When she wears her bolero then she begin t’ dance
All the pachucos start withold’n hands
When she drives her Chevy Sissy’s don’t dare t’ glance
Yellow jackets ‘n red debbles buzzin’ round ‘er hair hive ho
She wears her past like uh present
Take her fancy in the past
Her sedan skims along the floorboard
Her two pipes hummin’ carbon cum
Got her wheel out of uh B-29 Bomber brodey knob amber
Spanish fringe ‘n talcum tazzles FOREVER AMBER
She looks like an old squaw indian
she’s 99 she won’t go down
Avocado green ‘n alfalfa yellow adorn her t’ the ground
Tatooes ‘n tarnished utenzles uh snow white bag full o’ tunes
Drives uh cartune around
Broma’ seltzer blue umbrella keeps her up off the ground
Round red sombreros wrap ‘er high tap horsey shoes
When she unfolds her umbrella pachucos got the blues
Her lovin’ makes me so happy
If I smiled I’d crack m’ chin
Her eyes are so peaceful thinks it’s heaven she been
Her skin is as smooth as the daisies
In the center where the sun shines in
Smiles as sweet as honey
Her teeth as clean as the combs where the bees go in
When she walks flowers surround her
Let their nectar come in to the air around her
She loves her love sticks out like stars
Her lovin’ sticks out like stars

Lyrics submitted by Screwjack

Pachuco Cadaver song meanings
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  • +6
    General CommentI'm a man obsessed .. here are more thoughts:

    the car is named FOREVER AMBER - the pachucos would name their cars

    "she looks like an ol squaw indian
    she's 99 she won't go down" - this is describing the car itself, all done up in gaudy colors like an old squaw; he then goes on to say she's 99 - being playful here, he is likely referring to Highway 99, which ran through Mexico to California all the way up to Washington - it was decommissioned in the 60's; "she won't go down" is a play on words and has several meanings:

    1. a 99-year-old squaw would certainly not "go down" - Beefheart being a little naughty here
    2. the car itself is "hopping" on it's hydraulic system .. not ready to just "go down" and cruise low until after the peacock strutting at the car show is over (this also explains the line about the pachucos getting the blues when the umbrella is folded - that would mean the hopping is over, show's over)
    3. Highway 99 was around for years and years; it began getting phased out in '64 but it took a long time before it was final - that Highway did not want to go down

    the flowers may be actual flowers decorating part of the car, or flowers on the street itself - where the cars were slowly cruising during a lowrider parade - I saw a few pictures where flowers were littering the streets of the car parade

    It's a cadaver because the pachucos would take a car and basically rework it and finish it from the ground up - make the original car 'cadaver' into something beautiful and expressive
    Hawkeye2008on August 15, 2008   Link
  • +2
    General CommentThanks futatorius! Good info. Now, I've gone back and looked at this with new eyes.

    I think she's an older woman, and the car makes her feel young again. Yellow jackets and "red debbles" are the pachucos .. they're wearing yellow jackets and red devil jackets, and of course she's sporting the bee hive hair do. So, they're buzzing around her for the car, like they used to buzz around her in her youth.

    "tattoes and tarnished utenzles", "snow white bag full o tunes" may be referring to the woman, and is another line that suggests she's in her later years.

    One line really intrigues me:

    "Her lovin makes me so happy
    if I smiled I'd crack m' chin"

    I now think this may be the car's perspective, describing how he loves her energy and the great care she gives to the it (the car). Of course, if the front part of a car tried to actually smile, the front fender would crack!

    The rest of the poem may be describing the woman .. or the car .. or both! What do you think?

    Skin as smooth as daisies and teeth as clean as combs (i.e. a well kept front grill) could easily describe the car. Still, I think the word cadaver has meaning .. Beefheart could just be referring to her very old age, or it could go deeper ...
    Hawkeye2008on August 09, 2008   Link
  • +1
    General CommentAnother thought is that the car itself is the cadaver and could be a float of some kind, maybe in a street parade. "When she walks, flowers surround her" is what made me think of that.

    The blue umbrella that keeps her up off the ground could be the undercarriage. The round red sombreros could be the lug nuts on the tires - which are the high tap horsey shoes.

