"The Boy with the Arab Strap" as written by and Martin/murdoch/colburn/cooke/geddes/jackson/campbe....
A mile and a half on a bus takes a long time
The odor of old prison food takes a long time to pass you by
Day upon day of this wandering gets you down
Nobody gives you a chance or a dollar in this old town

Hovering silence from you is a giveaway
Squalor and smoke's not your style
"I don't like this place"
We better go
Then I compare notes with your older sister
I am a lazy get, she is as pure as the cold driven snow

What did you learn from your time in the solitary
Cell of your mind?
There was noises, the distractions from anything good
And the old prison food
Colour my life with the chaos of trouble
'Cause anything's better than posh isolation
I missed the bus
You were laid on your back
With the boy with the Arab strap
With the boy from the Arab strap

It's something to speak of the way you are feeling
To crowds there assembled
Do you ever feel you have gone too far?
Everyone suffers in silence a burden
The man who drives minicabs down in old Compton
The Asian man
With his love hate affair
With his racist clientele

A central location for you is a must
As you stagger about making free with your lewd and lascivious boasts
We all know you are soft 'cause we've all seen you dancing
We all know you're hard 'cause we all saw you drinking from noon
Until noon again
You're the boy with the filthy laugh
You're the boy with the Arab strap

Strapped to the table with suits from the shelter shop
Comic celebrity takes a back seat as the cigarette catches
And sets off the smoke alarm
What do you make of the cool set in London?
You're constantly updating your hit parade of your ten biggest wanks
She's a waitress and she's got style

Lyrics submitted by ReActor, edited by daintyhrts, alice144, emilierein

"The Boy With The Arab Strap" as written by Isobel Campbell Christopher Geddes

Lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC

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The Boy with the Arab Strap song meanings
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  • +5
    General CommentI found this:

    Lead singer and songwriter Stuart Murdoch admitted to Q magazine in April 2011: "It's about Aidan Moffat from Arab Strap. I never really thought about it at the time, but I think he deserves to be a bit peeved that we hijacked the name of their band. But it was an honest thing - I was describing my experiences hanging around with him and the words tumbled out very easily. I remember playing it to Isobel (Campbell, ex Belle & Sebastian) on the piano when I first wrote it and she thought it was ridiculous. She said it sounded like Chas & Dave."
    middledistancerunneron March 27, 2011   Link
  • +3
    General Comment"What did you learn from your time in the solitary
    Cell of your mind?" apart from the face value meaning could also mean someone really stupid -i.e. only having 1 brain cell.
    I think from the writer's perspective it's about his girlfriend sleeping with the guy from the other band - "laid on your back with the boy from the arab strap" I suppose when he says "with" instead of from he's insiuating the other guy has erectile dysfunction? The guy from B&S doesnt think much of this guy, see the lines/verse about being hard/soft (think penises again also)
    Cannibal Oxon May 10, 2006   Link
  • +3
    General CommentThis is a wonderfully baroque lyric. It tells a story using classic poetic styling, layered with shifting points of view..

    Many of the phrases have multiple connotations, giving the song a textured, emotionally colorful effect. The narrator speaks in the second person to at least two characters ("the boy with the Arab strap," and whomever was on their back with him). Adding further complexity, when the narrator speaks of "I," it's not clear if he's speaking directly or quoting someone else ("I missed the bus," for example).

