"A Way" as written by and Dolores Mary O'riordan....
We're in love,let's be together
Happy times or heavy weather
Mother says, "today's a special day"
So let's not fight, okay, yeah

When you were at school you were a honey
The boys all loved you, you loved the money
The boys would stare, you'd cross your legs
And then you'd toss your hair

Away
Yes you get by
Away

Money's scarce, but family honor
Brings it home brings it home
And down the shop, the tongues they snicker
TV dinners, beer and liquor...oh yeah

Skeletons fall out of cupboards
Curtains drawn fall open to allow
The light shows up the dust
That plays around your face

[Chorus:]
Innocence and lies don't make a perfect match
Leave your door unlatched
I know a word can be untrue
And yet still move you

All the time they bring their friends 'round
Dress you up, show you up
And all the time they told you it was true
Well I'll believe you now

But then I just don't know I
Think I have to reconsider, yeah
I know when she got married
She looked fine in white and lacy frills
Oh yeah, she had a baby
It was painful, it was worth it
And all the time they stuck the knife in
Pulled it up and twist it around

[Chorus]
Innocence and lies don't make a perfect match
Leave your door unlatched
I know a word can be untrue
And yet still move you

Well that's fine, fine, fine


Lyrics submitted by MaskOfSanity

"A Way" as written by Dolores Mary O'riordan

Lyrics © Universal Music Publishing Group

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A Way song meanings
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4 Comments

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  • +1
    General CommentGreat comments all! My thoughts are probably farther off base, but since we are sharing.

    To start with the title, i would have to go with the official site on that one. Being it is official and all that. That being said, i don't think it really matters much which you go with. The meaning always seemed quite fluid to me, depending on context and point of view.

    One concept that seems to not be seriously looked at is from the vantage point of three seperate, individual girls. Sort of archetypes, or cautionary, tales if you will. I rather think it is about three stages in one persons life. An anti hero of sorts. Maybe even, as the song progresses, someones Dulcinea. It is probably just my background but i have always seen this song much darker than previously posted.

    In the schoolgirl phase it always seemed to me that not only did she love their money but that she was getting it, one way or another. And in the meantime honing her skills on the boys playing little miss innocent.

    In the second part it's obvious that she is, like her family, of low class. Still they are proud and again she must get the money, one way or another. The way i always imagined her getting it was the oldest way, turning tricks. This would explain a good portion of the lines coming up.

    "And down the shops, the tongues they snicker"
    the talk of the town about her 'work'

    "Innocence and lies don't make a perfect match"
    the juxtaposition of her innocent schoolgirl persona and what she is doing

    "Leave your door unlatched"
    so the john's can get in

    "I know a word can be untrue And yet still move you "
    the lies she tells them to help them do their business

    "And all the time they bring their friends 'round"
    them bringing their mates in as customers

    "Dress you up, show you up"
    dressing a certain way to arouse the men paying her


    The next bit is about her getting pregnant, a not unthinkable consequence of her chosen profession, and using her wiles to get some guy to marry her. The white being a mockery due to her past life and the whole knife sticking bit the still wagging tongues because her past will not be forgotten.

    BekkaZon July 26, 2010   Link
  • +1
    My InterpretationAbout the only thing I agree with is that it is an intricate song, with an underlying aura of sadness. But I think the interpretations are WAY more complicated than warranted.

    Listen to it. I really think you are learning about a family, told by a brother about his very loved sister. That fits much more than a young lover or outsider. Brothers and sisters fight but still care for each other. And they might fight inside the family group, but still will stick together.

    Taken at face value, you have a working class family that has produced a daughter capable of bettering her station in life. And her family desperately wants her to have that chance. I don't hear any "using her for the family's advantage". I hear, she has a chance to get out. Anything we can do to help her is a good thing. Her brother, as brothers do, thinks this is ridiculous and stupid and sneers, but doesn't really object.

    The song has such obvious middle-class values! If you are female, you have got to have been told that boys could go into your room, but you had to leave the door open or unlatched so that no one would think you were messing around. And you would have gotten the lecture about what boys want - don't believe them. Once they get what they want they leave. You would have been taught manners - if you were unlucky you even got sent to a class on Saturday to learn them. And your friends and neighbors thought this was ridiculous, but you knew how to act like a lady.

    One reason I think it is sad is that the entire family, brother included, knows that if they succeed in getting her out, they have lost her. But no one, except maybe her brother, questions the wisdom of this at all.

