters. Thoughts?
    nebraskanon October 06, 2010   Link
  • 0
    General CommentWow. This song is just an...experience to listen to.
    seasons of greyon May 28, 2006   Link
  • 0
    General CommentOld hobo coming home a generation after being shanghaied. Kind of a sad song. Not clear if the youngster is really his daughter or if he's just trying to pick her up and it's a weird fantasy. Makes a good companion piece to the lyrically far less complex Pixies song "Here Comes Your Man."

    Piper Cub: a small aircraft, used to be everywhere.

    Barber pole and Painless Parker: in the old West, it wasn't unusual for the dentist to be upstairs from the barber shop.

    High-hat beaver mustached man: manages to mix beaver hat with a beaver-like mustache.
    futatoriuson July 08, 2007   Link
  • 0
    General Commentit wasn't unusual for the barber to be a tooth puller. Guy coming home like this would be glad of a good tooth puller, i guess.
    i'm not sure if the 'gimme one' isn't really just a kiss from someone who might be his daughter.
    i love the jack rabbit, the 'sagebrush' jack rabbit.
    patchwork caton August 22, 2007   Link
  • 0
    General Comment"gimme one" is referring to the girl's "little dimpled fingers."
    bluegrassishon October 13, 2007   Link
  • 0
    General CommentPainless Parker at Wikipedia:

    Edgar R.R. "Painless" Parker (1871-1951) was a flamboyant street dentist and huckster. He attended Philadelphia Dental College which would become Temple University dental school, and began his practice as a street dentist in New York City. He went on to manage a combination traveling circus/dental clinic, promoting "painless dentistry". At one point he claimed to have pulled 357 teeth in one day, which he strung on a necklace. He legally changed his first name to "Painless", when he was accused of breaking a false advertisement law by claiming that his dentistry was truly painless. In the end, Parker ran about 30 West Coast dental offices, employing over 70 dentists, and grossing $3 million per year.

    Parker is mentioned in the song 'Orange Claw Hammer', by musician and poet Don Van Vliet.
    dankittion July 19, 2011   Link
  • 0
    General CommentThis poem by Beefheart is a reminiscence by an old hobo who once was a sailor before the mast, and is now a railroad-wandering hobo. The "wooden tits on the goddess" refers to a ship's figurehead under its bowsprit.
    Montebelloon May 20, 2013   Link

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