Take your mind back, I don't know when
Sometime when it always seemed
To be just us and them
Girls that wore pink
And boys that wore blue
Boys that always grew up better men
Than me and you

What's a man now, what's a man mean
Is he rough or is he rugged
Is he cultural and clean
Now it's all change, it's got to change more
Cause we think it's getting better
But nobody's really sure

And so it goes, go round again
But now and then we wonder who the real men are

See the nice boys, dancing in pairs
Golden earring golden tan
Blow-wave in the hair
Sure they're all straight, straight as a line
All the gays are macho
Can't you see their leather shine

You don't want to sound dumb, don't want to offend
So don't call me a fagot
Not unless you are a friend
Then if you're tall and handsome and strong
You can wear the uniform and I could play along

And so it goes, go round again
But now and then we wonder who the real men are

Time to get scared, time to change plan
Don't know how to treat a lady
Don't know how to be a man
Time to admit, what you call defeat
Cause there's women running past you now
And you just drag your feet

Man makes a gun, man goes to war
Man can kill and man can drink
And man can take a whore
Kill all the blacks, kill all the reds
And if there's war between the sexes
Then there'll be no people left

And so it goes, go round again
But now and then we wonder who the real men are

Lyrics submitted by Leigh

Real Men Lyrics as written by Joe Jackson

Lyrics © Kobalt Music Publishing Ltd.

Lyrics powered by LyricFind

Real Men song meanings
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  • +4
    General Comment
    I can offer another explanation for the rugby reference on the Live album. Joe was playing in Sydney at the time and the Wallabies had just won an important match. The song is about gender ambiguities ("See the nice boys... All the gays are macho...") It has often been said that rugby (and other team-based contact sports) are an outlet for the homosexual feelings of those macho types who absolutely cannot bear to even consider that they might have homosexual leanings. They can get close to one another, touch, hug (after scoring tries/goals). So Joe was basically taking the piss by dedicating this song to the Wallabies... a clever, ironic comment. I think mellisande is right about what the song is actually about - Joe isn't saying that society is changing for the worse, not exactly. He's simply saying that traditional roles are breaking down. The whole song is ironic - it is sung from the point of view of a super-straight, conservative man, at least initially. Hence the "us and them" and the "girls that wore pink, boys that wore blue" in the first verse. Then you have the disapproving-sounding second verse. But at the end, the sting in the tail comes - "Kill all the blacks, kill all the reds, and if it's war between the sexes then there'll be no people left". That's the real message - artificial, arbitrary divisions and categorisation (like man / woman, gay / bi / straight, black / white) will kill us all. This is a theme running through Joe Jackson's work - that we are all human beings, and we should try to get along as such, not put any other characteristic first. See also "It's different for girls" and "One to one", among others.
    neiledwardon August 08, 2007   Link
  • +1
    General Comment
    I will take a guess at the rugby reference - in the early to mid 1980s, the Aussie rugby team was noted for playing an attractive style of rugby dominated by flashy back play. The backs tend to be the less ugly ones. I heard a rumour that one of the young Aussie backs at the time, Michael Liner, was gay. What I know of Joe Jackson is entirely gleaned from his songs and for me this just doesn't fit as a gay anthem or an anti-gay anthem. It is clearly about confused emotional feelings, something that he wrote about well and often. I would disagree with the view that he saw the view of real men as that changing for the worse and becoming less chivalrous. I think the song is about growing up and coping with a world where feelings become more and more complex. It is the ambiguouty of the lyric that makes this song work.
    mellisandeon July 12, 2007   Link
  • +1
    General Comment
    this song reflect sthe confusion many people feel when they view modern society as opposed to the old attitudes about what made someone a man. Basically, it's saying who decides what makes someone a man and who gave them that right?
    bafflewiton May 14, 2008   Link
  • 0
    General Comment
    Much love for this song!
    clarkeyon September 02, 2006   Link
  • 0
    General Comment
    Anyone who looks at these lyrics and thinks the song is -supporting- and not -mocking- homophobia needs to get their head examined. Also Tori Amos' cover of this is actually how I first became aware of this song... "You don't want to sound dumb, don't want to offend... so don't call me a faggot not unless you are a friend." - It's only a joke if I know you, like how a laid back black friend might let his white friends call him "nigguh" but if someone he doesn't know says it, or some genuine racist says it with genuine malice behind it, then it's a different story.
    phuckthewbcon September 22, 2012   Link
  • -1
    General Comment
    i absolutely cant believe no one has commented on this song. I have a live version from his album 'live 80-86' he dedicates the song to the Australian Rugby team. Does anyone know what significance the wallabies have to this song?
    Ormondia03on May 18, 2006   Link
  • -1
    General Comment
    this song is about being gay ( male or female). I have no idea what the reference to that rugby team is....
    discmannnnnon August 25, 2006   Link
  • -1
    General Comment
    This is a powerful song, and I highly recommend you see the video. I've seen it numerous times on VH1 Classics. This song is about how society is changing men for the worse. Joe Jackson was observing that even back in 1982 society was destroying traditional notions about what it means to be a "real man", and I appreciate his anger at the situation. If you've seen the video you'd understand. Although he mentions gays in the song it is by no means about gays (male or female) at all - sorry. Rather, the protagonist in the video is a chivalrous idealist who grows up watching old movies of Humphrey Bogart, John Wayne and James Dean. The first scene shows him as a child as he rescues a girl from a pack of bullies. Later he is shown as a teenager with a girlfriend (maybe the same girl from the first scene), however she is cold and distant from him because society no longer sees him as a "real man". As they drive along he passes by two gay men and is bewildrered and struggles with these changes. In the end she ends up going to a bar and hooks up with the same bullies that abused her as a child because they are "real men". Brokenhearted and angry he ends up driving his car off a cliff a-la James Dean who also died in a car crash. Thus symbolizing the death of the traditional notion that a "real man" is chivalrous. Twenty five years later we have to ask ourselves - what is a "real man"?
    fr0thingon September 11, 2006   Link
  • -1
    General Comment
    "fuck hate" is a waay better motto than think peace. some ad person get some bumper stickers made pronto! this song is kind of sad to me! but, i DO know some real men. they have blown my mind. they DO exist. and they love their women. i'm okay with loving a not so "real" man and many, many completely real men. it's all goood. :-)
    BeatnikJesuson January 27, 2010   Link

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