Old man lying
by the side of the road
With the lorries rolling by,
Blue moon sinking
from the weight of the load
And the building scrape the sky,
Cold wind ripping
down the alley at dawn
And the morning paper flies,
Dead man lying
by the side of the road
With the daylight in his eyes.

Don't let it bring you down
It's only castles burning,
Find someone who's turning
And you will come around.

Blind man running
through the light
of the night
With an answer in his hand,
Come on down
to the river of sight
And you can really understand,
Red lights flashing
through the window
in the rain,
Can you hear the sirens moan?
White cane lying
in a gutter in the lane,
If you're walking home alone.

Don't let it bring you down
It's only castles burning,
Just find someone who's turning
And you will come around.

Don't let it bring you down
It's only castles burning,
Just find someone who's turning
And you will come around.


Lyrics submitted by H-bomb, edited by stephenmay47

Don't Let It Bring You Down song meanings
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  • +5
    Song MeaningLook, guys, forget the VIetnam stuff, forget the "protest song" nonsense, forget all of this over-analysis. 23-year-old Neil Young isn't thinking about ascribing all of this symbolism to the imagery. C'mon now. He wants the lyrics to be cool-sounding, he wants the visual picture a listener might get to be graphic, and in this case, mysterious, and he wants the song to speak to people in a positive way! That's what he's done his whole life! The song has got to sound good, too. But if the lyrics aren't cryptic and maybe a little bit dark - if the song JUST sounds good - then it isn't Neil Young - it's THE EAGLES. And who the hell wants to sit around listening to the Eagles? Not me.

    You've got to look at the chorus, first off, which is repeated and is the title of the song. Don't let it bring you down / it's only castles burning - like the Hendrix song "Castles made of Sand" - everything ends, everything eventually dies, everything goes back into the earth that gave birth to it. Even majestic, beautiful, powerful things like giant redwoods or manmade things like a castle. He could have said, "...it's only castles crumbling", but that wouldn't have sounded as cool. Plus, Neil has always had this theme of things burning - he likes that image. (e.g. song - "Burned", lyric from "Thrasher": "...burned my credit card for fuel..." "I Am a Child": "what is the color, when black is burned?" etc., etc.

    All the other lyrics in the verses are about the passage of time: being young/growing old (another Neil Young theme e.g. "Heart of Gold", "Old Man", etc.; life/death; having sight and understanding, being blind (not literaly but figuritively) to the world around us and gaining wisdom through experience and observation after having lived and paid attention.

    Neil is wanting to help us here, guys. Contibute to the betterment of human kind in some small way. If someone is bummed because they lost something or someone, or they're just lost in general, Neil has offered up this little gem to maybe shed a little light on things. Hey buddy, it's going to get better, life is like that -- but you can't give up on me, now. You're got to stay up. Have courage. After all, if you look for it, there's always a "white can lying in the gutter in the lane when you're walking home alone"
    Mrtuckon April 12, 2013   Link
  • +3
    General CommentFirst I would like to mention how beautiful this song is. I don't know how to describe the sound of this song or Young's voice on it when I hear it, but it's one of those songs where his singing and words sound like the voice an incredibily wise spirit.
    I think jke45's analysis works very well with the night/day motif, which I think is a very important part of the song.
    However my impression is not as literal. I think I get the song more in terms of what bobdylaniscool was saying. I'll try to communicate my understanding of it.

    Well I think this song is largely about human life and it's cycles. And death (literally as well as metaphorically). And also how things we expect in life don't turn out that way, or things we hold true don't come out that way, but everything is OK because everything is, and it is no reason to give up hope.
    The atmosphere of the song and the landscape it paints is very desolate. Okay. Breakdown.

    "Old man lying
    by the side of the road
    With the lorries rolling by,"

    The old man is someone who has been on earth a long time and has participated and experienced it and is closer to his death.
    Having participated in the life, he is 'by the side of the road' of life, still a witness to it, but in contrast to the lorries that are rolling by, he is not on the road and he is still, he is not moving. This to me shows that this is a man that is at peace and must be in possession of understanding.

