"Bankrobber" as written by Joe Strummer, Mick Jones, Paul Simonon and Topper Headon....
My daddy was a bank robber
But he never hurt nobody
He just loved to live that way
And he loved to steal your money

Some is rich, and some is poor
And that's the way the world is
But I don't believe in laying back
Sayin' how bad your luck is

So he came to jazz it up
Never learned to shovel
Break your back to earn our pay
Don't forget to grovel

My daddy was a bank robber
But he never hurt nobody
He just loved to live that way
And he loved to take your money

He's gone now

The old man spoke up in a bar
Said "I never been in prison
A lifetime serving one machine
Is ten times worse than prison"

Imagine if all the boys in jail
Could get out now together
Whadda you think they'd want to say to us?
While we was being clever

Someday you'll meet your rocking chair
'Cause that's where we're spinning
There's no point to want to comb your hair
When it's grey and thinning

Oh

Hey, my daddy was a bank robber
But he never hurt nobody
He just loved to live that way
And he loved to steal your money

So he came to jazz it up
We never learned to shovel
Break your back to earn your pay
And don't forget to grovel, hey

Get away, get away, get away, get away, get away, get away, get away

My daddy was a bank robber
But he never hurt nobody
He just loved to live that way
And he loved to steal your money

Hey
Run, rabbit run

Brrrp, strike out boys, for the hills
I can find that hole in the wall
I know that they never will

Daddy was a bank robber
But he never hurt nobody
He just loved to live that way


Lyrics submitted by aebassist

"Bankrobber" as written by Mick Jones Joe Strummer

Lyrics © Universal Music Publishing Group

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Bankrobber song meanings
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25 Comments

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  • +4
    General CommentI think what the clash meant by 10 times worse, was that if you work your whole life at one job and waste away doing nothing, it is worse then spending a small amount of time in prison. I think the whole point of the song is that life is short (hence SOMEDAY YOU'LL MEET YOUR ROCKING CHAIR), people aren't meant to work like slaves in pointless jobs that consume your whole life just to fuel capitilism. I think the point they are trying to make is working a job like that, is like being in prison (or 10 times worse haha).
    EZ3on February 15, 2005   Link
  • +3
    General Commenti had to write an analysis of a poem of my choice for my english class this year and used this song:

    I had always been afraid of an in-depth analysis of this poem. I was afraid it would take away the mystery this work has, as well as my reverence for it. Now that I have, I can see my stupidity — this poem is so much better than I had given it credit for.
    In the past, whenever I looked at or listened to this work, I took in each stanza individually. They each could almost be poems by themselves. But when they are placed in order, they mean much more as a whole than they do alone. Yet the best way to analyze this poem is still piece by piece, to make sure nothing is missed. So get out a pen and start taking notes.

    My daddy was a bankrobber
    But he never hurt nobody
    He just loved to live that way
    And he loved to steal your money

    The first stanza gives us our first speaker and our basic information. The speaker is a child, whose use of “daddy,” implies their age. His father “was a bank robber.” Was. He “loved to live that way” and “loved to steal your money.” Everything is in the past tense, as if the speaker is talking about someone who has died.

    Some is rich, and some is poor
    That's the way the world is
    But I don't believe in lying back
    Saying how bad your luck is

    So we came to jazz it up
    We never loved a shovel
    Break your back to earn your pay
    And don't forget to grovel

    The second and third stanzas change speakers to the bank robber himself. He is talking about his glory days; he doesn’t believe in sitting around waiting for life. He “came to jazz it up.” He believes he came into the world with the ability to take it, to seize life, so obviously he “never loved a shovel.” The next two lines are unforgettable:
    Break your back to earn your pay
    And don’t forget to grovel.
    Clearly that is not what the bank robber wants to live by. Look at that diction: “Grovel: To lie or crawl face downwards as in fear or humility.” Beyond that, I think these stanzas are best left untouched.

    The old man spoke up in a bar
    Said, "I never been in prison"
    A lifetime serving one machine
    Is ten times worse than prison

    The fourth stanza switches its speaker again, back to the bank robber’s son (or daughter?) as well as some quotes from an old man in a bar to whom the bank robber has been talking to in the previous stanzas. Just picture this stanza line by line. There’s an old man in a bar. He’s either been working one job his entire life or feels that his life has been ill spent on serving one machine: society’s expectations. He’s clearly unhappy enough to say that his life is “ten times worse than prison.”

    Imagine if all the boys in jail
    Could get out now together
    What do you think they'd want to say to us
    While we was being clever?

    The fifth stanza’s speaker is again the bank robber. He views himself as a hero; the boys in jail would love him. He thinks he’s a new John Dillinger. “What do you think they want to say to us? They’d tell us they love me!”

