"Deep Red Bells" as written by and Tom Ray Neko Case....
Who led you to this hiding place
These lightning thread-spun silver tunnels
The red bells beckon you to ride
A hand print on the driver's side
It looks a lot like engine oil
And tastes like being poor and small
And popsicles in summer

Deep red bells
Deep as I have been done
Deep red bells
Deep as I have been done

It always has to come this
The red bells ring this tragic dun
We've lost sight of the overpass
The daylight won't remember that
No speckled fawns raise round your bones
Who took the time to fold your clothes
And shook the valley of the shadow

Deep red bells
Deep as I have been done
Deep red bells
Deep as I have been done

Where does this mean world cast its cold eye?
Who's left to suffer long about you?
Does your soul cast about like an old paper bag
Past empty lots and early graves
Of those like you who lost their way
Murdered on the interstate
While the red bells rang like thunder?

Oh deep red bells
Deep as I have been done
Deep red bells
Deep as I have been done


Lyrics submitted by delial, edited by asterisk8, eckenrok

"Deep Red Bells" as written by Tom Ray Neko Case

Lyrics © BMG Rights Management, Kobalt Music Publishing Ltd.

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Deep Red Bells song meanings
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  • +3
    General CommentIt was inspired by Case's memories of being a vulnerable young woman in the Seattle area while the Green River Killer was at large. Around the time of his arrest, that song was released too.
    elwyn5150on April 05, 2006   Link
  • +3
    General CommentCASE: That has a lot to do with growing up in Washington state during the time when the Green River Killer was active, when I was in junior high. It's frightening. It has a lot to do with when you're a kid and you see that stuff on TV all the time---the news definitely made the distinction that these women were prostitutes, in fact they didn't talk about them like they were women much at all, which made me feel really bad for the women. Myself and many, many other young women that I knew at the time were very, very scared of the Green River Killer. It was very much a part of our psyche, and it still is, when you grow up with that kind of stuff. Washington had a lot of serial killers---a lot. The whole time I was growing up, there was Ted Bundy, or the guy in Spokane. And when I was in Vancouver, they finally caught the guy---all these prostitutes were disappearing from downtown, and nobody gave a shit about it. Actually, the people of Vancouver gave a shit about it, but the local government didn't, because a lot of them were prostitutes, some of them were drug addicts, so they figured they were lost anyway. I actually think there's a civil suit in Vancouver---you might want to check on the facts on that---because they could have figured out who this guy was a long time ago, and they didn't bother to do it. The government would make up these wild claims---"Well, we might think it might be a white slavery ring," blamed it on Asian gangs---it was really gross. Same thing with the Green River Killer: they knew who he was for a long time, but they couldn't bring him in on technicalities. I'm sure that it upset the people who had been looking for him that long just as much as the parents of the people he had killed. These women's lives just never seemed that important; they weren't really made that important on the news. It was all about fear. I guess the song is basically me just thinking, "What are their lives? What would their families do."
    pollyanneon January 10, 2007   Link
  • +2
    General CommentNow that I know what it's about, I have to say that the line "when speckled fronds raise round your bones" is one of the creepiest I've ever heard. She's got a hell of a way with words.

    I was living in Washington when they caught the Green River killer. She's right about the plenitude of serial killers out there, by the way. Seems like once a week you hear about another serial killing on the news. Freaky place to live; I can't imagine growing up there, especially as a pretty girl.
    spokoon November 30, 2007   Link
  • 0
    General Comment'deep red bells' represent death, and fear. this song is about a girl who is picked up by a murderer along the highway...I particularly love the third verse and its image of a 'soul cast about like an old paper bag'.
    Skybluepoeton March 13, 2006   Link
  • 0
    General Comment"A hand print on the driver's side / It looks a lot like engine oil / And tastes like being poor and small / And popsicles in summer." I love how she incorporates these details of the victims and prospective victims--the innocence and modesty of their childhood, especially--into a whole detective/crime theme. Before learning about the song's inspiration, the hand print reference never made much sense to me. I think this will always be one of her best songs.
    kmb187on August 21, 2007   Link
  • 0
    General CommentI've been hearing this song for about 5 years ago on Contemporary Grind while working @ starbucks. I was always hooked on it. It came up again in new music @ sbux recently. So I looked into the lyrics and the meaning. It's such a chilling song. Now it makes me cry hard whenever I hear it. I see all these comments on girls living in fear in Washington and it creeps me out. This song seems to sum up that horrible killer. I cannot believe how we treat our own society, regardless of who he was killing justice could have saved more girls. It really wrecks me. It makes me scared of the world...
    uforikon August 04, 2008   Link
  • 0
    General Commentthis song reverberates with darkness and paranoia... case's voice goes down like a knife, especially when she wails "deep red bells, deep as i've been done"... gives me the chills.
    laughing_manon February 05, 2009   Link
  • 0
    General CommentI love the line that reads "who took the time to fold your clothes," it speaks to me about someone really loving those girls, and that they're worthy people. It brings humanity to them.
    claudicakeon October 01, 2009   Link
  • 0
    Song MeaningDoes anyone know the real meaning of the words 'deep red bells'? I've heard a lot of theories but can't find anything online about 'red bells' signifying anything specific. I know she's a fan of eastern European folk tales so perhaps it might be from there. Other than the old custom of ringing church bells at funerals and the redness of blood I can't come up with anything concrete.
    ginintonicon August 16, 2011   Link
  • 0
    General Commentfrom a 2009 article in the ny times "The foundations of Case’s music are still – somewhere down there, almost subterranean – country and indie rock, but for some time now her melodies have been growing more complex, the instrumentations more varied and ambitious, the modulations more surprising, the lyrics more imagistic, to the point, sometimes, of surreal impenetrability:

    Who led you to this hiding place?
    Whose lightning threads spun silver tongues?
    The red bells beckon you to ride,
    A handprint on the driver’s side.

    “Deep Red Bells,” from “Blacklisted”

    This is one of Case’s most memorable compositions. An admirer of hers, the musical polymath T Bone Burnett, says that he heard her sing it at the Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles some years ago, “and I don’t think I’ve ever heard a voice that sounded like that before. It was so full! I don’t know of another woman who has that same fullness and power.” Case did in this instance divulge one reason that this song may make such an impression – live or on “Blacklisted.” “It’s based on the Green River killer,” she says. “When I was a kid in Tacoma, we were all scared all the time. I actually carried a knife to school with me. The ‘you’ in the song is one of his victims. They were all prostitutes, but we didn’t know that. They could have been anybody; they could have been us.” When you know this, “hiding place” becomes pretty ominous, and “silver tongues” may allude to the way the killer – Gary Ridgway – used sweet talk and photographs of his son to lull his victims into trusting him."
    BeatleJonon March 04, 2013   Link

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