In what costume shall the poor girl wear
To all tomorrow's parties
A hand-me-down dress from who knows where
To all tomorrow's parties
And where will she go, and what shall she do
When midnight comes around
She'll turn once more to Sunday's clown and cry behind the door

And what costume shall the poor girl wear
To all tomorrow's parties
Why silks and linens of yesterday's gowns
To all tomorrow's parties
And what will she do with Thursday's rags
When Monday comes around
She'll turn once more to Sunday's clown and cry behind the door

And what costume shall the poor girl wear
To all tomorrow's parties
For Thursday's child is Sunday's clown
For whom none will go mourning

A blackened shroud
A hand-me-down gown
Of rags and silks, a costume
Fit for one who sits and cries
For all tomorrow's parties

Lyrics submitted by capitol76

All Tomorrow's Parties Lyrics as written by Lou Reed

Lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC

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All Tomorrow's Parties song meanings
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  • +14
    General Comment

    This song is about "Thursday's Child". Thursday's Child, in the nursery rhyme, is described as having "far to go". This description could mean that she is a sort of lost soul and has much to encounter before "getting there", or being happy.

    Thursday's Child is also rather mournful. She can't enjoy herself at the parties; this is because she does not know how she is supposed to be.

    "And what costume shall the poor girl wear / to all tomorrow's parties." The poor girl is, of course, Thursday's Child. The fact that she is searching for a costume means that she is desiring to cover her identity up. "All tomorrow's parties" is really just the future, as tomorrow technically never comes. The parties are probably really parties, like in the previous factory ideas. At a party, many people drink or take drugs to alter their personality. This girl may do this often because she doesn't know how to act without these substances.

    "A hand-me-down dress from who knows where..." We know the dress, the costume, is coming from someone else, but not even the girl knows who it is from. She is clothing herself in costumes that don't even have any meaning to her, just as long as they are something, or rather someone else's.

    "And where will she go and what shall she do / when midnight comes around. / She'll turn once more to Sunday's clown / and cry behind the door."

    Midnight is the doorway between today and tomorrow. Tomorrow, the future, is what she's always worried about (remember, she has far to go). As midnight and tomorrow approaches, she gets panicked. She realizes she still cannot go anywhere acting how she might act, and decides to turn to God. I believe "Sunday's clown" is Jesus. Not that Jesus is a clown, but that the way his image is produced can easily be a costume and any costume can be described as clown-like. She turns to a "savior" and mourns her behavior, hiding from everyone and crying. Even now though, she is hiding when is crying. Her mourning is the only thing that is nature to herself--everything else she picks up from others--and even that, she hides.

    "Why silks and linens of yesterday's gowns.../ ... and what will she do with Thursday's rags / when Monday comes around."

    I believe "silks and linens" mean that the costumes when she gets a hold of them are pure, rich. However, after she is done with them they are soiled, have become rags. This is a representation of her sinful nature. She takes the beautiful lives that others have produces, put them on herself trying to absorb the goodness, but alters herself so deeply that there is nothing good left, because there is none of her.

    "For Thursday's child is Sunday's clown / for whom none will go mourning."

    I believe this means that even the repentful Thursday's Child is in costume. Others can see this and do not feel remorse for her.

    "A blackened shroud, a hand-me-down gown / of rags and silks, a costume / fit for one who sits and cries / for all tomorrow's parties."

    In conclusion, Thursday's Child takes beautiful clothing, beautiful lives and plasters them on herself. She goes to parties and alters her mindset so that she hardly exists. She soils the clothing (both physically and metaphorically) and people watch her without sorrow because she is doing this to herself. Each week she attempts to repent, but even that is an act. In the end, the only thing that is truly a representation of who she is are the dirty clothes.

    Thursday's Child has far to go.

    pricillacoxon November 29, 2007   Link
  • +6
    General Comment

    It's not about having nothing to wear! It's about the inability of the costumes we wear to conceal the person underneath. Regardless of what she wears to the party, she'll end up sitting alone and crying. She's a "poor" girl because her soul is impoverished, not because she hasn't a thing to wear.

    Anyway, these are some of Lou Reed's best lyrics.

    gson November 10, 2004   Link
  • +6
    General Comment

    RIP Lou Reed.

