Driving home she grabs something to eat
Turns a corner and drives down her street
Into a row of houses she just melts away
Like the scenery in another man's play
Into a house where the blinds are closed
To keep from seeing things she don't wanna know
She pulls the blinds and looks out on the street
The cool of the night takes the edge off the heat

In the Jackson Cage
Down in Jackson Cage
You can try with all your might
But you're reminded every night
That you been judged and handed life
Down in Jackson Cage

Every day ends in wasted motion
Just crossed swords on the killing floor
To settle back is to settle without knowing
The hard edge that you're settling for
Because there's always just one more day
And it's always gonna be that way
Little girl you've been down here so long
I can tell by the way that you move you belong to

The Jackson Cage
Down in Jackson Cage
And it don't matter just what you say
Are you tough enough to play the game they play
Or will you just do your time and fade away
Down into the Jackson Cage

Baby there's nights when I dream of a better world
But I wake up so downhearted girl
I see you feeling so tired and confused
I wonder what it's worth to me or you
Just waiting to see some sun
Never knowing if that day will ever come
Left alone standing out on the street
Till you become the hand that turns the key down in

Jackson Cage
Down in Jackson Cage
Well darlin' can you understand
The way that they will turn a man
Into a stranger to waste away
Down in the Jackson Cage



Lyrics submitted by oofus

Jackson Cage song meanings
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  • +1
    General CommentI believe this song is about Bruce's mother. He masks this by a) calling her "girl" , b) saying she "grabs something to eat, which never would have happened at the time and c) making it a loud rocker rather than the plaintive cry that it really is. I picked all this up listening to John Wesley Harding's wrenching cover, which is a quiet and haunting acoustic version that brings the lyrics out front.

    After the first verse, the song tracks almost word for word what Bruce has said from the stage and elsewhere about his home life, but this time from his mom's perspective.

    "Every day ends in wasted motion
    Just crossed swords on the killing floor
    To settle back is to settle without knowing
    The hard edge that you're settling for"

    Wasted motion/crossed swords: Bruce and his dad fought all the time in the kitchen and wound up screaming at each other.

    Settling back: Bruce has said that his mom would "set her hair" and fall asleep watching TV.

    The singer asks: will you just do your time and fade away? - This Bruce's question to his mother.

    "Just waiting to see some sun
    Never knowing if that day will ever come
    Left alone standing out on the street
    Till you become the hand that turns the key down in"

    From an early age Bruce has been obsessed with using music to break free of his father and the life he thought was his destiny. In this verse, he is expressing his doubts about whether it will happen. He has said that his fights would always end up with him running out of the house, standing outside still screaming at his father. But then the singer looks forward to the day that his "hand will turn the key" opening the Jackson Cage.

    In the final verse, Bruce explains himself to his mother one more time, saying "darlin' can you understand, the way that they will turn a man into a stranger to waste away, down in the Jackson Cage." This was Bruce's great fear: that he would turn into his father, a bitter and likely bipolar person (as reported in the latest Bruce biography, I'm not making this up). The singer is telling the girl, it can't be that person, I hope you understand and take some solice in my escape.

    Two songs later on the first side of the original River double LP is the song Independence Day, which Bruce has said is his declaration of independence from his dad.

    Last point if you haven't heard this before: the title track tells the story of Bruce's sister Ginny, who got pregnant and married her high school boyfriend (they are still married, btw). Bruce debuted the song at No Nukes saying, "This is about my sister."

    Besides listening carefully to Bruce over the years, the main sources for this analysis are the recent bio "Bruce" that includes interviews with his mother, and the story Bruce would tell during concerts in the 70s as the intro to "It's My Life."

    PS - Thanks for the interpretations of the term Jackson Cage above. They all seem devastatingly accurate.
    jaygee59on December 03, 2013   Link

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