"Ashes of American Flags" as written by and Jeffrey Scott/bennett Tweedy....
The cash machine is blue and green
For a bundle of twenties and a small service fee
I could spend three dollars and sixty-three cents
On Diet Coca-Cola and unlit cigarettes
I wonder why we listen to poets when nobody gives a fuck
How hot and sorrowful, the machine begs for luck

All my lies are always wishes
I know I would die if I could come back new

We want a good life with a nose for things
The fresh wind and bright sky to endure my suffering
I'm a hole without a key if I break my tongue
Oh, speaking of tomorrow, how will it ever come?

All my lies are always wishes
I know I would die if I could come back new

I'm down on my hands and knees
Every time I hear a doorbell ring
I shake like a toothache
Every time I hear myself sing

All my lies are only wishes
I know I would die if I could come back new

I would like to salute
The ashes of American flags
And all the fallen leaves
Filling up shopping bags


Lyrics submitted by jonesth

"Ashes of American Flags" as written by Jay Bennett Jeff Tweedy

Lyrics © Warner/Chappell Music, Inc., BMG RIGHTS MANAGEMENT US, LLC

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Ashes of American Flags song meanings
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45 Comments

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  • +2
    General CommentThere are two prevailing trends of meaning in this song.
    1) Materialism or consumer culture. The lines about buying cigarettes and Coca-Cola represent consumer culture and their obsession with buying things (note how Jeff knows the exact amount of his purchase). Also the "cash machine" and "service fees" evoke this sentiment of money replacing any spiritual values in America.

    2) Mortality. Obviously the lines about wanting to die and come back new are a desperate plea for Jeff to remake himself, and right his wrongs. This is impossible when humans are mortal by nature. "Speaking of tomorrow / how will it ever come?" articulates a sense of being stuck in time, in other words doing nothing with your meaningless life.

    The last lines refer back to the themes of capitalism in America. The flag is being burned because it has no real value, there is no substance to American culture other than the desire to aquire more and more material wealth: "fallen leaves filling up shopping bags." The last line evokes hollow consumers who will buy anything, filling up shopping bags with dead, lifeless things such as "fallen leaves." Alternatively it could indicate the familiar image of the abandoned shopping bag drifting aimlessly and filling up with dead leaves a-la "American Beauty." This is simply my take on the song, there really is a ton of stuff going on here and lyrically it is quite fascinating.
    couldBanyoneon March 09, 2006   Link
  • +1
    General CommentJeff Tweedy reminds me so much of Bob Dylan on this song.
    This seems to me to just be about how empty life can become, hece ashes of american flags. He just wants something new and different.
    The part where he signs "I know I would die if I could come back new" just says it all. Great song.
    tackledspoonon May 28, 2004   Link
  • +1
    General Commentin an interview, he said that ashes of american flags had nothing to do with anti-patriotism. he said that it was about him admiring people who have the balls to burn american flags.
    sugarxspice08on December 22, 2004   Link
  • 0
    General Commentfirst how have only two people commented on this song.
    second this song is awesome, lyrically its amasing
    the lines :
    All my lies are only wishes
    I know I would die if I could come back new
    are just... i dunno universal i would think. beautiful, just so good
    wilcokidon March 02, 2005   Link
  • 0
    General CommentIf any one out there can understand this: I listen to this song and it makes me think of being in a dream-like state, and in this dream-like state I am waking up from actually being asleep, with no worries. I think that's what Jeff's sayin he wants too, in a way, iguess. If that's what he was goin for...I would like to salute the ashes of his american flags
    lizard_kingon March 11, 2005   Link
  • 0
    General CommentJust going off all the previous, tying together the loose ends: I'd say its a dead song, longing for passion. Something to do and feel like doing. Waking up in a dream-like state with no worries... that would be a peace found in the good life the singer desires.
    Fypaston March 29, 2005   Link
  • 0
    General CommentThis song reminds me of summers with me and my best friend; driving around aimlessly. Broke. Wanting good things to happen to us and come our way. Wanting to make something of ourselves. Something better. But still just driving around and hoping for something to fall into our lap.
    serene_autumnon March 31, 2005   Link
  • 0
    General CommentI think that this song has to do with how life is so simple and boring, no one cares. Almost like his life and the people around him are meaningless. He's dreading everyday so he would die to come back a new person... to start over. I think that he is being unpatriotic even if what SUGARXSPICE08 says is true (he might not want to admit that he was being unloyal to his own country). Not to say that he's dissing the country, but almost like he would like to see all the fake and meaningless shit of our country burn away.
    erin000on June 19, 2005   Link
  • 0
    General CommentI think that this song has to do with how life is so simple and boring, no one cares. Almost like his life and the people around him are meaningless. He's dreading everyday so he would die to come back a new person... to start over. I think that he is being unpatriotic even if what SUGARXSPICE08 says is true (he might not want to admit that he was being unloyal to his own country). Not to say that he's dissing the country, but almost like he would like to see all the fake and meaningless shit of our country burn away.
    erin000on June 19, 2005   Link
  • 0
    General CommentI gotta agree with Fypast on this one.

    I don't think the song really has any political meaning. He's just wants to feel passionate enough about something to fight for a change. He wants to feel excited about things again.

    Also, ashes of American flags and falling leaves both (to me) represent a kind of circularity. Something that does die only to come back new.

    Flags burn because we live in a country where they can. And leaves fall but return anew every year.
    drosson October 20, 2005   Link

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