"Heart Full of Holes" as written by and Mark Knopfler....
You can tell me your troubles, I?ll listen for free
My regulars trust me, seems
You can come and see Uncle to get through the week
Leave your pledges with me to redeem

Some folk sell their bodies for ten bob a go
Politicians go pawning their souls
Which doesn't make me look too bad, don't you know
Me with my heart full of holes

All my yesterdays broken, a watch with no face
All battered and old
Bits of the movement all over the place
And a heart full of holes

A heart full of holes
Heart full of holes
A heart full of holes
Heart full of holes

Brass knuckles and banjos are out on the town
At the knees-up in Teddy Boys? Row
The gold block and tackle tells the time upside down
Rock ?n? roll, well, I don't know

Dead people?s wedding gifts, walk out the door
A clarinet squeals to be free
Accordions hop from the shelves to the floor
Start playing their polkas to me

there's a ringing of bells, a dunderhead?s curse
Fingers are pointing at you
And you take work in hell, be glad it?s not worse
And you get to the back of the queue

Handcuffs and hunting knives clang on the bars
Air pistols shoot out the lights
I've a whole wailing wall of electric guitars
Could shatter the windows down Brick Lane tonight

If one of us dies, love, I think I?ll retire
See my boys and my beautiful girls
Garden of Eden, no gates or barbed wire
Who knows, maybe gates made of pearls

Well, if we go to heaven, and some say we don't
But if there's a reckoning day
Please God, I?ll see You and maybe I won't
I've a bag packed to go either way

Redeeming your pledge, dear, I?ll keep it for you
It?s not gonna go anywhere
But your soul, your soul, that is not what I do
There's not a lot I can do there

I remember the officer?s watch in my hand
Repair it or die I was told
It?s a wonder to me, I still don't understand
Why I ever survived to be old

With a heart full of holes
Heart full of holes
A heart full of holes
Heart full of holes

A heart full of holes
Heart full of holes
A heart full of holes
Heart full of holes

Lyrics submitted by La_Grange57

"Heart Full of Holes" as written by Mark Knopfler

Lyrics © Universal Music Publishing Group

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Heart Full of Holes song meanings
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  • +2
    General CommentMy understanding of the "Kill to get Crimson" album is that it's a book of biographical short stories (maybe a couple of them semi-autobiographical). I think this one is about an old pawn broker, probably in London, maybe a refugee from the Nazis (the reference to repair the officer's watch or die) Possibly based on a Knopfler relative, his father escaped to Scotland from the Nazis. There's a whole littany of things that would be found in a pawn shop. Block and tackle is a term for pocket watch, which would show time upside down if held that way. "rock and roll well I don't know" is a reference to Chet Atkins (music books and guitars) and the song "There'll Be Some Changes Made" from their "Neck and Neck" album. (Chet spoofs he's going to become a rock n roll artist like Mark, when he asks Mark "What do you think?" Mark replies "I don't know.)

    The next to last verse (If one of use dies, love) seems to be an aside from the story on a more personal level, and not an integral part of the pawnbroker bio. Just my take.
    danltdon October 11, 2010   Link
  • +1
    Song Meaningdanltd-

    I have almost the exact same interpretation of the song that you do. The pawn broker part is pretty easy, obviously, but I find it truly amazing that both of us came to the same conclusion about the Nazi officer and the watch from just a few words. To me, that is a testament to Mark's skill as a lyricist--not to make us understand what he is trying to say--but to get more than one of us to have the same interpretation with so very little to go on is a feat unto itself.

    I think the part about dying and going to heaven or hell is a tricky bit to reconcile, because I've always thought of the old man as being a widower in the top 2/3 of the song. By the end, it's unclear who he's talking about when he says "if one of us dies, love". Perhaps his wife is still around, and he's suggesting that if she dies before him, he has no wish to live without her, "I think I'll retire". But the next part is even trickier, depending on how you identify the other person in the "one of us" line. I think the part about going to "see my boys and my beautiful girls" in conjunction with his description of the Garden of Eden as a place with "no gates or barbed wire" could be a reference to friends left behind in concentration camps that weren't as fortunate as he was to escape it all.

    Anyway, just thought I would add my two cents into the mix.

    CromCromon August 07, 2011   Link
  • +1
    Song Meaningmaybe its all about this movie?
    yaronfion October 22, 2012   Link
  • 0
    General CommentI agree with you, thanks for some background informations.
    This is one of my favourites from M. K. Very beautiful. Especially the way in whitch the songs protagonist speaks about death, the wrongs und rights he may have done in his life, and still knowing there may be a purpose and all may become well - and maybe not, but what can a man do? (who knows, maybe gates made of pearls; I´ve a bag packed to go either way).
    kmmattheison July 24, 2011   Link
  • 0
    General CommentI'm with the 'survivor of nazi oppression' theory camp here: the 'repair (the officer's watch) or die', "no gates or barbed wire", the general timing of the song {an old man in a period where MK might be a young man and not yet a professional musician, like the 60's...where a holocaust survivor might just be an 'old man' running a quiet little shop}.

    And one little point to remember: 'uncle shops' (aka pawn brokers) of the time were frequently run by jewish people...

    But yes, a rich and poignant song, filled with emotion and imagery...the choice of using a banjo for the intro (and quite beautifully, too), and actual *orchestral* composition at points make this piece of music transcend beyond the shallow label of 'rock song' and into an amazing and nearly indescribable work of art.
    jadedcynicon January 10, 2016   Link
  • 0
    General CommentI wonder if the holes in his heart are the members of his family that died in the camps...he's a sad, but stoic survivor who sees the modern world through his grief-tinted glasses.
    nick101584on April 05, 2017   Link
  • 0
    My InterpretationRef my previous...change of mind. I don't think his glasses are grief-tinted. More sardonic than grief. He's seen it all, the very worst, and marvels at the triviality (and occasional violence) people enjoy now that there's peace.
    nick101584on April 05, 2017   Link
  • 0
    My InterpretationThese lines support the Jewish refugee/concentration camp scenario:

    There's a ringing of bells, a dunderhead's curse
    Fingers are pointing at you
    And you take work in hell, be glad it's not worse
    And you get to the back of the queue

    I think the old man survived because he was a Sonderkommando, a prisoner made to do the terrible work of clearing up the gas chambers and ovens in return for being spared immediate death. He was identified perhaps for gassing, but chose instead "to take work in hell", and "get to the back of the queue".

    He was also identified as someone with watchmaking skills and the German officer, in that customarily callous way, said if you don't fix it, you die.

    Astonishing song, moving from the reality of 50s London, through surreal Fantasia-style scenes in the shop, to concentration camps and musings on heaven and hell.
    nick101584on October 17, 2017   Link
  • 0
    General Commentagree with most of the above...by the time we are old, we have all endured hardships and loss..truly a heart full of holes.....the outro sounds just like a beating heart...lub dub, lub, dub, lub dub...Mark is such a great crafter of songs.....there is no one like him..he is playing this song on his current (and last?) tour.
    Gomedocon June 21, 2019   Link

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