Ben Gibbard said that he wrote this song for a friend who he had met in London years ago but had since fallen out of touch with. He said that when kind of thing...
Duncan, where have you gone?
It's been so, so long
Has London broken your heart?
It happens to the best of us

Duncan, the most regal blood flows through, through you
There's someone, for you to love
Whom you will find in due time

Do you feel like you don't really know yourself?
'Cause the people you meet they just see someone else?
And that your biggest dream is to be just a stranger you'd pass on the street?

Duncan send us a sign that you're alright
Have you sunken further below the coldest depth you've ever known

They raised you the best that they possible could
And still you felt unknown and always misunderstood
And now your biggest dream is to be just a stranger you'd pass on the street


Lyrics submitted by el_numbre

Duncan, Where Have You Gone song meanings
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  • +1
    My InterpretationMusically, one of my favorites off the new album. The lyrics always seemed pretty straightforward, especially after hearing Ben's reason for writing the song--his long-lost friend, "Duncan." But since developing a new theory, I think that story is just a cover. I think Ben is Duncan, and he's singing to himself. Let's take a closer look:

    "Duncan, where have you gone? / It's been so, so long" - Ben has lost touch of himself over the many years of constant rising fame and pressure and romance and heartbreak. Understandably so.

    "Has London broken your heart? / It happens to the best of us" - first song on the album, "Shepherd's Bush Lullaby," is about London (and I believe he recorded it there too). Perhaps a reference to his time spent in London--maybe something bad happened there. Or it just fit lyrically.

    "Duncan, the most regal blood flows through, through you" - I'd like to imagine he thinks highly of his parents, to the point where he considers them royalty.

    "There's someone, for you to love / Whom you will find in due time" - a possible reference to Zooey Deschanel. He's torn up about the divorce and is assuring himself that he will find another love in due time.

    "Do you feel like you don't really know yourself? 'Cause the people you meet they just see someone else?" - people make false assumptions about Gibbard based on his music, making him out to be someone he isn't, thus affecting his self-image and making him question who he really is.

    "And that your biggest dream is to be just a stranger you'd pass on the street?" - in much of Former Lives, Gibbard refers to not wanting to be seen or recognized (see Dream Song & Something's Rattling). What came with his success was the inevitable fame, which only skyrocketed with the marriage & divorce to Zooey. He wants out of the spotlight. Understandably so.

    "Duncan send us a sign that you're alright" - Ben trying to convince himself he's okay.

    "Have you sunken further below the coldest depth you've ever known" - In the context of Duncan = Ben, this is a particularly strong lyric considering (I assume) when he wrote the song he had already overcame his alcoholism. So the constant fame from the Zooey relationship has brought him lower than anything else.

    "They raised you the best that they possibly could / And still you felt unknown and always misunderstood" - Sounds like an apology to his parents for doing as well as they could, yet never quite succeeding with him. I think, over his career, many of his lyrics point to being unknown and misunderstood.

    "And now your biggest dream is to be just a stranger you'd pass on the street" - as opposed to the same question posed earlier, he has finally accepted the fact that this is his biggest dream by stating it.

    Through calling himself Duncan, he's re-inventing himself and putting on the disguise that he so desperately wants. Alternatively, this song could be what he wish the media would say to him--"you're right, let's back off this guy & let him be." Either way, I think Duncan is more than he appears to be.
    andyserkison June 23, 2013   Link
  • 0
    General CommentI wonder if there's an intended reference to King Duncan from Macbeth? (regal blood).
    InTheHazeon March 22, 2013   Link

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