5.15 A.M.
Snow laying all around
A collier cycles home
From his night shift underground
Past the silent pub
Primary school, workingmen's club
On the road from the pithead
The churchyard packed
With mining dead

Then beneath the bridge
He comes to a giant car
A shroud of snow upon the roof
A mark ten jaguar
He thought the man was fast asleep
Silent, still and deep
Both dead and cold
Shot through
With bullet holes

The one armed bandit man
Came north to fill his boots
Came up from cockneyland
E-type jags and flashy suits
Put your money in
Pull the levers
Watch them spin
Cash cows in all the pubs
But he preferred the new nightclubs

Nineteen sixty-seven
Bandit men in birdcage heaven
La dolce vita, sixty-nine
All new to people of the Tyne

Who knows who did what
Somebody made a call
They said his hands
Were in the pot
That he'd been skimming hauls
He picks up the swag
They gaily gave away
Drives his giant jag
Off to his big pay day

The bandit man
Came north to fill his boots
Came up from cockneyland
E-type jags and flashy suits
The bandit man
Came up the great north road
Up to geordieland
To mine
The mother lode

Seams blew up or cracked
Black diamonds came hard won
Generations toiled and hacked
For a pittance and black lung
Crushed by tub or stone
And alone
How the young and old
Paid the price of coal

Eighteen sixty-seven
My angel's gone to heaven
He'll be happy there
Sunlight and sweet clean air

They gather round the glass
Tough hewers and crutters
Child trappers and putters
The little foals and half-marrows
Who pushed
And pulled the barrows
The hod boys
And the rolleywaymen
5.15 A.M.

Lyrics submitted by redmax

"5:15 AM" as written by Mark Knopfler

Lyrics © Universal Music Publishing Group

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5.15 A.M. song meanings
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  • +4
    General CommentLike many MK songs the track is based around true events;

    'At 5.15 a.m. on a cold morning in January 1967, Durham coal miner Tom Leak was cycling home from his night'sshift at the local pit.

    In South Hetton, just past PesspoolBridge, he noticed a Mark X Jaguar
    saloon car, poorly parked, about fourteen inches from the kerb, and also damaged. Snow covered the backwindow, bonnet and much of the top. He cupped his hands and peered intothe car through the near-side passenger window. A man was lying across theback seat. Leak opened the door, said loudly,'Hey, mate, you can't park there,' and shook his left leg. As he did so, Leakrealised that the man was dead. He hailed three passing colleagues, alsogoing home, and they called the police. A local GP, Dr John Hunter, was then summoned, though the police advised him not to touch the body. It was clear that the man, who had been shot three times, was a murder victim - Angus Sibbet'

    The key though to the song is the miner whose presence in the tale reflects on both the murderous events that took place in the 60's but also a mining disaster that took place in the previous century. All the pieces are accurately told right down to the cars in the story. The final verse when what i assume are the ghosts of mining folk from the disaster ather round the car is filled with the names given to there respective jobs including the pit ponies.

    The theory put forward by the prosecutors of the murder was that the vicitm had been skimming money off his collections and that the club owners he worked for (owners of The Birdcage Club) got wise to this and killed him although the actual evidence was very flimsy and the final surviving defendant has always proclaimed his innocence.

    If you have an affinitiy with the north east of england the song is very moving, to me the final verse is one of the most beautiful he has yet penned.
    psychobobon September 04, 2006   Link
  • +3
    General CommentThe bandit man -- purveyor of one-armed bandits -- came north to indulge in la dolce vita (the good -- literally "sweet" -- life). No doubt -- with his Mark X Jaguar, birdcage heaven (dolls danced in birdcages in the clubs in the '60s and you can still catch the practice here and there, in places such as Rum Jungle, Mandalay Bay, Las Vegas), and the pockets full of cash -- he held himself above the working men and women of Newcastle. What were they anyway but suckers?

    The irony built up through the whole song, then, is that he wound up dead among them, murdered by the same greed and inhumanity that built the coal mines (in their own way, a capitalist slot machine) and buried the miners, near the ghosts of the churchyard, discovered by a collier (coal miner) bicycling home from the pithead. Using all the language of Geordieland emphasizes that by seeking "heaven," la dolce vita, amid the coal towns, the bandit man found hell instead. He sank into the black pits, sharing the same fate as those on whose backs he left his Italian boot prints on the way "up," the lowly victims of the gambling games of the sociopathic rich.

