"Dress Rehearsal Rag" as written by and Leonard Cohen....
Four o'clock in the afternoon
And I didn't feel like very much.
I said to myself, "Where are you golden boy,
Where is your famous golden touch?"
I thought you knew where
All of the elephants lie down,
I thought you were the crown prince
Of all the wheels in Ivory Town.

Just take a look at your body now,
There's nothing much to save
And a bitter voice in the mirror cries,
"Hey, Prince, you need a shave."

Now if you can manage to get
Your trembling fingers to behave,
Why don't you try unwrapping
A stainless steel razor blade?

That's right, it's come to this,
Yes it's come to this,
And wasn't it a long way down,
Wasn't it a strange way down?

There's no hot water
And the cold is running thin.
Well, what do you expect from
The kind of places you've been living in?

Don't drink from that cup,
It's all caked and cracked along the rim.
That's not the electric light, my friend,
That is your vision growing dim.

Cover up your face with soap, there,
Now you're Santa Claus.
And you've got a gift for anyone
Who will give you his applause.

I thought you were a racing man,
Ah, but you couldn't take the pace.
That's a funeral in the mirror
And it's stopping at your face.

That's right, it's come to this,
Yes it's come to this,
And wasn't it a long way down,
Ah wasn't it a strange way down?

Once there was a path
And a girl with chestnut hair,
And you passed the summers
Picking all of the berries that grew there
There were times she was a woman,
Oh, there were times she was just a child,
And you held her in the shadows
Where the raspberries grow wild.

And you climbed the twilight mountains
And you sang about the view,
And everywhere that you wandered
Love seemed to go along with you.
That's a hard one to remember,
Yes it makes you clench your fist.

And then the veins stand out like highways,
All along your wrist.
And yes it's come to this,
It's come to this,
And wasn't it a long way down,
Wasn't it a strange way down?

You can still find a job,
Go out and talk to a friend.
On the back of every magazine
There are those coupons you can send.
Why don't you join the Rosicrucians,
They can give you back your hope,
You can find your love with diagrams
On a plain brown envelope.

But you've used up all your coupons
Except the one that seems
To be written on your wrist
Along with several thousand dreams.

Now Santa Claus comes forward,
That's a razor in his mit
And he puts on his dark glasses
And he shows you where to hit
And then the cameras pan,
The stand in stunt man,
Dress rehearsal rag,
It's just the dress rehearsal rag,
You know this dress rehearsal rag,
It's just a dress rehearsal rag.

Lyrics submitted by Hosimosi

"Dress Rehearsal Rag" as written by Leonard Cohen

Lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC

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Dress Rehearsal Rag song meanings
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  • +2
    General CommentI definitely agree with the above posts on suicide attempts and rehearsing for the real thing. All thought I don't entirely disagree with the heroin addiction theory I think the song is referring more to a different kind of coping mechanism/self harm, cutting. There's obviously many references made to razor blades and wrists throughout the song. The one that really sells it for me is:
    "But you've used up all your coupons
    except the one that seems
    to be written on your wrist
    along with several thousand dreams.
    Now Santa Claus comes forward,
    that's a razor in his mit..."

    Giving up on hopes and dreams, and going to the last resource, cutting (or shooting up if you prefer that theory).

    So these 'rehearsals' are cutting with suicide in mind but then retracting and not cutting enough to die from. Or shooting up instead of trying suicide at all, until the next time.

    Rag = to soak up blood?
    Rag = To tie around arm for shooting up?

    Also the allusions to heroin addiction could just be for the purpose of showing cutting as an addiction and a quick fix in a similar manner. But I'm beginning to agree more with heroin addiction.
    what do you think?...
    Zerkaloon August 06, 2008   Link
  • +1
    General CommentA Rag is an improvised piece of music. This song is ambiguous as to whether the dress rehersal rag is the main characters suicide, or his life itself. He leaves that up to the listener to figure out.
    neptune235on April 17, 2005   Link
  • +1
    General CommentBrilliant song.
    forgotten412on July 26, 2007   Link
  • +1
    General Commentuntil now i also believed the last lines to be an optimistic twist, a technically constructed by-the-book metaphor for the word 'attempt' or simply 'rehearsal' alone. i think it is not. it is in the same note as the rest of the song, and the dress rehearsal rag (as in rags) is the character's body, his final conclusion. like it was all not for real anyway.
    bobbysunshineon September 01, 2008   Link
  • +1
    General CommentI love the imagery of the dim vision and face covered up in soap -- it so well describes the distortion and blur of thoughts one goes through during a period of dissociation, which often precedes an act of self-harm or suicide. The idea of Santa in the mirror depersonalizes the action from his self, as though he is dissociated, out of his body, watching himself through the looking glass (or in this case, mirror, which is backwards and distorted from reality).
    peachyness88on July 28, 2009   Link
  • +1
    Song MeaningJust as a musician...great powerful song from Leonard Cohen and sung by Judy Collins first time I heard it. It uses the 3# interval, also called the augmented fourth, throughout, which was called 'the devil's chord' and forbidden to be used by the catholic church, as you can hear for obvious reasons.

    It's probably the darkest of Cohen's songs, and he is a master of depth. I wish we had such masters of music now, it's pretty much all trash these days unfortunately....
    cohenloveron August 09, 2009   Link
  • 0
    General CommentGoing off your comment about rags, the title/line "dress rehearsal rag" is a contradiction. I think that's important to the song. It's a practiced improvisation. It's not an actual suicide... it's the waking up/lying in bed contemplating suicide feeling, but never acting.
    Fypaston July 04, 2005   Link
  • 0
    General Commentdress rehearsal rags is a metaphor for a suicide attempt,the santa claus in the mirror is the shaving foam,and the razor!!!!well you guessed!the rehearsal is the thought of suicide,which even the sanist of have from time to time,but most of us dont go thru with,pure genius
    oilyon December 11, 2005   Link
  • 0
    General Comment3rd verse is amazing
    BobbyjointRitualon April 16, 2008   Link
  • 0
    General CommentA rag isn't an improvised piece of music.
    I think that it the song is showing that it doesn't make a difference whether or not any of this is happening for real or not.
    ihatepinkfloydon April 22, 2008   Link

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