"Swordfishtrombone" as written by and Tom Waits....
Well, he came home from the war
With a party in his head
And modified Brougham DeVille
And a pair of legs that opened up like butterfly wings
And a mad dog that wouldn't sit still
He went and took up with a Salvation Army band girl
Who played dirty water on a swordfishtrombone
He went to sleep at the bottom of Tenkiller lake
And he said "gee, but it's great to be home"
Well, he came home from the war with a party in his head
And an idea for a fireworks display
And he knew that he'd be ready with a stainless steel machete
And a half a pint of Ballentine's each day
And he holed up in room above a hardware store
Cryin' nothing there but Hollywood tears
He put a spell on some poor little Crutchfield girl
And stayed like that for twenty-seven years
He packed up all his expectations, he lit out for California
With a flyswatter banjo on his knee
With a lucky tiger in his angel hair and Benzedrine for getting there
They found him in a eucalyptus tree
Lieutenant got him a canary bird and skanked her head with every word
Chesterfielded moonbeams in a song
He got twenty years for lovin' her from some Oklahoma governor
Said "everything this Doughboy does is wrong"
Now some say he's doing the obituary mambo
Now some say that he's hanging on the wall
Perhaps this yarn's the only thing that holds this man together
Some say he was never here at all
And some say they saw him down in Birmingham
Sleeping in a boxcar going by
And if you think that you can tell a bigger tale
I swear to God you'd have to tell a lie


Lyrics submitted by archmastermind, edited by Mellow_Harsher

"Swordfishtrombone" as written by Thomas Alan Waits

Lyrics © Peermusic Publishing, Universal Music Publishing Group

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Swordfishtrombone song meanings
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16 Comments

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  • +1
    General CommentWhat makes people say this is about a WWI veteran? I've always assumed Vietnam.

    Tenkiller Lake didn't exist before 1947 (it's a dammed river; the dam was built in '47), and the Cadillac DeVille didn't exist until 1949. Not that Tom necessarily did historical research to write this song (and of course he didn't have access to wikipedia, like me), and there's obviously a lot of metaphor in this song... it certainly doesn't qualify as "realism."

    But... I don't see any lyrical cues indicating World War I. Why do you think it's about WWI?
    timodmon February 07, 2015   Link
  • 0
    General CommentThis is such a great story. It's in the true Tom Waits style of a gritty depressing tale.
    CapnCannibalon November 03, 2004   Link
  • 0
    General CommentBoxcar could stand for "bockscar" which is the plain that dropped the second atomb bomb on Nagasaki, Japan in 1945.
    Sander_vnon December 10, 2004   Link
  • 0
    General CommentNo Sander.. I hate to tell you but a boxcar is a train car. He's talking about the character being homeless and 'riding the rails', so to speak. What the crap would bockscar have to do with anything?
    NQArbuckleon December 29, 2004   Link
  • 0
    General CommentNo Sander.. I hate to tell you but a boxcar is a train car. He's talking about the character being homeless and 'riding the rails', so to speak. What the crap would bockscar have to do with anything?
    NQArbuckleon December 29, 2004   Link
  • 0
    General CommentNo Sander.. I hate to tell you but a boxcar is a train car. He's talking about the character being homeless and 'riding the rails', so to speak. What the crap would bockscar have to do with anything?
    NQArbuckleon December 29, 2004   Link
  • 0
    General CommentNo Sander.. I hate to tell you but a boxcar is a train car. He's talking about the character being homeless and 'riding the rails', so to speak. What the crap would bockscar have to do with anything?
    NQArbuckleon December 29, 2004   Link
  • 0
    General CommentNo Sander.. I hate to tell you but a boxcar is a train car. He's talking about the character being homeless and 'riding the rails', so to speak. What the crap would bockscar have to do with anything?
    NQArbuckleon December 29, 2004   Link
  • 0
    General CommentNQArbuckle please shut up
    badgeon April 10, 2005   Link
  • 0
    General Commentat the time that happened, that was a browser malfunction; and i was hitting "back"; mozilla just kept posting form data. not intentional at all.
    NQArbuckleon May 05, 2005   Link

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