Got out of prison back in '86 and I found me a wife
Walked the clean and narrow
just tryin' to stay out and stay alive
Got a job at the rendering factory,it ain't gonna make me rich
In the darkness before dinner comes
Sometimes I can feel the it
I got a cold mind to go tripping across that thin line
I'm sick of doin straight time

My uncles at the evenin' table makes his living runnin' hot cars
Slips me a hundred dollar bill, says
"Charlie, you best remember who your friend are."
I got a cold mind to go tripping across that thin line
I ain't makin' straight time

Eight years in, it feels like you're gonna die
But you get used to anything
Sooner or later it becomes your life

Kitchen floor in the evening, tossin' my little babies high
Mary's smilin', but she watches me out of the corner of her eye
Seems you can't get any more than half free
I step out onto the front porch, and suck the cold air deep inside of me
Got a cold mind to go tripping cross that thin line
I'm sick of doin' straight time

In the basement, huntin' gun and a hacksaw
Sip a beer, and thirteen inches of barrel drop to the floor

Come home in the evening, can't get the smell from my hands
Lay my head down on the pillow
And, go driftin' off into foreign lands



Lyrics submitted by oofus

Straight Time song meanings
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    My InterpretationThe song is about doing "straight time"--metaphorical "time" (i.e. jail time) while you're supposedly free after coming out of prison.

    I want to expand on some of the comments made below. Charlie (protagonist) finds the the straight life restrictive ("half free") and unhappy: his behavior has to be entirely pure because no one trusts him ("Walked the clean and narrow / just tryin' to stay out and stay alive"). Even his wife cannot seem to trust him in what should be a happy and innocent moment ("Kitchen floor in the evening, tossin' my little babies high / Mary's smilin', but she watches me out of the corner of her eye").

    Charlie's life feels like a dead end. His job doesn't have much potential ("Got a job at the rendering factory, it ain't gonna make me rich") and he feels trapped ("Eight years in, it feels like you're gonna die / But you get used to anything / Sooner or later it becomes your life"). Meanwhile, he's surrounded by people who are making it big illegally: his hot car-running uncle apparently has $100 to throw around. Charlie's damned if he does, damned if he doesn't.

    Charlie is always tempted to go back to crime ("Got a cold mind to go tripping cross that thin line / I'm sick of doin' straight time"; "Sometimes I can feel the itch") and, ultimately, gives in to this urge. He does NOT kill himself, though perhaps the "gun in the basement alone" bit is suggestive of a *metaphorical* suicide. He takes his "huntin' gun and a hacksaw" and cuts off "thirteen inches of barrel." Stereotypically, sawed off shotguns are used by criminals; you don't need to saw off a barrel to kill yourself. There is also a final scene (last three lines) where Charlie is definitely alive.

    The end is very ambiguous. Charlie comes home (from a crime), goes to sleep and goes "drifting off into foreign lands." I think the most reasonable interpretation is that his dreams are a continuation of his life: Charlie is alienated from the world and is adrift; his return to crime is not so much a decision as an indecision, the desperation of someone lost.

    You could also read it to say that the freedom he has found is foreign or that he is dreaming of a freedom foreign to him.
    corydeburdon December 19, 2012   Link

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