Fortune, fame —
mirror vain —
gone insane —
but the memory remains!

Heavy rings on fingers wave;
another star denies the grave.
See the nowhere crowds cry their nowhere cheers of honor,
like twisted vines that grow,
hide, and swallow mansions whole,
and dim the light of an already faded prima donna.

Fortune, fame —
mirror vain —
gone insane!

Fortune, fame —
mirror vain —
gone insane —
but the memory remains!

Heavy rings hold cigarettes
up to lips that time forgets
while the Hollywood sun sets behind your back.
And can’t the band play on?
Just listen! They play my song:
ash to ash, dust to dust, fade to black.

Fortune, fame —
mirror vain —
gone insane!

Fortune, fame —
mirror vain —
gone insane!

Dance, little tin goddess!

Da da da da da da da...

Drift away, fade away,
little tin goddess:
ash to ash, dust to dust, fade to black!

Fortune, fame —
mirror vain —
gone insane!

Fortune, fame —
mirror vain —
gone insane —
but the memory remains!

Ash to ash, dust to dust, fade to black —
the memory remains!
Yeah, to this faded prima donna,
yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah!

Dance, little tin goddess, dance!

Da da da da da da da...

(Say yes. At least say hello.
Say yes. At least say hello.)


Lyrics submitted by elmoz, edited by Anomalocaris

The Memory Remains (feat. Marianne Faithfull) song meanings
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63 Comments

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  • +5
    General CommentThe woeful tale of a "15 minutes of fame" pop star. She spends her entire life trying to to return to the lime-light, and goes insane. Have fun, Ms. Spears!
    Jigokusabreon April 12, 2002   Link
  • +4
    General CommentThere's no doubt in my mind that this song is 100% about the classic 1950 film "Sunset Boulevard", directed by Billy Wilder. I KNOW (and I've never heard any of the guys in Metallica mention it, but I just KNOW) that this was absolutely intentional. They saw the film one day, and decided to write a song about it. If you've ever seen this amazing film (which I HIGHLY recommend to everyone), then it would be completely obvious to anyone who's seen it. It's about a past-her-prime silent film actress, Norma Desmond, (played superbly by Gloria Swanson), who believes that she is still a great star, still as famous as she ever was, and still wanted by all the studios and directors. The blatant references/hints/clues are ALL over the song.
    The chorus...

    "Fortune, fame
    Mirror vain
    Gone insane
    But the memory remains"

    sums up Norma's whole persona and mindset throughout the film. She has fortune, has (had) fame, is constantly looking in mirrors, very vain, and very much insane. She attempts suicide multiple times, imagines fans around her, and in the end of the film... commits a murder.

    "Heavy rings on fingers wave
    Another star denies the grave
    See the nowhere crowd
    Cry the nowhere cheers of honor"

    Throughout the film, Norma wears large gaudy jewelry, including rings. But the part about the "nowhere crowd cry the nowhere cheers of honor" is even more fitting. She still receives much fan mail every week, completely oblivious to the fact that it's not real, and actually all being sent by her ex-husband. Also, she watches screenings of her own old films in her mansion, and even though she is alone, or only with one other person, in her mind there is a cheering crowd with her every time, watching and cheering and calling for her. And speaking of her mansion...

    "Like twisted vines that grow
    Hide and swallow mansions whole
    In light of an already
    Faded prima donna"

    Her huge and ancient mansion, up in the hills off Sunset Blvd, is terribly run-down, and almost completely overgrown and covered with twisting vines. When Joe, the protagonist (and narrator) of the film, first arrives there, he thinks the house must be abandoned and empty. But this isn't enough proof, you say? Circumstantial and coincidental? Well here's where Metallica really hits us over the head with it and screams "It's the film Sunset Boulevard!"...

    "Heavy rings hold cigarettes
    Up to lips that time forgets
    While the Hollywood sun sets
    Behind your back"

    Not only does Norma actually have a large ring in the film that has a hoop/clip on it, and actually doubles as a cigarette holder, but just read the last part of that stanza! "While the Hollywood SUN SETS behind your back"! That line alone makes it absolutely definite in my mind.

    "And can't the band play on
    Just listen, they play my song
    Ash to ash
    Dust to dust
    Fade to black"

    The band reference... In the film, Norma throws a New Years party at her mansion. But the thing is... much to the surprise of the audience and the narrator (Joe)... the whole party is only for two guests. Norma and Joe. Who happens to be about 30 or 40 years Norma's junior. At the party is a full band that she has hired. It is one of the most surreal scenes in the film (which is full of those). A giant grand ballroom, with a full orchestral band, on New Years Eve, and only the two people there, as Norma tells the band to play on while she insists on dancing with Joe, telling him, (quite insanely, or pathetically, depending on your opinion), that she is in love with him, and that the band is playing "their song".

