Belladonna's on the high street
Her breasts upon the offbeat
And the stalls are just the side shows
Victoriana's old clothes
Yeah she got the skirt so tight now
She want to travel light now
She want to tear up all her roots now
She got the turn up on the boots now
She thinks she's tough
She ain't no English rose
But the blind singer
He's seen enough and he knows
He do a song about a long-gone Irish girl
But I got one of for you my Portobello Belle

She sees a man upon his back there
Escaping from a sack there
And Belladonna lingers
Her gloves they got no fingers
Blind man he's singing the Irish
He get his money in a tin dish
Just a corner serenader
Once upon a time he could have made her
She thinks she's tough
She ain't no English rose
But the blind singer
He's seen enough and he knows
He do a song about a long-gone Irish girl
But I got one of for you my Portobello Belle

Yes and these barrow boys are hawking
And a parakeet is squawking
Upon a truck paper rhino
She get the crying of a wino
And then she get the reggae rumble
Belladonna's in the jungle
But she ain't no garden flower
There ain't no distress in the tower
Belladonna walks
Belladonna taking control
She don't care about your window box
Or your button hole
She sing a song about a long-gone Irish girl
But I got one of for you my Portobello Belle

Lyrics submitted by Dasch, edited by doccolinni

"Portobello Belle" as written by Jon Bon Jovi Desmond Child

Lyrics © Universal Music Publishing Group, Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC

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Portobello Belle song meanings
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  • +2
    General CommentMark Knopfler wrote this song at Portobello Road London, in a pub called The Duke of Wellington, in the 60's -70's a pub called Finch. (179 Portobello Road)

    He was there often as a guest and wrote it for a pretty young lady who was the sister of the manager.

    The pub was often visited by the Dubliners, Donovan and Jimi Hendrix celebrated his last night there.
    The Koninckon June 04, 2008   Link
  • +2
    General CommentI worked as a street performer in the 80s in Portobello road.
    I recognise some of the people in the song.
    The "man on his back there escaping from a sack there" was a hard-drinking escapologist up at the top end near the Earl of Lonsdale who had one trick getting free of a chain he asked someone from the crowd to tighten, collect the money and down to the pub. He was miserable old bastard who had been there since the 50s I was told by some stallholders. He actually threatened me once cos I took his pitch and he was desperate for a drink.
    "The blind man singing Irish" was a blind busker on the corner further down the road. He collected his money in a kind of brass collection dish that organ grinders usually had. The song (he sang "about the long gone Irish girl" was "Molly Malone", (She wheels her barrow through streets broad and narrow etc) , with which MK also hinted at the `long-goneness` of the Belle.

    I don`t know who the "Belle" was but I imagined her as a crazy irish drinker whohad kind oflost the plot("torn up all her roots,now")staggering round the street dancing and giving people a bit of lip etc. Plenty of them in Portobello and the West End.
    Notting Hill was still quite a rough area in those days before the movie "Notting Hill" kicked off the gentrification.

    Great song. .
    frank11627on July 14, 2019   Link
  • 0
    General CommentI can't believe no one has commented on this song yet. It is just plain beautiful. My favourite lines are "Ah, but the blind singer/He’s seen enough". Classic Knopfler.
    wwbon September 06, 2006   Link
  • 0
    General CommentI believe that this song is about the love of a streetwise fallen angel Irish girl that he misses. Wwb you are right, it is indeed a very beautiful song.
    ledgendaryxpersonon December 18, 2006   Link
  • 0
    General CommentI was a pretty young American exchange student walking around Portobello Road in the 1980s, fancying myself tough in my Doc Martens and leather jacket, and so when I listen to this lovely song it takes me back to that sublime moment.
    freewheel5on December 31, 2010   Link
  • 0
    General CommentOh this is so underated and beautiful. I think it's the perfict date song. It make me smile whatever mood i'm in. The piano at the end has such a romantic sond to it. I would proberly go as far to say this is DS best song.
    thrashgrunge4lifeon July 09, 2012   Link
  • 0
    Song Meaningi'm not a native anglo and sometime get stuck inside of texts, particularly when they're poetic. does "her breasts upon the offbeat" mean what I guess, namely something along the line of "her breast in an unusual display"?
    thanks for some elucidation.
    kirponoson August 02, 2013   Link
  • 0
    General CommentAnd what do the lines

    "She sees the man upon his back there
    Escaping from a sack there
    And Belladonna lingers
    Her gloves they got no fingers"

    cadencecascadeon August 07, 2013   Link
  • 0
    General CommentIf they asked me to make a chart of the discography of Dire Straits "Communique" would be at no 1. because all the tracks are very good except track 4. ; )
    So i agree this song is one of their best.

    In my opinion the song is about a good looking perky type of girl.
    That can't resist the urge to go out on expedition in to the great wide open.
    She lives for a while like a rolling stone and in this time frame the text is set.
    On her journey she experiences all kind of weird situations. Like a tramp in a sack later on a drunk man screaming for attention etc.
    Unlucky for her i guess it ends up in selling her self to whatever. "Window box" can be a someones car and the "buttonhole" speaks for it selves.


    Ps. let there be a last "Dire Straits" album with the legendary "Communique" lineup. Loungy like the end of "Why Worry"
    Yambion September 16, 2013   Link
  • 0
    My InterpretationBelladonna:
    She is a young irish girl, who has had, what she think it was, a “hard life”. So, now she is trying to leave it all behind. She have changed her style, her clothes and is trying to be a grown-up tough girl. She think that she has moved on, and that she is stronger now, but she is still an innocent and young girl.

    I think he is an old man. He is an old street musician who plays for money. I don’t know if he is really blind. I think he is blind to superficial things, like Belladonna’s look and style. He can see more than that. What he have “seen before” is that kind of girls, trying to run away from her past and living a rock-life for a while. So that’s why he knows Belladonna, he knows what she is trying to do, how she is trying to look like, and who she is trying to be.

    The Story:
    She is walking through the high street. She is in a new place, no one know her, and she don’t know anyone. And she don’t care. She is trying really hard not to be an “english rose” nor a “garden flower”: a nice, cute and sweet girl. She is another flower, a Belladonna. But he sees her. The blind singer is the only one who know what’s going on and what she is doing. So, he plays a song, the irish song, about an irish girl. I think he is like mocking at her in a really sweet way. I don’t know if she hears the song, but if she does, I think she wouldn’t like it. Because the song he plays is like “Oh girl, u can’t fool me, I know who you are and where u came from. I’ve seen girls like u before”. If Belladonna listened the song, I think she would be mad at him. He is pointing what she wanna hide. No one else would know it. No one else would get who he is playing for. Just them know what he is talking about.
    Then he makes a description of her travels, the things she have seen and the things she is living. “Belladonna is in the Jungle”. I think that, yes, it talks about big cities, the big world, the crazy people. But i think that the Jungle is her mind in that moment. That moment when she realize that he is right: He knows! She feels like exposed to this man who don’t know her ...but he does.
    Then, at the end of the song, “Belladonna is taking control”. She is really mad at the blind singer, so she insult him, and tells him he is wrong (but both know that he is right), she is really angry. At this part of the song you can see that the music changes. I think it is because till this part, the Blind Singer is in some way Mark Knopfler: we have HIS point of view, not hers. But now, “she is taking control”, the music change, now Belladonna is who is talking. “SHE sing a song about a long-gone irish girl”.
    irearion December 15, 2013   Link

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