Your sword's grown old and rusty, burnt beneath the rising sun
It's locked up like a trophy, forgetting all the things it's done
And though it's been a long time, you're right back where you started from
I see it in your eyes that now you're giving up the gun

When I was 17, I had wrists like steel and I felt complete
And now my body fades behind a brass charade and I'm obsolete
But if the chance remains to see those better days, I'd cut the cannons down
My ears are blown to bits from all the rifle hits, but still I crave that sound

Your sword's grown old and rusty, burnt beneath the rising sun
It's locked up like a trophy, forgetting all the things it's done
And though it's been a long time, you're right back where you started from
I see it in your eyes that now you're giving up the gun

I heard you play guitar down at a seedy bar where skinheads used to fight
Your Tokugawa smile and your garbage style used to save the night
You felt the coming wave, told me we'd all be brave, you said you wouldn't flinch
But in the years that passed since I saw you last, you haven't moved an inch

Your sword's grown old and rusty, burnt beneath the rising sun
It's locked up like a trophy, forgetting all the things it's done
And though it's been a long time, you're right back where you started from
I see it in your eyes that now you're giving up the gun

I see you shine in your way
Go on, go on, go on
(x6)

Your sword's grown old and rusty, burnt beneath the rising sun
It's locked up like a trophy, forgetting all the things it's done
And though it's been a long time, you're right back where you started from
I see it in your eyes that now youre giving up the gun


Lyrics submitted by TemporaryLife, edited by dodgerblue, kevinuriza

Giving Up the Gun song meanings
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45 Comments

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  • +9
    General CommentKoenig: "I got the idea for the song from a book my Dad gave me called Giving Up The Gun. It’s a history book about the time when Japan expelled all the foreigners from the country, closed off all trade, and stopped using guns and reverted back to the sword. It seems unimaginable now that humanity could willingly go back to an older technology. It got me thinking about whether you could give up the things that you have and go back to a simpler way of life."

    nme.com/blog/…
    impairingheardon January 30, 2010   Link
  • +7
    General CommentThis song hints a lot to Japan. Right when they were industrialized, and the use of swords was no longer needed. Think "The Last Samauri" time era.
    But more than that, it's about them returning to the sword, back to their roots. All the words such as "rising sun". Especially with his war references, such as "brass atire", and the lyrics about the cannons and rifles.
    Koenig even makes use of the surname "Tokugawa smile", referring to the shoguns who began the name.
    And "Giving up the Gun" was actually a book, with the full title being, "Giving Up the Gun: Japan's Reversion to the Sword". It all fits, but how?
    I honestly don't know what this song is about, but I want to. I feel I've found bits and pieces, but I don't see the whole picture yet.
    CoppertoneLoveon January 13, 2010   Link
  • +6
    My InterpretationFirst of all, I want to say I think that a lot of these interpretations have legitimacy. No single interpretation can claim a monopoly on the meaning of a song, and all I want to do is add another one to the mix.

    So I'm going to agree with the people commenting on the Japan allusions. It seems pretty definite to me, and if you've seen the music video for the song, there's only more allusions to Japan. On the other hand, I don't think the song should be restricted to some esoteric commentary on Japanese culture/politics/etc. Rather, I think the allusions are just vivid images to strengthen the more universal backbone of the song, which I believe has to do with excellence.

    Think about it, Japan's traditional sword-fighting techniques were up there with any civilization/group that has ever grasped a blade. But ultimately in the post-Tokugawa era, and even to some extent before that, the swords of the samurai were being replaced with Western guns to keep Japan from falling to imperial expansion and allow Japan to do some expansion of its own. Viewing it that way, the metaphor of giving up the gun is a return to an older practice, an older part of a culture, and a shift towards something almost mythic.

    Take that and apply it to your own life. If you're older now, say out of college, and you're working full-time for some business/corporation when your dream through high school was to be a different profession, say a professional sport, then I think the metaphor can be easily applied to your individual life. Giving up the gun is returning to the thing you loved to do, the thing that you cared about and valued, the thing that gave you meaning. You can see older people talking about that one football game in high school where they scored the game winning touchdown, or a last-second goal to avoid overtime (if you're not in the US :) ), and it's much the same thing - the past actions have been mythicized and are looked upon fondly.

    There are a lot of vocal references that I think support this. "Locked up like a trophy." For one, this references your former successes, your trophy, and at the same time it's a reference to the fact that you are no longer actively engaged (at least not the way you were) in the activity. The fact that "your sword's grown old and rusty" also implies this weakness from disuse, as does the idea that one is "right back where you started from." All the same, there's a sort of ecstasy coming from those two lines, because all it takes is a little oil to unrust a sword, and if you're back where you started from, that also means you can regain your skills (maybe not all the way, but there's still potential for growth).

    But again, the songs more complicated than that. The fact that one's ears are "blown to bits" from the gun, and the craving of "that sound" also implies that what you're doing now has worth, and you do enjoy it. So what do you do? The speaker encourages you to shine, to go on. And I think that's saying, you should return to your old passion, but you don't have to completely give up what you're doing now (but I guess that option is open, if you want to completely "give up the gun").

    Also, for anyone that has seen the music video, I think the girl playing tennis and beating the other nations sustains the Japan references above-mentioned, but I think it's also sort of a dream for the girl (reliving her glory). The ultimate finish is playing herself and self-overcoming, sort of finding her way again.

    Anyways, my analysis certainly isn't perfect, so if someone has some other ideas to help this interpretation of the song develop, please share.
    XZE01on March 17, 2010   Link
  • +2
    General Comment"When I was seventeen
    I had wrists like steel"

    Haha, good line. Lonely nights perhaps?
    DreHolmeson January 12, 2010   Link
  • +2
    General CommentFor the longest time, I thought it said "Your soul's grown old and rusty, burnt beneath the rising sun"
    Then I read the actual lyrics and was a bit disappointed
    meezyon May 16, 2011   Link
  • +1
    General Commenthe explains the meaning here nme.com/blog/… its about japan reverting to older culture by kicking out foregners and giving up their guns. based on a history book titled Giving Up The Gun.
    amos1594on December 22, 2010   Link
  • +1
    General CommentWhen I first found this song, I totally thought this song was talking about someone he knew before. Someone he knew back in highschool, who was really confident and always looking ahead...someone who always talked about the future like he was ready for it..Possibly popular and/or perhaps someone who might of been a little over their head. And after all the years that have passed...since he saw him last.. he "hasn't moved an inch".

    But no! xD Apparently the singer confirmed he was talking about Japan going back to the sword, since westerners were bringing guns over. I'm totally paraphrasing btw..but at the time, the Tokugawa Shogunate saw that as a way to take away from what Japan originally was. In the end, they ended up banning guns I believe. The singer said he thought it was fascinating that an entire civilization would reject a technology that is better, and much more advanced, to a technology that is much more primitive, in order to go back to the way they once were. Hence "giving up the gun." It's basically a giant metaphor about people going back to the thing they loved doing most, even if it means giving up something that is better for them.
    HappyLacrimosaon February 15, 2014   Link
  • 0
    General CommentI'm pretty sure it's "But if the chance remains," not "change."
    legal_alienon January 07, 2010   Link
  • 0
    General Comment"down at a city bar" might be "seedy" bar, but i'm not sure.
    but i'm pretty positive the next line is "where skinheads used to fight."
    liz1001on January 07, 2010   Link
  • 0
    General Commentyeah, liz1001 is right. and i think it's "burnt beneath the rising sun," too.
    fghtffyrdmns09on January 08, 2010   Link

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