    "Fade to black", while yes, it is another great Metallica tune, I think here refers to just the end of the film. When a film is over, it fades to black. A very common film term. Yes, it carries a double meaning here, as a sly winking reference to their classic song of the same name, but it also carried the film meaning.

    "Dance, little tin goddess"

    Well, I've explained the dancing. It's a big scene at the turning point in the film. And "little tin goddess" is a goddess of film. Norma Desmond. Referring to the little tin, the small film canister, that film reels are stored in.

    Anyway, if you want to tell me that I'm wrong, then please, go find this completely perfect film, (one of the greatest of all time), rent it (or just buy it! You won't regret it), watch it, then listen to "The Memory Remains" again... and then see if you still want to tell me I'm wrong.
    FilmScorpioon September 03, 2005   Link
  • +3
    General CommentI've always had a theory that this song was about Guns N' Roses, specifically ripping on Axl Rose, because James doesn't like Axl....especially considering Axl stood Metallica up the day James burned...and "The Memory Remains" refers to that memory

    Fortune, fame
    Mirror vain
    Gone insane
    But the memory remains

    ** Pretty much sums Axl up to a T...GN'R went to hell because Axl overtook the band and believed that he was the whole band

    Heavy rings on fingers wave
    Another star denies the grave
    See the nowhere crowd
    Cry the nowhere tears of honor

    ** The rings could refer to Axl's excessive jewelry, and the star denying the grave would be Hetfield because he some how managed to not die from the stage mishap...at the time when the song was written, GN'R was already split up and had their "nowhere crowd", also referring to Axl as the faded prima donna (a pun against him as a female...there's even a backstage video of Hetfield referring to Axl as scrawny and girly)

    Heavy rings hold cigarettes
    Up to lips that time forgets
    While the Hollywood sun sets
    Behind your back

    ** Again, this should be pretty obvious given Axl's cigarette habits and then reason Axl gave for standing Metallica up the night Hetfield burned was because his voice (due to his heavy cigarette smoking)...Hollywood is where GN'R took off and were at one time called "Hollywood Rose"

    And can't the band play on
    Just listen, they play my song
    Ash to ash
    Dust to dust
    Fade to black

    ** This is what really strikes me..."and can't the band play on?" Hetfield asks...a riot occured that night GN'R refused to "play on"....Metallica couldn't play on because Hetfield burned (ash to ash, dust to dust), during the song Fade to Black (what a coincidence)

    Dance little tin goddess

    ** Could be another female pun against Axl...and we've probably all seen him doing his weird dances and sways on stage as he performs
    cj0054on June 02, 2009   Link
  • +2
    General CommentUm, sorta. Someone who is a star, whether it be a pop star or rock star or actor, etc. I take it in a personal refrence to Metallica themselves. I mean, everybody is like, "Metallica is gay, they suck now, they're so over" when really they're not, they still make albums, and I don't think they'll be over for avery long time if not never. And What makes me take refrence to them is the' "and can't the band play on, just listen they play my song. Ash to ash, dust to dust, Fade to Black." they refer to their song Fade to Black. I can't tell if it's intentional or not...oh well, that's how I look at it even though it probably isn't. MetallicA kicks @$$!
    Death on Arrivalon May 31, 2002   Link
  • +2
    General Commentumm RIP Cliff
    GnarTardon April 11, 2013   Link
  • +1
    General CommentI hate you death metal punk fans. You have no business commenting on songs that you hate. We're talking about the meaning of songs--this isn't a place to troll.

    Death metal and the fans that worship it should all die and burn in hell like they want to anyway.

    As for The Memory Remains, I agree that it does sound like it's a self-reference. Metallica will live on forever, whether people like Load and Reload or not.
    Kuyukly78on August 17, 2006   Link
  • +1
    General Commenti think the song is about someonewho is getting older each day and is goin on about when he or she dies
    aboweon May 10, 2010   Link
  • 0
    General Commenti understand the general mening of this song but culd someone pleez explain the "dance little tin godess" part. and oh ya METALLICA FUCKING ROCKS!!

    laquishaon June 16, 2002   Link
  • 0
    General Commenti thought this song was about themselves getting old and coming too the end of such a long and distinguished career.......
    Bulkyoneon August 24, 2002   Link
  • 0
    General Commentdance little tin goddess is like a producer guiding every move the star makes.
    WeezerGuy3on September 02, 2002   Link

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