"On Every Street" as written by and Mark Knopfler....
There's gotta be a record of you someplace
You gotta be on somebody's books
The lowdown - a picture of your face
Your injured looks
The sacred and profane
The pleasure and the pain
Somewhere your fingerprints remain concrete
And it's your face I'm looking for on every street

A ladykiller - regulation tattoo
Silver spurs on his heels
Says - what can I tell you, as I'm standing next to you
She threw herself under my wheels
Oh it's a dangerous road
And a hazardous load
And the fireworks over liberty explode in the heat
And it's your face I'm looking for on every street

A three-chord symphony crashes into space
The moon is hanging upside down
I don't know why it is I'm still on the case
It's a ravenous town
And you still refuse to be traced
Seems to me such a waste
And every victory has a taste that's bittersweet
And it's your face I'm looking for on every street


Lyrics submitted by Dasch

"On Every Street [DVD]" as written by Mark Knopfler

Lyrics © Universal Music Publishing Group

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On Every Street song meanings
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  • +3
    General CommentI think this is about a man looking for revenge on the bastard who stole his wife/significant other and ruined his life.
    The bastard in question is one of those slick bad boy "ladykiller"-types that some women so unwisely fall for. And the wronged man would dearly love to see him in the type of pain he's feeling-"your injured looks"-instead of the cocky, dismissive "What can I tell you...she threw herself under my wheels".
    "The fireworks over liberty explod[ing] in the heat" refers to the lust or sexual heat and the liberation the woman felt during the affair. The sleazy bastard acknowledges what a dangerous game it is: "Oh it’s a dangerous road and a hazardous load".
    The wronged man is consumed with rage and obsessed with revenge. He's always looking for this guy and sees his face everywhere, the way your mind plays tricks on you when you're looking for someone.
    In the final verse, he's reflecting on the futility of his obsession, and the toll it's taking on him. Every victory or clue that brings him closer fuels his obsession yet leaves him empty and unsatisfied. His prey always seems to be a step ahead. He doesn't know why he's putting himself through all this, but he just can't let it go. It's a corrosive obsession. It's eating him alive, this ravenous town.
    Anyway, that's my take. It reminds me of the movie "Unfaithful" to a degree, with a married woman getting involved with a slick guy.
    napieron January 07, 2006   Link
  • +2
    MemoryI was a 30something living in Dallas when this song first came on. I think learning to fly was on this lp. One hot summer day on my way home I stopped to give a lift to a fine looking young lady in jeans and a hard hat. She was walking along the frontage road. I pulled over, lowered the passenger side window and asked her if she needed a ride. The cold a/c spilling out of the window must have been too much to resist on a Dallas summer afternoon. Much to my surprise she hopped in. Her blonde hair held a certain musk that triggered all my senses to high alert. She was young, maybe mid 20s, taught and tan from construction work. I offered to stop for cold drinks at the liquor store. She accepted! The ready mixed margaritas hit the spot. I dropped her off at a modest frame house off the main highway. I got a great, hot kiss and my hands found that round *ass*. I asked for a number and she brushed it off. I looked for her all summer at the site she said she was working at. I went to the modest house but got no answer. This song reminds me of that time and that woman. I looked on "every street" but never found her again. lucky for me I think. she would have owned me
    randelon April 17, 2014   Link
  • +1
    General CommentFrom the way that Knopfler sings this song it feels more melancholy than the above seem to believe. Although he seems to enjoy "cop tales" with songs such as "Private Investigations," his later solo works seem to have the same sort of melancholic tone with more transparent lyrics.

    This song is certainly one of the most mysterious and interesting of all Straits songs. I think that the singer is looking for a recent ex-girlfriend with whom he had a terrible fight. Here's why:

    "Your injured looks" -- this makes sense only for someone who has had emotional distress. For a dead person this would not make a whole lot of sense, unless it was a suicide. And even so, it doesn't seem like he would be at the July 4th celebration looking for her.

