"Middleman" as written by and Conor Oberst....
I traveled though the atmosphere as a wall of feedback climbed
The pegs were gold, the band was old, they played in half time
Now every dream gets whittled down just like every fool gets wise
You will never reap of any seed deprived of sunlight

So I have become the middleman
The gray areas are mine
The in-between, the absentee
Is a beautiful disguise

So I keep my footlights shining bright just like I keep my exits wide
Because I never know when it's time to go, it's too crowded now inside
The dead can hide beneath the ground and the birds can always fly
But the rest of us do what we must in constant compromise

So I have become the middleman
The gray areas are fine
The "I don't know," the "maybe so"
Is the only real reply
It is the only true reply


Lyrics submitted by benjam326

"Middleman" as written by Conor Oberst

Lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC

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Middleman song meanings
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38 Comments

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  • +1
    General Commenti think this song is somewhat self-critical. he's aware that with many things, he's settled with compromise. His dreams, opinions have been whittled down. the gray area may be the only 'truth' because its hard to side completely with one belief or another, but conner accepts this regretfully. it is somewhat like settling or giving up.
    jaytkendallon April 12, 2007   Link
  • +1
    My InterpretationTo me this song is, like many by the band, weaves in between two levels. I think the "band" concept of watching/being the band on stage in a crowded room is the most valid surface interpretation, especially since a theme of alienation and agoraphobia run throughout Oberst's lyrics.

    However, I'd like to refer to the album's title for the meaning of the chorus and title. Cassadaga is a spritualist community in Florida, referenced by the female speaker in the opening track. It's home or destination to a large number of psychics and mediums, and I think it's mediumship that's referenced here.

    Oberst is comparing the life of a lyricist/performer to that of the medium. The opening line is analogous to the spiritual transcendance of a seance- the performer must bring his audience something "from the ether" for entertainment and enlightenment, just as the medium is called upon to "commune with the dead", to borrow a line from "Four Winds".

    The last two lines in the first verse point out the hook of the song- that is, just as the reluctant messiah Donald Shimoda does in Richard Bach's Illusions, the narrator has grown tired of the constant demand of the audience. The fool that gets wise in the third line is the narrator after realizing the demand to perform is depriving his "seed", his creativity, of "sunlight", or inspiration.

    The chorus is where the narrator begins to feel that his stage persona is now just that- a persona, and not a true reflection of his person. He's reduced to "I don't knows" and "maybe sos" to answer the demand, no longer capable of offering substance or real insight. His audience is oblivious, and his popularity grows, evident in the second line of the second verse.

    The climax of the song is the narrator's acceptance of his plight though still in admiration of the dead and the birds, both capable of escaping the crowds and the demand.

    Interesting song, and if I've left any loose ends, comment back and I'll tie up what I can.
    HyperBollockson January 25, 2009   Link
  • 0
    General CommentFavorite song off Cassadaga
    Sinaion March 29, 2007   Link
  • 0
    General Commentsuch a good song.
    whaleharpooneon March 29, 2007   Link
  • 0
    General Commentfinally someone put the lyrics up!! my english isn't so good so i dind't dare to ;) i love this song! it is even much much better live!! it is also my favourite off casadaga.
    thefakerthebetteron April 02, 2007   Link
  • 0
    General Commentsorry i missed an s there. and by the was: i love love love "the dead can hide beneath the ground and the birds can always fly but the rest of us do what we must in constant compromise"
    thefakerthebetteron April 02, 2007   Link
  • 0
    General Comment"The dead can hide beneath the ground "

    people don't usually refer to the dead as hiding, i like it.

    and what is that man speaking in teh background saying?
    JACKIE THE HOBOon April 10, 2007   Link
  • 0
    General CommentI love the phrase "every dream gets whittled down just like every fool gets wise", perhaps meaning that one experience may change a person's outlook; a fool becoming wise because of age and experience, and likewise a dream being whittled away because a comment someone made or an experience they had. It becomes a fact of life, and as he later states, "the rest of us do what we must in constant compromise." So really, I think this song is about taking the bad with the good and accepting what you can't change. Eloquently stated, Conor.
    ceruleanblisson April 10, 2007   Link
  • 0
    General CommentThis is my favorite song off the new album :]
    Can't quite bring the meaning for me to words. Something along the lines of ceruleanbliss and jaytkendall's.
    its__dyNOmiteon April 12, 2007   Link
  • 0
    General CommentThe pegs were gold, the band was old, they played in half time
    Now every dream gets whittled down just like every fool gets wise
    You will never reap of any seed deprived of sunlight

    I believe Connor is commenting again on his majpr theme of the evils of big franchise. "half time" referring to big time legends reduced to playing the super bowl. "You will never reap of any seed deprived of sunlight" without over exposure the industry fails to fully profit, a warning to naive artists in it solely for the music?
    zebralexiconon April 13, 2007   Link

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