"Who Are You" as written by and Tom Waits....
Well, they're lining up to mad-dog your Tilt-a-Whirl
Three shots for a dollar, win a real live doll
All the lies that you tell, I believed them so well
Take them back, take them back to your red house
For that fearful leap into the dark
Oh well, I did my time in the jail of your arms
Now Ophelia wants to know where she should turn

Tell me, what did you do?
What did you do the last time, why don't you do that?
Well, go on ahead and take this the wrong way
Time's not your friend
Do you cry, do you pray, do you wish them away?
Are you still leaving nothing but bones in the way?
Did you bury the carnival, with the lions and all?
Excuse me while I sharpen my nails

And just who are you, who are you this time?
You look rather tired, are you pretending to love?
Well, I hear that it pays well
How do your pistol and your Bible and your sleeping pills go?
Are you still jumping out of windows in expensive clothes?
Well, I fell in love with your sailor's mouth and your wounded eyes
You better get down on the floor, don't you know this is war?
Tell me, who are you this time?
Tell me, who are you this time?

Lyrics submitted by yuri_sucupira

"Who Are You" as written by Thomas Alan Waits Kathleen Brennan

Lyrics © AUDIAM, INC

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Who Are You song meanings
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  • +4
    General CommentThis is one of my favorite songs of all time. I can never get tired of the melody, it's frickin' beautiful. I think it's about an ex-girlfriend who he considers a whore. At least, that's how I relate to this song. Damn whore ex-girlfriends.
    toughguybambinoon April 17, 2006   Link
  • +2
    General Commentfinest goodbye to a sorry bitch ever written.
    Mesmerizeon July 08, 2006   Link
  • +2
    General CommentA tilt-a-whirl is a carnival ride, and I'm not sure how one might "mad dog" it, but I'm assuming it's just meant to be some twisted imagery. Does anyone else think this song is about Rickie Lee Jones? The lines "Are you still jumping out of windows in expensive clothes?/Well I fell in love with your sailor's mouth and your wounded eyes" make me think that it might be. She was supposedly kind of a wild child back in the days when she and Waits knew each other.
    Twoey2Eon August 11, 2008   Link
  • +2
    General CommentWhere is the "Who drinks from your shoe" line?

    I think this song is very Dylanesque. It's a similar chord progression as some of his stuff off of Blonde on Blonde (especially "Just Like a Woman").
    MrGreen428on March 26, 2012   Link
  • +2
    General CommentGreatest FU song ever.

    "They're lining up
    To mad dog your tilta-whirl
    Three shots for a dollar"
    You are easy and cheap.

    "Take them back to your red house"
    You are a whore.

    "Time's not your friend"
    Your ugly.

    "And just who are you this time?"
    Dissociative Identity Disorder (Multiple Personality Disorder)

    "Are you still jumping out of windows in expensive clothes?"
    Rich and stupid

    "You look rather tired"
    You have been rode hard

    I could go on. Great song.
    ruarchitecton June 21, 2014   Link
  • 0
    General Commentas tom waits songs go, this one is right up there with the best. heartwrenching
    josinson April 01, 2006   Link
  • 0
    General CommentNever thought, when i first heard this song years ago, that i'd ever relate to the lyrics "how do your pistol and your bible and your sleeping pills go?" Weird how things work out.
    DollarShorton April 22, 2008   Link
  • 0
    General CommentCan somebody please tell me what a tilta whirl is & how you mad dog it? My imagination is working overtime.
    morbid moragon June 21, 2008   Link
  • 0
    General CommentMad Dog is an alcoholic beverage.. Get her drunk and take her for a ride.
    JohnnieWalkeron July 18, 2011   Link
  • 0
    My InterpretationI personally think this song is about addiction, specifically alcohol addiction. I know that after Bone Machine came out, or before it was released, Tom stopped drinking. He's been sober since, so it really makes me wonder if he's speaking of his own battle with alcohol addiction.

    I see the song as a metaphor; the "I did my time in the jail of your arms" is the bottle the singer is/was addicted to, "jailed" too. Like one of the posters pointed out, "mad dog" is an alcoholic drink. "Three shots for a dollar, win a real live doll", maybe the three shots are actual shots of whiskey or some other drink. Win a real live doll is what you win once you've had those shots, but the real live doll is just a delusion. It's just another lie that you believe and tell yourself when you're addicted and when you're drunk.

    That "fearful leap into the dark"...God, I love that line. It speaks of the despair of the addiction. Of drinking alone and giving into your demons, and living in that darkness. "Do you cry? Do you pray? Do you wish them away?"

    I seriously doubt it's about Rickie Lee Jones because I would imagine after being married for twelve years to his wife and with two kids, he would be over that whole part of his life. I think "Ruby's Arms" was his ultimate goodbye to her. The line "are you still jumping out of windows in expensive clothes" doesn't make me think of Rickie Lee, but of Tom and his song "Tango til They're Sore". The carnival was his life while he was drinking.

    Plus, why would he be at war with Rickie Lee? The lyrics "Get down on the floor, don't you know this means war?" just hits me as a personal struggle that has to be overcome. Like getting your demon by the neck and yelling at it. He wouldn't be at war with an ex girlfriend he had in the mid '70's in the '90's.

    The war is with himself, his demons, and his addiction. And he's asking himself "Who are you? Who are you this time?"

    The more I listen to this song, and think of it that way, of someone overcoming their addiction and facing their demons, the more it makes since to me.

    But, again, I'm not Tom so I don't know what he was thinking when he wrote this. I only know what I think and feel when I hear it.
    crynevon April 17, 2013   Link

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