"When You Were Young" as written by Brandon Flowers, Dave Brent Keuning, Mark August Stoermer and Ronnie Jr. Vannucci....
You sit there in your heartache
Waiting on some beautiful boy to
To save your from your old ways
You play forgiveness
Watch it now, here he comes

He doesn't look a thing like Jesus
But he talks like a gentlemen
Like you imagined when you were young

Can we climb this mountain
I don't know
Higher now than ever before
I know we can make it if we take it slow
Let's take it easy
Easy now, watch it go

We're burning down the highway skyline
On the back of a hurricane that started turning
When you were young
When you were young

And sometimes you close your eyes
And see the place where you Used to live
When you were young

They say the devil's water - it ain't so sweet
You don't have to drink right now
But you can dip your feet
Every once in a little while

You sit there in your heartache
Waiting on some beautiful boy to
To save you from your old ways
You play forgiveness
Watch it now, here he comes

He doesn't look a thing like Jesus
But he talks like a gentlemen
Like you imagined when you were young
When you were young

I said he doesn't look a thing like Jesus
He doesn't look a thing like Jesus
But more than you'll ever know


Lyrics submitted by sam_attack, edited by fishychick

"When You Were Young" as written by Brandon Flowers, Dave Brent Keuning, Mark August Stoermer, Ronnie Jr. Vannucci

Lyrics © Universal Music Publishing Group

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When You Were Young song meanings
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  • +13
    General CommentMaybe i'm just plain wrong here, but my interpretation of this song is, it seems, quite different than most on here.
    It seems, the biggest and most argued lyrics in this song are:

    "He doesn't look a thing like Jesus, but he talks like a gentleman, like you remember when you were young."

    I take "Jesus" as a metaphor. I figure, Jesus is not known for looks, he is known for spirit, and heart, and sole. In the same way someone could say someone looks really dense, or looks very intelligent, or anything like that, they can't actually physically see character traits, but in saying they can "see" these traits, they are saying they can sense them. They can tell that this person isn’t too bright, or is very smart. With this interpretation, to say "he doesn't look a thing like Jesus" could mean "There is no heart or sole to be found in him" but he "talks like a gentleman."

    I think what it means by "he talks like a gentleman" is that this woman is sucked in by his smooth words, and convincing attitude, to make himself seem innocent, trustworthy, and gentlemanly and most importantly, to make her forget, or look over the fact that he isn't a very good person at all. It happens all the time, whenever a guy puts on his nice guy face, and uses his smooth moves to win over a girl that shouldn't fall for it, or shouldn’t fall for it again, or knows this guy has a reputation for hurting girls, but his words pull her into his trap.

    "And sometimes you close your eyes and see the place where you used to live When you were young"
    I think this could be why she falls for his trap everytime. She wants him to be perfect, because she's being idealistic. When she was young, she saw a boy who doesn't need to be beautiful, physically, but he talked like a gentleman, because he was a gentleman. Now that she's grown, and has this terrible guy, she wants to believe that because he talks like a gentleman, he may actually be a gentleman, and so she gives him more chances.

    To me, this whole thing could be something recurring. The guy messes up all the time, and the girl is mad at him for a while, and hurt, but then the guy wins her back with convincing lies of "i'll never do it again" and he does it again and again, and the girl just can't see through him like everyone else does. He has some sort of spell over her, that doesn't allow her to see the truth, that this guy does nothing but hurt her, and that she deserves better.


    "You sit there in your heartache" He's just hurt her, emotionally, and now she's destroyed by it.

    "Waiting on some beautiful boy" "Beautiful boy" could be another metaphor for a beautiful sole, and heart, true beauty, not aesthetics. She wants someone who's not going to harm her anymore, someone that will truly love her.

    "To save you from your old ways" Her old ways, are going back to this same guy that hurts her, and falling for lies and tricks. She wants someone to love her, truly, not use her, and take her away from this guy.

    "You play forgiveness" She forgives this worthless heartless guy after he smooth talks his way back to her.

    "Watch it now- here he comes" And he's back at it, messing up, hurting her, messing with her head, and being forgiven, and doing it all again.


    I see the singer as the narrorator, watching from the outside, and shaking his head in dissapointment, sadness, and disgust. Maybe he loves her? Maybe he's actually the "beautiful boy," but he doesn't "talk like a gentleman" and she doesn't notice him. Maybe he's just a friend who's shoulder is cried on everytime this guy hurts her, and so he's hurt by it as well, seeing her suffer. But she will never see this friend as anything more, even though he's the right one, because she is blinded by a smooth talker who's corrupted her, and used her.

