"Life During Wartime" as written by and David/harrison Byrne....
Heard of a van that is loaded with weapons,
Packed up and ready to go
Heard of some grave sites, out by the highway,
A place where nobody knows

The sound of gunfire, off in the distance,
I'm getting used to it now
Lived in a brownstone, lived in a ghetto,
I've lived all over this town

This ain't no party, this ain't no disco,
This ain't no fooling around
No time for dancing, or lovey dovey,
I ain't got time for that now

Transmit the message, to the receiver,
Hope for an answer some day
I got three passports, a couple of visas,
You don't even know my real name

High on a hillside, the trucks are loading,
Everything's ready to roll
I sleep in the daytime, I work in the nighttime,
I might not ever get home

This ain't no party, this ain't no disco,
This ain't no fooling around
This ain't no Mudd Club, or C. B. G. B.,
I ain't got time for that now

Heard about Houston? Heard about Detroit?
Heard about Pittsburgh, P. A.?
You oughta know not to stand by the window
Somebody see you up there

I got some groceries, some peanut butter,
To last a couple of days
But I ain't got no speakers, ain't got no headphones,
Ain't got no records to play

Why stay in college? Why go to night school?
Gonna be different this time
Can't write a letter, can't send no postcard,
I ain't got time for that now

Trouble in transit, got through the roadblock,
We blended in with the crowd
We got computers, we're tapping phone lines,
I know that that ain't allowed

We dress like students, we dress like housewives,
Or in a suit and a tie
I changed my hairstyle, so many times now,
I don't know what I look like!

You make me shiver, I feel so tender,
We make a pretty good team
Don't get exhausted, I'll do some driving,
You ought to get you some sleep

Burned all my notebooks, what good are notebooks?
They won't help me survive
My chest is aching, burns like a furnace,
The burning keeps me alive


Lyrics submitted by weezerific:cutlery

"Life During Wartime" as written by Christopher Frantz Chris Frantz

Lyrics © Warner/Chappell Music, Inc.

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Life During Wartime song meanings
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18 Comments

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  • +5
    General CommentWell, this was a very popular song among us volunteers when we were fighting in the Bosnian war (I had a CD Walkman and a TH CD, mp3 players not having been invented yet), it very much reflected what "life during wartime" is really like. But war can also be a metaphor for daily life, and the song could say that, too, with the line "We dress like students, we dress like housewives, or in a suit and a tie", so it could be about the struggle of normal existence.
    chunkstyleon February 24, 2007   Link
  • +3
    General CommentTo me this is a post-modern discription of life after the fall.
    O2BKewl2on March 22, 2002   Link
  • +3
    General CommentI see it as describing the generally paranoid mood of the US in the early 80's, what with the Cold War, post-Watergate mistrust of the government, etc.

    I don't see it as being about touring specifically since he specifically has the lines about this ain't no CBGB's - to me, he's saying all that music stuff isn't as important as escaping the gunfire etc, and so is a criticism of the new wave scene for being irrelevant.
    thitheron July 28, 2005   Link
  • +2
    General Commentthe wikipedia on this ...
    In David Bowman's book This Must Be the Place: The Adventures of Talking Heads in the Twentieth Century, Byrne is quoted as describing the genesis of the song: "I wrote this in my loft on Seventh and Avenue A." And later, "I was thinking about Baader-Meinhof. Patty Hearst. Tompkins Square. This a song about living in Alphabet City."
    But I still agree with malachiconstant , Byrne is way too self-centered to sing about something like

    "The song's lyrics tell of a civil insurrection in the USA (the cities Houston, Detroit and Pittsburgh are mentioned by name)" .....as mentioned earlier in the article.

    The only line that I trip over is "We got computers, we're tapping phone lines,
    I know that ain't allowed"
    Where would he do that on tour?
    WeeKnighTon September 09, 2009   Link
  • +2
    General CommentI think the idea that this is all talking about a band is really interesting, but I never really interpreted it that way.

    As a few others have said, this is literally stuff that occurs during wartime. People stock up on supplies, get paranoid, lose their identities, and don't have time for simple pleasures or day-to-day activities. The song paints a visual of war being everywhere and we're all desperately (and unsuccessfully) attempting to relocate in order to escape it.
    iwannabeahipsteron June 14, 2011   Link
  • +2
    General CommentClassic Talking Heads satire, the song captures the pessimism of America in 1979: Jimmy Carter struggling to put the nation back together again after Nixon's resignation and pardon, Vietnam still not healed under the bandage slapped on it half-a$$ed by Ford, stagflation, lingering paranoia of Communist infiltration and fear of nuclear Armageddon as the Cold War began to wind down. Inspired by the social decay prevalent in Alphabet City, where Byrne lived at the time, the song describes a dark fantasy of America in the worst-case post-apocalyptic scenario haunting the public imagination as the USA limped out of the '70s.
    KangNKodoson June 13, 2013   Link
  • +1
    General CommentThis song is actually about life as a struggling musician on tour. The life of a travelling musician relating this to being a war. Making money, and getting gigs is part of the war.

    Talking about lack of food ("I got some groceries, some peanut butter, to last a couple of days"), and talking about the uselessness of a degree or education as a musician ("burned all my notebooks, what good are notebooks? they won't help me survive)

    But he talks about other cities, as if he were about to travel there. All of the cities being American cities, "Heard about Houston? Heard about Detroit?
    Heard about Pittsburgh, PA?", yet he talks about the places that they are familiar with like the CBGB's and the Muddclub.

    It's about being a struggling band, concentrating on making a living on the road.
    malachiconstanton May 07, 2003   Link
  • +1
    General CommentByrne said it was just a bunch of different things that people would say/do during an urban war.

    Although I'm sure it has a bit to do with the band analogy.
    GTKarberon December 22, 2004   Link
  • +1
    General CommentI think it's about... life during wartime! Imagine that!
    Gimodonon August 01, 2011   Link
  • +1
    General Comment"I got some groceries, some peanut butter, to last a couple of days."

    So... is peanut butter a common item to stock up on during wartime, or does David Byrne just like it...? I've been wondering about that line.

    Besides that random comment, I think this song is about what happens when a country goes to war. I think of rationing food and other items, hiding from people who might kill you on sight, moving around the country to stay safe... There are also some lines that relate in my mind to spying, such as "We got computer, we're tapping phone lines" and "We dress like students, we dress like housewives..." trying to blend in with the normal people. Overall... there's no time for fun. This is serious business. "This ain't no disco, this ain't no party, this ain't no fooling around."
    EnduringChillon January 13, 2013   Link

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