"I Coulda Been a Contender" as written by and Brian Fallon....
I'm broke and I'm hungry, I'm hard up and I'm lonely
I've been dancing on this killing floor for years
And of the few things I am certain, I'm the captain of my burden
I'm sorry doll, I could never stop the rain

Once you said I was your hero
You would dance with me on a dime
We could spin this world right right right round
And catch back up on the flip side

I was gonna get this real big engine
I was gonna get them Broadway stars
You were gonna be my Judy Garland
We were gonna share your tin man heart

There's a dirty wind blowin', there's a storm front comin' in
There's an SOS on the seas tonight
Steady now, steady now, soldier, hold fast now
It's heads or tails and heart attacks and broken dreams tonight

We used to drive all night
All over town
We'd go waltzing Matilda
When Matilda came around

I sang them blues to you

There's a dirty wind blowin', there's a storm front comin' in
There's an SOS on the seas tonight
Steady now, steady now, soldier, hold fast now
It's heads or tails and heart attacks and broken dreams tonight

There's a dirty wind blowin', there's a storm front comin' in
There's an S-O-S on the seas tonight
Steady now, steady now, soldier, hold fast now
It's heads or tails and heart attacks and broken dreams

And heart attacks and broken dreams
Atlantis is my only dream tonight


Lyrics submitted by VoiT

"I Coul'da Been a Contender" as written by Brian Fallon

Lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC

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I Coulda Been a Contender song meanings
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12 Comments

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  • 0
    General CommentThis is a great song. Their best, in my opinion. I love the line

    "You were gonna be my Judy Garland,
    We were gonna share your tin man heart"
    RavenSanon January 05, 2008   Link
  • 0
    General CommentTo me its about someone having a hard time and a friend tell him that its all going to be ok and there is a light at the end of a tunnel.
    Th3_Gh0sTon October 08, 2008   Link
  • 0
    General CommentI have to Agree totally with RavenSan

    Very catchy song , How come these guys arent massive , they should be

    SlanSmileson June 17, 2009   Link
  • 0
    General CommentThe title is a reference to a famous line in the 50s film On The Waterfront with Marlon Brando. Terry: You don't understand. I coulda had class. I coulda been a contender. I coulda been somebody, instead of a bum, which is what I am, let's face it.

    The whole thing is a maritime metaphor for a relationship. Atlantis was a lost city under the sea according to Greek myth and legend.
    lrb85on December 29, 2009   Link
  • 0
    General Commentthe judy garland makes this song, and waltzing too.
    Brian Fitzon September 28, 2009   Link
  • 0
    My InterpretationTo me, this is about someone who was in love, but they did something self destructive and ruined it, stated in the lines:

    And of the few things that I am certain,
    I'm the captain of my burden.

    Which mean he is most likely the cause of the problem. The first verses are just memories and plans they made. Then the chorus comes in with a lot of imagery depicting a storm, which could mean their plans were ruined. The last line, Atlantis is my only dream tonight, probably means that through the storm the person is hoping to find some sort of paradise at the end of it, but the song doesn't really have a solid conclusion so I would say its unknown if they find it.

    I got all this from a personal experience I've been through, so you all might not see it the same way as me.
    OmegaHunter24on October 29, 2009   Link
  • 0
    General CommentThe "Waltzing Matilda" line is likely a reference to Tom Waits' "Tom Traubert's Blues (Four Sheets to the Wind In Copenhagen)", which is itself a take on the traditional "Waltzing Matilda". Gaslight Anthem references Waits songs on number of occasions.
    goodreverendon December 05, 2009   Link
  • 0
    General CommentWasn't "I coulda been a contender" The line from a movie? I forget which one, but was it?
    DerLichton November 22, 2010   Link
  • 0
    My Interpretationim probably reading far too much into this but this is my interpretation...

    the title...i coulda been a contender...we coulda been a couple, together, happy.

    verse 1, he feels sorry for himself, i think he's saying that he's spent a lifetime looking for the woman for him, "iv been dancing on this killing floor for years" and he's lonely because of a life he's chosen but understands that its his choice n he has to deal with it "i'm the captain of my burden"

    verse 2, a very sad verse with words like " ONCE u said i was ur hero" and "gonna" all past tense. he clearly met an amazing woman, a woman who turned his world upside down and meant everything to him. "you would dance with me on a dime" i think is saying how they would dance to the sound of a jukebox. i think in the last 3 lines he is saying that he was "gonna" support her in her dreams and her career as a singer and she would be his own "judy garland". we were going to share ur empty heart, together. she will still have a career and become a star, but he wont be there with her to see it.

    verse 3, i find this really interesting, when i hear a "dirty wind blowing" i picture a sand storm, a dusty dirty sand storm in the desert. "a storm front coming in" a storm as everyone knows is scary, with load bangs of thunder and bright flashes of lightning, not unlike war, when u see fighting from a distance u often see a big flash of an explosion followed by a thunderous bang. the last 3 lines i think he's talking to himself, "steady now, soldier hold fast now" he's making himself focus, he's going away to war now concentrate on what u have to do, he needs all is focus if he wants to live through this. "It's heads or tails on heart attacks and broken dreams" heads and tails....50/50 on dying and destroying his and her dreams.

    verse 4, "waltzing matilda" i dont no what he means by that but i think he's still reminiscing the time they had together, note that this reminiscing verse compared to the others is very short, he really is trying to put her to the back of his head and focus on whats coming.

    he now repeats the chorus 3 times which tells me he's now fully focused on what he has to do, understands theres a big chance of death and "broken dreams" but he's now got his head clear of any distractions.
    the last line is brilliant," Atlantis is my only dream tonight" when he goes to sleep he allows himself to relax and take his mind off the stress of what he's going through, "atlantis" he could be talking about what he sees as paradise and hope, something to live for...

    maybe i have too much of an imagination

    cieranon January 12, 2011   Link
  • 0
    General CommentI love this song and I think the interpretations here all have validity. I can't really provide much more insight beyond this little nugget.

    While Tom Waits did do a song called Waltzing Matilda and you were right a traditional song or bush/ballad from Australia goes by the same name, written by Poet and Australian Icon A.B. 'Banjo' Paterson (it is considered the unofficial National Anthem of Australia). But Tom Waits didn't cover the bush ballad. it is different though it appropriates certain lines.
    This is the basic story line of the traditional Waltzing Matilda(I'll include the Aussie terms just to give you a taste of Aussie culture):
    -Man/Homeless person/Rover/Swagman camping under a tree by a little pond/lake/billabong
    -Sheep/jumbuck comes down to drink
    -Man/Swagman catches the sheep and kills it for food/tucker
    -Cops/Troopers show up and tell the man he has stolen the sheep from another guy and he will be punished
    -Swagman jumps into the Billabong drowning himself saying "YOU'LL NEVER CATCH ME ALIVE!"
    You see Matilda isn't a person...it is the slang name of the bag you sling over your back in which you carry your possessions when you are a swagman.

    Tom Waits' song is about a man, who is in a bit of a rough place, in love with a girl.

    So unless there are slight undertones condoning theft and suicide in this song...I think it is safe to assume they referenced Tom Waits.

    Just a bit of Trivia!
    Cilleron April 21, 2011   Link

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