    The ladykiller -- it is easy to imagine a hurt woman losing the love of her life throwing herself into a man for sexual pleasure only. From the ladykiller's apologetic tone ("what can I say") it seems as if he understood that she was distressed and looking just for sex.

    The places -- the singer travels to locations, which could very easily have been where they spent time together. A fourth of July celebration at the Statue of Liberty? Sure makes sense for young lovers in their prime.

    The defeatist tone at the end doesn't seem like an honest question that a detached PI would ask. Unless he's a very introspective and empathetic guy, he probably would not be completely concerned with the whereabouts of a woman like this. He is deeply connected to this woman, from the longing tones and the rhetorical question.

    The last part of the song really hits home this interpretation -- as the man finds out more and more about his love's self-destructive path after their row he becomes more and more sad; who wants to learn about their love having a meaningless one-night stand with a tattooed hot shot? While he is accomplishing his goal of finding out what's happened to his soulmate (sweet), the things he is finding out are gruesome and hurtful since he cared so much for her (bitter).

    Just an absolutely beautiful song, I think.
    dRr0x0rZZon April 27, 2007   Link
  • +1
    General CommentI also don't think you should take the lyrics at face value. Mark Knopfler is a bit deeper than that, no? Anyway, I agree that this song is about a guy searching for an ex who has had a one night stand....etc.

    One thing I wanted to add concerns the part about liberty. Assuming Knopfler was not referring to the Statue of Liberty on the 4th (a bit too obvious for me--plus, wouldn't liberty have a capital L?), maybe he was talking about liberty in the sense of an 'open' relationship--fireworks in the sense of sex--and heat...you get the idea. I think he is using an interesting play with words to describe an affair this girl had with the lady killer.

    The following line starts with the 'three chord symphony' which could be the (perceived) love triangle this wronged guy has just been faced with. It turns his world upside down....

    On a simpler note, I just discovered this song and can't get enough of it--I love it when a song can overpower you like that.
    patokaneon May 19, 2008   Link
  • +1
    General CommentKnopfler has a well known style of writing lyrics - he often speaks metaphorically and does not put the meaning in front of the listener's eyes.

    I recall him having been parted with his girl friend/wife at the time the song was written. I don't know the circumstances but clearly feel that this song is about this. Other songs on the album describe this matter either, e.g. "Fade to Black".

    I once was in the same position: a beloved girl just told me she now was with another man (who I knew was just interested in her lying horizontally! ;)). This song gave me a lot of comfort. Every word was as if I had written it!
    Henningwayon June 13, 2008   Link
  • +1
    General CommentThis song for me is just genius, the music, the subtlety of the writing, laced with irony... superb.

    I always think of it as a guy, still not moving on from a girl he was madly in love with, but who took him for a mug, and he only realised when it was too late. No matter how much he sees how bad she was for him, he can't stop seeing her face wherever he goes...

    Knopfler uses the analogy of a Private Detective, as the guy can't help but look for her, and every time he finds something out, he find more info he doesn't want to hear, although it ironically give his life some meaning... but still the guy can't stop.

    Although hugely underrated, the whole 'On Every Street' album for me, shows Knopfler's best writing.
    the placid casualon June 15, 2008   Link
  • +1
    Song MeaningI agree. I'd say it's about a lost love with the singer basically wondering about where she is now, using the metaphor of detective looking for a missing person in parts, coupled with the fact that no matter how hard he tries, he just can't forget her. "The lowdown - a picture of your face" - shows how he still keeps a picture of her.

    The ladykiller was obviously a factor in the split and she's fallen for him and been used which may contribute to her absence, or simply sought him for a bit of fun under the sheets. In any case, the man in question is perhaps sorry in principle but not particularly apologetic for his part as she threw herself on him, "under my wheels." After all, which bloke honestly could be when he probably doesn't even know she has a significant other and has done the same several times before? While it's possible the singer knows this character vaguely, he finds it hard regardless to hold contempt for him for this reason, hence the absence of such lyrics.