    "Blue moon sinking
    from the weight of the load
    And the buildings scrape the sky,"

    Well a blue moon as an expression means something that is a rare occurence (once in a blue moon), and it is when the moon appears to be visibly bluish, normally because of smoke or dust particles that are in the atmosphere. In my own opinion this is kind of foreshadowing the chorus with the theme of illusions. The blue moon is something that is special and rare, but it is caused by an obscuring layer of particles between you and the moon. It is sinking from the weight of it's load because everything that rises must come down and the moon has cycles. Perhaps the load it carries is the significance we give it as being something special, and it is causing the moon to sink and give way to daylight.
    The buildings scraping the sky also foreshadows the edifices of the 'castles' in the chorus. It is a creation, something that man made. (In the name of progress? To get closer to the sky?) perhaps an allusion to meaning, as people create their own meanings out of things.

    "Cold wind ripping
    down the alley at dawn,
    And the morning paper flies,"

    This is kind of setting up an atmosphere of being alone. The cold wind is something harsh and real, like the harsh reality that ultimately every human in the world is alone. The morning paper flying is a nice touch to show desolation. It has no will. It does not resist the currents of the wind or try to create its own path. It is an inconsequential insignificant object that is simply to a force that is more powerful than it is.

    "Dead man lying
    by the side of the road
    With the daylight in his eyes,"

    I think the Dead man could be the Old man that was mentioned previously. The moon sinking gives way to the daylight, which is like a transition from being an old man to a dead man. The Dead man is the natural progression of the Old man's cycle just as the day light would proceed the the dawn and the moon's sinking. Having experienced life (his night) he has gained wisdom and understanding (his dawn) and an acceptance of the way things are so he can die peacefully (and he comes into the day). The daylight in his eyes could be perception of what is eternal and lives longer than everything that revolves around it. The dead man in the daylight is a contrast to the blind man in the night. There is an interesting contrast here as our normal impulse would be to associate day with life and night with death, but here death and daylight are the same as if during are lifetime we are in the night (just like how sometimes ponder about if lifetime is really only a dream or an illusion we are passing through and when we die we might wake up from this dream.)

    "Don't let it bring you down
    It's only castles burning
    Just find someone who's turning
    and you will come around."

    Now Neil Young is implying that death (physical death or the death of something you created) is natural and we shouldn't be brought down by the of the passing away of a dear one, or when expectations we held high are not met, or something we believed in strongly is not real. Castles are something that are established, a creation of man that is supposed to be stable with a strong foundation and resist the forces of nature and time. So when they are destroyed by a force such as fire it is a shock. But Neil says it's ONLY castles burning. Like hey man, did you really forget that nothing is permanent and lasts forever? Don't you know that you don't live forever, you are impermanent and the foundation of your knowledge is only as solid as everything else, which is susceptible to destruction and decay.
    But don't let it bring you down, just find someone who's turning and you will come around. Find someone else who is coming to realizations. When the great illusion is shattered, its not the end, it's another beginning. It is a chance to evolve. Find someone else who is changing, evolving, someone else who is TURNING and you will come AROUND. Find someone else who is turning in the cycle and you will turn as well, you will come around and complete the cycle again.

    "Blind man running
    through the light of the night
    With an answer in his hand,"

    The blind man is the contrast to the old and dead man. He is not still. He is running. Running in what? In the light of the night. Not only is it the night, where the light is rare and precious, leaving you very little to see and guide yourself with, he also blind. This man is supposed to represent us. Having not participated in life as long as the old man has, we are still in motion (running). We are still looking for and creating meanings. We seek truth. We do not have a strong sense of perception of truth so we are blind in a world that is already dark. And the answer in his hand could be the meanings we hold on to to attempt to guide us through the night or without sight (the white cane mentioned later).

