"Tunnels" as written by and John Patrick Vivian Flynn....
I knew no vices and I knew no sins
I knew the words but they didn't sink in
Stayed out those tunnels that pull people down
There's more of those tunnels in your home town
Fell far from grace, so far I couldn't see
And oh underground, I was that far from the tree

We're all digging if you wanna know
Fixing, digging, far too slow
Far too slow

We dug for money, we shoveled four tons
And the end wasn't funny, though we'd all had fun
Limping and broken, the tunnel fell in
I've been limping from tunnels since my original sin
Birthright's a trouble, my father dug too
He got where he was going at the age of 62

We're all digging if you wanna know
Fixing, digging, far too slow
Far too slow

A new pair of boots and a chisel in your name
Says we could be in the same hole attracting the same blame
If I knew the way to the ornamental tree
I would tell you, we'd be jailbirds, I'd be winking twice for free
Don't call on your brother, odds are he's here and all
Being gentle with the people who were knock-kneed from the fall

We're all digging if you wanna know
Fixing, digging, far too slow
Far too slow

We're all digging if you wanna know
Fixing, digging, far too slow
Far too slow


Lyrics submitted by Macphisto12, edited by flynner

"Tunnels" as written by John Patrick Vivian Flynn

Lyrics © Warner/Chappell Music, Inc.

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Tunnels song meanings
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3 Comments

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  • 0
    Lyric CorrectionFirst stanza- and although underground I wasn't that far from the tree

    Also, last nonchorus stanza, it might be winking twice for free-dom, instead of winking twice for free/ Don't..
    Mixnmatchon November 14, 2010   Link
  • 0
    My InterpretationI interpret this song to be about a journey through life, and ultimately, about death. I think the term 'tunnel' implies not only a route but also a 'rut', and for so long he 'stayed out those tunnels that pull people down', but eventually succumbed to a life where he felt trapped. And when he states that 'there's more of those tunnels in your home town' I think he means that so many people talk about getting out of places but many stay in that 'rut' and it's so easy to fall into a trap.

    But 'we're all digging' our way out of these places, trying to reach some sort of escape from our mundane existence. But ultimately the only existence we reach isn't an earthly one. We can dig for money, and status and escape, but eventually we all reach the same destination and we leave this world the same way we came in, with nothing. 'We dug for money, we shovelled four tons, and the end wasn't funny, though we'd all had fun.' The 'end' being 'death'.

    'My father dug too, he got where he was going at the age of 62.' Although this line confirms my assumptions about the song being about death, I also find it quite strange that usually Johnny's songs are less personal, he creates characters and takes on their persona's, but this line is extemely personal since his father did actually pass away at 62.

    I could go on interpreting this song forever, it is one of my all time favourites, and each line is like embarking on a new avenue of ideas. I still haven't quite decided on the symbolism of the 'ornamental tree' so if anyone who has any ideas please share them because I'd love to hear other peoples views.

    terri1909on December 12, 2010   Link
  • 0
    Song MeaningI also like this song very much, both music and lyrics.

    What Johnny describes is something existential, that goes very deep and affects everyone: "We´re all digging...". And this "digging", "tunnel-making" is obviously something negative and fruitless. It leads away from the daylight, away from company and communion with others. While digging you´re alone only carrying out your digging ambitions. It seems to be a kind of fate or doom, nobody can escape from it. All human beings are "jailbirds", there´s a kind of solidarity in "tunnel-digging". "the ornamental tree" maybe symbolizes deliverance, but the way to this tree, whatever it represents, still is unknown.

    Interesting: in the first stanza it can really say "I was that far from the tree" and "I wasn´t that far from the tree", both make sense. "Far from the tree" may be already referring to the saving "ornamental tree", but "not far from the tree" can also by an expression for "being suicidal", which was my first intuitional interpretation.

    But one thing I really don´t grasp: why does it mean "far too slow". I thought the tunnel-digging itself was the problem, not the slowness. If someone has an idea, I´d be glad to share it.

    Terri1909 you´re right, the lyrics of this song are very rich and full of associations.
    BirdonaBirchon May 17, 2011   Link

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