"If the Brakeman Turns My Way" as written by Conor Oberst and Jason Boesel....
When panic grips your body and your heart is a hummingbird
Raven thoughts blacken your mind until you're breathing in reverse
All your friends and sedatives mean well, but make it worse
Every reassurance just magnifies the doubt
Better find yourself a place to level out

Got a cricket for a conscience, always looks the other way
A cocaine soul starts seeming like an empty cabaret
Hey, where have all the dancers gone? Now the music doesn't play
Tried to listen to the river but you couldn't shut your mouth
Better take a little time to level out

I never thought of running
My feet just led the way

Mixed up signals
Bullet train
Cars are switched out in the crazy rain
I could meet you any place
If the brakeman turns my way

All this automatic writing I have tried to understand
From a psychedelic angel who was tugging on my hand
It's an infinite coincidence but it doesn't form a plan
So I'm headed for New England or the Paris of the South
Going to find myself somewhere to level out

Are your brothels full, oh Babylon, with merry middlemen?
Never peer out of their periscopes from those deep opium dens
All this death must need a counterweight, always someone born again
First a mother bathes her child, then the other way around
The scales always find a way to level out

I tried to pass for nothing
But my dreams gave me away

Mixed up signals
Bullet train
People snuffed out in the brutal rain
I could live to any age
If the brakeman turns my way

It is an old world, it's hard to remember
Like a dime store mystery
I'm a repeat first time offender
Who has rewritten history

Mixed up tea leaves
Phantom pain
Fuzzy logic in the the crazy rain
Getting better every day
If the brakeman turns my way

Mixed up signals
Bullet train
Cars are switched out in the blinding rain
He'll be smiling as he seals my fate
When the brakeman turns my way


Lyrics submitted by benjam326

"If the Brakeman Turns My Way" as written by Jason Boesel Conor Oberst

Lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC

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If the Brakeman Turns My Way song meanings
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  • +9
    General CommentI am a recovering opiate addict (that still sounds weird - funny where life takes you), and someone who became a dear friend insisted I listen to this song ... at the time I wasn't even quite 48 hours off and was feeling sick as hell, he was five days ahead of me in the process. I'd never been much of a Bright Eyes fan before, but this song just hit all the right notes for me at that moment and every one since then.

    This song is about recovery, about finding the strength to control what you can and to accept what you can't. And its about how sometimes you can only get better by getting away ... day-to-day routines can be the achilles heel of someone trying to kick a habit, because the cues to use are everywhere. Sometimes in order to get better you have to let go of those routines and throw yourself into the hands of fate ... letting hope prop you up until you are strong enough to stand on your own.

    Its been 10 days now; I haven't cheated once. I listen to this song every day as a simple reminder of what I am working towards. And I'm planning a road trip - to meet my friend and fellow traveler, to visit places I've felt tugging on my heart for some time and to simply clear my head and remind myself of all the beauty and wonder there is in this world that makes life worth living.

    Thanks, Conor. From the bottom of my heart.
    angel_in_the_snowon September 20, 2007   Link
  • +2
    General CommentThe song is about a near overdose on cocaine. Conor has fought with addiction for a while, there are numerous references in past songs, as is this song. When you overdoes you heart races, you panic, you breath heavy, and pretty much feel like your going to die.

    Here are a few coke references from various songs.

    "So we can talk in circles around a dirty mirror
    Night trickles down our throats"
    -Well Whiskey

    "And your parents noticied your thinning face
    All the weight you lost
    All the weight you are losing"
    - A line allows progress, a circle does not
    (title itself is a reference)

    "Because we paint the foil with the flame
    Smear the soda, taste butane"
    - Down a rabbit hole

    "And all those white lines that sped us up"
    -Gold Mine Gutted

    "Stab the ice with a straw"
    -hit the switch

    "You said they laid out lots of coke
    But you don't know how much you did"
    -I'll be your friend

    "You're looking skinny like a model
    With your eyes all painted black
    Keep going to the bathroom
    Always say you'll be right back
    Well, it takes one to know one, kid
    I think you've got it bad
    But what's so easy in the evening
    By the morning's such a drag"
    -Lua

    "I wish I saved up for rainy days
    Because they're the hardest to be dry
    I got no self control
    I'm always begging into telephones
    I bought a little from my brother's friend
    Well, just to get me by
    I don't trust his cut
    The effect is never as high as the mark-up"
    - Spent on rainy days

    "I get cocaine from this girl I met"
    - The Joy in Forgetting...

    "she always wants to know where her money goes but will shell it out for filling up her nose"
    - Desaparecidos - Hole in one

    "Coca-cola dripping down my throat"
    - Not sure which song

    "And a season to sleep
    And a place to get clean"

    "Full of fever dreams that scare me sober
    Into saltless dinners"
    - Cleanse song

    also I'm wide awake it's morning

    Some of these might no seem clear to people who have never used cocaine, but if you have you understand everyone of them
    phichon May 21, 2007   Link
  • +1
    General CommentIt is so interesting that at the final chorus the singers switch their positions. I'm not sure what it means, but it is subtle and brilliant
    pigscanflyon April 25, 2007   Link
  • +1
    General Commentwhen i first heard this song i thought the first verse was a reference to conor's panic attacks
    beegirl420on April 28, 2007   Link
  • +1
    General CommentConor, like all good artists, writes songs that can be interpreted in many different ways. For example JohnnyB3 sounds like he is speaking from experience with drugs, because of this he takes that meaning from the song. For me, i have a problem with anxiety and depression, so the first verse with "when panic grips your body" and "every reassurance just magnifies the doubt" really resounds with me. Conor hardly admits to any particular meanings in his songs because that would cheapen them. Truth is only what you accept it to be anyway.
    AL9on August 19, 2008   Link
  • 0
    General CommentI just got the LP in the mail today. Kickass.
    mariahcantswimon March 29, 2007   Link
  • 0
    General Commentthis song is reallyyy good
    fireplaceon March 29, 2007   Link
  • 0
    General CommentThis is a great song. I love hte lines: All your friends and sedatives mean well but make it worse / Every reassurance just magnifies the doubt
    mixedtapeon March 29, 2007   Link
  • 0
    General Commentthis album has been leaked? can someone please put up a link to where i can get it? i cant find it anywhere..
    TylerZZon March 29, 2007   Link
  • 0
    General CommentI don't think it's leaked. I pre-ordered the vinyl version and got it in the mail yesterday; that's how I have the lyrics early.
    benjam326on March 29, 2007   Link

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