    She learns well and marries "up". And for awhile it looks good. But in her new life she is a social-climbing gold digger and no one will let her forget it. The baby helps solidify her position, but doesn't help her fit in. Feelings of really awful insecurity and tentativeness. Her brother feels it because they are so close emotionally but cannot help support her. She has a very bleak future in front of her. Maybe her family realizes that the best she will be able to do is maintain, maybe her brother is the only one who sees that. It's like people who slowly fade away. Painful to watch happen to someone you love.

    OK, that is what I get from the song. Feel free to chop it to pieces.
    PuppySisteron October 21, 2014   Link
  • 0
    General CommentHuh. It's rather ironic, I think, in that I've listened to this a few times through my boyfriend's music collection, and it seems to've struck me rather strongly now, but hadn't then. He's unsure of exactly what it could be, which leaves me to speculate more completely. So, let's give it a go, shall we?

    First of, there's discrepancy as to what it's even titled. iTunes insists 'Away', while AMG.com, Wikipedia and even the official site claim 'A Way'. The first doesn't seem to have as much impact as the latter, and the band insists they're somewhat interchangeable. This might even be purposeful. 'A Way' has one type of impact while 'Away' another.

    Okay, taking a look at the chorus; with the first spelling, and arguably the most popular: 'Yes, you get by -- a way.' A way. Looking for 'a way' -- to get by, perhaps? It's a little unclear. Trying it out now with the alternative: 'Yes, you get by -- away.' Could be a play on words here. You'll get by -- away. So, either way, there seems to be some kind of distancing happening here. Whether you're primed for it, as granted, I am at the moment. I may check back six months from now and re-evaluate, but it does seem to hold merit.

    So, who's the song about? A woman, sure. Looking for 'a way'. Perhaps a young woman with ambition? Big dreams and small beginnings. Taught, in some fashion, to 'marry up' and thus presenting herself as a desirable prospect for such a candidate. But let's kick back a second to the opening verse. This seems to indicate the unfolding story. Some line-by-line analysis here.

    +
    We're in love, lets be together
    Happy times or heavy weather
    Mother says "Today's a special day"
    So lets not fight, O-K, yeah.
    +

    There's some kind of relationship; romantic. Seem to be stickin' it through: 'happy times or heavy weather'. But now we get a third component here; mother; and she says that 'today' is a special day, though we're not given any indication of what that might even be (until later verses) -- and there seems to be some agreement to maintain the peace for the semblance of festivity.

    +
    When you were at school you were a honey
    The boys all loved you - you loved their money
    The boys would stare - you'd cross your legs
    And then you'd toss your hair
    +

    Ah, school-days. So, she's attractive, but moreso -- she knows how to attract. What to do, what not to. She's very scripted; a 'good girl', it seems. She 'crosses her legs' (which would indicate a bit of chastity) but 'tosses her hair'. She's a tease. Someone won't approve of anything else, so she works with what she's got, and that's the illusion of romantic destiny. (This element of 'illusion' will play out in a larger way later.)

    Now, beyond the school-days verse, we're back on the home front yet again.

    +
    Money's scarce, but family honour
    Brings it home, brings it home
    And down the shops, the tongues they snicker
    TV dinners - beer and liquor, oh yeah
    +

    Again, there's some modest beginning here, where the 'marrying into money' seems to hold some importance. The family's not rich and the subject here is focused upon ascending the poor financial climate in which her family is struggling, as was covered in the second verse. Why? 'Family honour' brings 'it' home, though we're not sure yet just what that is. Considering the time, region of the group, the shoppes are likely the common marketplaces and malls where the communities gather to shoppe, gossip, and relate. 'Tongues snickering' seems a clever way to indicate there's some level of tension here outside of the scope of the subject; possibly dealing with her family, given they were the most recent focus of the verse. We remain uncertain as to the roots of this motivation at this point. However, the Bolshoi seem to be rather talented, skilled storytellers. The origins will be revealed later.

    Now, here's where it gets interesting. Seems somewhat typical up to this point. Woman brought up in poor household marries up (or has been brought up to do so, or seems to want to, whether or not it actually happens) and there's tacit agreement not to argue (over something -- money? Choice of suitor? Something not yet explained?) for the sake of the special event -- quite possibly the actual wedding. One can surmise.

    So. Here's where it gets complicated.

    +
    Skeletons fall out of cupboards.
    Curtains drawn, fall open to allow.
    The light shows up the dust,
    That plays around your face.
    +

    Oh ... my.

