"By and Down" as written by and Maynard James Keenan Billy Howerdel....
Moving in and out of the shadows
It's no easier mission
Holding onto how I picture you

Showing only bits and pieces
'Till the tide betrays you and your empty allocution

Searching your eyes for a hint or a trace of humility
Searching your eyes for the saint is an act of futility
Searching your eyes for a hint or a trace of it
Searching your eyes for humility
Searching your eyes for a hint or a trace
I'm still searching searching

Showing all the missing pieces
'Till the light betrays you and your empty allocution
Saw the Piper by and down the river
Caught his crippled alchemy
From pounding waves of adoration

Pied Piper float on down the river
Bloated carcass crippled me
The weight of adoration

Moving in and out of the shadows
It's no easy mission
Holding on to how I picture you

Lyrics submitted by Punkfunkbuzz, edited by projectdnz, NoL, abunaiYo!

"By and Down" as written by Maynard James Keenan Billy Howerdel

Lyrics © EMI Music Publishing

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By and Down song meanings
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  • +7
    General CommentMonsterosity makes me think about this one....Maybe it's about himself? Afterall, he is a celebrity and has millions of fans, some of whom have changed their lives/views/perspectives because of what he has said. And it is possible that this "fame" has changed him, even though he doesn't want to admit it and never meant for it to. Perhaps it has caused him to question who he really is; this "celebrity" figure/image that the world ONLY sees him as, or the other side, or most likely sides, of him that he does not show the world. I mean, it could actually be a more philosophical question, because it has been argued that a person's true "identity" or true "self" is whatever the world perceives it as being. For example, if the everyone looks at the same object and everyone agrees that this object is a rock, then it must be a rock. It's the same thing with people. If everyone thinks some person is an asshole, then (s)he is. It points to the question of who's perspective is more accurate. If his view of himself is different from the world's view of him, then who is right? Is he the one that is disillusioned, or is the world wrong about him? And actually, technically speaking, it's more logical or more likely that only one person is wrong (himself) and not a million other people (the world). The "tide" and the "river" and the "piper" are the fans. He goes wherever his fans carry him. He certainly does seem to be a master of elocution. And I think he's saying that he questions his humility and doesn't view himself as being saintly (although he is worshiped as one and has millions of "fans" who would disagree). I remember he called himself a "famous, pretentious lead singer" in one statement referring to how difficult it is for Billy Howerdel to have to deal with that, and how that kind of lead to APC not doing much and MJK telling Billy to move on and do his own thing. The "carcass" is his former self, perhaps his "real" self. The "pounding waves of adoration" refer to how his "fame" tempts him to change. All of the attention and adoration he receives from his fans tempts him to want to well, be pretentious or sell-out, because this adoration and attention is rewarding for him and he doesn't want to lose it, but at the same time he wants to be true to himself. I think he sees signs of his old self, or "true" self from time to time, but it isn't enough for him to convince himself that he hasn't changed (i.e. sold-out). The "weight of adoration" again refers to the pressure he feels from his fans because the love him soooo much and he doesn't want to disappoint them or let them down. The "bloated carcass" cripples him means that because he is trying to hold on to how he was and how he wants to be it stifles him or holds him back from giving his fans what they want. And actually, I think I might have just changed my mind. Maybe the "carcass" isn't his old self, but his projected self, his celebrity image, and he's calling it a carcass because it's fake and somewhat lifeless because he may not be as sincere about things as he seems. I don't know, but that's what it makes me think.
    Androgyneon October 16, 2013   Link
  • +4
    General CommentThe person in question is clearly someone who in Maynard's mind was an idol (I think either politician, activist or fellow musician). The river represents the flow of human adoration and celebrity to which this idol has succumbed to and become a "bloated carcass" of their former self. This person may deny having really changed ("showing only bits and pieces") however when they speak publicly to their fans/supporters their intents cannot be denied anymore ("till the tide betrays you"). They seemed to have done what would have made the masses happy rather than what they thought was right through lines like "pounding waves of adoration, Pied Piper float on down the river." As said in previous comments to be symbolized as a "Pied Piper" this person must have been a great public speaker who attracted supporters through their ideals and held the confidence of many people. Throughout all of this Maynard is trying to hold onto the image of what the person used to be to him with little success.
    monsterosityon October 15, 2013   Link
  • +4
    My InterpretationI think we need to look harder at the choice of the word allocution. It has a legal meaning as well.

