James, come on home
You've been gone too long baby
We can't let our hero die alone
We miss you day and night
You left town to live by the rifle
You left us to fight
But it just ain't right to take away the light

Remember Genie, from the casino
She's still a-waiting in her big brass bed
The boys from your gang are knocking whisky back
Till they get out of hand
And wish they were dead
They're only lonely for the life they led
With their old friend
Oh
James, are you selling your soul to a cold gun?

Where lies your heart?
It's not there in the buckskin baby
It's not there in the gin that makes you laugh long and loud

You're a coward James
You're running away from humanity
You're running out on reality
It won't be funny when they
Rat-a-tat you down

Remember Genie, from the casino
She's still a-waiting in her big brass bed
The boys from your gang are knocking whisky back
Till they get out of hand
And wish they were dead
They're only lonely for the life they led
With their old friend
Oh
James, are you selling your soul to a cold gun?


Lyrics submitted by weezerific:cutlery, edited by Mellow_Harsher

James and the Cold Gun Lyrics as written by Kate Bush

Lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC

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James and the Cold Gun song meanings
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8 Comments

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  • 0
    General Comment

    I could be wrong but:

    I think this is about a man (James) who leaves his town, where apparently an idolized man, to go to war with his "cold gun." He's supposed to be some sort of hero, but really all the townspeople want him back, because once he's gone, things start to turn awry and unruly without his authority and general rule. So even though he's supposed to be helping them out by fighting in a war for the, he's really only hurting them, as he becomes absent from their lives, which only go downhill.

    It seems that James enjoys being in the war, though, maybe because of the pure escape it provides him from real life (even though to most people fighting in a war would seem worse than facing day-to-day chores). The narrator accuses him of being a coward, running away from humanity and reality, and that it won't be funny anymore when the enemy kills him.

    So basically, he sells his soul and old life, in which he served as an authoritative figure and man of respect, in order to join a pointless war so he can escape all the routine of life, even though he'll only end up dead. War hurts life at home more than help it, because all of our manly, ruling figures are absent.

    Like I said, I could be completely wrong, but I think I'm somewhere along the right track...

    starpatrolleron August 26, 2006   Link
  • 0
    General Comment

    From The Best Of Kate Bush:

    "It's hot and sandy, the land is old and dry. Here rides a man with a sheet of ice by his side."

    trinity_tragedyon March 21, 2007   Link
  • 0
    General Comment

    Bond? James Bond? ...at least, that's what I always thought.

    John Johnstonon May 27, 2009   Link
  • 0
    My Opinion

    I always got the image of a man who was forced into a life of crime that finally takes him over and the song is the people he's left behind begging him to see where his life is leading him before he's killed in some sort of shootout, whether it be his enemies or by the police! Cowboy or mobster, is the bit that always confused me, though...

    T.

    trinity_tragedyon August 08, 2009   Link
  • 0
    My Interpretation

    I always thought this was about Jessie James, but 'James' scans better than 'Jessie'. All of the imagery fits a wild west theme, to me.

    SomeOldGuyon August 10, 2011   Link
  • 0
    My Interpretation

    I read this as talking about well-liked guy who leaves to join the Army.

    Fairly simple and straightforward lyric. (I might be hopelessly wrong!)

    TonyM101on November 20, 2013   Link
  • 0
    Song Meaning

    In an interview with Phil Sutcliffe published in the August 30, 1980 issue of Sounds, composer and performer Kate Bush spoke of her fascination with guns: "Not about what they do, but detach them from their purpose and they're... fantastic, beautiful. And yet they're designed to kill which is against everything I believe in."

    At a stretch this song could be about James Bond, but it was actually inspired by a contemporary thriller, The Day Of The Jackal. Based on the book of the same name by English author Frederick Forsyth, this 1973 release featured Edward Fox in the title role of the nameless would-be assassin of Charles de Gaulle, who was President of France from 1959-69. The film is set in 1963, the same year American President John F. Kennedy was assassinated.

    Kate received several fan letters from people trying to guess the identity of James, but there's no big mystery behind the man with the cold gun. "The answer is: nobody. When I wrote the song, James was the right name for it," she revealed in a fan club newsletter.

    While Kate does ask James if he's selling his soul to a cold gun, the specific song title doesn't show up in the lyrics.

    tracey1069on January 29, 2020   Link
  • 0
    General Comment

    It is about Jesse James.

    delia17601on April 21, 2021   Link

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