"Don't Go Into That Barn" as written by and Tom Waits Kathleen Brennan....
Don't go into that barn, yea
I said: don't go into that barn, yea

Black cellophane sky at midnite
A big blue moon with three gold rings
I called Champion to the window
I pointed up above the trees

That's when I heard my name in a scream
Coming from the woods, out there
I let my dog run off the chain
I locked my door real good with a chair

Don't go into that barn, yea
I said: don't go into that barn, yea

Everett Lee broke loose again,
It's worse than the time before
Because he's high on potato and tulip wine
Fermented in the muddy rain, of course

A drunken wail, a drunken train
Blew through the birdless trees
Oh, you're alone alright
You're alone alright
How did I know
How did I know

Don't go into that barn, yea
I said: don't go into that barn, yea

An old black tree, scratching up the sky
With boney, claw like fingers
A rusty black rake
Digging up the turnips of a muddy cold grey sky

Shiny tooth talons
Coiled for grabbing a stranger happening by
And the day went home early
And the sun sank down into the muck of a deep dead sky

Don't go into that barn, yea
I said: don't go into that barn, yea

Back since Saginaw Calinda was born,
It's been cotton and soyabeans, tobacco and corn
Behind the porticoed house of a long dead farm
They found the falling down timbers
Of a spooky old barn

Out there like a slave ship upside down
Wrecked beneath the waves of grain
When the river is low
They find old bones and
When they plow they always dig up chains

Don't go into that barn, yea
I said: don't go into that barn, yea

Did you bury your fire?
Yes sir!
Did you cover your tracks?
Yes sir!
Did you bring your knife?
Yes sir!
Did they see your face?
No sir!
Did the moon see you?
No sir!
Did you go cross the river?
Yes sir!
Did you fix your rake?
Yes sir!
Did you stay down wind?
Yes sir!
Did you hide your gun?
Yes sir!
Did you smuggle your rum?
Yes sir!
I said: how did I know
How did I know
How did I know

Don't go into that barn, yea
I said: don't go into that barn, yea
Don't forget that I warned you
I said: don't go into that barn, yea
Don't go into that barn, yea
I said: don't go into that barn, yea

No shirt, no coat
Take me on a flat boat
Dover down to Covington
Covington to Louisville
Louisville to Henderson
Henderson to Smithland
Smithland to Memphis
Memphis down to Vicksburg
Vicksburg to Natchez
Going down to Natchez
Take me on a flat boat
Dover Dam to Covington
Covington to Louisville
Louisville to Henderson
Henderson to


Lyrics submitted by deliriumtrigger

"Don't Go into That Barn" as written by Thomas Alan Waits Kathleen Brennan

Lyrics © AUDIAM, INC

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Don't Go Into That Barn song meanings
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9 Comments

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  • +1
    General CommentBased on this: mail.sarai.net/pipermail/reader-list/2003-May/…
    luminolon June 02, 2007   Link
  • +1
    General CommentI believe it should be "Wrecked beneath the waves of grain", although lyrics sites vary (although a dedicated Tom Waits site favoured "grain").

    I hope it is, as it is my favourite line in the song.

    "Out there like a slave ship upside down(6)
    Wrecked beneath the waves of grain
    When the river is low
    they find old bones"

    Flipping the whole scene upside down is genius and seeing the grain on the ground as the surface of the water is genius.
    Shouldn't be surprised I suppose. I seem like every time I listen to a Tom Waits album I find new piece of brilliant poetry to be in awe of.
    wolfticketon April 23, 2009   Link
  • 0
    General CommentThere's some errors in there and the one that stands out the most is one of my favorite lines.. you have it as "Did the Mom see you?" which should be "did the moon see you?"

    Also, it sounds more like "Holler: "I Know" Rather than "How did I know."

    As for the meaning... it sounds like it's about Slave ships to me. "Upside down barn" reference especially makes it sound like a boat rather than a literal barn.
    sirgarycolemanon February 09, 2005   Link
  • 0
    General CommentSorry, the "moon" thing was a typo and I fixed it. Thanks. But it's definitely "how'd I know," That's what it says in the insert anyway.
    deliriumtriggeron April 28, 2005   Link
  • 0
    General CommentI'm not sure about it being about slavery, or I'm not sure about it being JUST about slavery. (I think the line about slave ships would be awkward in the song if it was, seeing the rest is so sideways about it.) The feel I get from the whole song is burying secrets, frightening secrets. Denying they exist. Considering this is the way some Americans relate to slavery, I think the two themes merge beautifully in this song.
    Yaggaion April 15, 2006   Link
  • 0
    General CommentWell it does have to do with slaves, but i'm almost positive that it dosn't ever take place on a slave ship; the story that is. The line about the ship is describing the barn, the barn appears like the hull of a capsized slave ship. And the final lines of the song are about taking a raft down the mississippi and ohio rivers. I get the suspicion that the main character like Yaqqai said is hiding a secret. And he is using a slave as a spy or henchman to do his bidding, or to find out whats going on. There is some tretchory afoot, but i'm not sure who is causing it. The narrator, or the "they" brought up in the interagation between the narator and his slave.
    GreenAndyon June 25, 2006   Link
  • 0
    General CommentReminds me a bit of Murder in the Red Barn. Maybe a sequel?
    gweepson December 01, 2006   Link
  • 0
    General Commentnot a slave ship-LIKE a slave ship, a simile. A slave or other southerner at the time would/could see a barn as such. I think it's about a slave or other vagabond who committed a murder. I doubt it would be a slave. It seems the protagonist is floating down the ohio river to the Mississippi, then (hopefully) to the gulf of mexico; I think a slave would be better off going North, although they could go to New Orleans, maybe from there to Carribbean/Africa/West?
    lukewagoneeron February 05, 2007   Link
  • 0
    Song MeaningThe original article was being lost to time, so I made an account just to preserve it:

    pastebin.com/…

    This article is the clear inspiration for the song -- there are even specific quotes and phrases that are in both the article and the song, like "a slave-ship turned upside-down".

    The song's about a secret and gruesome slave jail an old plantation owner had concealed inside his barn. It's mostly destroyed, little more than fallen-down timbers, but its dark history remains.
    Actarbiteron March 28, 2013   Link

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