Those were the days of Elaine
That was the phrase that she used to describe to her son
Of the fun she had had
Long before he went away
Long before days of the dole and the trays and the loll
But the call never came
To say, oh, oh, oh
Loitering lavender park
Laying about in the day and the dark of the room
While the noon passes by
Always on verge of collapse
Mother would quit and then suffer a lapse from the drink
You would think she was dead
What to say, oh, oh, oh
She say, oh, oh, oh, oh
And the time that it takes, well, it goes so slow
She laid on the brakes and she dulled the glow
Now, doesn't it go so slow?
When you build it up to tear it down
You're tearing it down
You tear it down
Tear it down
Those were the days
Those were the days of Elaine
The days of Elaine

A lover like Alain Delon
She followed him blind from saloon to salon
From the hills to the pills he would take

Father had died in the mines
Brother had shown no remorse for his crimes
When they strung him up he got all hung up on the scaffolding

But he say, oh, oh, oh
He say, oh, oh, oh, oh

And the time that it takes, well, it goes so slow
She laid on the brakes and she dulled the glow
Now, doesn't it go so slow?
When you build it up to tear it down
You're tearing it down
You tear it down
Tear it down
Those were the days
Those were the days of Elaine
The days of Elaine


Lyrics submitted by misanthropologist

Days of Elaine song meanings
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5 Comments

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  • 0
    General CommentOh my God. I think I listened to this song on repeat for over half an hour. I am FLOORED. Just...oh my God. And I'm the only commenter? Shaaaammmeee!

    Several parts of this song I have no idea what they mean, so could someone throw something out or elaborate?
    "Long before days of the dole and the trays and the loll"
    "Loitering lavender park"
    "She laid on the brakes and she dulled the glow"
    "A lover like Alain Delon"
    mister care-too-muchon May 16, 2009   Link
  • 0
    General CommentThe song gives me the feeling of a mother recalling stories of her youth to her son. Before she grew old, she was as alive and rambunctious as her son. She feels old now, asking, "Now, doesn't it go so slow?"

    Perhaps Elaine was a friend of the mother's.

    That's the vibe it gives me, it's the setting I've laid for the song.
    AlGoreRhythmson January 02, 2010   Link
  • 0
    General CommentI kind of thought that it was a mother talking to her son, too, only she's Elaine, and she's saying how when she was with this man she was herself, and never was after he left. She just drank and such, and fantasized about Alain Delon (a French actor) and her lover that she had in the "Days of Elaine." The chorus sort of could relate to a car crash, where she slammed on the brakes and turned off her brights (she laid on the brakes and she dulled the glow) and it seems like it's in slow motion (doesn't it go so slow?). The "build it up to tear it down," may refer to her driving drunk purposely, a suicide, just waiting for a crash. I dunno, that's what I thought. And 2 comments? Come on.
    girlfrombarcelonaon January 28, 2010   Link
  • 0
    General Commentthis song is about a mother telling her son about her youth. usually when people refer to the time in their lives before that had children as their days where they cared most about themselves. So its likely the mother figure is named elaine, as well as saying "those were the days of elaine". i think the decemberists songs are almost always straight forward, yet still interestingly worded stories.
    seulenstein0on June 21, 2010   Link
  • 0
    General CommentCounselor here. While this song is partially about the days of youth, there's a deeper meaning to it many people miss. Collin Meloy always writes about some sort of pervasive issue in his stories; in this case it's addiction and substance abuse. It's safe to assume Elaine is the narrator reflecting on not only the fun she had in her youth, but the warped relationships prevalent in her life because of her mother's alcoholism as referenced by, "Her mother would quit and then suffer relapse from the drink." Many children of alcoholics find themselves attracted to other addicts simply because they learned what a relationship is from their addicted parent. Essentially, they only know how to relate with addicts and the emotional/physical abuse that comes with such a relationship. Elaine finds herself with, "A lover like Alain Delon," (more on that later) who abused prescription drugs, "...from the pills he would take." I mean, the back of the album cover is a bottle of pills if you need more proof. Elaine followed this lover blindly regardless of how she may have been treated by him because she followed her mother growing up in the same facet. Elaine herself most likely abused something considering, "The fun she had had." What of the rest of her family? "Her father had died in the mines," most likely because he overworked himself trying to provide for the family while the mother drank their money away. Her brother tried to find solace and perhaps another family in a gang in the crime world where he wound up dead and, "...all hung up on the scaffolding." What about the time period that all this takes place? Alain Delon was a relatively famous French actor in the 1960s-1970s. Elaine most likely admired the sort of smoking and drinking "bad boy" his character was and had a celebrity crush on him while she was growing up. Also, prescription pill bottles such as the one on the back of the album are a relatively new thing. That places her narration to her son in the modern day (2008 when these singles were released). Her brother was hanged not by local authorities, but by a rival gang. Law enforcement stopped hanging people a long time ago. Side note: At this point, it was fairly uncommon for The Decemberists to write songs in this setting with the exception of "O Valencia!" on The Crane Wife which makes this single even cooler in my opinion. The song is a mother telling her son a precautionary tale about the dangers of drug use and their family history of addicton now that he has reached an age where he can understand such things. We can assume Elaine has entered recovery herself from the way she refers to her past-abusing self in the third person as the days of Elaine. This makes the song even more of a rare gem in terms of Collin's song writing. It's a song about hope... The hope a mother has for the future generations of her family now that she had conquered the grasp it has had on it over its generations. But, hey. That's just a theory. A SONG THEORY.
    PeruvianDragonon August 04, 2016   Link

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