Back in the old folky days
The air was magic when we played
The riverboat was rockin' in the rain
Midnight was the time for the raid

Oh, Isabela, proud Isabela
They tore you down and plowed you under
You're only real with your make-up on
How could I see you and stay too long?

All along the Navajo Trail
Burn-outs stub their toes on garbage pails
Waitresses are cryin' in the rain
Will their boyfriends pass this way again?

Oh, Mother Goose, she's on the skids
But you ain't happy, neither are the kids
She needs someone that she can scream at
And I'm such a heel for makin' her feel so bad

I guess I'll call it sickness gone
It's hard to say the meaning of this song
An ambulance can only go so fast
It's easy to get buried in the past
When you try to make a good thing last

I saw today in the entertainment section
There's room at the top for private detection
To mom and dad this just doesn't matter
But it's either that or pay off the kidnapper

So all you critics sit alone
You're no better than me for what you've shown
With your stomach pump and your hook and ladder dreams
We could get together for some scenes

Well, I'm up in T.O., keepin' jive alive
And out on the corner it's half past five
But the subways are empty
And so are the cafes

Except for the farmer's market
And I still can hear him say
You're all just pissin' in the wind
You don't know it but you are

And there ain't nothin' like a friend
Who can tell you, you're just pissin' in the wind

I never knew a man could tell so many lies
He had a different story for every set of eyes
How can he remember who he's talking to?
'Cause I know it ain't me, and I hope it isn't you


Lyrics submitted by hourafterdark

Ambulance Blues Lyrics as written by Neil Young

Lyrics © Silver Fiddle, WORDS & MUSIC A DIV OF BIG DEAL MUSIC LLC

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Ambulance Blues song meanings
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30 Comments

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  • +7
    General CommentWhat an appropriate song to end "On The Beach." I think it deals with the inevitable process of aging and passing of a generation. His references to Toronto and Isabella refer to his earlier days, simple, and chaste, so to speak. The early '70's brought an end to the hippy era, and the Nixon administration was certainly not well-received.
    "An amublance can only go so fast."
    Certain things, like aging and the loss of innocence, can't even be saved by anything--the ambulance symbolizing means for salvation.
    Shakey_Oneon February 09, 2006   Link
  • +1
    General Commentapparently the "I never knew a man/could tell so many lies/He had a different story/for every set of eyes" lines are referring to Nixon. but as for the rest of it i have no clue either.
    Kornoon May 05, 2004   Link
  • +1
    General CommentThe riverboat was rocking in the rain. This line is a reference to a club he played "back in the old folky days" wich was called the riverboat. Isabella was a street in toronto that was plowed up. T.O is ofcourse Toronto. But its really hard. As he says:
    I guess I'll call it
    sickness gone
    It's hard to say
    the meaning of this song
    powderfingeron March 06, 2005   Link
  • +1
    General CommentI think this song is just about Neil reflecting on the end of the hippy era
    Cortez_08on December 21, 2005   Link
  • +1
    General Commentand "you're all just pissin in the wind" is definitely said by the old man who's seen it all and knows that no matter how much they preach about pace it's never gonna change anything, at least that is the song in a nutshell for me
    Cortez_08on December 21, 2005   Link
  • +1
    General CommentIn my opinion this is not only the best song that Neil has written but one of the greatest song's ever. Each verse is a different story, a snapshot of something, and the true "meaning" of the song is the context which they produce together. This greater picture is not only a picture of that time, it's also a mental picture of Neil's state of mind at that time. The cover of the album is a great clue: It is the day after, the look at the remains. The whole thing is over and you got through and know you are standing there
    watching and contemplating over it... like a watching the ruins of a battlefield after the battle. It is the end of an era, a good by to it, and therefore it's also a new beginning, a turning point for a new one.
    longtripon January 05, 2009   Link
  • +1
    General CommentI don't really know what the overall meaning of the song is - you could analyse it for hours and still be none the wiser. Even Neil Young doesn't seem to know - "hard to say the meaning of this song". All I do know is that it is possibly the best song ever written.
    Mr_Soulon December 12, 2009   Link
  • +1
    My InterpretationIt's hard to say the meaning of this song
    Albuquerqueon February 10, 2020   Link
  • 0
    General Commenti have no idea what the hell this song is about. however i do greatly enjoy the lines "you're all just pissin in the wind/you don't know it but you are/and there ain't nothing like a friend/who can tell you you're just pissin in the wind" ain't that the truth
    5isa4letterwordon August 20, 2002   Link
  • 0
    General Commentthis one is hard to figure out..
    melpomeneon May 03, 2004   Link

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