    I must say though, this last paragraph really biasis my whole interpretation. It's the situation i'm in, always been in, really, and i might just be trying to make it all fit. If so, i think i've made it fit quite well.
    ME68on June 22, 2011   Link
  • +11
    General CommentThis song is pure genius. It's a beautiful anthem.

    I think it's about a girl who's imagined a perfect boy 'when she was young'. She waits forever to find him, and she finally finds him, and he makes her a better person. Then the song later goes on to say "They say the devil's water, it ain't so sweet/ You don't have to drink right now/ But you can dip your feet/ Every once in a little while" I interpret that as you don't have to be a perfect person, and it's okay to be bad every once in a while. I don't know...that's just what I think.

    Lyndz
    ShotgunXXWeddingon July 14, 2006   Link
  • +6
    General CommentI'm with ShotgunxxWedding, the song is about a girl who has dreamed up the perfect guy "when she was young." When she does meet him however, he doesn't look anything like perfection (or "Jesus" in this case, also, this is reminiscent of the "beautiful boy" line) but he still acts the way she pictured.

    the part:
    "They say the devil's water, it ain't so sweet/ You don't have to drink right now/ But you can dip your feet/ Every once in a little while"
    reflects back to the girl's past relationships that fell apart. The "devil's water" symbolizes some sort of lure that is in the wrong person or, to generalize it, it can symbolize a person's looks. The fact that it "ain't so sweet" means that someone that seemed perfect at the time due to some lure or his/her looks isn't as great as you thought he/she was. Flowers then suggests that you can dip into these type of people once in a while in order to filter through people to get to that perfect person you imagined when you were young. And Flowers concludes the song by repeating the chorus in an act to emphasize that the perfect person doesn't have to look like the perfection that you imagined
    geniusNOTatWORKon July 14, 2006   Link
  • +6
    General CommentI think this song is a good example of how people interpret songs differently based on their own life experience. I was 15 when the song came out and now 5 years later I dare to say I understand it now and in a way I didn't back then.
    When you are still very young you believe that one day, quite soon, you'll meet a boy that will always truly love you, whose heart is as pure and innocent as yours and he will do everything right, he'll fix you, make your life better- and he's good-looking too! And you wait for this person, you don't look around into the real world, you stay in your fantasies, disappointed of the fact that all the guys around you act so differently from him. One day, after having waited oh-so long, you meet a man who steals your heart. He isn't anything like you imagined your love to be "he doesn't look anything like Jesus", in fact he's not that innocent, good-looking or loving by any means, he hurts you but he's the first to turn your head, to charm you in a manner that no other guy has ever did before ("talks like a gentleman" just like ME68 has said before). And this girl falls for this because it feels good or at least that's what she believes. She sticks with him (more than you'll ever know) however as an young adult starts to realize where she got to. She realizes her unhappiness with how everything went and at times she thinks back ("and sometimes you close your eyes/and see the place where you used to live/when you were young") of the time when she still had this dream, the belief in something so absolutely beautiful and good, this feeling of security based on a lack of knowledge about the "real world". I feel like every "when you were young" is a mourning, a yearning for this long gone naivity.

    yawninhamsteron October 23, 2011   Link
  • +4
    General Commentplease let me explain this song:

    Brandon Flowers I can tell is a lot like myself. The way he views relationships and innocence. The clearest indication of this is in their x-mas release, "A Great Big Sled"

    This song follows the same idea of innocence. He acknowledges that as you grow you lose that innocence. When you a kid, you dream of prince charming, or in this case, "Jesus" because you are raised as good religious (i want to say christian) girl.

    The girl in this song in particular lost her innocence....just as the majority of "slutty" girls do nowadays. They lose all respect and can only attract degenerates and jerks, and then wonder why they can't find a good guy.

    Well, I give Brandon props for being the type of guy he is. In his song he acknowledges that its OK to make some mistakes. To dip your feet in the devils water. Essentially saying he understands the urge to do crazy things. But if you do it too much its going to get bitter.

    But then, this girl finds some guys that respects her and treats her just how she imagined when she was younger.

    The problem is, this girl doesn't know what to do or how to act.

    Can we climb this mountain? Obvious reference to 'I got you Babe' (Put your little hand in mine, and there aint no mountain, you and I can't climb."

    Can the relationship last? They don't know, but they are trying.

    The main line here is, "he doesn't look a thing like Jesus, but more than you'll ever know"

    This references the fact that the guy is "saving" her from her disruptive past.

