Dark alley (dark alley) black star
Four turkeys in a big black car
The road is shiny (bright shine) the wheels slide
Four turkeys going for a dangerous ride
The lacquer crackles (black tar) the engines roar
A ship was turning broadside to the shore
Splish splash I was raking in the cash
The biology of purpose keeps my nose above the surface (OOH)
King's lead hat put the innocence inside her, it will come, it will come, it will surely come
King's lead hat was a mother to desire, it will come, it will come, it will surely come
In New Delhi (smelly Delhi) and Hong Kong
They all know that it won't be long
I count my fingers (digit counter) as night falls
And draw bananas on the bathroom walls
The killer cycles (humdrum) the killer hertz
The passage of my life is measured out in shirts
Time and motion (motion carried) time and tide
All I know and all I have is time and time and tide is on my side
King's lead hat put the poker in the fire, it will come, it will come, it will surely come
King's lead hat was a mother to desire, it will come, it will come, it will surely come
The weapon's ready (ready Freddy) the guns purr
The satellite distorts his voice to a slur
He gives orders (finger pie) which no one hears
The king's hat fits over their ears
He takes his modicate (indecipherable) cold turpentine
He tries to dial out 999999999
He dials reception (moving finger) he's all alone
He's just a victim of the telephone
King's lead hat made the Amazon much wider, it will come, it will come, it will surely come
King's lead hat put the poker in the fire, it will come, it will come, it will surely come
King's lead hat was a mother to desire, it will come, it will come, it will surely come
King's lead hat put the innocence inside her, it will come, it will come, it will surely come
King's lead hat was a hammer to desire, it will come, it will come, it will surely come.


Lyrics submitted by _dandy

King's Lead Hat Lyrics as written by Brian Eno

Lyrics © Universal Music Publishing Group

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King's Lead Hat song meanings
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  • +2
    General CommentAll of eno's songs seem to be puzzles meant to be read many ways. In my mind they always conjure up the most striking imagery.
    SnarkyYarbleson September 30, 2010   Link
  • +1
    General CommentWhile most of the lyrics are for sound more than meaning, King's Lead Hat is an anagram of Talking Heads, a band Eno took a shine to and ended up producing, as well as striking up a friendship with head Head David Byrne.

    Also note the quotations from a couple of old rock songs:"Splish splash I was raking in the cash" is a nod to "Splish splash I was takin' a bath", from the old Bobby Darin song, and "Time and tide is on my side" is from the Rolling Stones' "Time Is On My Side".
    bugmenot123on July 31, 2007   Link
  • +1
    General CommentThis is by far the most verbose and descriptive track on "Before and After Science" -- the album is a conceptual exploration of "Science" vs. "Not-Science" (check out my analysis on its other tracks to see how this song fits [in my mind]). This analysis will likely somehow approximate the form and content of the song as I see it, so I'll warn you now my diction may become a touch vulgar or aggressive.

    Everything is shiny and in motion. "Turkeys" (ignorant-type humans?) are driving a vehicle recklessly through a city (are they drunk?). The parenthetical asides in the right channel form a commentary, accenting particular details in the scene with additional information or providing a close-up of its imagery.

    Elsewhere, a ship moves to dock (isn't this bustling? simultaneous activity!) and Eno paraphrases a classic rock tune (splish splash!) to inform us that he is "raking in the cash." The rock quote and cash imagery enhance the atmosphere of decadence in the song. "Cash" could represent human striving -- getting rich (and/or famous) -- to escape the realities of Nature and the facticity of Death. After all, "the biology of purpose keeps my nose above the suface" -- ie, Eno's drive to survive and achieve and create and accrue keeps his mind off of inevitable demise. This is also quite sexual (Heck, the whole fucking *song* is extremely sexual -- pay close attention to the imagery. Dicks, jizz everywhere! More than once while listening to this song alone I've lost track of my hands only to discover them cheerfully autonomous, caressing my own suddenly erect penis. But that's just one aspect of the song -- the vehicle is sexual, the message is meta).

    "King's Lead Hat" is an anagram for "Talking Heads." The music is certainly Talking Head-esque, but the term "King's Lead Hat" takes on its own meaning as a metaphor for human Scientific masturbation (ugh, what a pretentious-sounding phrase... lemme explain...) -- ie, the human obsession and self-congratulation in our "endeavors" (smug feelings of superiority to Nature) that supposedly allowed us to "transcend" animal behavior. Yeah -- right. Try telling *that* to your partner the next time you're having sex.

    "King's Lead Hat" is the human impulse to continue being human and to create more humans. "King's Lead Hat put the innocence inside her" (hmm, wonder what that means?). "It will come" is repeated over and over (subtle!) rhythmically. The whole song depends on rhythm. The lyrics themselves are primarily dictated by what sounds cool and flows best -- Eno wants to do his best and have fun doing it. Who doesn't enjoy the King's Lead Hat? It's silly, it's preposterous, it's moronic in its own way -- but silly is fun.

