"Ballad of Big Nothing" as written by and Steven P. Smith....
Throwing candy out to the crowd
Dragging down the main
The helpless little thing with the dirty mouth
Who's always got something to say
You're sitting around at home now waiting for your brother to call
I saw him down in the alley
Having had enough of it all
Said you can do what you want to whenever you want to
You can do what you want to there's no one to stop you
All spit and spite you're up all night and down every day
A tired man with only hours to go just waiting to be taken away
Getting in to the back of a car for candy from some stranger
Watching the parade with pinpoint eyes full of smoldering anger
You can do what you want to whenever you want to
You can do what you want to there's no one to stop you
Now you can do what you want to whenever you want to
Do what you want to whenever you want to
Do what you want to whenever you want to
Though it doesn't mean a thing
Big nothing


Lyrics submitted by EnjOy IncUbus

"Ballad of Big Nothing" as written by Steven P. Smith

Lyrics © Universal Music Publishing Group

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Ballad of Big Nothing song meanings
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  • +5
    General Commenternt. wrong. you make your own decisions but the song is about drugs.

    "all spit and spite you're up all night and down every day"
    -you're up all night from coke and down every day from heroin

    "a tired man with only hours to go just waiting to be taken away "
    -tired from being up all night from the coke and hes waiting to be taken away by the stranger who is a drug dealer. he is waiting for his fix.

    "getting in to the back of a car for candy from some stranger "
    -candy is cocaine. it is referred to as nose candy and you will take your fix from anybody hence the stranger.

    "watching the parade with pinpoint eyes full of smoldering anger"
    -you get pinpoint eyes from heroin. they become pindrops.

    "you can do what you want to whenever you want to
    you can do what you want to there's no one to stop you"
    -its your choice to do the drugs. no one can stop you from doing it but yourself
    the green eyeson September 30, 2004   Link
  • +3
    General Comment"Throwing candy out to the crowd
    Dragging down the main"
    - Candy being his often negative, depressing lyrics that he throws out to the main, which is the general audience, the recievers of his messages. I believe Elliott thought he was a bad influence, so this fits with that motif nicely.

    "The helpless little thing with the dirty mouth
    Who's always got something to say"
    - talking about himself, referring to himself as a helpless little nothing with only negative, critical assesments of the world. However, having an artistic, analytical mind, he's always got an opinion, and something to say, but from his perspective, this isn't always a good tihng.

    "You're sitting at home now
    Waiting for your brother to call
    I saw him down at the alley
    Having had enough of it all
    Said you can do what you want to whenever you want to
    You can do what you want to, there's no one to stop you"
    - whether he's referring to his actual brother, or perhaps just a friend, a symbolic brother, to call, but since Elliott was a bit of a difficult guy, his brother basically says, 'fuck it- you're too difficult. i wanted to help, but you're not getting anywhere."

    "All spit and spite, you're up all night
    And down every day"
    - all spit means he's all talk, which is only fueled by his own spite. He's awake all night and depressed everyday.

    "A tired man with only hours to go
    Just waiting to be taken away"
    - he's just waiting for death, hoping it'll come for him soon.

    "Getting into the back of a car
    For candy from some stranger
    watching the parade with pinpoint eyes
    Full of smoldering anger"
    - while his fans get a rise from his lyrics, i assume he gets his rise from whatever this stranger has to offer, maybe just company, maybe sex- it's hard for me to guess here. all the while he's watching the parade, which is a metaphor for life, with his analytical eyes tearing everything a part and making assessments and judgments with a deep seated "smoldering anger" because of what he sees in the world.

    "You can do what you want to whenever you want to
    You can do what you want to, there's no one to stop you
    Now you can do what you want to whenever you want to
    Do what you want to whenever you want to
    Do what you want to whenever you want to
    Though it doesn't mean a thing
    Big nothing"
    - repeating the main part of the song, which reveals a theme that i think hints at suicide, but also at how others get tired of his antics, if thats what you want to call it. in the end, elliott is the big nothing, big perhaps because of fame, but nothing, because that's how he viewed himself.

    this all just guesswork and how i view the song, but thought i'd throw it out there.
    whaton July 22, 2009   Link
  • +2
    General CommentCenters around the oft-heard innocent phrase "you can do whatever you want to." But the innocent phrase of optimism is skewed by the reality that shapes Elliot's life. He thinks he has gone too far away, seen too many things, screwed up too many times and is angry and afraid. Could be about the desire to kick a drug habit - with the second use of "candy" - but not knowing the first thing about how to do it. All that Elliot sees is a patterned cycle that he doesn't know how to escape, so he just keeps on keeping on and becomes bitter at those who live with wide-eyed innocence.
    tubesockson August 02, 2002   Link
  • +2
    General CommentDefinitely about drugs, specifically opiates/heroin.

    Candy = drugs, etc, blah blah blah, getting into the back of a car = drug deal., etc, I'm sure 50 other comments explain it.
    I wrote a full analysis and then the site "went terribly wrong" in its own words and I lost the whole things, so I'll just focus on:

    Why is it about Heroin and not some other drug?

    "Watching the parade with pinpoint eyes full of smoldering anger"

    That line.

    1. Pinpoint eyes -- opiates/heroin are one of the only drugs which cause pupils to constrict. This is known as eyes being "pinpoint" or "pinned out".

    2. Full of smoldering anger -- extreme irritability, agitation, and rage are common side effects of Heroin/Opiate use. Anyone who is close with someone who does this type of drug, or has done it will know exactly what Smith is referring to here.

    With this one line it's insane to think this song isn't (at least partially) about dope.

    Obvious opiate reference.

    There you have it.
    mabzie55on April 04, 2015   Link
  • +1
    General Commentyeah, what he said
    asknoquestionson April 17, 2004   Link
  • +1
    General Comment"said you can do what you want to whenever you want to"


    the melody in this line is great.
    precipitateon December 27, 2004   Link
  • +1
    My OpinionWell good interpretations people! It is the same interpretation you have for all of Elliott Smith's songs.

    This song is about HEROIN!
    This song is about SUICIDE!

    This song is about committing HEROIN while shooting up SUICIDE!
    bluesbegger123on May 05, 2009   Link
  • +1
    General CommentAlso, it's kind of ironic: it sounds like freedom 'I can do what I want to, there's no one to stop me' but in this context it's the freedom to self-destruct, and of course addiction is the opposite of freedom - you are ruled by the drug, not free at all.
    frejaon June 07, 2010   Link
  • +1
    My InterpretationI took it as him talking to a girlfriend, who wasn't happy with him wanting to be close to her, so he's telling her that she can do what she wants to whenever she wants to, but her freedom will mean nothing when she realizes that she pushed his pure love away.
    SleepWalkinon May 10, 2013   Link
  • +1
    General CommentLet's not get to comfortable with subscribing drugs to everything Elliot wrote.
    "Candy" can mean anything thought to be alluring or rewarding,from drugs to applause and everything in between.
    I think some here have been shaking hands with Elliots' monkey a bit too much : )
    Jessguessinon July 16, 2014   Link

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