Brew the coffee in a bucket
Double straight man and banjo
If you don't got the snake oil
Buster, you don't got a show
Who puts the doh-re-me
In our pockets
Keeps the party going on?
It's the man
Who sells the potions
I'm just one who plays the songs

Now they generally buys
The bigger size
They usually rub it in
I drank it once, it tasted
Like grease and paraffin
It's mostly alcohol, okay
You can't deny it's strong
We was going through the motions
'til the doctor came along

There stands the bottle
Ladies and gentlemen
All these bottles
Don't have to tell you, friends
These days miracles
Don't come falling from the sky
Raise your glasses to the doctor
To a stand up guy

When the monkeyshine is flying
And he's promising the cure
He says the french
For your lovesick blues
La maladie d'amour
He gets the chumps all laughing
But he gets a few to buy
Here's to beefsteak when you're hungry
And whiskey when you're dry

Now the band'll blow their moolah
Like sailors gone ashore
Now we're going to west Helena
To gamble, drink and whore
Let's you and me all make whoopee
Here's mud in your eye
Here's to all the gals you ever want
And heaven when you die

There stands the bottle
Ladies and gentlemen
All these bottles
Don't have to tell you, friends
These days miracles
Don't come falling from the sky
Raise your glasses to the doctor
To a stand up guy
There's a big cheese with a cigar
Been sizing up the show
He wants to get the doctor
Pitching on the radio
I will make a switch to guitar
But the rules all still apply
They want to trust somebody
Yeah, they want a stand up guy

There stands the bottle
Here's to absent friends
All these bottles
Dead soldiers in the end
These days miracles don't come falling from the sky
Raise your glasses to the doctor
To a stand up guy
To the doctor a stand up guy

Lyrics submitted by redmax

Stand Up Guy Lyrics as written by Mark Knopfler

Lyrics © Universal Music Publishing Group, O/B/O CAPASSO

Lyrics powered by LyricFind

Stand Up Guy song meanings
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  • +1
    General CommentI'm not really sure.. but most of this song reminds me of the travelling doctors from back in the old west. They would sell snake oil and other "indian" remedies that would generally be used to cure all kinds of things. In reality the stuff was alcohol or something else.. and it really had no value in curing sickness.. He was more of a showman than anything. He would come into town, sell his wares, and hightail it out of there.
    celtsguy81on March 06, 2006   Link
  • 0
    General Commentthis song was actually written about stephen hawking
    fuckandlarryon May 12, 2008   Link
  • 0
    General CommentI'm with celtsguy on this one. Snake oil salesmen was the first thing I thought when I heard the song. I honestly can't find any allusion to Stephen Hawking in the lyrics (except of course that he is, metaphorically speaking, a stand-up guy and a doctor). But I'd really like to hear your reasoning and any evidence, fuckandlarry.
    berzerkon June 01, 2008   Link
  • 0
    General CommentI was very surprised to read the above theories, because surely it's obvious what this song is about - the "doctor" is selling an aphrodisiac! There are plenty of hints, starting with the title of the song, which has a double meaning. Here are a few more giveaways:

    Who puts the doh-re-me in our pockets, keeps the party going on?

    They usually rub it in

    We was going through the motions ‘til the doctor came along

    These days miracles don’t come falling from the sky ("these days" meaning "now that we've reached a certain age")

    He says the French for your lovesick blues, la maladie d’amour

    He gets the chumps all laughing

    Now we’re going to West Helena to gamble, drink and whore

    Let’s you and me all make whoopee

    Here’s to all the gals you ever want

    I accept that some of these are rather indirect, but in their totality, they add up to the only explanation.

    Either that or else I have a one-track mind.
    songanalyston January 14, 2009   Link
  • 0
    Song Meaningyes it definitely seems to be about a traveling snake oil salesmen. I do wonder however what the exact role of the narrator is.. "I'm just one who plays the songs", were they performing rituals? Or were they also offering entertainment? According to wikipedia " to increase sales, an accomplice in the crowd (a shill) would often "attest" the value of the product in an effort to provoke buying enthusiasm" Might that be the narrators role?

    The line "here's to absent friends" might indicate that the narrator thinks no one can be trusted, which could serve as a justification for him to keep on deceiving other people as well?
    pearjuiceon June 12, 2011   Link
  • 0
    Song MeaningThis is a song about the death of the Old West, in the tradition of the movies Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid, or more famously, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.

    The protaganist, "the Doctor" is a snake oil salesman. The narrator is his straight man and banjo player.

    The narrator tells us that his troupe was generally mediocre or worse: "we was going through the motions ‘til the doctor came along". But there's no show without a good snake oil salesman (who puts the do-re-mi [dough$] in our pockets...?")

    The narrator tells us how the Doctor sells the mostly-alcohol snake oil - by engaging the crowd with jokes ("he gets the chumps all laughing"), false promises ("when the monkeyshine is flying"), sounding smart (speaking French, "la maladie d'amour"), etc.

    The song transitions to a whorehouse in West Helena (probably Montana, though perhaps Arkansas) where the Travelling Show's band, flush with dough, is drinking: "Now the band will blow their moolah, like sailor's gone ashore...." There follows a series of toasts: (1) here's to beefsteak when you're hungry... (2) here's mud in your eye (3) here's to all the gals you ever want...

    Why then do I say that this song is a metaphor for the death of the Old West? Well, the "big cheese with a cigar ... wants to get the doctor pitching on the radio." Since commercial radio wasn't popular until the mid-1920s, there were few Old West places left - Montana being one. The narrator, realizing that their days are numbered, offers the song's final and most haunting toast "Here's to absent friends" (if ever a friend of yours has died, especially a friend you consider a Stand Up Guy, you know what I mean), again, a metaphor for the passing of a way of life.
    sslon November 02, 2011   Link
  • 0
    General CommentLike gamblers and boxers, stand up guys are a favourite of MK. The move to radio reminds me of a move to tv and to his nemesis - Gerry Springer.

    This song is not about anyone in particular but a genre of people that he finds interesting.
    Saltytowerson July 17, 2017   Link
  • 0
    My InterpretationI see this as a reluctant tribute to the skill of a master salesman. The Dr. isn't a doctor, and he isn't a stand up guy either. But he's convinced some of the people in the audience that he is. The band members raising their glasses to him is saying, "Hey, you gotta hand it to the guy. He's a total phony, but he gets people to open their wallets, and you know how we struggle with that."
    labooon March 16, 2018   Link
  • 0
    General CommentI generally don't comment but I think most of the theories about the meaning of this song are way off. This song is a tribute to the common bartender. A rare salute to the men and women who stand behind the bar and keep the party going while the band plays their sets. To the doctor! Nicely done Mark!
    ranchhandon January 14, 2020   Link

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