I am tall and I am thin
Of an enviable hight
And I've been known to be quite handsome
In a certain angle and in certain light

Well I entered into O'Malley's
Said, "O'Malley, I have a thirst"
O'Malley merely smiled at me
Said "You wouldn't be the first"

I knocked on the bar and pointed
To a bottle on the shelf
And as O'Malley poured me out a drink
I sniffed and crossed myself

My hand decided that the time was nigh
And for a moment it slipped from view
And when it returned, it fairly burned
With confidence anew

Well the thunder from my steely fist
Made all the glasses jangle
When I shot him, I was so handsome
It was the light, it was the angle

Huh! Hmmmmmm
Neighbours! I cried, Friends! I screamed
I banged my fist upon the bar
I bear no grudge against you!
And my dick felt long and hard

I am the man for which no God waits
But for which the whole world yearns
I'm marked by darkness and by blood
And one thousand powder-burns

Well, you know those fish with the swollen lips
That clean the ocean floor
When I looked at poor O'Malley's wife
That's exactly what I saw

I jammed the barrel under her chin
And her face looked raw and vicious
Her head it landed in the sink
With all the dirty dishes

Her little daughter Siobhan
Pulled beers from dusk till down
And amongst the townfolk she was a bit of a joke
But she pulled the best beer in town

I swooped magnificent upon her
As she sat shivering in her grief
Like the Madonna painted on the church-house wall
In whale's blood and banana leaf

Her throat it crumbled in my fist
And I spun heroically around
To see Caffrey rising from his seat
I shot that mother fucker down
Mmmmmmmmmm Yeah Yeah Yeah

"I have no free will," I sang
As I flew about the murder
Mrs. Richard Holmes, she screamed
You really should have heard her

I sang and I laughed, I howled and I wept
I panted like a pup
I blew a hole in Mrs. Richard Holmes
And her husband stupidly stood up

As he screamed, "You are an evil man"
And I paused a while to wonder
If I have no free will then how can I
Be morally culpable, I wonder

I shot Richard Holmes in the stomach
And gingerly he sat down
And he whispered weirdly, "No offense"
And then lay upon the ground

"None taken," I replied to him
To which he gave a little cough
With blazing wings I neatly aimed
And blew his head completely off

I've lived in this town for thirty years
And to no-one I am a stranger
And I put new bullets in my gun
Chamber upon chamber

And I turned my gun on the bird-like Mr. Brookes
I thought of Saint Francis and his sparrows
And as I shot down the youthful Richardson
It was St. Sebastian I thought of, and his arrows

I said, "I want to introduce myself
And I am glad that all you came"
And I leapt upon the bar
And shouted out my name

Well Jerry Bellows, he hugged his stool
Closed his eyes and shrugged and laughed
And with an ashtray as big as a fucking really big brick
I split his head in half

His blood spilled across the bar
Like a steaming scarlet brook
And I knelt at it's edge on the counter
Wiped the tears away and looked

Well, the light in there was blinding
Full of God and ghosts of truth
I smiled at Henry Davenport
Who made no attempt to move

Well, from the position I was standing
The strangest thing I ever saw
The bullet entered through the top of his chest
And blew his bowels out on the floor

Well I floated down the counter
Showing no remorse
I shot a hole in Kathleen Carpenter
Recently divorced

But remorse I felt and remorse I had
It clung to every thing
From the raven's hair upon my head
To the feathers on my wings

Remorse sqeezed my hand in it's fradulent claw
With it's golden hairless chest
And I glided through the bodies
And killed the fat man Vincent West

Who sat quietly in his chair
A man become a child
And I raised the gun up to his head
Executioner-style

He made no attempt to resist
So fat and dull and lazy
"Did you know I lived in your street?" I said
And he looked at me as though I were crazy

"Oh," he said, "I had no idea"
And he grew as quiet as a mouse
And the roar of the pistol when it went off
Near blew that hat right off the house

Well, I caught my eye in the mirror
And gave it a long and loving inspection
"There stands some kind of man," I roared
And there did, in the reflection

My hair combed back like a raven's wing
My muscles hard and tight
And curling from the business end of my gun
Was a query-mark of cordite

Well I spun to the left, I spun to the right
And I spun to the left again
"Fear me! Fear me! Fear me!"
But no one did cause they were dead

And then there were the police sirens wailing
And a bull-horn squelched and blared
Drop your weapons and come out
With your hands held in the air

Well, I checked the chamber of my gun
Saw I had one final bullet left
My hand, it looked almost human
As I raised it to my head

"Drop your weapon and come out!
Keep your hands above your head!"

I had one one long hard think about dying
And did exactly what they said
There must have been fifty cops out there
In a circle around O'Malley's bar

"Don't shoot," I cried, "I'm a man unarmed!"
So they put me in their car
And they sped me away from that terrible scene
And I glanced out of the window
Saw O'Malley's bar, saw the cops and the cars
And I started counting on my fingers
1, 2, 3, 4..
O'Malley's bar
O'Malley's bar


Lyrics submitted by typo

O'Malley's Bar song meanings
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34 Comments

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  • +6
    General CommentArguably Nick Cave the songwriter at his finest - certainly at his most brutal and violent. One of 3 major reasons Murder Ballads should not be regarded as some sort of throwaway novelty album. He rhymes grief with banana leaf for god sakes - thats a master at work.