    Given all this, it's very sexy throughout, as the title suggests.
    GothamJimon August 13, 2007   Link
  • +1
    General CommentThe song is written towards Isobel Campbell who was in the group and is about B&S visiting London with the band Arab Strap. if you listen at one point he sings "the boy FROM the Arab Strap" instead of the usual "with".Stuart Murdoch was in a relationship with Isobel for a while and I think this was written as the relationship was breaking down.
    spaton April 28, 2006   Link
  • +1
    General CommentSpat is correct, it's a song about the relationship between Murdoch and Campbell. There is obviously also a social commentry on London itself but then it's not unlike Belle and Sebastian to include different layers.
    targetmalleyon March 19, 2009   Link
  • +1
    Song MeaningWell...going off the piece of handy information that pheonix86 provided, the previous comments from the more zealous fans of the past, and my own personal interpretation I'm going to have to say that it's basically about various things.
    It's manifest setting is London, as everyone agrees upon, and Murcdoch continues to make comments about its societial features (i.e. the lines about the Asian cab driver) and his own personal experiences (i.e. riding the bus, missing the bus, seeing a celebrity smoking a cigerette in a restaurant).
    But what makes the song ambiguous, layered, and purely interesting is that he writes it as he also contemplates his own relationships, as in his detoriating relationship with his soon to be ex-girlfriend/ex-bandmate Campbell and his considerably negative relationship with a guy from a band that he associates with, the Arab Strap. I say negative because, well, I mean just look at the entire fifth stanza. And plus a lot of people have already speculated this, but maybe he caught Campbell in bed with that same guy. But I'd have to say if he did he probably didn't see the guy literally utilize the sex toy, the Arab strap, so that puts in question of the line "The boy WITH the Arab strap" (because when he says "From the Arab Strap, he's obviously referring to the guy being from that band). So, then I'd say that line is probably ridiculing that guy in saying he needs one of those sex toys to sustain an erection since he's not good in bed, an explicit insult to any man. That proves my earlier point of Murdoch being negative towards that guy.
    Anyway, the last layer of the song is his constant references to prison. I think it's pretty obvious it's not literal prison, it's just a metaphor for his isolated or trapped mind. However, the whole "prison food" thing stumps me. But once again, it's probably not used in a literal sense, but may just represent bad food, or simply the smell of bad food as he's walking around in London since prison food is often thought of as, you know, bad. So yeah, but anyway, so his own state of mind is the last layer and gives you more insight on his personal feelings.
    Going off of the fact that the album is also titled "The Boy With the Arab Strap", I would also analyze more meaning to that phrase however. Therefore, the phrase probably expresses or represents a period of Murdoch's life, much described in this song. But that's just a guess because I honestly haven't heard any of the other songs on the album, so I couldn't necessarily make that conclusion. And then again, there is a possibility they just used that as the title because it sounded the most interesting.
    Anyway...so yeah. That's all I've got to say. It's my first Belle and Sebastian song (I'm only fourteen) so I look forward to exploring more of their music. If you actually read all of this, congratulations adn thank you for taking the time, bro.
    Personal note: I don't know about anyone else, but that first line of the song about the bus ride, saying: "A mile and a half on a bus takes a long time" and a line later on in the song saying bluntly "I missed the bus" really resonated in me. I don't even know why, I just like the way he wrote it in there, so bluntly stating a common experience that could also stand as a metaphor desribing something deeper. Going off the context of the song maybe how he relationship with Campbell was ultimately ephemeral (a mile and a half is a short distant) but felt like a long, enduring time anyway. And the part when he says "I missed the bus" is when he finds the guy in the Arab Strap in bed with her and he ultimately realizes there's no way to continue the relationship that was already falling apart. But yeah. That was just a side note.
    DAFUQon October 27, 2011   Link
  • 0
    General CommentThey performed his in concert this year (2004) and it was awesome. They are great live!
    Fucked if I know what this is about...any ideas anyone?
    MalFunkton November 06, 2004   Link
  • 0
    General Commentin the belle and sebastian message board, they say an arab strap is pretty much a sex device for the penis. i dont know if im right, but my interpretation of the song is about someone who just got out of jail and is having a hard time adjusting to life. i love how the song sounds so happy and upbeat but the lyrics are not only about isolation and pretty dirty.
    holysockson January 18, 2005   Link
  • 0
    General Commentps. the song reminds me of sly and the family stones' "people everyday"
    holysockson January 18, 2005   Link
  • 0
    General Commentthis has to be one of catchiest, bounciest tunes ever :-)
    NickMizenon April 13, 2005   Link

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