"That Smell" as written by Ronnie Van Zant and Allen Collins....
Whiskey bottles, and brand new cars
Oak tree you're in my way
There's too much coke and too much smoke
Look what's going on inside you

Ooooh that smell
Can't you smell that smell
Ooooh that smell
The smell of death surrounds you

Angel of darkness is upon you
Stuck a needle in your arm
So take another toke, have a blow for your nose
And one more drink fool, will drown you

Ooooh that smell
Can't you smell that smell
Ooooh that smell
The smell of death surrounds you

Now they call you Prince Charming
Can't speak a word when you're full of 'ludes
Say you'll be all right come tomorrow
But tomorrow might not be here for you

Ooooh that smell
Can't you smell that smell
Ooooh that smell
The smell of death surrounds you

Hey, you're a fool, you (2:30)
Go on stick them needles in your arm (2:34)

I know I been there before (2:50)

One little problem that confronts you (3:28)
Got a monkey on your back
Just one more fix, Lord might do the trick
One hell of a price for you to get your kicks

Ooooh that smell
Can't you smell that smell
Ooooh that smell
The smell of death surrounds you
Ooooh that smell
Can't you smell that smell
Ooooh that smell
The smell of death surrounds you

Hey, you're a fool, you
Go on stick those needles in your arm
You're just a fool, just a fool, just a fool


Lyrics submitted by magicnudiesuit

"That Smell" as written by Ronnie Van Zant, Allen Collins

Lyrics © Universal Music Publishing Group

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That Smell song meanings
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39 Comments

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  • +1
    General CommentHe was also addicted to drugs and the rest of the band wanted to put a stop to it. Hence the refrenced to drugs and not just alcohol.
    Muzzyon March 05, 2003   Link
  • +1
    General CommentI think everything was getting out of control with Gary, they thought. Heroin, Blow, Qualudes ('ludes), and way too much drinking.
    discgoon September 21, 2004   Link
  • +1
    General CommentI love how someone can take the line, "The smell of death surrounds you" and say that it means something other than death. Yeah we all get it, coke goes in the nose and druggies smell, but the obvious point here was "If you continue to do drugs, you are going to die" It wasn't to be taken literally. It wasn't written to tell the subject that they had poor hygiene. Argue all you want that it's about what shit smells like when you snort cocaine, but the song isn't just about coke, it's also about pot, heroin, 'ludes and alcohol.
    drewzer15on October 22, 2011   Link
  • +1
    General CommentRonnie van Zandt was absolutely the father figure for the rest of the band. This song is him heavily scolding Gary Rossington and Allen Collins for two separate DUI car crashes on the same Labor Day weekend. These quotes Ronnie gave to the LA Times in 1976 are interesting:

    "We were babies when we started this band,” he states, “and, to me, the other guys still are. There was a time when I’d get really drunk in this bar and say, ‘Who is the meanest mother here?’ You got a date with me outside.’ For the hell of it. The other guys are mostly still at that point. They’ll learn.”

    “It’s a terrible thing when you get behind the wheel and you’re so drunk that you can’t drive a car to begin with. Those boys will pay for it. Allen hit a parked Volkswagen and knocked it across an empty parking lot. That was just a fender-bender compared to Gary’s. I can’t tell you how mad I got at him for that. We’re glad he’s gonna make it, he’s tremendously lucky to be alive… but it was his fault. He passed out at the wheel of his brand new Ford Torino, with his foot on the gas. He knocked down a telephone pole, split an oak tree and did $7,000 worth of damage to a house. That’s being just plain stupid. I told him that on his hospital bed.”

    Gary Rossington: "Unfortunately, that song is kinda about me and a lot of other people. One night, back when I didn't know any better, I was doing Quaaludes and drinking and went out on Labor Day weekend. I had this friend playing at a teen den, and I took this girl with me. We got crazy, and on the way home I ran into an oak tree, knocked out some teeth and got in trouble. That song's just about getting caught up in the times. We know now that drinking, drugs and shooting means death. That's not what we're about now."

    Allen Collins' drug and alcohol abuse continued to worsen, sadly, and he had another DUI crash in 1986 that killed his extramarital girlfriend and paralyzed him from the waist down (as well as part of his arms). As part of his plea agreement to avoid prison time, he had to get on stage at every single show on the Tribute Tour and tell the crowd exactly what he'd done and why he'd never be able to play guitar again. He ended up dying of pneumonia related to his paralysis just 4 years later. He was 37.
    jf998247on April 06, 2015   Link
  • +1
    General CommentOh, and the "smell of death" he's describing is more of a metaphor than a real smell. It's the smell of desperation, of imminent disaster, a person coming unglued before your eyes and losing their control over their addictions.

    Johnny smelled that smell on both Gary and Allen; Gary managed to get clean and become the backbone that allowed the heart of the band to survive and reform. He's 63 and still kicking. Allen couldn't stop drinking, and died a paralyzed and stigmatized man at just 37. I guess you never can tell.
    jf998247on April 06, 2015   Link
  • 0
    General CommentActually the song was written about one of the original guitarists of Skynyrd, Allen Collins, who wrecked (or should i say wrapped his brand new car around an oak tree cause he was real messed up (alchohol).
    bahablazeon April 16, 2002   Link
  • 0
    General CommentWhat does the "smell of death" smell like?
    Bite Meon May 09, 2002   Link
  • 0
    General Commentoak and metal, with a trace of alcohol
    lacent stuarton June 07, 2002   Link
  • 0
    General CommentFirst off guys,you must not know Skynyrd history.Allen Collins had the wreck after the plane crash,and Ronnie Van Zant wrote the song,so apparently it cant be about Colins' wreck.Although,it is about Ronnie being fed up with Artimus and Allen's shooting up and drinking.
    SouthernMetalheadon March 19, 2003   Link
  • 0
    General CommentSpot on SouthernMetalHead, the song is about Gary Rossington.

    Prince Charming - Gary was always popular with the ladies, so history goes!

    I'm not sure about the Artimus and Collins thing, if so, I never heard it before.
    dannyloweryon May 07, 2003   Link

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