The runway rushed up at him as he felt the wheels touch down
He stood out on the blacktop and took a taxi into town
He got out down on Main Street and went into a local bar
He bought a drink and found a seat in a corner off the dark
Well she called up her mama to make sure the kids were out of the house
She checked herself out in the dining room mirror
And undid an extra button on her blouse
He felt her lying next to him, the clock said 4:00 am
He was staring at the ceiling
He couldn't move his hands

Oh mama mama mama come quick
I've got the shakes and I'm gonna be sick
Throw your arms around me in the cold dark night
Hey now mama don't shut out the light
Don't you shut out the light
Don't you shut out the light
Don't you shut out the light
Don't you shut out the light

Well on his porch they stretched a banner that said "Johnny Welcome Home"
Bobby pulled his Ford out of the garage and they polished up the chrome
His mama said "Johnny oh Johnny, I'm so glad to have you back with me"
His pa said he was sure they'd give him his job back down at the factory


Well deep in a dark forest, a forest filled with rain
Beyond a stretch of Maryland pines there's a river without a name
In the cold black water Johnson Lineir stands
He stares across the lights of the city and dreams of where he's been


Lyrics submitted by oofus

Shut Out the Light song meanings
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  • 0
    General CommentGreat song. It was sort of the alter ego to Born in the USA. In this song, most likely occurring only in the vet's fantasies, he returns home and everything goes the way he wants it to.

    Contrast with Born in the USA where the hiring man says "son, if it were up to me."
    Pirtyfool22on May 07, 2007   Link
  • 0
    General CommentI have a completely different interpretation of this. I think it's about a vet who makes it home, but his mind is still in Vietnam. He's still haunted by what he's seen, what he's done. He can't connect to his wife or his family. In the end, he's removed himself from everyone and he "dreams of where he's been."
    PencilNeckedGeekon June 22, 2007   Link
  • 0
    General CommentYes, this is a vet who has returned but cannot leave Vietnam behind. At night he gets the shakes and nightmares of war, and begs for the lights to stay on so as not to encounter these visions and memories.
    tjtroson June 12, 2008   Link
  • 0
    General CommentI reckon this is all about...
    A vet who comes back, but see's his wife with someone else, hense her undoing an extra button on her blouse and checking the kids are out the house. He's see's this from a dark corner of the bar so she doesn't know. He wanted her to lie next to him at night and be there, but she isn't there and he is up all night. So he goes to his family, who are all happy, but don't realise how much pain he is in.
    So yeahhh..
    MoonPigon January 17, 2010   Link
  • 0
    General CommentThe title and chorus also evokes Shakespeare's Othello

    "Put out the light, and then put out the light:
    If I quench thee, thou flaming minister,
    I can again thy former light restore,"

    Both ahve themes of anger and betrayal...
    virtualwillon February 06, 2010   Link
  • 0
    General CommentI agree with pencilneckedgeek. In Springsteen's concert Breathless in Paris in 1985, he says that this song is about "leaving home and not being able to find your way back". It's about a Vietnam vet who came back, but realizes his life is not there anymore. He's still shaken by Vietnam like most vets.
    ddlikens12on April 26, 2012   Link
  • 0
    General CommentThis is one of Springsteen's beautiful, understated little songs which manage to say so much.

    I agree totally with the interpretations from tjtros and pencil neckd geek, you've nailed it guys. I think Moonpig is wrong about the 'button on her blouse' and the 'kids out of the house'. She is making herself pretty for him and making sure they won't be disturbed when he gets home, and also possibly making allowance for not knowing how he's going to be when he first comes through the door. Everyone rallies round in classic American style - Dad waffles about his old job, his car is buffed up, his Mum is so happy to have him home again....but he isn't home, he's standing waist deep in an unnamed river and all he sees is where he's been. Everything else just bounces off him.
    Sorry to write so much, the guys above said it all in half the time.
    Paul825on April 11, 2016   Link

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