    Cupboards, obviously in English lexicon are essentially closets -- and when skeletons fall from them, well; it's rarely a happy story, and this doesn't seem much to be anymore. Things long since hidden by the 'drawn curtains' that are now 'open to allow' the light showing up the dust that plays around your face' are being presented. Stuff is coming out of the dark. Aspects of everything are being revealed in the light of this once-darkness. But this is just the first piece of the puzzle. We jump back into the chorus before continuing on to the next verse.

    +
    Innocence and lies don't make a perfect match
    Leave your door unlatched
    I know a word can be untrue And yet still move you
    +

    The house has become a full-blown metaphor for the household; much as Poe did with his famous gothic horror, 'The Fall of the House of Usher'. Family secrets are being exposed; they aren't pretty, and the dust is being kicked up from every corner. Previously held truths are being un-masqued for the lies they actually are. The narrator seems to be asking that the 'door' remain 'unlatched'. This house, its secrets, have been tightly locked away for far too long, and, like the Ushers, the exposure is creating a bit of an uprising. But it's the last part of this verse that is perhaps most telling:

    'I know a word can be untrue and yet, still move you.'

    We're starting to get a sense of the narrator, now. He's an outsider who's had enough of an inside look to pose questions and make certain evaluations. This line seems to be somewhat compassionate, as his later statements will support. Perhaps, it's a friend of the subject. Maybe her lover; or an older relative or trusted source who has watched the story unfold from the sidelines and is possibly the most objective viewpoint. Actually, there are two; the first seems to be a lover, given the 'we're in love' -- and second switches to something more of the latter -- trusted other source, for lack of better determination.

    So, what's being said?

    Even exposed, lies can still hold as much sway as truth. Once confronted, the pain is not removed. Habits do not cease to exist once an unhealthy source has been identified. Addictions require recovery; dysfunction can be a type of addiction in itself -- sometimes requiring equal work, support, and healing. Discovery is only the beginning; and it's often terribly painful.

    Any rate, we're about to get another peek into the past and see more of the story.

    +
    And all the time they bring their friends 'round
    Dress you up, show you up
    And all the time they told you it was true
    Well, I'll believe you now
    +

    Anyone remember the old custom of debutantes? Right, I act as if this is a dead cultural vice; I know it isn't everywhere. Debutantes, it was discovered in later times, is as objectifying and degrading to women as are other more commonly, self-evident practises with the same result. They are at the mercy of the parents who will now 'present them to society' -- so they may be successful in finding a husband. This was effective, and highly necessary in the mid-to-latter nineteenth century -- yes, England especially -- where a woman was considered a burden upon her family, were she not married by a certain age. (Though, few -- Jane Austen comes to mind -- were insistent upon marketing their talents and surviving as professionals without the aid or support from a marriage. Pre-pre-feminism, I suppose, but far less violent and male-bashing. The 1960's in the good ol' U.S. of A. would take care of that.)

    But I digress.

    Still, there's seems to be a bit of this going on -- which hadn't completely yet died out in the 80's, especially, and certainly not in merry ole England. 'Dress you up, show you up.' She's a debutante; we're not clear yet as to whether she even wants to be, but they made her one so that she would find a 'suitable husband' and complete her life's mission (according to the parental folk) of 'marrying up'.

    Pay extra special attention to the next line: 'And all the time, they told you it was true.' Remember the lie versus innocence -- not necessarily truth, but innocence -- smack-down from before? There was a naivete here. Perhaps, she took her parents word for law. She knew no differently, and may not (yet?) be the sort to challenge the status quo. Debutantes are typically 'released to society' (standard terminology there) around the age of fifteen / sixteen. Right about the time in which greater independence is sought in a variety of ways and will continue for the next several years, growing in intensity and scope.

    In continuing with the 'innocence versus lies' line of thinking, we see there may be some challenging now. Seems there's some feuding, special events taking place, and the implementation of forced cordiality for the sake of saving face and keeping up appearances -- of which they seem especially fond, given the 'snickering tongues' in the marketplace.

    'Well, I'll believe you now,' our narrator says, almost as confirmation to something that's been said by the subject, which we haven't yet been told, and may never know. But the closing verses will give us a better idea of what that could be, and why things are in the state they are. We'll still have to speculate how they got there, but it's not a leap. For whatever reason, he believes her now, despite the seeming evidence to the contrary. That's been exposed as false and misleading.

