Some people get a cheap laugh breaking up the speed limit
Scaring the pedestrians for a minute
Crossing up progress driving on the grass
Leaving just enough room to pass
Sunday driver never took a test
Oh yeah, once upon a time in the west

Yes it's no use saying that you don't know nothing
It's still gonna get you if you don't do something
Sitting on a fence that's a dangerous course
Oh, you could even catch a bullet from the peace-keeping force
Even the hero gets a bullet in the chest
Oh yeah, once upon a time in the west

Mother Mary your children are slaughtered
Some of you mothers ought to lock up your daughters
Who's protecting the innocents
Heap big trouble in the land of plenty
Tell me how we're gonna do what's best
You guess once upon a time in the west

Oh yeah, once upon a time in the west
Oh yeah, once upon a time in the west
Oh yeah, once upon a time in the west

(Once upon) once upon a time in the west
Once upon a time in the west
Once upon a time in the west
Once upon a time in the west
Once upon a time in the west
Once upon a time in the west
Once upon a time in the west
Once upon a time in the west
Once upon a time in the west


Lyrics submitted by Dasch

"Once Upon a Time in the West" as written by Mark Knopfler

Lyrics © Universal Music Publishing Group

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Once Upon A Time In The West song meanings
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11 Comments

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  • +1
    General Commenti dont think its about the wild west as such but possibly uses the wild west as a metaphor for londons west end. there are ample clues in the song telling us that hes talking about modren life; sunday driver, driving test, driving on the grass.
    see also the song wild west end from same album
    willardon November 12, 2004   Link
  • +1
    General Commentthe alchemy version (13 mn) is unbelievable
    as for the meaning, rodan may be right.. but usually knopfler's lyrics are more complex, deeper than that.. so i dnt rly know..
    nachozon January 15, 2008   Link
  • +1
    General Commentit might also be a critique (or a description of Knopfler's idea) of the western world, mostly referring to the USA...
    jrgihaon September 08, 2009   Link
  • +1
    General CommentI think the song is about the triumph of "order" over the untamed and wild. I believe it's a theme that encompasses both the "Old West" of North America to the modern Western nations trying to civilize the rest of the world with our "peacekeeping forces".

    * The first verse seems to describe a renegade, "Crossing up the progress". Just someone who is causing problems for society.

    * The second verse seems to describe "The Man" talking to this renegade and explaining the reality of his situation. "no use saying that you don't know nothing
    It's still gonna get you if you don't do something" Shape up. Get in line. You can't fight the progress of law/order/civilization.

    *Continuing the second verse seems to describe how the West (US and Nato) acts as a force for peace but with a very heavy hand. "Sitting on a fence that's a dangerous course Oh, you could even catch a bullet from the peace-keeping force."

    Like the idea of bringing democracy to the 3rd world. Think of GWBush saying "You're either with us or against us". (I know this song is older than that...but it's a theme). "

    Very often it seems like Knopfler writes in chronological order when it comes to the most straight forward parts of his songs.

    * So the song ends back with the ORIGINAL order triumphing over the wild untamed West. "Heap big trouble in the land of plenty" is talking about the destruction/subjugation of the Native American tribes to the conquering Western civilization.
    olemanwinteron January 07, 2019   Link
  • +1
    Song MeaningLike any song, I think it can mean and/or have meaning for whatever the listener interprets. If you live in the Wild West, the West End, the West side of any country or region, that can be taken personally and adapted to the individual's own experience. Probably it does have meaning for Knopfler but even that is from his own personal life experience, which likely has no relevance to any other person.
    rooboy1999on June 26, 2019   Link
  • 0
    General Commentthis is just about life in the Wild West, where even the hero can be killed, where you have to careful for some yahoo who's driving their wagon or horses carelessly like a sunday driver, where its a dangerous, but glamourous life. the Sunday driver necer took a test, meaning he never had to pass a driver's ed class to drive his horse or wagon. even the hero gets a bullet in the chest, meaning even he can be killed, no one's invincable, its all just chaos. Mother Mary's children have been killed, and there's heap big trouble in the land of plenty, meaning that its a plentiful, opportunitous land, but its also full of danger. an overall great song, about the perils and highlights of living in the Wild West.
    Rodan2000on October 17, 2004   Link
  • 0
    General Commentwell, the song Wild West End was from their first album, Dire Straits, this song is from Communique. and yes, they use the term Sunday Driver and Driver's test, but i think they're using those as metaphores for the original Wild West. i take this from the fact that the song title is Once Upon a Time in the West. the song about the Wild West End, is called the Wld West End, i'm thinking the song with Wild West (not followed by End, and even named after a popular Western movie) would actually be about the Wild West.
    Rodan2000on December 03, 2004   Link
  • 0
    General CommentI think it has something to do with the sergio leone movie (C'era una volta il West (1968)), because it they both deal with the ideas people have of the west. They both show us where complete freedom brings us, it's going to be a mess, not a paradise.
    harmon April 09, 2005   Link
  • 0
    General CommentThe title "Once Upon a Time in the West" is just a homage to the film. It's about London's West End in the late 70s, using the American "Wild West" as an allegory.
    Caledonon November 27, 2008   Link
  • 0
    General Comment"Wild West End" was definitely about London's West End. But this? I don't know. I think this one may really be about the United States, and maybe even the real Old West. The lyrics seem to talk about lawlessness.

    But does it matter? This could be an instrumental for all I care. The song has a beautiful dark, warm sound, with spine-tingling guitar from Knopfler. Fabulous.
    Starqueston November 07, 2011   Link

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