"Bad News from Home" as written by and Randy Newman....
High on a cliff in Mexico
Staring down at the rocks and the sea below
I can hear the church bells ring
I can hear the choir

I remember the night she left
I drove to the station in the pouring rain
Sat all night behind my big iron desk
The oil on the water made a rainbow

At the end of this bone white gravel road
They both lie sleeping on a feather bed
And her hair is black as the sky at night
But her eyes are gray like the moon
You can run but you can't hide
You can run but you can't hide
You said you love me but I know you lied
You said you love me but I know you lied


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"Bad News From Home" as written by Randy Newman

Lyrics © Warner/Chappell Music, Inc., Universal Music Publishing Group, Downtown Music Publishing

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Bad News from Home song meanings
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  • +2
    My Interpretation"Gonna do something bad" could also mean suicide. The opening makes me think that the singer is contemplating jumping from that cliff. But if it's suicide he shouldn't be hearing a metaphorical heavenly choir. So the church sounds are real and are from his lover's funeral.

    If he's already killed her (or them) then the question is why isn't he locked up somewhere? He "drove to the station"... He's a cop. Perhaps the sheriff because he has a "big iron desk." And that's how he got away with murder, but now he's being haunted.

    Haunted by her ghost! The last four lines are spoken by her. He can't hide from from her. He never loved her and that's why she cheated on him.
    bertiebottbagon May 02, 2012   Link
  • +2
    Song MeaningWhat!? No comments on this, possibly the greatest murder ballad ever written? Please, please comment, there is SO much interesting discussion to be had from this song.
    Anyway I think it's almost certainly about a man whose wife or lover leaves him for another, and the kills them both. All I could find from the Great Randy Newman himself was "It sounds life the guy's gonna do something bad," and describing it as a "Little drama."
    MagusMirificuson May 02, 2012   Link
  • 0
    General CommentIt is a pretty evocative song -absolutely dripping with foreboding or menace. My original thought was that he was simply contemplating suicide. I thought the bells might be her wedding bells. I didn't think he had killed them, though that's a solid theory too. Agree with bertiebottbag that he must be a police chief which makes the "you can run but you can't hide" lyric work. However he could be telling himself that because he knows he will have to go on living in the knowledge she is with somebody else.
    sulphurcreston July 18, 2014   Link
  • 0
    General CommentI'd say it's pretty clear that she and her companion are dead - caskets are lined with down, making the "feather bed". The question is whether he did it or someone else did. I like to think it's a revenge thing - telling whoever killed her that they can run but they can't hide. Probably a murder ballad though. Simple answers are usually the right ones.
    Bastyanon May 31, 2016   Link
  • 0
    General CommentBased on the good info provided so far here, it seems to me that the bad news from home is this guy himself, the one who is speaking the song, narrating this sad tale.

    He's bad news because his home is in the U.S., but now he finds himself on a Mexican seaside cliff just down the road from where the cheating lovers lie. He is pausing for a few seconds, to immortalize his story for Randy Newman, before carrying out his homicidal intentions.

    The bells and choir might be tolling and wafting from a church in a nearby little Mexican town. Or perhaps,these sounds are revisiting him from his wedding day in that blissful time when his wife lied to him that she loved him.

    The night she disappeared, he was worried sick for her. He was awake all night. This thought didn't pass through his mind that night-- but now he knows . . she lied.

    Now that he is with her once again, he knows that she can run but she cannot hide.

    The illicit pair, as insinuated before, are down the road from this cliff overhanging the sea, and they are asleep on a feather-bed in a rented room of their fugitive-lovers' hacienda.

    Because the moon is not gray except when a cloud comes over it, his wife's eyes are gray like the moon because they are closed.

    Also, she has lyin' eyes she can't hide.

    Her hair is black as the sky at night because there's no light in the room.

    The oil on the water, and iron desk, I don't know. Maybe he pushed their car over the cliff and the rainbow signifies there's no hope for any of the three. He is about to walk back.
    jock110174on September 15, 2017   Link
  • 0
    General CommentJust saw him in Charleston. He played it. I can die happy now. I don't know what it is about this song but it is so dark, so ominous and so beautiful I absolutely adore it. It is my favorite Newman song and one of my favorites period. And yeah, he's going to kill them both.
    Clemson86on November 18, 2017   Link
  • 0
    General CommentI always envisioned the "station" as a gas station because when I was a kid my little league coach shot his estranged wife's lover. The dead guy owned a gas station and my coach camped out in the woods across the street with a rifle. "Oil on the water" made me think of leaked oil and gas at a gas station.
    Clemson86on November 18, 2017   Link

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