A well-known bognor restaurant-owner disappeared
Early this morning
Last seen in a mouse-brown overcoat
Suitably camouflaged
They saw him catch a train

"Father of three its disgusting"
"Such a horrible thing to do"
Harold the barrel cut off his toes and he served them all for tea
"Can't go far", "he can't go far"
"Hasn't got a leg to stand on"
"He can't go far"

I'm standing in a doorway on the main square
Tension is mounting
There's a restless crowd of angry people
"More than we've ever seen
Had to tighten up security"

Over to the scene at the town hall
The lord mayor's ready to speak
"Man of suspicion, you can't last long
The British public is on our side"

"Can't last long", "you can't last long"
"Said you couldn't trust him, his brother was just the same"
"You can't last long"

If I was many miles from here
I'd be sailing in an open boat on the sea
Instead I'm on this window ledge
With the whole world below

Up at the window
Look at the window
"We can help you"
"We can help you"

"We're all your friends
If you come on down and talk to us son"
You must be joking
Take a running jump

The crowd was getting stronger and our harold
Getting weaker
Forwards, backwards, swaying side to side
Fearing the very worst
They called his mother to the sight

Upon the ledge beside him
His mother made a last request
"Come off the ledge,
If your father were alive, he'd be very, very, very upset

"Just can't jump, you just can't jump"
"Your shirt's all dirty
There's a man here from the BBC"
"You just can't jump"

"We can help you"
"We can help you"

"We're all your friends,
If you come on down and talk to us Harry"
You must be joking
Take a running jump

Lyrics submitted by Demau Senae, edited by Norman25

Harold the Barrel Lyrics as written by Stephen Richard Hackett Phillip David Charles Collins

Lyrics © BMG Rights Management, CARLIN AMERICA INC

Lyrics powered by LyricFind

Harold The Barrel song meanings
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  • +4
    General CommentA song about our almost ghoulish, voyeuristic obsession with the man or woman who may be about to commit suicide by jumping from a high building - and how the media takes full advantage of that. Harold The Barrel story is Monty Pythonesque in nature - full of absurdities and black humour. His mum is more concerned that his shirt is dirty, given that he'll be on TV and less concerned that he is about to jump to his death. Genesis' ( Gabriel's in particular ) sense of humour set them apart from other prog rock groups.
    Kelticon February 12, 2014   Link
  • +3
    General CommentI'm impressed by how the music leaves us in no doubt at all that Harold does jump in the end. At 2:38+ it is just excellent in how the sound can create an equivalent movie scene in your mind. It's like the camera panning and focusing on Harold and then showing him jump in slooooooooow motion. Great how the music conveys that tragic last moment of the sad story.

    Good point by carrotkins about mom's cynical attitude, worrying only about her son's appearance while disregarding him as a person! Makes me think of:
    "Guard your heart above all else, for it is the source of life."
    mcwryteron March 29, 2013   Link
  • +1
    General Commenttheres nothing you can say about this other than what it tells you itself by bein a story/play. not the humour in the lines 'he cant last long, he hasnt got a leg to stand on'... -well no, hes cut off his toes! anyway yeah, it is what it is and its likely that its based on something that someone read in the newspaper. incidentally, 'bognor' is an english seaside town...
    parberooon April 15, 2005   Link
  • +1
    General CommentWait. scratch that. It's about a man who threatens to jump out of a building and kill himself.
    Anilandon January 29, 2007   Link
  • +1
    General Commenthaha, you looked up on a meaning right?
    i personally think that yes, it's about a sad guy that would like to kill himself and, i've read somewhere that it's also to reflect the manners of the community of people in those years.. they're sort of ignorant, like they seem to bother about harry, but not about the things he'd like to "have been cared", example: his mom won't ignore her son trying to jump out a building, but she goes "you're shirt is dirty and there's a man from bbc" like "you're a shame, what will they neighbours think about us" and stuff like that.
    carrotkinson April 16, 2007   Link
  • 0
    General CommentIt sounds like it's about some guy who goes insane, pisses off the town, and an angry mob forms to get him.
    Anilandon January 29, 2007   Link
  • 0
    General CommentPretty much what it says in the song.

    A guy may or may have not cut off his toes and served them with tea.

    Then he went to a ledge, and threatened to jump.

    Crowds show and try to talk him down.

    His mother is more worried about his appearance than his state of mind.

    He jumps - end of song.
    taverneron June 13, 2012   Link
  • 0
    General CommentThis was the first 'funny' song done by Genesis (they did more on later albums). The lyrics were written by Peter Gabriel with a few added by Phil Collins. On the album cover they are presented as a script of a news report or play of the tragic events, as if it was on Play For Today. There is also a small picture of a street scene in a provincial English town, complete with ladder and figure on a window ledge.
    As other comments indicate, it is the sad story of a business man who has a mental breakdown, apparently involving self mutilation before committing suicide. As I said, 'funny' stuff! The humour comes from the uncaring attitudes of all around him - the British public, the Lord Mayor, and even poor Harold's own mother, who is more bothered about respectability than her son's mental health. A sign of the times (1971) perhaps. Only the police officer seems to care, but even he is characterised as 'Mr Plod', the officer from the Noddy books. The end is as tragic as it is inevitable.
    Interestingly, the words are sung by Gabriel and Collins together, but Collins' higher pitch dominates. As they were both recorded on the same track, Gabriel's vocals could not be made any louder.
    darlomundayon October 23, 2017   Link

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