    The emotion the singer feels instead is hurt and confusion at why she irrationally left him for the tattooed stud. What angers him most is why she chose this guy over him where he clearly felt nothing for him, yet the singer loved her dearly and while she knows that's the case, she still won't go back to him; "Your injured looks," "Seems to me such a waste."

    "And every victory has a taste that’s bittersweet" This is another aspect to the singer's feelings. Unrequited love in any case is bittersweet with the sheer joy you feel for that person, but the pain that comes with the lack of reciprocation at the same time, also empahasised earlier in the song; "The pleasure and the pain." The bittersweetness in relation to the victory is also perhaps akin to his efforts to forget her; the more he manages to get over her, the more empty he feels with no feelings of love for anyone else - the extent of the vacuum she's left in his life.

    Many of the other references are rather enigmatic and as with any song probably only bear relevance to the writer on a personal note, even if just in a metaphorical sense; you'd have sit Mark down with a pint to explain them. One however, is the fact that he seems to be in New York during the 4th of July celebrations: "And the fireworks over liberty explode in the heat." "The moon is hanging upside down" would tend to suggest that he's in Australia perhaps, or anywhere else in the Southern Hemisphere, where due to the angle of the earth and the way the sun hits it the moon is often said to appear upside down when compared to the Northern Hemisphere. Perhaps, this is supposed to emphasise the fact that he can take himself to the other end of the world, but not her out of his head, hence the following line, "I don't know why it is I'm still on the case"

    Finally, I think the chord riff-based instrumental at the end is a piece of onomatopoeic musical genius. Instead of being a reflective, brooding piece about his loss, its upbeat tones of defiance and optimism seem to reflect a confident desire on the part of the writer to finally move on and forget. It's the kind of piece that on its own would serve as the perfect soundtrack to the final scene of a classy film where the main protagonist drives off into the sunset with the top down, shades on, and beautiful girl in the passenger seat. The endings of Desperado and the alternative one to Layer Cake (if you've seen the DVD extras) particularly stick in my mind here, perhaps the Thomas Crown affair too; the essence of cool in other words, which this ostinanto arrangement soaks up like Oliver Reed and a case of Scotch. And it's this notion of coolness and a stiff upper lip that the singer hopes will see him through his sorrow.

    I've wondered on a bit haven't I? Still, Knopfler and Straits at their polished best well deserve it.
    thedashingdebonairon December 25, 2008   Link
  • +1
    General CommentI agree with the people who posted the idea of the "Lady Killer" speaking metaphorically about a girl he charmed. However, I don't believe that the guy speaking to him is a jealous ex husband looking for his lover. I think it's a father who's had a falling out with his daughter some years back and is now trying to rekindle some kind of bond with her. I don't know if she's genuinely missing, I think she just may be deeply hurt by the way things ended between her and her father. The last verse speaking about her refusing to be traced and it being a waste speaks to the idea of the father wishing that they could somehow put the past behind them and have a relationship again. I could be completely wrong though.
    phish11on October 30, 2011   Link
  • +1
    My InterpretationI think the key to understanding this song, is to remove the last line of the two first choruses "It's your face I've been looking for - on every street"

    That way you might see, that he's not looking for "HER"

    He's a lonesome wanderer, looking for what he once was... but he got older.

    The vocally fatigue "and a hazardous load" leads to his sorrow, his anger, the water comes rushing in "the moon's hanging upside down"

    It's his guilt, he misses his youth.
    jacK1979on January 11, 2012   Link
  • +1
    My InterpretationI side with those who believe this isn't a song about one specific woman, though its story stems from the narrator's experience with one woman. It's a man's search for a woman LIKE the one he loved and lost. He keeps looking for a woman who is as wonderful as the one he lost -- "on every street" -- but hasn't found her because his lost love was one of a kind. It's a lament for the irreplaceability of the love we feel for one individual.
    scotterooon March 28, 2015   Link

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