    With several songs about heaven and several songs about hell, "Shangri-la" explores the contrast and what it all means. This is one of the "hell" songs. So is "Boom Like That," which is in a way a song from the Devil's point of view. Then there's "Don't Crash the Ambulance," a "tribute" to the Bush clan. Another bandit man seeks heaven and finds hell in "Postcards From Paraguay." More seeking heaven, finding hell: Sonny Liston's song. "Shangri-la" -- "it's the end of a perfect day" -- is one of the heaven songs. Love, as always, seems to be a reliable heaven, with or without riches. Likewise "All That Matters."

    There is irony in the title "Shangri-La." We all seek it, but, like in life, hell is more prevalent than heaven in "Shangri-La." Knopfler is a cynic -- "Everybody Pays" -- but a realist. No solutions, really, just rueful observations.The surfer's approach is more direct and sensual, which leaves the door open to an uncluttered love like that. But the vivid contrasts between what we seek and what we find, and of course the music, make this a great album.
    asongsmithon December 22, 2011   Link
  • +2
    General CommentI love this song. Gentle and calm, but about tough and dangerous things (both the cut-throat world of the new clubs, and, of course, the mining communities).

    I never understood what “they gather round the glass” meant so thanks, psychobob for pointing out that the ghosts of the mining people are around the car, presumably to meet a new ghost who’s met a violent, lonely end a little like they have.

    Oh and the jobs mentioned at the end of the song are:

    The hewer is the man who actually hacks the coal from the seam. The crutter was the man who cut the passages towards the coal seams, often using explosives.

    The trappers were (heartbreakingly) young children who operated wooden trap doors to let through the carts. The traps were there to direct the fresh air and ventilate the mine. These children would remain at their posts, in the dust and darkness for up to eighteen hours a day.

    Putters were the men who loaded and took away the baskets or barrows of coal left by the hewers. Often a boy would be used for his agility and size, but if he wasn’t strong enough to carry the baskets, he’d have an even smaller boy to help. This little lad was known as a foal and the bigger boy was called a half-marrow. Foal here refers to a child not a pit pony.

    The hod boys took the baskets of coal to the wagons, which would usually be pulled by pit ponies to take the coal out along the passages, or rolley ways. The rolley-way men made sure these passages, which the ponies used, remained clear and free-flowing.

    Incidentally, black lung is pneumoconiosis, caused, as you’d expect, by inhaling coal dust.
    uffyon May 21, 2007   Link
  • +1
    General CommentThanks for the explanation uffy. This song is indeed great, how it blends the two storylines, into one.
    civtwoon July 06, 2007   Link
  • 0
    General CommentCan anyone help me out on this song?? I've read and reread the lyrics over and over, and i'm STILL STRUGGLING. i've got a few Knopfler albums--so i see his song writing is a combonation of story telling, cynicsm, and great metaphores; but this song might mean so much more if i knew what the heck he is talking about!
    tpfon March 24, 2006   Link
  • 0
    General Commenti think that this is about his home town, the first real murder he knew of, ways the culture changed, the miners working for screw all i was told at one stage but i can't remember entirely.... ill go look it up on the doc i have on him... may post again if huge discovery is made
    school_of_old_rockon May 29, 2006   Link
  • 0
    General CommentBy all accounts, the idea for the 1970 Michael Caine film Get Carter, came from this incident.
    qualifiedsurvivoron September 11, 2006   Link
  • 0
    General CommentAnd

    "The one armed bandit man
    Came north to fill his boots
    Came up from cockneyland
    E-type jags and flashy suits
    Put your money in
    Pull the levers
    Watch them spin
    Cash cows in all the pubs
    But he preferred the new nightclubs"

    Refers to pokie machines I think...
    mickal555on November 14, 2007   Link
  • 0
    General Commenti agree with psycho bob, the last stanza is really one of the most beautiful lines (although it doesn't carry a big meaning to the song) Mark ever wrote... man i'm going to his concert in like 10 days, can't wait, and i hope he plays this song...
    fatman69on May 28, 2008   Link
  • 0
    General CommentI think it follows most of the album regarding gambling and neferious activity. Most of Shangri La has a West Coast feel though this is clearly about up north
    DrizztUKon August 26, 2008   Link

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