    "skin as smooth as the daisies, in the center where the sun shines in" - the windshield
    Hawkeye2008on August 15, 2008   Link
  • +1
    General CommentI just did some reading on low rider culture, originating in SoCal in the 50's, and here are final thoughts:

    "She wears her past like uh present,
    takes her fancy in the past" is indeed about the car itself. There is a culture there, and much work was done on the car over time - with visible results to the other pachucos in the barrios.

    Tattoos - the car is elaborately designed, tattooed if you will. The undercarriage is painted a bright broma seltzer blue and has a hydraulic system for lowering.

    "When she walks flowers surround her" - this may refer to the rear of the car being so low to the ground that sparks are flying - not uncommon. The sparks are the flowers and would indeed give off a scent.

    "Her lovin sticks out like stars" - Self explanatory at this point, but since I've come this far .. all the work that went into the car was a labor of love - and it shows brightly and beautifully for all to see ... like stars.
    Hawkeye2008on August 15, 2008   Link
  • +1
    General Commentsnow white bag full o tunes may also refer to a white sound system installed in the front or back - very common
    Hawkeye2008on August 15, 2008   Link
  • 0
    General Commentabsolutely genius
    ikefoxon June 26, 2007   Link
  • 0
    General CommentI love this song!!! One of my favorites from Beefheart. I still have not figured this one out lyrically but it love it just the same, maybe more so because of this. Musically, it is pure joy - great song to play for someone who has never heard the Captain before.

    There is obviously some car imagery going on, and I think cartune is some kind of play on words ("car tune"). Sometimes I think this is about an old woman who once was quite the catch and is now well past her prime but still highly sexual (she wears her past like uh present, etc). Sometimes I think it's about a car. Sometimes I think the woman has passed away, and the car is her coffin (the umbrella keeps her up off the ground, and when she pases the umbrella is unfolded - and the pachucos are sad that she's gone). I have no idea, but the lyrics are wonderful. I love the way he delivers the lines, it goes so well layered over the music .. so much warmth.

    I know that Vliet was in SoCal for much of his teens and that there were "pachucos" around his neighborhood at that time. Mexicans who would dress up in zoot suits, almost gangsters really.

    I know this song is about SOMETHING .. I'll figure it out one day ...
    Hawkeye2008on April 16, 2008   Link
  • 0
    General CommentI think it's about a woman and her car.
    "Sedan skims along the floorboard" because it's a lowrider.
    "Her two pipes hummin' carbon cum" - dual exhaust.
    A Brodie Knob is also sometimes referred to as a Necker's Knob and was attached to the steering wheel to allow one-handed driving. Often amber (or in the case of mine, clear blue) in color.
    "Spanish fringe..."-- really popular in the 50's and early 60's in lowriders to have a tasselled fringe around the roof liner. Compare the little red velvet balls in Pena.
    "Looks like an old squaw Indian" like the hood ornament on a Pontiac.
    "Avocado green 'n alfalfa yellow"-- it's a two-tone car.

    The pachucos would really be checkin' out a carrucha like that one. Especially if a woman was driving it.
    futatoriuson July 17, 2008   Link
  • 0
    General Commenti've always felt that this song was of a piece with the songs immediately before and after it: bill's corpse and sweet, sweet bulbs. they seem to form a description of an earth goddess and a type of nature worship. the song may seem to describe a woman and her car, but taken together with the copious nature references (yellow jackets, honey combs, flowers surround her) here and in the other songs, one has to ask why is this man so obsessed with this woman? he gussies her up in every way until she seems adorned in almost royal finery. the last line of bill's corpse seems to suggest her divine nature: "o lady luck up in time, o lady look out of love, and you should have us all, or you should have us fall." meaning: "without nature, we should, and will die."

    in bill's corpse beefheart introduces us to his divine nature queen by describing what will come if we turn away from nature: "quietly the rain played down on her last of ashes...various species grouped according to their past beliefs" an image of the death that awaits humanity if we continue to turn away from nature. in pachuco cadaver, he portrays the nature queen in human form, a form we can relate to directly. and in sweet bulbs, he portrays her in her divine form "a queen uncrowned."
    magwheelzon August 09, 2010   Link
  • 0
    General CommentYellow Jackets and Red Devils (debbils) are pills - Yellow Jackets are speed. The song seems an ecstatic conflation of a woman and a car, with a liberal dose of sex thrown in.
    gsmosson November 07, 2015   Link

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