    Its a song for all those girls out there that dreamed of something more in life, but seemed to have gotten stuck with dirt. Brandon is essentially saying, "don't give up, some guy out there can save you, but he might not look like you think he will."
    fr0st2kon November 10, 2011   Link
  • +3
    General CommentIn my opinion:

    Girl wallowing in her pity from her stupid mistakes shes made throughout the years. Shes all wrapped up in all her idealism to go back to something pure like she thought of relationships when she was a young child.

    This leads her into a relationship.. he isn't/doesn't look like a saint but fits her general profile as something good to make up for her bad decisions. They get really involved (climb this mountain, higher than ever before) - the higher you are the harder you fall. It spirals out of control even though it wasn't the intention (burning, hurricane imagery).

    The devils water part represents temptation, lust, infidelity, what not. Shows the flaw of her logic... dipping your feet in once in awhile can't hurt right?? wrong.

    Then it repeats the first part of the song more or less. Shows the cyclical nature of her relationships? She starts out with the purest, highest intentions that only a young girl could think were possible and it leads her into more heartache and disaster every time.
    idiotswindon July 17, 2006   Link
  • +3
    General CommentI actually have a more cynical view to this song. Rather than a boy 'saving' a girl through love or redemption or whatever, the girl is instead a bit of a compulsive self-sabotager; manipulating people and their feelings, whether she means to or not.

    "Waiting on some beautiful boy
    To save you from your old ways
    You play forgiveness"

    It's like she's waiting for the next victim. The next pawn in her little game, but she wants out. She doesn't want to keep breaking up with these lovers and actually try to find something special in them. She takes their forgiveness and throws it asunder, quickly returning to her promiscuous or unfaithful behaviour.
    "Watch it now, here he comes" reinforces this; she's like a predator on the prowl for her next victim, ready to pounce.

    "Can we climb this mountain? I don't know
    Higher now than ever before" simply relates to her asking herself if she can overcome this behaviour, if he can actually help to change her.

    The reference to a hurricane from "when you were young" simply means, in my eyes, from the time she started to behave this way and send herself on a downward spiral of misusing the trust of those who gave love to her. The constant reference to "when you were young" is a time of innocense, when you're a child or young teenager and dream of having the perfect life / house / job / lover someday, as opposed to now when you are who are you and you see the world for the darker place that it really is - full of vice and smoke and mirrors.

    "They say the devil's water, it ain't so sweet
    You don't have to drink right now
    But you can dip your feet
    Every once in a little while" This is simply referring to the fact that playing the fast lane lifestyle of "doing what you want, when you want" may not be all it's cracked up to be; such people still suffer. It also shows the narrator's(?) temptation. You don't have to go nuts, but it's 'okay' to indulge once in a while. Perhaps flirt, perhaps tell a white lie. Which can spiral out of control -> leading back to the hurricane idea.

    The reference to "not looking a thing like Jesus" suggests that it will only end the same as it always does anyway. The boy looks like the gentleman she imagined, but in the end, will still end up with a broken heart, because only the boy who does look like 'Jesus' will be able to remove the Devil's temptation and make her no longer self destructive. This is all metaphorically speaking of course; i read no religious context into this, nor am i religious myself.

    A long-winded explanation, but that's how i view the song. I love it too. It's also my favourite song to play on Guitar Hero 3.
    DeLucaon April 01, 2010   Link
  • +2
    General CommentI think it means she was waiting for someone to save her, but looking at the wrong person...
    I'm not liking this one as well as their other songs, I hope their new CD is better.
    Wulfe87on July 13, 2006   Link
  • +2
    General Commentomg eff hot fuss this is the sound of the killers, im lovin this song sounds like theyv dropped the disco in exchange for old rock anthem style, it all works weally weally well. I get the feeling that it seems like hes refering to innocence when he says 'when you were young' and 'he doesnt look a thing like jesus' is making a connection to the saviour boyfriend described in the song as being jesus-like in character but not looks sent to save a girl from her past relationships?
    zedzedBadnustyon July 14, 2006   Link
  • +2
    General CommentI think that this song is about a girl dreaming of this guy or her 'Saviour' who she will fall in love with and he will love her back and they'll live happily ever after.
    And she finds this guy, but he's not really the one, but he's good enough, 'he doesn't look a thing like Jesus [i.e he's not her saviour], but he talks like a gentleman.'
    And at the end she just accepts him, 'he doesn't look a thing like Jesus/ But more that you'll ever know.
    mad-monkey-42on January 25, 2007   Link

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