    "Allocution: The formal inquiry by a judge of an accused person, convicted of a crime, as to whether the person has any legal cause to show why judgment should not be pronounced against him or her or as to whether the person has anything to say to the court before being sentenced."

    I think this choice of words is important to the meaning of the song. To me it sounds like the writer is confronting the reality of a person he idolized. He has confronted the illusions he created about this person and gotten to the truth of the matter. Now with the truth in hand he is ready to pass judgement on said person and this song is the judgement (sentence) he passes. The sentence is essentially a goodbye, see you by and down the river so to speak (the river being the constant passage of time). But like most folks he ends up trying to cling to the past and the memory of how he pictured that beloved person but it's so hard to do so knowing the truth about this person.

    We can apply this idea to many different areas of life. Some might think it's about a relationship, some may think its about a job, or drugs, or self-identity. But in the end he song is just a metaphor. It's about finding truth and reconciling that truth with the illusions we have created for ourselves.
    theWmannon November 19, 2013   Link
  • +3
    General CommentPeople do evil things. This song reminds me somewhat of "Night, Death, Mississippi" by Robert Hayden. In it, brutish violence takes place beneath the shroud of darkness. Here, darkness is betrayed by man. Beneath its cover, horrors took place over and over again -- as part of family, as part of tradition, as part of everyday life and fun. Not only did these people show no remorse for rape, castration, beatings, and sloppy, shallow graves, they joked and drank to it. In a time that seems farther away than it actually is, real people with perfectly unremarkable lives and personalities took part in acts like this. In disgust, Hayden examines this black hole in humanity's rationalized conscience. In short, people who are loved can take part in or spearhead atrocity.

    Some of us have loved people who have done abhorrent things. Looking into their eyes, sometimes the most important thing is noting the empathetic remorse in their self-reflection; sometimes just a trace of humility will allow us to preserve the precious image we hold so close. In this song, the onlooker is trying very hard to see some. Evidently, his search is fruitless. Beneath the cold lens lay no doubt -- no regret.

    An allocution is a chance for the condemned to speak to the judge in an attempt to reduce his or her sentence or present cause for not pronouncing judgement against him. With empty, firm eyes, the onlooker is listening to someone very close to him flatly, vacantly ask for either a reduced sentence or for a break this time. Usually, an allocution include specific details regarding the crime, or evidence against the fairness of the jury or context of the crime (i.e. a jury of racists or a beaten housewife accused of murder in self-defense, respectively). The onlooker can't believe his ears: bits and pieces of his loved one's atrocity are surfacing, and he is unmoved in his admissions.

    Even if the Pied Piper lured a village full of children away to a distant land, he was still betrayed by a greedy, oblivious populace. His floating, bloated carcass in the river is a potent image for an unfiltered view of what his loved one has done. He has betrayed and murdered the owed party. Trying to hold up the increasingly heavy conception of his loved one, he

    "Caught his crippled alchemy
    From pounding waves of adoration,"


    "Bloated carcass crippled me
    The weight of adoration."

    The waves of adoration he feels are torturing him, the weight of his adoring image is crushing him in light of his unforgivable act.

    The tide of the coast, the exposure of the light and the flow of a river are unstoppable forces; in Dosteovsky's "Crime and Punishment," so too is the truth behind an evil deed. However, instead of lying broken and disheveled beneath the weight of guilt, this wrongdoer seems exposed simply by happenstance. It seems only unstoppable forces have brought this horror from behind the shroud of darkness. It is as though the tide of the water concealed the dead -- inevitably pulling back; it is as though the flow of the river brought the victim of his will down the river to be viewed by his poor, incognizant lover: it is as though a lucky ray of light caught this thrifty rogue in an unlikely, suspicious circumstance. The forces of nature and the universe -- not the torture of guilt -- brought this criminal before his loved one: convicted and about to be judged.

    When a loved one is even accused of a crime and evidence is presented, it can become a mission just to hold on to how you pictured that person just a day before the officers came. It is a long and painful process coming to terms with what they've done -- or even quelling your doubtful mind if they're proved innocent. This onlooker is on a mission: introspectively defend his loved one. Even if the world thinks him something horrid: he can't be -- he hasn't done this.