    I have to respond to TOMMOs breakdown of the fourth stanza, because it struck me as a huge stretch. It's not the most obvious of things, no - but it's certainly not so vague as to allow for such a wild explaination i don't believe.

    My hand decided that the time was nigh (the time to kill these cretins - more evidence toward his idea that he has no control and is hence not morally culpable)

    And for a moment it slipped from view. (off the bar and perhaps into his jacket, or down by his hip)

    When it returned, it fairly burned with confidence anew (because it was now brandishing the gun it had procured out of view. now, with this gun, his hand felt far more confident than it had empty - more toward this man being a weak coward.)

    And i don't know that this guys on any sort of drug - he's just snapped - i don't know that he's the angel of death either - i believe he fancies himself as some avenging angel (hence all the references) which goes hand in hand with his vanity.

    And for fun, since he was counting on his fingers, i had to do this after the first few listen through but he tallies 12 i believe (correct me if i'm wrong) 10 shootings, 1 throat crush and a bludgeoning by ashtray.

    Cold blooded murder never sounded so awesome!
    StickityWicketon July 11, 2008   Link
  • +5
    General Comment"When I shot him, I was so handsome
    It was the light, it was the angle"

    Another proof of Cave's brilliant humor.
    This is a great song.
    finnurtgon July 04, 2004   Link
  • +5
    General CommentIt's the attention to detail that gets me. Six bullets fired - reload - five more fired & one remaining. Perfect. (I know, I need to get out more).
    There's another version of this on the 'B-Sides & Rarities' album, which has several differences & a most intriguing coda...
    morbid moragon June 09, 2008   Link
  • +4
    General CommentI think his relationship with his neighbours is interesting.
    He seems to know them, but they don't know him. For example, he knows that Kathleen Carpenter was "recently divorced" but Vincent West had no idea that the narrator lived in his street.
    This could indicate that part of his motive for the murders was that everyone in the town had treated him like he was invisable. Perhaps they had avoided him because he seemed strange.
    Another interpretation could be that he knows their details because he really IS the angel of death. However, I get the impression that he is simply vain, lonely and insane.
    Pocketon January 22, 2008   Link
  • +4
    General CommentI'm surprised nobody's mentioned Jerry Bellows turning up in this song, yet! It could be a coincidence, but the thought of there being some continuity around the songs is pretty tempting, isn't it?

    I don't think the guy is actually meant to be the angel of death. I think what it is, is like Cannibalox said, someone living in a town all his life and nobody noticing him and so he obsesses over them and why they must not notice him. Well, that or he must be a bit of a laughing stock in the town- hence why Mr Bellows "shrugged and laughed". And so eventually he creates this mental philosophy of being the angel of death, sent to get vengeance on them for their wrongs.

    I think the interesting thing in this song is you're never quite sure which parts are actually happening- after all, this guy is completely nuts, and there's some parts which seem completely jarring. I think we can assume the stuff about ravens and him having wings are his craziness talking, and the murders are probably true and not just a fantasy since the police come along in the end. But how about Richard Holmes? The part where the guy seems to suddenly forgive the narrator for shooting him and his wife- even apologising for offending HIM- seem a bit odd. And couple that with all the parts where people don't put up any fight- like Henry Davenport "made no attempt to move" and Vincent West "made no attempt to resist". It just seems like the narrator is skewing reality to make his goal seem like it's even more moral and just.
    Appers66on March 22, 2008   Link
  • +3
    General CommentI just love this song! Great sense of humor and a brilliant display of knowledge about storytelling. You have to admire mr. cave.
    lubahon May 17, 2002   Link
  • +2
    General CommentIm never going to the bar again.
    jimbobjoeon September 14, 2002   Link
  • +2
    General CommentI'm fairly sure that when he talks about 'by his wings' he's talking about himself as if he was the angel of death/an avenging angel.
    Gloomon June 28, 2004   Link
  • +2
    General CommentThe guy in the story is pondering religion quite a bit. He defend himself and his actions with the lack of free will.


    We also got his flashback of thinking about S:t Sebastian (shot with a lot of arrows) when he himself shots a victim (making himself a perpetrator against a beliving. The angel reference puts him at the other side of the religious slider. He is confused, actually he blame his own hand for taking action: "My hand decided that the time was nigh", it wasn't him it was his weak body.
    JASGripenon April 16, 2005   Link
  • +2
    General CommentThe character in this song seems to think that it is not him who decides his actions.

    "my hand decided that the time had come"
    "If I have no free will then how can I
    Be morally culpable, I wonder "

    I suspect his filosofy is this whole world is an absurd, meaningless game. Therefore there is no wrong or right. But what makes him weak is that he still loves himself, which doesn't fit in his filosofy. ("I had a long hard think about dieing, and did exactly what they said")
    Or maybe he uses the excuse of not having free will to get his kicks without feeling responsible.
    Sander_vnon April 26, 2005   Link

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