Rox in the Box mentions Butte's 1917 mining disaster, the "Granite/Speculator Mine" fire. And several comments about the meanings of "rocks in the box," the "bulknead," etc, clearly refer to that incident. One of the...
If the rocks in the box
Get the water right down to your socks
This bulkhead's built of fallen brethren's bones

We all do what we can
We endure our fellow man
And we sing our songs to the headframe's creaks and moans

And it's one, two, three
On the wrong side of the lee
What were you meant for
What were you meant for

And it's seven, eight, nine
You gave your shuffle back in line
And if you ever make it to ten, you won't make it again
And if you ever make it to ten, you won't make it again

And you won't make a dime
On this gray granite mountain mine
Of dirt you're made and of dirt you will return

So while we're living here
Let's get this little one thing clear
There's plenty of men to die, you don't jump your turn

And it's one, two, three
On the wrong side of the lee
What were you meant for
What were you meant for

And it's seven, eight, nine
You gave your shuffle back in line
And if you ever make it to ten, you won't make it again
And if you ever make it to ten, you won't make it again

And it's one, two, three
On the wrong side of the lee
What were you meant for
Whatever you're meant for

And it's seven, eight, nine
You gave your shuffle back in line
And if you ever make it to ten, you won't make it again
And if you ever make it to ten, you won't make it again
And if you ever make it to ten, you won't make it again


Lyrics submitted by MarcelLionheart, edited by bigbearboy144, JonaRous

"Rox in the Box" as written by Colin Meloy

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Rox in the Box song meanings
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22 Comments

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  • +4
    General CommentI believe that this song is primarily about the trials and tribulations of the miners who lived through and died in the Granite Mine Disaster. I have for worked for the Montana bureau of mines and geology under Butte and in several other underground hardrock mines; so if I may be so bold, I'll clarify some of the lyrics.

    "Rox in the box" is the act of mining. We refer to the ore bin as the box. Also, it is very wet under Butte.

    In mining, a bulkhead is an airtight seal to direct the air for ventilation. During the Granite Mine Disaster in Butte Montana, many miners sealed themselves into drifts to survive the fires gases by building bulkheads and waiting for rescue. These men waited, in some cases, 5 days together in the dark, "we endure our fellow man." Many men were caught on the wrong side of these bulkheads and died from smoke inhalation "on the wrong side of the lee."

    During a mine fire, the biggest danger is CO gas, which can leave you stumbling ("get your shuffling back in line") and unconscious in seconds. Death follows quickly ("And if you ever make it to ten you won’t make it again.")

    If anyone has any points of contention, please voice them.
    bdmanganon August 28, 2011   Link
  • +2
    Song Meaning"And you won’t make a dime
    On this gray Granite Mountain Mine
    Of dirt you’re made and to dirt you will return"

    Possibly refers to the Granite Mountain/Speculator Mine Disaster which occurred in Butte, Montana in June of 1917.
    bigbrew4uon January 26, 2011   Link
  • +2
    General CommentConsidering the Decemberists' penchant for historical references, I'd say it's a fair bet that the song is about the Granite Mountain Mine disaster--it's even mentioned in the song...

    In the disaster, 160+ men died from a fire, most from smoke inhalation, which fits with the lyric "on the wrong side of the lee" (lee probably refers to the leeward side, sheltered from the wind/smoke). I'm not sure about the "shuffle back in line" but the "plenty of men to die" also seems to point to the Granite Mountain Mine disaster.
    dgulbranon February 15, 2011   Link
  • +2
    General CommentThis song, being about mining in Montana, could be about any number of mining disasters. There were so many things that could go wrong, including hitting pockets of various gases as well as fires; my great-great (great?) grandfather died mining in Montana when the miners he was with hit a pocket of gas, and while he initially got out, he went back in to try to drag some of the others to safety and was overcome.

    So I guess this song has extra meaning for me. :)
    Kitronaon April 15, 2011   Link
  • +2
    General CommentIt does specifically mention mining, but this song always reminds me of the construction of the Transcontinental Railroad; when the railroad companies reached mountains, they blew tunnels through them in a manner similar to mining. Plus, for whatever reason, the violin, mandolin, and accordion riff reminds me of a train's whistle, further bringing to mind the railroad's construction.

    Also, the chorus makes me think of a countdown to the explosion of the nitroglycerine. I'm not quite sure how to specifically interpret each line, but I think in its entirety the chorus is about the nitro.
    thesithwithashotgunon May 07, 2011   Link
  • +2
    General CommentI think this song might be about suicide. and the '123' part is the count down until you jump. 'its 123 on the wrong side of the lee'. a lee could be anything, but your'e on the wrong side of it, like your preparing to jump. 'what were you meant for?' thinking about your life. as if you weren't meant for anything. life feels like it has no meaning. 'and its 789 you get your shuffle back in line' you realize this is a mistake, or not and either slowly make your way back or forward. 'if you ever make it to ten you wont make it again' you reached ten and jumped. you'll never make it again because your'e dead.

    later the lyrics are 'You wont make a dime On this gray Granite Mountain Mine
    Of dirt you’re made and to dirt you will return
    So while we’re living here
    Let’s get this little one thing clear
    There’s plenty of men to die; you don’t jump your turn'
    this is the decemberists telling everyone that this is a bad idea. sure maybe your life doesn't really have meaning and earth is just a gray mine that you wont succeed on, but while your here see how it goes. there are plenty of people dieing without you killing your self.

    chase12345on July 22, 2011   Link
  • +1
    General CommentI don't know if this is common knowledge, but an instrumental portion of this song is the Irish traditional Raggle Taggle Gypsy. Here are versions by The Irish Descendants (youtube.com/…) and The Chieftains (youtube.com/…) if you're interested.
    Shadon January 22, 2011   Link
  • +1
    General CommentThis song instantly makes me think of the building of the Hoover Dam. During its construction, many men ended up dying, thus the:
    "This bulkhead's built of fallen brethren's bones"

    It was dangerous work, but it was during the Great Depression so there were plenty of men lining up to do the work, so if you ever couldn't perform the work, you could be replaced quickly:
    "So while we're living here
    Let's get this little one thing clear
    There's plenty of men to die, don't jump your turn"

    You couldn't even rest for too long, or someone else would take your place:
    "You get your shovel back in line
    And if you ever make it to ten
    You won't make it again"

    This specific song is obviously dealing more with mining and not the Hoover Dam, but it is based on a very similar principle. The demand for work far outstripped the supply and thus the workers could be easily replaced and worked to death. Awesome song!
    wanderingaloudon January 23, 2011   Link
  • +1
    Lyric CorrectionGet the rocks in the box
    Get the water right down to your socks
    This bulkhead’s built of fallen brethren bones

    We all do what we can
    We endure our fellow man
    And we sing our songs to the headframes’ creaks and moans

    And it’s one two three
    On the wrong side of the lee
    What were you meant for?
    What were you meant for?
    And it’s seven eight nine
    You get your shuffle back in line
    And if you ever make it to ten you won’t make it again

    And you won’t make a dime
    On this gray Granite Mountain Mine
    Of dirt you’re made and to dirt you will return

    So while we’re living here
    Let’s get this little one thing clear
    There’s plenty of men to die; you don’t jump your turn



    SHUFFLE, not shovel.
    Taken from the official Decemberists website..
    Shadyauon January 24, 2011   Link
  • +1
    Song MeaningI went to their concert on April 16th and Colin Meloy said it was about 18th century miners.
    shield1123on April 20, 2011   Link

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