"Broken Arrow" as written by and Neil Young....
The lights turned on and the curtain fell down
And when it was over it felt like a dream
They stood at the stage door and begged for a scream
The agents had paid for the black limousine
That waited outside in the rain
Did you see them, did you see them?
Did you see them in the river?
They were there to wave to you
Could you tell that the empty quivered
Brown skinned Indian on the banks
That were crowded and narrow
Held a broken arrow?

Eighteen years of American dream
He saw that his brother had sworn on the wall
He hung up his eyelids and ran down the hall
His mother had told him a trip was a fall
And don't mention babies at all
Did you see him, did you see him?
Did you see him in the river?
He was there to wave to you
Could you tell that the empty quivered
Brown skinned Indian on the banks
That were crowded and narrow
Held a broken arrow

The streets were lined for the wedding parade
The Queen wore the white gloves, the county of song
The black covered caisson her horses had drawn
Protected her king from the sun rays of dawn
They married for peace and were gone
Did you see them, did you see them?
Did you see them in the river?
They were there to wave to you
Could you tell that the empty quivered
Brown skinned Indian on the banks
That were crowded and narrow
Held a broken arrow?


Lyrics submitted by democracys

"Broken Arrow" as written by Christopher Young

Lyrics © Warner/Chappell Music, Inc.

Lyrics powered by LyricFind

Broken Arrow song meanings
Add your thoughts

11 Comments

sort form View by:
  • 0
    General CommentDo none of you like Buffalo Springfield. You all post stuf on For What It's Worth, but this song is so much better. In the time of the indians, a broken arrow signified war. Neil Young is the best rocker ever and made this band what it was.
    Tmo2199on April 02, 2006   Link
  • 0
    General CommentQuite possibly the most beautiful song I have ever heard, truly a classic, seemingly forgotten in a haze of pop hits. Neil Young on his own is amazing, but as Buffalo Springfield, the music is just...impossible to describe. You need to hear them to understand what I mean, only then could you see what i am talking about.
    live2daygone2morrowon May 04, 2006   Link
  • 0
    General CommentA broken arrow signified peace, not war.
    Glassmoonson July 06, 2006   Link
  • 0
    General CommentInterestingly enough the term Broken arrow was used in Vietnam as well.

    It was used to signify when American lines had been overrun, and was a term that called in all available air support to the area as soon as possible in a last ditch effort to restore the lines and hopefully save some American troops lives.
    Pleoon March 30, 2007   Link
  • 0
    General Comment**Not saying the song is about that, just thought that this is an interesting fact** At the time, Vietnam was a big deal, and Neil Young did a lot with respect to protest music in the era. (Chicago, Ohio, Don't let it bring you down, etc)
    Pleoon March 30, 2007   Link
  • 0
    General CommentThat's it!?!?! I know that this is an amazing song, but I've always wondered what it means. When you do an internet search, you generally get the following: BROKEN ARROW - The accidental or unauthorized detonation, or possible detonation of a nuclear weapon (other than war risk); Non-nuclear detonation or burning of a nuclear weapon; Radioactive contamination
    Seizure, theft, or loss of a nuclear weapon or component (including jettisoning);
    Public hazard, actual or implied.

    It also appears that the first "Broken Arrow" occured in 1950, about 18 years before this song was released. It seems to me that the song relates to possible negative impact on the environment from this type of disaster (and would be very consistent with Neil Young songs, as suggested by Pleo).

    This if from Wikipedia: ""Broken Arrow" was confessional folk rock. It consists of three verses interspersed with snippets of sound from carnival music featuring organ, drum and clarinet. The song begins with applause and the opening of "Mr. Soul" (which opens the album) recorded live in the studio, and ends with the sound of a beating heart.

    Each of the three verses uses surreal imagery to deal with emotions (emptiness of fame, teenage angst, hopelessness), and contains self-references to Buffalo Springfield and Young. They all end with the same lines:

    Did you see them, did you see them?
    Did you see them in the river?
    They were there to wave to you.
    Could you tell that the empty quiver,
    Brown skinned Indian on the banks
    That were crowded and narrow,
    Held a broken arrow?
    The Blackfoot Indians would use a broken arrow to signal that they would cease fighting." (Glassmoon was correct here).

    btw, I don't think that the correct lyrics are empty "quiver" and not "quivered". A quiver is a container for arrows, crossbow bolts or darts, such as those shot from a bow, crossbow or blowgun. The picture of an indian on the side of the bank holding a broken arrow (i.e. cease fighting) would be consistent with his quiver being empty of arrows.