    But now, the icing on this rather dark and bitter cake.

    +
    But then I just don't know I
    Think I'd have to reconsider, yeah
    I know when she got married
    She looked fine in white and lacy frills
    Oh yeah she had a baby
    It was painful, it was worth it
    And all the time they stuck the knife in
    Pulled it up and twist it around
    +

    Uh, oh. We've got some uncertainty here. Our objective outsider really isn't sure what's going on, or may not be as eager to rock the boat as before. He seems to be agreeing with the subject in secret, maintaining a docile front in public. There's apathy here. An unwillingness to get too involved, just in case it all blows up. And believe me, it does look like it's done just that.

    So, now we get the story. She got married. She looked fine at the wedding, all dressed in white; perhaps a blushing bride, smiling politely for the camera with a bottle of Scotch in the church dressing rooms -- perhaps, not. The fact that our narrator tells us 'she looked fine' doesn't tell us whether or not she IS fine -- only that she, too, seems masterful at presenting an organised front -- which isn't surprising, considering.

    We skip ahead a bit; she has a kid now. Seems despite whatever's gone down in the past, she's going to continue the bloodline, try her hand at parenting, and keep living life. Right on. I can believe that. This happens more commonly than one might think; especially in an era of dysfunctional backgrounds -- the world over, but Western society especially.

    Here's the wrap-up.

    'It was painful; it was worth it. And all the time, they stuck in the knife in. Pulled it up, and twist it around.'

    And we return the chorus. A way. Away. It doesn't matter your spelling; the meaning is clear. Be it 'a way' or 'away' -- you get by. Yes, you get by.

    I'm convinced this is a tragic song -- full of pain, loss, and unending sadness. They came to the wedding, agreeing not to fight. They were probably present at the birth of her child -- but through it all, 'they stuck the knife in'. It never ends. The pain continues. There is no forgiveness, only resentment that builds and festers until it overtakes everyone involved. There are no relationships here. There are fronts. There is the sake of saving face and that which is most valuable stays intact: the illusion of happiness. The truth is too painful. What has emerged cannot be forced back into the darkness from which it came. As my own mother has said, 'the bell cannot be un-rung.' Sides have been taken, and it's unclear who's down for the count. One? Both? Neither?

    It's the worst sort of estrangement -- that which is unacknowledged. Partial and yet complete. Nothing is resolved. What has been uncovered is not being reviewed to bring about a state of health and function, but is being ignored. Denial rules, and in it, there is life. But lonely ones. It continues, but differently, and bittersweet. Tragically.

    Finally, there is apathy.

    'Well, that's fine,' he says, with repetition; almost a sense of being defeated. There's anger now. The narrator isn't hiding it, and the irony is unmistakable. That's fine, he says. Fine. Fine. Fine.

    Ironic, because nothing truly is anymore. Nor will it likely ever be. You just get by. And while it is, and it isn't -- it's fine.

    Powerful song, tragic message. Strange life. The whole thing is truthful, but ironic. Even the upbeat melody. It ends in apathy; a sad acceptance.

    You get by -- with a way, or away. It's all the same. You get by.


    EDIT: I really didn't feel like re-writing the above, so I'll instead supply this last-minute insert. Take a closer look at the verse surrounding 'family honour'. I'm going to argue this family is too image-conscious to have never had money before. I believe they've fallen on hard times. Things are rough; luckily, they've got a daughter who appears to be their meal ticket. The 'WAY' out. A way. But things don't turn out as expected. The war continues. The skeletons are dancing in the regalia of the once-prestigious family, and they're not going back in the 'cupboards'. So, away, or a way. They all get by.

    Of course, this is all just my opinion. I could be wrong.
    mindhuntresson September 10, 2008   Link
  • 0
    General CommentWell mind huntress...that is one great analysis of this song! Not quite what I take the meaning to be but after reading it and seeing all the time and effort put in I just had to reply...great job!
    Ive been listening to this song since the late 80's and Ive always wondered just who Trevor Tanner was singing about in that song.
    My take is that it's about a guy and a girl celebrating some special day, Maybe a birthday, an anniversary or something. I think this couple has been together for a while and that the singer is taking a ttrip down memory lane.
    He's remembering when they met, the good times and the bad times, the child or children they might have had together and the crap that people talk during the course of one's life. In short, it's a song about a guy remembering his life with the one he loves...
    dxa00719on October 15, 2008   Link

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