    "Come on down
    to the river of sight
    And you can really understand,"

    The river is like the wind in the first part. It is a force, a current, and it just flows. It has and will exist longer in time than the man. If you come to where true perception flows, you can have a true understanding, instead of cluthing on to an answer, which would be like using your hands to see when you can't use your eyes. You can see the river, but you can't hold it.

    "Red lights flashing
    through the window in the rain
    Can you hear the sirens moan?"

    I don't think this is too dense with meaning. Pretty much a call to alarm? Something is calling. Perhaps the call of truth or reality or that something is not right.

    "White cane lying
    in a gutter in the lane,
    If you're walking home alone."

    Having gained true sight he has no need to use a cane as a guide to move around. The cane was 'the answer in his hand', the answer to the problem of not having the sense of sight. The cane is discarded in a gutter in the lane because he no longer needs it as a subsitute for sight while he is on the road. (The motifs merge beautifully in this song and reflect Neil Young's brilliance.)
    The last line "If you're walking home alone", reiterates the loneliness of everyone on his own path to understanding, and this path is a return to home. Implying that it's something that we had all along but at some point we forgot and became lost as a result. Perhaps the castle can be the illusion of a home, but we are really at home when we can accept our loneliness and be at home anywhere, like the old man.


    "Don't let it bring you down
    It's only castles burning
    Just find someone who's turning
    and you will come around."

    Having lost his blindness the man gained sight. That is the blind man's castles burning. In his reality all he knew was darkness and had to use his cane to guide himself. Destruction breeds creation. His blindness burning down, he can now use his eyes to see the world.
    Having lost illusion we gain reality. Having lost our meanings we gain truth. When our castles burn we can no longer use them to hide, protect, or shelter us from the world. The castle is no longer our home and thus the world becomes our home, and when the world is your home you can always be at home with yourself. Then perhaps you will have inner peace like the old man/ dead man. And the cycle is completed you have come around in the cycle of life and learning. But one cannot lose hope when something they perceive to be important is lost, because it is the way everything is. It is part of the natural progression of one's evolution, and if you don't let it bring you down you don't have to sink, you can rise and come around. And have a greater understanding the next time castles are burning and approach it with acceptance. When the understanding of this is gained one no longer needs to run around blind seeking, one can be still by the side of the road surrounded by motion, not resisting the force of the wind and let one's self flow with the river.

    Well. This turned out longer than I thought, and every song is open to everyone's interpretation. Some of this might ring true and some of it might be shadier. I hope I didn;t over do it at parts. This is what I feel when I listen to the song (without all the analysis in my head, haha, i just kind of get it this way). I would love to hear other people's interpretations, or agreements, furthering of points, other observations about what I've said or disagreements with points I've made.
    There really aren't that many posts for this song, which is strange as its one of those songs that I think stands out for people and carries a lot of meaning.
    featherpaperweighton February 04, 2007   Link
  • +1
    General Comment1. recurrent and intrusive distressing recollections of the event, including images, thoughts or perceptions;
    2. recurrent distressing dreams of the event;
    3. acting or feeling as if the traumatic event were recurring (eg reliving the experience, illusions, hallucinations, and dissociative flashback episodes, including those on wakening or when intoxicated);
    4. intense psychological distress at exposure to internal or external cues that symbolise or resemble an aspect of the traumatic event;
    5. physiological reactivity on exposure to internal or external cues that symbolise or resemble an aspect of the traumatic event.

    bill hickson May 03, 2002   Link
  • +1
    General Comment1. efforts to avoid thoughts, feelings or conversations associated with the trauma;
    2. efforts to avoid activities, places or people that arouse recollections of this trauma;
    3. inability to recall an important aspect of the trauma;
    4. markedly diminished interest or participation in significant activities;
    5. feeling of detachment or estrangement from others;
    6. restricted range of affect (eg unable to have loving feelings);
    7. sense of a foreshortened future (eg does not expect to have a career, marriage, children or a normal life span).

