The most as you'll ever go
Is back where you used to know
If grown-ups could laugh this slow
Where as you watch the hour snow
Years may go by

So hold on to your special friend
Here, you'll need something to keep her in:
"Now you stay inside this foolish grin"
Though any day your secrets end
Then again
Years may go by

You saved your own special friend
'Cause here you need something to hide her in
And you stay inside that foolish grin
When everyday now secrets end
Oh and then again
Years may go by

Lyrics submitted by L-Kyne

On Saturday Afternoons in 1963 Lyrics as written by Rickie Lee Jones

Lyrics © Kobalt Music Publishing Ltd., Reservoir Media Management, Inc.

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On Saturday Afternoons In 1963 song meanings
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  • +4
    General Comment

    More than simply a song about childhood, this beautiful and heart-felt lyric surely comments on something most of us recognise - the way in which time seems to speed ever faster as one grows older. Weeks and years rush by for adults, caught in their repetitive cycles, in a way that's simply not true for children. Jones is reminding us of how fresh the world once seemed, and how a child's inquisitive spirit makes everything seem fresh and new and memorable - in a sense more real.

    One of my own strongest memories of childhood is spending a hot, windless afternoon in a field near my house. Lying down and watching at ground level as insects went about their lives, and being drawn into that miniature world for a while in a way that made time seem to stop. There was certainly something magical about it, and even now it seems more 'real' in some sense than much of what has happened to me today. That seems to me to be what Jones is saying here - and she also describes that ways in which we can actively seek to capture moments like that: "So hold on to your special friend/Here, you'll need something to keep her in/Now you stay inside this foolish grin".

    In closing, I'll note how badly dating a song in its title or lyrics can date it, or make it seem irrelevant to later generations. How easy is it now to empathize with Gary Moore's Parisienne Walkways - Paris in 1949 - or Frankie Valli's Oh What A Night ("Late December back in '63/What a very special time for me?" Luckily for me, I was born in April 1963, so Jones's song has a special sort of resonance for me, but it would be a shame to think it might go unnoticed by those born much more recently.

    leighrichmondrooseon September 29, 2009   Link
  • +3
    General Comment

    I am surprised no one has commented on this song yet. It is one of my favorite and I think of of the most beautiful evocations of childhood ever put to song.

    bb6634on November 14, 2008   Link
  • +3
    General Comment

    I first heard this song in the end of an episode of House. I instantly grabbed my laptop and looked up the song. It has a really great feeling to it; a sense of bitter resignation to something. I have since gotten this song for myself and listened to it probably every day.


    thistlewhistleron April 09, 2009   Link
  • +2
    General Comment

    It's simplicity is what makes this song beautiful. The child of whom the adult sings is at odds with the world of the "grown-ups", and therefore hides inside her "foolish grin". She is not what 'they' think she is. What she really is is a "secret", known only to herself. In other words, her true self is her "own special friend". She hides her real self in herself.

    The sadness of the lyric is that while it captures the child's attitudes and mind-set ("Here, you'll need something to keep her in: / 'Now you stay inside this foolish grin'"), years have indeed gone by. The singer has grown up, and the secret is still a secret. What was a game for the child is now a fact of life. In the world of "grown-ups', you need to put on a face to meet faces with (to steal a phrase from T.S. Eliot). Hypocrisy is required by society, even while it ostensibly frowns upon it. And that means that we all have to contend with a dreadful solitude.

    Jones is a truly remarkable singer.

    I enjoyed reading your comments on this lyric, even though the years have gone by since you posted them.

    Mike Marais, Grahamstown, South Africa

    MikeMaraison October 06, 2012   Link
  • +1
    Song Meaning

    There's probably no other song that touches me as much as this one - even though I'm not really sure what she sings about. I have a feeling somewhere along the interpretation from leighrichmondroose, but I still don't relly know what RLJ means by words like "you stay inside that foolish grin" or "If grown-ups could laugh this slow".

    Maybe anyone here can explain those expressions to me? Not being a native english speaker it's kind of difficult to truly get the meaning of lines like that :-/

    woffion January 29, 2011   Link
  • +1
    General Comment

    Growing up in the early/mid 1960s. Some reminiscence. From her first album. Lots of good songs on it, as well as this one, e.g. 'Night Train', 'Young Blood', 'The Last Chance Texaco'.

    Icon6386on December 22, 2019   Link
  • +1
    General Comment

    Just discovered this song from the house m.d. episode! I think of the “special friend” as your inner child; something we all need to hold on to that comes out every now and again, especially as we experience joy.

    Our childhood imagination/wonder and inner monologue are kind of like secrets that we keep with ourselves. Secrets end if they are forgotten about and go untold. Reminds me of the silver bells on Polar Express that couldn’t be heard by children as they got older because they didn’t “believe” anymore, or how the toothfairy in the movie Toothless could only be seen by those that still had baby teeth. Common theme being loss of innocence.

    Side note: it’s so cool to see different comments and interpretations from others that have been left here over the years, especially given the meaning of the song and how it emphasizes how quickly time can escape us.

    justinericaon August 23, 2021   Link
  • 0
    General Comment

    I first heard this song from an episode in house. I don't really know what the she (RLJ) meant, but I for me its about true friends and sticking together in good and bad times.

    Emekaon September 13, 2014   Link

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