    Science is the Art of Human Survival. Applied science (in its institutionalized form) searches for more ways to give humanity a leg-up in Nature -- perhaps an advanced form of animal niche-digging. Should we take such a random process seriously? If we do, will we be fooled into madness and perhaps kill ourselves off in hubris (nuclear war, etc. etc.)? Eno questions the value of mindless competition and striving -- what's wrong with right now? Where are you? Who are you? Why are you doing what you do? Will the King's Lead Hat poison the wearer? Isn't it too heavy? Won't it eventually fall off? Is there such a thing as too much fun, does it lead to a crash? Maybe Eno thinks it's time for us (as a whole) to grow up. The earth, the universe has its own program and we are just some subroutines. If we acknowledge the limitations of Science (that most venerated of human survival processes), maybe we can get beyond the random nonsense that is human existence and plug into something bigger: God, Infinity, Non-Duality, or whatever.

    Something is approaching, something is going to happen. Eno nervously counts his fingers (phallic symbols?) and draws bananas (phallic symbol? a link to our primate ancestors?) on bathroom walls. He's just biding time. Nature is the Enemy still -- Nature vs. the King's Lead Hat; thus, the "cycles" of life and death in Nature are "killer hertz" (damn he's clever). But he gets moved anyway -- time is measured by the shirts he wears (fashion? fads? the arbitrary nature of what is popular at any given time?), but time and tide are on his side (another precisely-timed classic rock lyric reference). How could they not be, when he is just a bubble or eddie in the waves themselves? There is nothing wrong with death -- not really. The ocean doesn't suffer, after all.

    King's Lead Hat is the mother to desire. Desire is the root of all suffering -- the gap between preferred and actual. Suffering begats invention, invention begats progress, and then we'll find something *else* to bitch about. Why not stop the wheels of desire and just be? Is it better to be happy with what you have, or feel like you're missing something? It's all in your head, anyway, and what you have belief in is what your focus attends. The hat is just a guise, you remain present Before and After Science.

    The final verse depicts further moronic activity of bustling human "progress." Weapons are ready (phallic imagery) and guns purr (phallic imagery). Technology (the satellite) distorts (and shapes) communication. A man attempts to give orders and is not heard -- he seems to be schizophrenic (modecate is an anti-psychotic medication), at least in the eyes of the populace, whose perception is shaped by the King's Lead Hat (which fits over their ears). This alienated man may have something useful to say, but the technology that surrounds him is limiting -- it fragments and commodifies the human experience into (unintentionally) meaningless chatter. A telephone finalizes his defeat (check out Captain Beefheart's "Telephone").

    The King's Lead Hat keeps the cycles of desire in motion, with gaps of desire being open and filled.
    msmoxwilliamson April 25, 2014   Link
  • 0
    General CommentI feel like this song heralds in the coming of science. The King's Lead hat. The idea is ridiculous, like most of our unecessary technology, but I don't feel like Eno condemns it. He's fascinated that the king wears a lead hat. The song seems to divide the album into its "before" and "after" Science parts too.
    paranoid schizoidon October 28, 2007   Link
  • 0
    My Interpretation With those lines about weapons and guns giving orders, I think this could be a song about war and "lead hats" could refer to army helmets worn by soldiers, and "king" could refer to a general or government honcho, and the general -- or the government -- is ordering these fine young men to wear these "lead hats" and fight this war.
    CuteSparkinaon December 29, 2008   Link
  • 0
    General CommentDifficult to say huh? I love this song and appreciate being able to see the lyrics to it! I agree there seems to be a war related theme - nuclear war perhaps (lead is a radiation shield). But who are the four turkeys?
    CaptainCapturedon March 27, 2010   Link
  • 0
    Song MeaningOur modern world is ruled by reason/science, but Eno wants to escape the tyranny of reason, returning to a time before science...or progressing to a time after science. So don't bust your balls trying to reason out these impressionistic, funny lyrics.
    evolved1on September 23, 2011   Link
  • 0
    My OpinionLooks like a song about Men in Black, not the nice 'Will Smith' ones but the really creepy ones.
    Good to see the lyrics after all these years, Lovely site.
    Dubcuton January 23, 2012   Link
  • 0
    General CommentI'm pretty surprised no-one has pointed out the saliently sexual nature of most of these lyrics; I'm not the kind of guy that reads sex and drugs into most lyrics, but here, the double-entendres come thick and fast ;)

    E.g. "the biology of purpose", the repetition of "it will come", "put the innocence [i.e. a baby] inside her", "put the poker in the fire" etc.

    In fact, part of me wants to interpret the phrase 'king's lead hat' as a sort of futuristic metal condom. Of course, the whole song is probably just an Eno-esque joke, instigated by forming an anagram of 'Talking Heads' and then making a nonsense song out of whatever resulted. He's probably got other songs in the vaults, along the lines of "Stagehand Ilk", "Head Stalking", and "Death's Laking".
    as2191on August 16, 2013   Link
  • 0
    General CommentI'm pretty surprised no-one has pointed out the saliently sexual nature of most of these lyrics; I'm not the kind of guy that reads sex and drugs into most lyrics, but here, the double-entendres come thick and fast ;)

    E.g. "the biology of purpose", the repetition of "it will come", "put the innocence [i.e. a baby] inside her", "put the poker in the fire" etc.

    In fact, part of me wants to interpret the phrase 'king's lead hat' as a sort of futuristic metal condom. Of course, the whole song is probably just an Eno-esque joke, instigated by forming an anagram of 'Talking Heads' and then making a nonsense song out of whatever resulted. He's probably got other songs in the vaults, along the lines of "Stagehand Ilk", "Head Stalking", and "Death's Laking".
    as2191on August 16, 2013   Link

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