    It's often bitterly noted that the first thing we notice about someone when we first meet someone is how they look. If our visual perception leads the way, is not the light a medium through which we perceive another? Betrayed by this light, this wrongdoer was seen. The onlooker caught a glimpse of something terrifying, and it's standing before him now: speaking clearly, but nugatory. In trying to morph the two images -- this creature and this lover, the image becomes amorphous, the defined silhouette a formless shadow.

    Caught in the barbed wire of cognitive dissonance, we rip and we tear. The comforting love we held onto has become the razor which digs into our flesh and bone. The tone of this piece sets the mood: ominous and foreboding, but somber and pleading. Reconciling love with abhorrence is the topic discussed in this passionate piece. As this piece comes to a close, the tone of the voice changes: once shaken and weak, it's doubtful and steady: "It's no easy mission, Holding onto how I picture you." A familiar theme once again, this onlooker is ready to let go. What we see others do affects what we see in others, and we will change as we change our perspective on them. When the bits and pieces meet the missing pieces, the puzzle becomes an image, and that image may break our will to forgive -- to love. Historical archives are practically overflowing with testaments to the banal sadism of the human race, but what of your daughter, your husband, or your mother? When the evidence is collected and presented -- when the mystery is solved: what will you believe, what will you feel? When the thick fog of moral ambiguity subsides and someone you love is stained with the insidious ichor of iniquity, what follows?

    theWMann is right on track.
    AStrangeMonkeyon November 30, 2013   Link
  • +2
    My InterpretationThe song is about the moment of disillusionment and anger. The rage and spite from that moment can turn into a violent outburst. Or in our mind's eye the image of the once edified person is forever tarnished. So in a sense 'they are dead to us'.
    NoLon October 14, 2013   Link
  • +1
    General CommentThere's one mistake in the lyrics from what I hear. They both make sense, though.
    "Targets crippled at the knee" Should be; "Caught his crippled Alchemy"

    That being said I think this song is great but I'm having trouble trying to interpret it. :\


    The Piper in the song is referring to the Pied Piper of Hamelin which is commonly used as a Metaphor for one that offers strong but delusive enticement or a charismatic person who attracts followers.

    That's all I an really help with, I hope some more people have some insight.
    Pitpiton September 14, 2011   Link
  • +1
    General CommentFixed.

    I think the song meaning has something to do with desperately trying to place a meaning to a dead 'hero' who isn't what he/she used to be anymore.
    Punkfunkbuzzon September 19, 2011   Link
  • +1
    My InterpretationThe great thing about lyrics Maynard writes is they don't ever have to mean 1 specific thing and its up to us to take is we want to.

    One of the ways i can see it is hes looking up to someone he admires as a role model. Someone he wants to be like aka "Shadow"ing them. But he later realizes that this person isn't who he thought they were at all. It's almost as if he made up a whole person in his mind filling a theoretical body or "Carcass" up with what he wanted this false person to be. Now where he mentions death towards the end of the song to me its just saying since the person he admired so much isn't a living person so his idea of the role model is dead. With the Pied Piper being mentioned in the song as well it makes it easier to relate this to being a child and growing up having a role model weather it be your father or a superhero or anything and following in their footsteps like how the pied piper lead the children away from home. Another take on the song too could be that we are the carcass' because we have followed this "Pied Piper" away from home as in we stopped being who we are to be something or someone else therefore who we really were is no longer us and that person is now just a carcass. These are just thoughts i have while listening to this song. Its just what it means to me : )
    Hurtcrayonon October 17, 2013   Link
  • +1
    Song ComparisonThink back to songs from Thirteenth Step album such as Weak and Powerless and The Noose. They were about Recovery from Drugs & Alcohol. You have to admit that the booze has beaten you in order to conquer it, and the Holier than thou attitude that some people have when they come out of rehab and forget who they are and what they were is the Halo Slippin Down to tug you off your cloud, & (choke you now) - The Noose! Think also to Maynards other band TOOL's Sober or Ticks and Leeches - very similar.
    On a continuum of this theme it would only be right to include Lapse / Relapse in Addiction Recovery, hence By and Down. Listen to the song again with this in mind and you'll see. Maynards with me on this one. Great minds think alike! Need I say more? Wishing you all the best in your lives, open your minds and you'll be fine! ;-) X
    Phuquesacheon February 15, 2014   Link
  • 0
    General CommentI meant to put 'dead hero' as in someone who is still alive but seems 'dead' to the other person.
    Punkfunkbuzzon September 19, 2011   Link

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