I was driving across the burning desert
When I spotted six jet planes
Leaving six white vapor trails across the bleak terrain
It was the hexagram of the heavens
It was the strings of my guitar
Amelia, it was just a false alarm

The drone of flying engines
Is a song so wild and blue
It scrambles time and seasons
If it gets through to you
Then your life becomes a travelogue
Of picture postcard charms
Oh, Amelia, it was just a false alarm

People will tell you where they've gone
They'll tell you where to go
But 'til you get there yourself
You never really know
Where some have found their paradise
Others just come to harm
Oh, Amelia, it was just a false alarm

I wish that he was here tonight
It's so hard to obey
His sad request of me to kindly stay away
So this is how I hide the hurt
As the road leads cursed and charmed
I tell Amelia, it was just a false alarm

A ghost of aviation
She was swallowed by the sky
Or by the sea, like me, she had a dream to fly
Like Icarus ascending
On beautiful foolish arms
Amelia, it was just a false alarm

Maybe I've never really loved
I guess that is the truth
I've spent my whole life in clouds at icy altitude
And looking down on everything
I crashed into his arms
Amelia, it was just a false alarm

I pulled into the Cactus Tree Motel
To shower off the dust
And I slept on the strange pillows of my wanderlust
I dreamed of 747s
Over geometric farms
Dreams, Amelia, dreams and false alarms

Lyrics submitted by ruben

Amelia Lyrics as written by Joni Mitchell

Lyrics © Aporia Records Inc., Reservoir Media Management, Inc., Warner Chappell Music, Inc.

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Amelia song meanings
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  • +3
    General Comment

    One of her best songs ever. Killer lyrics. I think she's talking about love, more specifically, the loss of the greatest love of her life. She's telling herself that it was just a false alarm - or she's simply saying that all her loves were just false alarms.

    ANd Joni does compare her life to Amelia. Her dream to "fly" was her dream to love. SHe's talking to Amelia, perhaps in her loneliness, and telling the mythical pilot of her own wonderlust. She flew too high trying to get it and crashed into his arms. Perhaps her life on the road caused the problems.

    Pale Rideron March 15, 2007   Link
  • +2
    General Comment

    I think that these lyrics are incredible. My interpretation resembles somewhat of the interpretation that threearmedman had. I feel that he was right on. And to add, aside from her comparison with Amelia Earheart, it shows Joni's innter conflict of wanting to be independant and a lone traveler, but also craving love and companionship. Amelia is the symbol of the lone traveler, but while joni was "looking down on everything" from Amelia's view she "crashed into his arms."

    Lia90on June 08, 2007   Link
  • +2
    General Comment

    Most people have forgotten a key component to this poem/song. The song features a reference to Icarus, a classical Greek myth that exemplifies the Greek conception of the middle way. Like Amelia, and Joni, Icarus was too ambitious and fell from the heavens to the sea. What this implies is that every love Mitchell has had is not accomplished, due to her overreaching. Te song ends on a very pessimistic note, with love being compared to "dreams and false alarms". This means that each love the speaker has had was synonymous with impossibilities and falsehoods (as the "false alarm" image relates to Earhart's rescuers never actually rescuing her). Hence, the speaker's search for love is basically a false alarm. She can't be save from crashing into the sea.

    AGiguereon March 21, 2010   Link
  • +1
    General Comment

    While in some ways yes, this IS an ode to Amelia Earhart... It is more of a comparison between Joni and Amelia.

    "Like me, she had a dream to fly."

    I think what Joni is trying to portray in this song is the common sense of needing to escape... To remove yourself from your own existense in order to find yourself.

    Amelia never returned from this journey. And Joni, apparently did. "It was just a false alarm."

    threearmedmanon December 13, 2006   Link
  • +1
    General Comment

    I found this on songfacts.com: "Mitchell (from a 1996 interview with the Los Angeles Times): 'I wrote the album while traveling cross-country by myself and there is this restless feeling throughout it... the sweet loneliness of solitary travel. In this song, I was thinking of Amelia Earhart and addressing it from one solo pilot to another, sort of reflecting on the cost of being a woman and having something you must do.' "

    just_old_lighton July 25, 2007   Link
  • +1
    Song Meaning

    I believe this sad and wonderful piece is about the stark and difficult choice many of us face in our lives between our life's work and our life's love. The reference to the guitar in the first verse goes to the discovery of her muse, and the second verse is about the exhilaration of success. I have experienced both, and its eerie how her choice of words strikes directly at my heart.

    By the third verse she has begun to understand the sacrifice she has made, and in the fourth crystallizes that sacrifice in her words of hard lost love and the pain that goes with that loss. I find it interesting that in this verse and only this verse she addresses Amelia not in the first person (as a confidant), but in the third person in a much more clinical way (“I tell Amelia”).

    A ghost of aviation, swallowed by the sky…she has lost her way in her devotion to her career. These verses are all about the wreckage of her life, as a consequence of her own choices. And then that lovely last refrain, in which she speaks of resignation to her lonely life of dreams (twice, in case you missed it the first time) and false alarms.

    soulrevueon April 20, 2010   Link
  • +1
    General Comment

    She is traveling to escape the pain of the failed relation - "So this is how I hide the hurt As the road leads cursed and charmed." As soulrevue points out - these are tough choices between pursuing our dreams or pursuing love. But which is the false alarm? The failed relationship (e.g. verse 4)? or Our pursuing the dreams that end in death (like Earhart and Icarus)?

    MamboManon July 13, 2011   Link
  • +1
    Song Fact

    It is significant that in the last verse she check into the "Cactus Tree" Motel. This is a reference to her early song "Cactus Tree" in which she recites a list of all the men who love her, but... "her heart is full and hollow, Like a cactus tree - While she's so busy being free." This reference comes straight on the heels of the previous verse in which she muses "Maybe I've never really loved - I guess that is the truth. I've spent my whole life in clouds at icy altitude." So she is wondering if all of her supposed loves have been false alarms. That she has spent her life "busy being free... at icy altitudes." The freedom of flight being the quintessential symbol of freedom, and "falling into" someone's arms is not the same as actually loving them. Of course, spending her life in clouds hearkens back to her first, most famous song, "Clouds" that she really doesn't know at all.

    JusticeSRon August 17, 2017   Link
  • 0
    General Comment

    an ode to amelia earhart, american aviator who disappeared in the 30s

    pumkinhedon October 08, 2005   Link
  • 0
    General Comment

    We can clearly draw a parallel between the struggles of Amelia Earhart and the feminist movement. The tragic ending of Amelia's final journey solidifies the deeply infused misogamy of the concept of being free. Woman are exempt from this notion, perhaps she stopped for directions (in the ocean?) hence her death.

    lyrocyston March 31, 2012   Link

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