    I'm surprised more people here haven't picked up on the massive Cinderella allusions that sweetiedarling raised back in 2004, at the beginning of this thread. "poor girl", "hand-me-down/s", and "when midnight comes around" wave a huge hint.

    The difference is that this Cinderella doesn't get her ball gown or her romantic happy ending. "ALL tomorrow's parties" suggests she is lost in a permanent wishful/feeble-minded/powerless dream of glamour, status and happiness. (As others here have suggested.)

    Taken together, these strands suggest a wannabee, a hanger-on, a groupie, with no skill or drive of her own to make any of her dream(s) come true. Just hoping to be whisked to the Ball of bright life by someone with a golden coach.

    The art scene could be, and still often is, a cruel, bitchy environment. Lovvies who stab each other in the back if it advances their careers, and take a sado-masochistic delight in the misfortunes of the Darwinian failures less successful than themselves. I've absolutely no doubt Warhol will have adored this song. Lou Reed by contrast, who took the action and wrote it, as opposed to lapping it up with a sneer, expresses a certain sympathy through the contempt for another of art life's talentless failures. It has a bit of a friendly warning about it, expressed in severe terms.

    I'm not sure "Sunday's clown" is about clothing - it seems to be more about someone acting the joker, pretending to be merry, an entertainer (see Cobain) on the day of the week that is "off".

    But there no doubt is a play also on "far to go" vs. "full of grace".

    I would bet a lot of money that the person who mainly inspired this song, whoever she was, will also have been born on a Thursday .....

    And there's no doubt the shroud is the sad end of a junkie and/or suicide - the apparently inevitable end of a permanent Cinderella, hanging on to Warhol's soulless chancer set.

    On the versions - Japan's is a hundred times better. Played by proper musicians rather than chancers (!), - Mick Karn's bass is especially telling - and given full value for its mixed messages, rather than a zombie vocal. Was Nico born on a Thursday?

    PeterCSon October 28, 2013   Link
  • +3
    Song Meaning

    I think "for thursday's child is Sunday's clown" is how exciting a weekend can seem on a thursday, where you can feel the wonder/excitement of a child. Who will be at the party? Will you find some one special? Will you experience something mind blowing? But when Sunday rolls around you realize that nothing but the same thing goes on weekend after weekend and loneliness one felt on Monday has returned.

    no1no2no3on April 09, 2009   Link
  • +3
    My Interpretation

    Just my own personal interpretation...I first started listening to this song while writing a historical fiction story in which the central female character,a poor Welsh girl living London in the late 1600s,was still shunned by the acquaintances of her well-off English suitor regardless of how nice her clothes were,because of her background.It kind of became her "theme song" when I was writing. Applying it to reality,how some of us will always be scorned even if we do have nice clothes,if they do outgrow their ugly-ducking phase and become a beauty,if they have success,etc,because sometimes a person's background or past will always be held against them.I always interpreted the "turns once more to Sunday's clown" as meaning that she will always end up alone,no matter how many paid attention to her at the party on Thursday night,she is alone once more come Sunday morning while all the "socially acceptable" girls are with their beaus or husbands.

    Smith472120on November 28, 2014   Link
  • +2
    General Comment

    It may have been more about Edie Swdgwick than anyone. She flamed out more spectacularly than any of the Factory hangers-on, the lyrics seem to epitomize her existence at the time. She burned through her inheritance in no time flat while she was there.

    doctecon April 29, 2008   Link
  • +2
    General Comment

    These guys just hit such unbelievable lows and rather than kill themselves -- they made music telling tales from the other spectrum of life. I just can't get over how thankful I am to their music -- it isn't necessarily offering solutions but more, bringing these mentalities to the surface. Superficiality is so, so far away from their music -- it is so fucking REAL.

    AndrewVSon June 12, 2010   Link
  • +1
    General Comment

    I love this song! The title especially. I first heard about this song when one of my favorite authors, William Gibson, wrote a book called "All Tomorrow's Parties". This is a great song.

    Snow_Crashon August 29, 2002   Link
  • +1
    General Comment

    I think it's quite sad really. There's a sort of Cinderella-y story but there isn't a happy ending.

    sweetydarlingon May 26, 2004   Link
  • +1
    General Comment

    q and putingrad are probably both right the two interpretations don't conflict with each other, in fact they seem to fit together rather nicely

    TeNon August 25, 2005   Link

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