    I still can't piece together the rest of the song though - particularly the first 5 lines of each of the 3 verses - can anyone help with this?
    Ericdawingnuton March 19, 2008   Link
  • 0
    General CommentThat's it!?!?! I know that this is an amazing song, but I've always wondered what it means. When you do an internet search, you generally get the following: BROKEN ARROW - The accidental or unauthorized detonation, or possible detonation of a nuclear weapon (other than war risk); Non-nuclear detonation or burning of a nuclear weapon; Radioactive contamination
    Seizure, theft, or loss of a nuclear weapon or component (including jettisoning);
    Public hazard, actual or implied.

    It also appears that the first "Broken Arrow" occured in 1950, about 18 years before this song was released. It seems to me that the song relates to possible negative impact on the environment from this type of disaster (and would be very consistent with Neil Young songs, as suggested by Pleo).

    This if from Wikipedia: ""Broken Arrow" was confessional folk rock. It consists of three verses interspersed with snippets of sound from carnival music featuring organ, drum and clarinet. The song begins with applause and the opening of "Mr. Soul" (which opens the album) recorded live in the studio, and ends with the sound of a beating heart.

    Each of the three verses uses surreal imagery to deal with emotions (emptiness of fame, teenage angst, hopelessness), and contains self-references to Buffalo Springfield and Young. They all end with the same lines:

    Did you see them, did you see them?
    Did you see them in the river?
    They were there to wave to you.
    Could you tell that the empty quiver,
    Brown skinned Indian on the banks
    That were crowded and narrow,
    Held a broken arrow?
    The Blackfoot Indians would use a broken arrow to signal that they would cease fighting." (Glassmoon was correct here).

    btw, I don't think that the correct lyrics are empty "quiver" and not "quivered". A quiver is a container for arrows, crossbow bolts or darts, such as those shot from a bow, crossbow or blowgun. The picture of an indian on the side of the bank holding a broken arrow (i.e. cease fighting) would be consistent with his quiver being empty of arrows.

    I still can't piece together the rest of the song though - particularly the first 5 lines of each of the 3 verses - can anyone help with this?
    Ericdawingnuton March 19, 2008   Link
  • 0
    General Commenti think this is about the vietnam war like ericdawingnut said broken arrow was used in vietnam
    "18 years of american dream" he was drafted at 18
    "did you see them in the river they were there to wave to you" then in the next verse it is "did you see him in the river..." a group of americans were crossing a river and were mowed down by vietnamese soldiers and were waving for help to other americans
    they married for peace and were gone north vietnam and south vietnam were joined and the americans left

    however none of this makes much sense in context with the rest of the song
    rSaEdAiNoon July 10, 2009   Link
  • 0
    General CommentAt least part of the song is actually about the Kennedy assasination. With the first verse being Neil's perspective on being a rock star, the key to the rest of the song is the line from the second verse "Eighteen years of american dream" . This line is the only concrete line in a song full of imagery and allegory. If is to be taken seriously (there is no reason to think otherwise) then the obvious 18 years would be the ones immediately after WW2, where the USA took on its role of dominant power of the democratic world: 1945-1963. I don't really understand the rest of that verse, but it does end with the line "Did you see HIM?" not "them" as in the 1st and 3rd verses. The third verse is ostensibly about a wedding. But caissons are used in funeral processions not wedding processions. So if you transpose funeral for wedding and black for white then the rest sort of follows. Coincidentally, sufferers of Addison's Disease of which Kennedy was one, tend to have darkened (brown) skin due to a hormone disorder.
    frednurk100on November 14, 2010   Link
  • 0
    General CommentVery surreal and obscure song.

    The first verse is fairly straight forward, the previous description is correct in that it is 'the emptiness of fame', the screaming girls of the audience that open the track is quite indicative of this.

    The second verse is a bit more obscure, with the sound of booing crowds suggesting a rock star on the decline or who has lost their way. I thought the "mother said a trip was a fall" was meant as a drug-trip and shows you are losing control in the 'fall' of it. 18 Years of American dream possibly referring to the a golden age that is now lost and behind him, "and don't mention babies at all" sort of implies a total absence of responsibility and inability to be a grown man at an age you should be able to.

    Last verse...don't know, it's kind of antithesis of the previous two verses, maybe a man who has resolved and has closure? Not sure of the relevance of the chaotic carnival sound at the start. The whole song seems to have a feeling of stages of man during a lifetime and never quite being at peace.
    iloveSFAon May 01, 2012   Link

Add your thoughts

Log in now to tell us what you think this song means.

Don’t have an account? Create an account with SongMeanings to post comments, submit lyrics, and more. It’s super easy, we promise!

Back to top
explain