    bill hickson May 03, 2002   Link
  • +1
    General Commentyeah i guess that makes sense. i sort of got it as sarcasm almostlike he's talking about all this bad stuff, but then he's all but it doesn't matter, don't worry about it. I think he's saying that we're ignoring problems.
    coolnuts5on June 17, 2006   Link
  • +1
    General CommentALRIGHT!,lets get down to bizness here, love the web, love the posts..anyway first dude i thought was kinda on point but hey kept looking and wow now im just throwin what i thought down, uh anyway castles burning..any of you guys hardcore HIPpys? neil young come on duh? damn cuz what i think its all pretty much about is the souless's castles burning, the big pink floyd fuck em we know everything shit, they actually go off sum dumb man, if you only knew..anyways yeah thats what the songs about, he should write a song about hating autistic children, and jim morrison dumbass..
    cerealEater12on September 26, 2009   Link
  • +1
    General Comment
    The first verse basically paints a picture of a bleak and un-caring society going about it's day to day routine, regardless of un-fortuanate distractions such as death.
    The second verse touches on someone who, despite his attempt at 'not letting (blindness) bring him down' and attempting to emerge from said folly, is never-the-less killed by the un-caring world going about it's day to day. and goes un-noticed.

    Don't let it bring you down
    It's only castles burning,
    Find someone who's turning
    And you will come around.

    The chorus, and this is where the meat of the message of this song is generated, is basically saying; don't let it bring you down, it's only the entire world falling apart around us, find someone you can relate to, someone experiencing the same turns as yourself, possibly someone to love and you will come around, or, be alright.

    The title of the song speaks for the entire song. Don't let lifes hurdles bring you down, it's the way life goes and every else is in it too. Something like that.

    TyBon March 11, 2010   Link
  • +1
    General Commentthe repetition of the words ''its only castles burnings'' suggest that there are many castles, maybe even an infinite ammount, that are made to be burned. Thats why i believe the term ''castles burning'' refers to something dying, or death.

    It also could be a term meaning everyday life. ''Its only castles burning'', meaning something along the lines of ''this shit goes on everyday'' and there is nothing we can do about it.

    On the other hand, it could also be figurative language such as sarcasm. ''Its only castles burning '' could mean ''its only death''. its just the unknown. what is there to be afraid of?
    gifteddrummerguyon April 22, 2010   Link
  • +1
    Song MeaningWell, I have been around since Neil wrote it and it seems real obvious to me that it is about all the sadness and misery that goes on around us and we really don't want to see it or acknowledge it because we don't want to get involved...so the bridge is all about not letting it bring you down and castles burning are like our own human ideals of love and justice for all because we don't walk the walk so just find someone who is turning is what most of us do...just turn away and pretend we don't see it and then you come back around to just trying get something good for yourself....Every bit as true today as it was then!
    My fellow Boomers our experiment failed. We changed nothing in human nature. We are all just as self-centered as we always were. But we sure had the BEST sex, drugs and rock and roll EVER! Wouldn't trade that for anything out there today!
    strumbum69on August 19, 2010   Link
  • +1
    Song MeaningI think the song is pretty straight forward with a little bit of clumsy metaphor thrown in. As stated earlier, the song was written at a time when society was unraveling. If the song was not called DLIBYD it could have been called "The Times They Are A Chagin." Neil Young seems to be explaining that the unraveling of society is part of a natural cycle; societies are born, they live, they unravel and they die. Then a new society is born to take it's place (Don't let it bring you down). The first verse is a great word picture of a cold, dark, and uncaring society; the old man is alive at the beginning and dead at the end (more about the cycle of life and death). The second verse makes what appears to be paradoxical statement and then explains what he means. A blind man always lives in darkness; the "answer" to how there can be the "light of the night," is in the blind man's hand; a white can. The cane that is a light to his darkness and helps him to see. But, as with the "river of sight," the blind man can only see the surface of the water, not what's going on underneath. The song ends explaining that if you only see the surface you will probably not survive (You'd better start swimming or you'll sink like a stone, For the times they are a chagin)"
    onespeedbikeron October 29, 2011   Link

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