They were hiding behind hay bales
They were planting in the full moon
They had given all they had for something new
But the light of day was on them
They could see the thrashers coming
And the water shone like diamonds in the dew

And I was just getting up, hit the road before it's light
Trying to catch an hour on the sun
When I saw those thrashers rolling by
Looking more than two lanes wide
I was feelin' like my day had just begun

Where the eagle glides, descending
There's an ancient river bending
Through the timeless gorge of changes
Where sleeplessness awaits
I searched out my companions
Who were lost in crystal canyons
When the aimless blade of science
Slashed the pearly gates

It was then that I knew I'd had enough
Burned my credit card for fuel
Headed out to where the pavement turns to sand
With a one way ticket to the land of truth
And my suitcase in my hand
How I lost my friends, I still don't understand

They had the best selection
They were poisoned with protection
There was nothing that they needed
Nothing left to find
They were lost in rock formations
Or became park bench mutations
On the sidewalks and in the stations
They were waiting, waiting

So I got bored and left them there
They were just dead weight to me
Better down the road without that load
Brings back the time when I was eight or nine
I was watchin' my mama's TV
It was that great Grand Canyon rescue episode

Where the vulture glides, descending
On an asphalt highway bending
Through libraries and museums, galaxies and stars
Down the windy halls of friendship
To the rose clipped by the bullwhip
The motel of lost companions
Waits with heated pool and bar

But me I'm not stopping there
Got my own row left to hoe
Just another line in the field of time
When the thrasher comes, I'll be stuck in the sun
Like the dinosaurs in shrines
But I'll know the time has come
To give what's mine

Lyrics submitted by hurricanejesus

Thrasher Lyrics as written by Neil Young

Lyrics © Silver Fiddle

Lyrics powered by LyricFind

Thrasher song meanings
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  • +7
    General CommentThis has to be one of the greatest songs of the 20th century.
    danger birdon February 15, 2006   Link
  • +3
    My InterpretationThis song has always haunted me with it's timeless criticism of capitalistic values, human nature and the means people will sacrifice to reach an end, or possibly just a luddite's lament.

    The valuable contributions in this thread about his breakup with CSN are very keen or at least his relationship with the producers that pushed the band into a corner, likely solves the "rose clipped by the bullwhip" lyric which has always troubled me, never really fit in with the rest of the scornful theme.

    Then again the entire song may be a criticism of technology of which agriculture was the first incarnation. Humans stopped hunting and gathering the moment they figured out how to use the earth as a tool and not a gift. Thrashers two lanes wide conjures images of International Harvester combines in Kansas.

    Basic overtones of the grim reaper also consume this song from beginning to end an inevitable death everyone faces, even if they catch an hour on the sun.

    Neil makes it clear that even though adoption of this technology was not his choice he will eventually succumb to the same consequences as everyone else.
    fozyon February 15, 2012   Link
  • +2
    General CommentIt is all about Csny and the hippies, and an whole generation! His songs is always like that, they cover alot of ground. Like Powderfinger, Its about a whole genaration. He is simply the best.
    powderfingeron March 06, 2005   Link
  • +2
    General CommentNeil Young's best song. And, even though it might have been inspired by the CSN&Y break-up, sure, there's obviously more to it.
    elephant_rangeon April 01, 2005   Link
  • +2
    General CommentSo much... I get things out of Neil Young songs that i doubt he meant to put there, but isn't that what makes great artists great?? My favorite line... "Me I'm not stopping there [hotel of lost companions] got my own row left to hoe... Just another line in the field of time.." ...awesome!
    Jaydubon December 27, 2005   Link
  • +1
    General CommentI always thought that this song was about a man setting out to "find himself" once his beliefs get knocked down. "The aimless blade of science chopped the Pearly Gates." Like after science says that they've basically disproved religion, all these people just become depressed and lonely while one man doesn't take it, and sets out to find answers, to find himself, to find god.
    I had no clue this was about Neil leaving CSN&'s actually kind of a let down because this is one of my very favorite songs and I thought it meant more than it does.
    Rag-Landon March 21, 2005   Link
  • +1
    General CommentOne of my favourite Neil Youg songs... I heard this a couple of years ago, in the first week of my first term of university. A lot of my friends from back home stayed there, and are still there (I'm from very rural, mainly agricultural county in England)... Some I was glad to leave behind, others less so. This just reminds me of that feeling... and the lyrics seem to apply a great deal to that situation... the people you leave behind seeming to stay the same, while you move on. Not at all what it was originally about probably but that's just what it means to me.
    Indiemonkeyon April 27, 2006   Link
  • +1
    General CommentWhat a fantastic song! You can listen to it and discover new meanings, images and feelings as your life goes by and you grow up with it.
    Neil's songs often have more than one layer of meaning, so I think it can be both about his breaking up with CSN and about one's personal growth achieved by leaving your yesterday's world in search of your place in the world and your meaning to life.
    Can't say with worlds how much this song touches me and how much it means to me.

    "It was then that I knew I've had enough
    Burned my credit cards for fuel
    Headed out to where the pavements turn to sand
    With a one way ticket to the land of truth and my suitcase in my hand
    How I lost my friends I still don't understand"
    And the "timeless gorge of changes thing" great is that?
    jack83on April 22, 2008   Link
  • +1
    My InterpretationThis is one of my all-time favorite songs. Although it may not be that special in terms of poetic verse, it is packed with brilliant and powerful imagery and allegorical symbolism. It’s a story about a romantic non-conformist who realizes that people have become slaves in a prison of affluence. Apathetic and complacent, they’ve allowed their values, heritage, culture and consciousness to slip into oblivion in spite of the fact that they have attained “everything” they had everything they thought they needed to be happy.

    They had given their lives to the pursuit of wealth thinking possessions would make them happy. But in the end the very thing they pursued had overtaken them. Reckless science and technology driven by greed had not only destroyed their land but it had also bankrupted their souls.

    His understanding leads him to leave his life (or lifestyle) behind, drawn back through time and sentimental memories to the point where peace and contentment and was lost to fear and anxiety (sleeplessness) born out of “progress”. His saddens with futility and loneliness as one awakening from a lucid dream amongst the sleeping. Even though his friends plainly see it coming (The Thrasher), he leaves them, yet struggles to know why he lost them. It is then when he realizes that truth is a “one-way ticket” in relationships.

    In the desert, in solitude, he embarks to rediscover innocents in the majesty of beauty and natural wonders. Solacegives gives way to joy as he envisions the day when he can return and be free to give all that he has and has learned… presumably to those who by then may have returned to ideals and virtue.

    FYI - The Thrasher (the reaper - death) is the modern day columbine.
    scrappuson December 17, 2011   Link
  • +1
    MemoryI have two very good friends I didn't have to leave like Neil Diamond, because I am very ill and they are very important for me, but in my youth I learned the chords and played the song on my guitar. I lost the ability long ago but I came back a few weeks ago and I will never forget it. It has always been one of my best loved song I could play.
    Ulli63on July 31, 2017   Link

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