I'm climbin' this ladder,
My head in the clouds
I hope that it matters,
I'm havin' my doubts.

I'm watchin' the skaters
Fly by on the lake.
Ice frozen six feet deep,
How long does it take?

I look out on peaceful lands
With no war nearby,
An ocean of shakin' hands
That grab at the sky.

I'm singin' this borrowed tune
I took from the Rolling Stones,
Alone in this empty room
Too wasted to write my own.

I'm climbin' this ladder,
My heads in the clouds
I hope that it matters.

Lyrics submitted by H-bomb

Borrowed Tune song meanings
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  • +1
    General Commenteasily one of the five saddest songs ever written. everytime i hear this i want to cry.
    5isa4letterwordon June 08, 2003   Link
  • +1
    General CommentThis whole album, but especially this song, was the most blatant example of an emotionally wounded man I have ever seen.

    After Harvest came out, Danny Whitten, Neil's best friend and guitarist for his band Crazy Horse took up heroin and Neil ended up firing him because he was too fucked up to play. He begged Neil to let him stay, saying he had nowhere to go and he couldn't go back to his family or friends, but Neil said too bad.

    The very next day Neil got a phone call that Danny had ODed alone in some shitty motel rather than face the music. He was like 24 or something.

    In response, Neil locked himself (and several cases of tequila and a bunch of weed and cocaine) alone for 4 days straight in the old house the band used as a recording studio. At some point during this period of isolation, grief and regret, he broke out all of the lights and most of the furniture. Borrowed Tune was one of three songs that the band's manager found on the tape when he came out.

    And he won't play it at concerts, supposedly (or he used to not, anyway). Some things are just too personal, I guess.
    bugmenot123on December 06, 2007   Link
  • 0
    General CommentThe "borrowed tune" is "Lady Jane", slowed way down. Like many of my favorite Neil Young songs, he refers to the song he is singing, powerfully giving it a sense of present tense....that fourth verse just kills me, the way he suddenly thrusts you into the very room, and exact moment, in which he is creating this music. Along with the music, it's a powerful and stark contrast to the more beatific, optimistic lyrics that come before. Though each verse opens with a image of hope, undermined by the second half of the verse ("Climbing this ladder vs. having my doubts, peacefule lands vs. hands grabbing at the sky, ice skaters flying along vs. the eventual melt, and finally the ambigious, "I hope that it matters". I love this song.
    beloveon October 23, 2005   Link
  • 0
    General CommentThis is such a sadly beautiful sign... It's amazing how he can create such vivid imagery with such simple yet powerful words... my favourite line in the song is "An ocean of shaking hands that grab at the sky" -- wow.
    PoprocksCkon January 11, 2007   Link
  • 0
    General Commentwho else thinks this is much better than Lady Jane?
    azkmon May 01, 2007   Link
  • 0
    General CommentDoes anyone know specifically what Neil refers to when he sings about the ocean of shaking hands?
    danjabon July 10, 2016   Link
  • -2
    General Commentof course this is better than Lady Jane. was that a joke? this is NEIL YOUNG. every Neil Young song is better than every rolling stones song. i thought that was common knowledge.
    MitchDouglason June 08, 2010   Link

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