I don't know how I'm gonna tell you, I can't play with you no more,
I don't know how I'm gonna do what mama told me, My friend, the boy next door.
I can't believe what people saying, You're gonna let your hair hang down,
I'm satisfied to sit here working all day long, You're in the darker side of town.

And when I'm out I see you walking, Why don't your eyes see me,
Could it be you've found another game to play, What did mama say to me.

*That's The Way, Oh, That's The Way it ought to be,
Yeah, yeah, mama say That's The Way it ought to stay.

And yesterday I saw you standing by the river,
And weren't those tears that filled your eyes,
And all the fish that lay in dirty water dying,
Had they got you hypnotized?

And yesterday I saw you kissing tiny flowers,
But all that lives is born to die.
And so I say to you that nothing really matters,
And all you do is stand and cry.

I don't know what to say about it,
When all you ears have turned away,
But now's the time to look and look again at what you see,
Is that the way it ought to stay?

That's the way... That's the way it oughtta be
Oh don't you know now, Mama said.. that's the way it's gonna stay, yeah.


Lyrics submitted by kevin, edited by Mellow_Harsher


That's the Way song meanings
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69 Comments

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  • +5
    General CommentPossibly my favourite Led Zep song.

    I find it interesting that in the first verse it seems that the protagonist's mother seems to be a bad figure (forbidding her son to be friends with another boy), but then later the story teller seems to understand his mother's words differently ("What did mama say to me").

    I think it shows the boy growing up and seeing that may his mother had reasons for what she said. The other boy seems to be a hippy and a dreamer ("let your hair hang down", "kissing tiny flowers", "tears filled your eyes..."). And as the story teller grows up he realises that you just don't have time to be a dreamer in life, you have to accept that things change - the flowers soon die, the river gets polluted. You can't just cry about it - you have to do something. So that's what the story-teller understands but his childhood friend doesn't.

    It's a very mature sort of message:
    -that although your mother may have had the wrong reasons for doing what she did, she did it because she knew what was best for you.
    -don't be preoccupied by how things are right now, think of the future because these things will all change.
    x0nixon June 03, 2004   Link
  • +3
    General CommentThis song is a discussion of things that should be or we wish could be different/changed. The song addresses discrimination( I cant play with you no more), capitalism(all the fish lie in dirty water dying), the sixties movement (hippies and african americans), death (all that lives is born to die)and the helplessness that individuals feel in regards to their own efforts (nothing really matter)
    langdon007on September 24, 2002   Link
  • +2
    General Commenti heard this song b/c i bought the soundtrack for almost famous b/c i loved the movie so much. it is 1 of the most beautiful led zeppelin songs ever done, and the live version is just as good as the original. it reminds me of being with some1 you love in the summertime-as sappy as that sounds.
    k_rhett112885on August 27, 2002   Link
  • +2
    General CommentMy Dad is a BIG Zeppelin fan, and i have to say that some of it has worn off on me. This is one of my favorite songs, it's best listened to in the rain, or in a car-ride. I guess it reminds me of alot of things that i've seen people i've met. It's about impressions, and how you can change the world with them. Kiss the flowers while they are alive.
    chibi_bumblebeeon September 06, 2002   Link
  • +2
    General CommentOk....to pick a favorite Zeppelin Song is like trying to pick a favorite child...almost impossible to do.....Butif asked my favorites...this is always up there......It floored me the first time I heard it.....It always stops me dead in my tracks whenever I hear the first few chords.......I love the philosophical side of Zeppelin that comes out in some choice songs...."And yesterday I saw you kissing tiny flowers, But all that lives is born to die. And so I say to you that nothing really matters"....Classic example of the buddhist idea of impermanence....nothing can ever last as it is today...tomorrow it will be different.....that's the way.....That's the way it's gonna stay.......Don't take the flowers for granted....Take the time to kiss them today......If you've never heard any Zeppelin or If your trying to turn someone on to the beauty of this bands music....This would be the first track I'd play.......
    Fool_in_the_rainon June 18, 2003   Link
  • +2
    General CommentI like the outro. The chords flow so well, and I can honestly say that it's one of my favorite things to play on guitar.
    dbj002on October 08, 2004   Link
  • +2
    General CommentxOnix did a great interpretation. It is the song I feel like listening to most at the moment. To me it's just about growing up, growing out of things, coming to realise that everything is different and not as simple, that your 'mama' was right, even though you never believed her because you spent the whole time dreaming
    leonieon October 29, 2004   Link
  • +2
    General CommentI think most of you hit the nail right on the head about this song's themes, but I think the music is quite amazing in it's own right. The acoustic guitar, mandolin, and steel guitar give this song an amazing feel. It's always been one of those songs that "takes me someplace else".
    BazBearon March 04, 2005   Link
  • +1
    General CommentAbsolutely beautiful... one of my favourite accoustic songs ever.
    Frank N Furteron June 05, 2003   Link
  • +1
    General Commentthe song is so beautiful and relaxing, and somewhat sad. it is awesome on the DVD, because they are so calm and relaxed sitting down and acoustic. Robert Plant does change "boy next door" to "girl next door," but it adds an interesting effect. i recommend purchasing the DVD if you are a Zeppelin fan.
    my favorite line: "and so i say to you that nothing really matters, and all you do is stand and cry."
    shoed0rkon July 06, 2003   Link

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