Red sun go down way over dirty town
Starlings are sweeping around crazy shoals
A girl is there high heeling across the square
Wind blows around in her hair and the flaqs upon the poles
Waiting in the crowd to cross at the light
She looks around to find a face she can like

Church bell clinging on trying to get a crowd for Evensong
Nobody cares to depend to depend upon the chime it plays
They're all in the station praying for trains
Congregation late again
It's getting darker all the time these flagpole days
Drunk old soldier he gives her a fright
He's crazy lion howling for a fight

Strap hanging gunshot sound
Doors slamming on the overground
Starlings are tough but the lions are made of stone
Her evening paper is horror torn
But there's hope later for Capricorns
Her lucky stars give her just enough to get her home
Then she's reading about a swing to the right
But she's thinking about a stranger in the night
I'm thinking about the lions tonight
What happened to the lions

Lyrics submitted by Dasch

Lions Lyrics as written by Mark Knopfler

Lyrics © Universal Music Publishing Group

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Lions song meanings
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  • +1
    General Commentmark knopfler could do two things as well as anyone as anyone else in the business: play guitar and write lyrics that make you feel like you are in the the scenes he's describing...see this song and sultans of swing for proof of that.
    ZinbobDanon September 26, 2004   Link
  • +1
    General CommentThis song is about Trafalgar Square. As noted by Mark himself in a July 2017 interview.

    “I wrote this just off Trafalgar Square in London. I also think of a Ted Hughes poem comparing the idea of “Where are the lions?” as opposed to these starlings, in terms of contemporary figures of strength who aren’t there, who used to be there.”
    trosk10564on April 02, 2018   Link
  • 0
    General Commentthis song baffles me, but the best i can come up with is this:

    It's about the fact that no one knows each other anymore. the lions were the people that everyone knew. they were respected, whoever they were, but now there are so few of them. it follows this girl through the town she's going through, a town where the lions are virutally non-existant. no more familier faces, but nobody cares. they just care about getting done their own lives. but despite this, the lions will survive.
    Rodan2000on October 17, 2004   Link
  • 0
    General CommentTo me this song is taking place on Trafalgar Square.
    "Dirty town" would be London, then (and believe me, it is dirty and would have been much more so in the 80s).
    The "square" is pretty self-explanatory.
    There are "flags" in front of the National Gallery sometimes and always on top of it and several other buildings around the Square.
    The "church" would be Saint-Martin-in-the -Fields then.
    The "station" would be the Charing Cross underground station which has an entrance on Trafalgar Square (near that entrance there is a traffic light also mentioned in the song).
    And of course there are the "lions made of stone", the four huge stone lions beneath Nelson's Column.

    Of course this is only my interpretation, influenced by the fact that I have walked across Trafalgar Square feeling lonely like the girl mentioned in the song myself several times.
    But the similarities between this song and the location are striking and we know (from "Wild West End" on the same album) that Knopfler wrote about a location just 2 min away on foot.

    Well, I can only say that whenever I hear this song it reminds me of those lonely times on Trafalgar Square at sunset I have experienced.
    berzerkon January 09, 2007   Link
  • 0
    General Commentim pretty sure this song is all about loneliness, and the dull daily routine of a woman in london. as she goes through her regular mundane life, the chance meeting of the drunk old soldier adds a change to her usual routine. the thought of this soldier sticks in her mind and adds a spark of excitement.
    you could say that the starlings are mundane, and the lions are what she really wants, and as she remembers the soldier and places adventure with the thought of that soldier, she remembers the lions. but thats a bit of a stretch
    viking8on July 15, 2010   Link
  • 0
    General CommentIt's just a word picture of Trafalgar Square on a weekday evening. The drunk old soldier isn't really significant, or a character in his own right, the point is the insignificance, that he is the only thing that happens. I don't think there's a connection between him and the fantasy "stranger in the night"

    About as much happens to the lions as happens to the girl.

    It sounds very negative, put like that, but I don't take it all that seriously: it's just a very atmospheric picture of a particular scene.
    AMcguinnon February 22, 2011   Link
  • 0
    MemoryGlad I'm not the only one who thinks of Trafalgar Square when they hear this song. This song really strongly reminds me of my first time in London. Early February (2003 I think), sat by Nelson's Column around 7pm, dark with the last of the winter's chill in the air...the only other people around a group of teenagers and two security guys stood talking, the lights of traffic flashing past. Mark Knopfler describes it perfectly.
    Power13on April 10, 2011   Link
  • 0
    My Opinion...Actually I'll make my reply a general comment..
    The lions in Trafalgar Square are cast in bronze. So the song either, gets it wrong, is using artistic license or is talking about somewhere else. Although I have to admit that it does make me think of Trafalgar Square.
    smeegon April 25, 2012   Link
  • 0
    General CommentI don't think this song is about London and Trafalgar Square. To many things wrong. I think this song was written about his time in Leeds.

    1. The Lions in Trafalgar Square are Bronze, The Lions outside Leeds Town Hall are made of stone.

    2. London back then had a pigeon problem, famous for it, Leeds had a huge starling problem

    3. London is famous for it's underground, odd then he mentions the overground if it's London, Leeds only has overground railways.

    4. Leeds only has the one railway station in the centre, not really a strong point but of course London has plenty. This is quite a weak point though.

    Mark Knopfler lived for some years in Leeds so this could be a nostalgia song about his memories of living there.

    Plenty of flagpoles and churches with bells in both cities of course.
    peterfron March 29, 2013   Link
  • 0
    General CommentI think the mention of the evening paper could be that Mark worked as a reporter for the Yorkshire Evening Post in Leeds.
    scor57pionon October 06, 2014   Link

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