    Someday you'll meet your rocking chair
    Because that's where we're spinning
    There's no point to want to comb your hair
    When it's grey and thinning

    The central purpose of this poem relies on analysis of the old man’s response in stanza six. The old man is responding to the bank robber’s question, quoting what he believes the prisoner’s response would be. There are several ways to interpret this response, because the tone is difficult to read. If it is positive, then its central purpose would be to seize the day, because soon you will be old and will want to appreciate your life. Or, they could be saying “someday you will be like us, hanging out with noting important to do–we don’t even have to brush our hair.” But it is far more likely that this response has a negative depressive tone based on the next stanza–but I’ll save that for the next paragraph. The prisoners could be saying no matter what you do, life will soon be pointless: “there’s no point to want to comb your hair when it’s gray and thinning.” My favorite analysis, though, is much more extreme. Look at the first line, “Someday you’ll meet your rocking chair.” This is prisoners talking. The rocking chair isn’t made for old people on their front porch. They are talking about the electric chair. And “spinning” in the next line has a double meaning: an ironic meaning of hanging out, and could also refer to also the idea of going in circles forever, waiting on death row.
    The next stanza (not in cluded in the lyrics above) requires you to view the sixth stanza in a negative tone. It is the bank robber’s change in perspective from viewing himself as a hero to realizing that everything he has lived for is pointless, and always will be. Inside his head he is screaming “Get away!” in internal agony. Picture his confusion, sitting at the bar with the old man, hand covering his eyes.

    Run, rabbit, run
    Strike out, boys, for the hills
    I can find that hole in the wall
    And I know that they never will

    Then the eighth stanza is the bank robber’s memory of a job he pulled with his accomplices. He remembers his ignorant confidence, as if he is Dillinger or Baby Face Nelson screaming “Run, rabbit, run;” he has his gun hand and a smile surrounding his cigar.
    This poem means so much to me. I still have no idea why. I think it is incredibly intriguing. I can’t even really figure out its central purpose. It is similar to didactic poetry--poetry that preaches--but asks more questions than it gives answers. It poses the question of how one should live life. The old man who lived his life like society wanted is incredibly upset, as is the bank robber who lived his life by seizing the day. So maybe the central purpose has nothing to do with preaching about seizing the day nor telling people to give up and obey society. Maybe the central purpose is to preach about questioning your life and what you are doing with it.
    clash4lifeon February 19, 2011   Link
  • +2
    Memoryonly discovered this from rocknrolla..klass film.brilliant song, really appeals to me its my thoughts into song. just bought their essential album gonna get listenin..
    lucozade98on April 13, 2009   Link
  • 0
    General Commenta true classic by an outstanding group
    toxicgeekon May 27, 2002   Link
  • 0
    General Commentagree totally. good tune to smoke to.
    blink 182 have loads of comments on their page, yet the clash have very few.how sad.
    chineapple punxon July 01, 2004   Link
  • 0
    General CommentToxic I agree 100 percent. Chineapple, I agree it sucks, Blink 182 could certainly pick up a few things from The Clash.

    THE OLD MAN SPOKE UP IN A BAR
    SAID I NEVER BEEN IN PRISON
    A LIFETIME SERVING ONE MACHINE
    IS TEN TIMES WORSE THAN PRISON

    My fav verse, peace.
    JoE][BoXeRon November 30, 2004   Link
  • 0
    General Commenti understand what the verse is supposed to convey, but it's a bit dramatic, huh? TEN times worse than prison? I've been to prison for less than 24 hours, and there's no fucking way I wanna go back.

    but i guess by this point The Clash had a poetic license to kill...

    great chugging bassline, btw...
    Chinupon December 03, 2004   Link
  • 0
    General CommentTHERE'S NO POINT TO WANNA COMB YOUR HAIR
    WHEN IT'S GREY AND THINNING

    That's my favorite line.
    kmk_natashaon February 17, 2005   Link
  • 0
    General Commentah some of the video was filmed on lewisham high street. and it looks even skankier than it does now.

    i think the idea of a bankrobber is pure clash imagery. they loved all that wild west stuff u know. its one of those crimes which is romantic and carried out by dashing rogues not murderous backstabbers. thats the idea of this song in a way. it encapsulates that feeling the clash give, where crimes against the suits and penpushers is justified but crimes against the human spirit are outlawed, when in reality its the other way around.
    joeytheboyon March 21, 2005   Link
  • 0
    General CommentSame here, Joeyboy. Great song hehe.
    JoE][BoXeRon March 23, 2005   Link

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