"I Started Something I Couldn't Finish" as written by Johnny Marr and Steven Patrick Morrissey....
The lanes were silent
There was nothing, no one, nothing around for miles
I doused our friendly venture
With a hard-faced
Three-word gesture

I started something
I forced you to a zone
And you were clearly
Never meant to go
Hair brushed and parted
Typical me, typical me
Typical me
I started something
...And now I'm not too sure

I grabbed you by the guilded beams
Uh, that's what tradition means
And I doused another venture
With a gesture
That was...absolutely vile

I started something
I forced you to a zone
And you were clearly
Never meant to go
Hair brushed and parted
Typical me, typical me
Typical me
I started something
...And now I'm not too sure

I grabbed you by the guilded beams
Uh, that's what tradition means
And now eighteen months' hard labour
Seems...fair enough

I started something
And I forced you to a zone
And you were clearly
Never meant to go
Hair brushed and parted
Typical me, typical me
Typical me
I started something
And now I'm not too sure

I started something
I started something
Typical me, typical me
Typical me, typical me
Typical me, typical me
Typical me
I started something
And now I'm not too sure

OK Stephen? ...Do that again?


Lyrics submitted by weezerific:cutlery

"I Started Something I Couldn't Finish" as written by Steven Patrick/marr Morrissey

Lyrics © Warner/Chappell Music, Inc., Universal Music Publishing Group

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I Started Something I Couldn't Finish song meanings
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41 Comments

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  • +3
    General CommentA gay friend of mine had impulsively declared his love and longing for someone who he thought might be receptive, but he was wrong. That person barely spoke to him again, and he ended up completely humiliated about it. He always told me that this song described his thoughts so perfectly...
    driggsyon June 05, 2004   Link
  • +3
    General Commentin 1895, oscar wilde was sentenced to two years' imprisonment with 'hard labour' for his homosexuality. maybe it's that.
    bazzzon August 29, 2005   Link
  • +2
    General CommentHere's my explanation

    1. The three word gesture is 'hard faced' because the expressed feelings are not true.
    The character (not necesserily Morrissey) is exagerating his feelings with a friend in order to bring her/him (it doesn't matter at this point) to bed. Anyway, we don't have to assume the 3 word gesture is 'I love you', it could be a more honest 'I WANT you'. Nonetheless it could be false. Expecially in case the speaking character is gay and is having a sexual/sentimental approach with a girlfriend.

    2. This is what he started and couldn't finish, because he cannot take the relationship one step further (a true relationship) since he realized he doesn't love the partner and never did. Started by impulse towards a friend, he forced her/him (it doesn't matter at this point) to a half relationship
    built upon a lie. Yes, I think we might call that a tradition, a man telling a woman how beautiful she is or how important to him or simply how great the desire... just in order to obtain something from her. And the character thought he was different, and would have never done such a vile thing.

    3. Here comes the sense of guilt. 18 months hard labour would be an acceptable punishment. Always bettere than having to explain the truth to him/her (I said, it doesn't matter!). Maybe the character had a 18 months relationship with her/him, being too embarassed to tell the truth. And carrying on an unwanted relationship is quite comparable to hard labour in sentimental terms.

    4. Typical me. I hate to admit I always mess up everything. Also, I (the character) always start things and can't finish them in other aspects of my life. That's because I'm a self deprecating inane being, unable to truly live his life, make decisions, enjoy relationships and friendship with no
    hassle. Quite consistent with the speaking character of many Morrissey songs.

    localon February 23, 2010   Link
  • +1
    General CommentThis song reminds me of my mate from high school, I'd flirt with him like mad and he'd say 'don't start something you can't finish', I kno this means nothin to anyone else, but whenever I hear this song, I think of him.
    Charlotte-Molkoon September 21, 2002   Link
  • +1
    General CommentWell you can grab me by guilded beams anyday, Moz ;)
    Nina78on September 06, 2006   Link
  • +1
    General CommentCould it be possible the song refers to something atrocious like sexual assault/rape (perhaps as an impulse after the rejection of his or her 'three word gesture')? This would more clearly explain the "18 months hard labour" and definitely the line "With a gesture / That was absolutely vile." Perhaps the narrator feels remorse - a remorse that must have kept him/her from carrying the act to its completion. the words "forced" and "grabbed" also suggest a darker physical aspect. Still not sure about the line "that's what tradition means," though.

    Either way you read this it's a great song by a great band.
    Rosemondon December 17, 2006   Link
  • +1
    General CommentI respectfully disagree with tamnin about "guilded beams". I think that it is important that Moz used the archaic spelling of what would now be spelled "gilded". The archaic spelling, to me at lest, implies a reference to an archaic source. The phrase (or a variation of the phrase) "guilded beams" seems fairly common in 16th and 17th century English Poetry. Guilded beams (as in beams of light, not architectural) are the golden rays of greatness and/or light that emanate from the sun. In this song I think it is a reference specifically to 'A Hymn of the Nativity, sung by the Shepherds' by Richard Crashaw. It goes:
    Welcome—tho' not to those gay flies,
    Guilded i' th' beams of earthly kings,
    Slippery souls in smiling eyes—
    To me Morrissey's perversion of the original meaning of these few lines fits perfectly with the ironic treatment of language, religion, and sexuality present in 'I Started Something I Couldn't Finish' and in Moz's lyrics generally. More context, such as Crashaw's anti-Catholic feelings can be found on wikipedia and the full poem is available all over the web.

    and moz can grab me by my gay flies any day
    cmrnon March 05, 2007   Link
  • +1
    General CommentNot sure if The Smiths are known for being straight forward in their lyrics, but this song doesn't seem all that difficult to decipher. Maybe it's about having confidence and plans, but when it comes down to it you just aren't able or willing to produce. And maybe it's the game (the play) that's the thrill and not the actual getting. Sounds like a song about human nature and finding it easier not to take genuine risk. It would describe lots of us....
    IllToast2Thaton May 11, 2012   Link
  • 0
    General CommentAll his growls are totally lost when the lyrics are written out this way.
    Oh, typical me. I love these lyrics, they burrow into my head.
    periwinklebydayon May 30, 2004   Link
  • 0
    General CommentA gay friend of mine had impulsively declared his love and longing for someone who he thought might be receptive, but he was wrong. That person barely spoke to him again, and he ended up completely humiliated about it. He always told me that this song described his thoughts so perfectly...
    driggsyon June 05, 2004   Link

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