They hung a sign up in our town
"If you live it up, you won't live it down"
So she left Monte Rio, son
Just like a bullet leaves a gun
With her charcoal eyes and Monroe hips
She went and took that California trip
Oh, the moon was gold, her hair like wind
Said, "don't look back, just come on, Jim"

Oh, you got to hold on, hold on
You gotta hold on
Take my hand, I'm standing right here, you gotta hold on

Well, he gave her a dimestore watch
And a ring made from a spoon
Everyone's looking for someone to blame
When you share my bed, you share my name
Well, go ahead and call the cops
You don't meet nice girls in coffee shops
She said, "baby, I still love you"
Sometimes there's nothin' left to do

Oh, but you got to hold on, hold on
Babe, you gotta hold on and take my hand
I'm standing right here, you gotta hold on

Well, God bless your crooked little heart
St. Louis got the best of me
I miss your broken China voice
How I wish you were still here with me
Oh, you build it up, you wreck it down
Then you burn your mansion to the ground
Oh, there's nothing left to keep you here
But when you're falling behind in this big blue world

Oh, you've got to hold on, hold on
Babe, you gotta hold on
Take my hand, I'm standing right here, you gotta hold on

Down by the Riverside motel
It's ten below and falling
By a ninety-nine cent store
She closed her eyes and started swaying
But it's so hard to dance that way
When it's cold and there's no music
Oh, your old hometown's so far away
But inside your head there's a record that's playing

A song called "Hold On", hold on
Babe, you gotta hold on
Take my hand, I'm standing right there, you gotta hold on

You gotta hold on, hold on
Babe, you gotta hold on
Take my hand, I'm standing right there, you gotta hold on

You gotta hold on, hold on
Babe, you gotta hold on
And take my hand, I'm standing right here, you gotta hold on

You gotta hold on, hold on
Babe, you gotta hold on
And take my hand, I'm standing right here, you gotta hold on

You gotta hold on
You gotta hold on
You gotta hold on
You gotta hold on
You gotta hold on, baby
You gotta hold on, girl
You gotta hold on
You gotta hold on

Lyrics submitted by yuri_sucupira

Hold On Lyrics as written by Thomas Alan Waits Kathleen Brennan


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Hold On song meanings
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  • +5
    General CommentThis is probably how Bruce Springsteen would sound if he had three testicles, and they were each enormous.

    This is a great song.
    karma suturedon May 26, 2006   Link
  • +4
    General CommentI think that's a great line about the coffee shop that shows a sense of humour about the situation. It's the wry way the poor of the world learn to look and accept their experiences. It's like saying well what's the surprise, why the shock, there was no great expectation there anyway (even if there was). That comes through in other places in the song. Their love is made of dime store watches, "but that's what you bought into (both of them) you share my bed you share my name (share the whole deal)". So they have nothing but each other, which at times seems nothing but it's everything, the human need for warmth, companionship, love. So they part, disappointed but hanging on to the memories of each other and where they came from. She dances alone in the cold, the dance is her dreams, the good times, the hopes we all start out with, the cold is the distance between those dreams and and her home, her youth, the blank page we start with. The song is the the one that keeps many of us going 'Hold On, keep going'. Sometimes you need to have nothing to appreciate what anything is.
    NWNmoonon February 20, 2013   Link
  • +3
    General Commentone word can describe this song: Beautiful.
    sierpon October 15, 2002   Link
  • +3
    General CommentSuch a great song...perfect mixture of hope and despair. I think it's about how, although everything may seem perfect on the surface, it takes more than love to make a romantic relationship successful. The third verse holds particular meaning for me (largely because I was in a failed relationship many years ago with a St. Louis girl)..."I miss your broken China voice"....could anyone besides Waits come up with a line that brilliant? I know exactly what he means by that line, but simply cannot express it in different words; Tom said it better than me or anyone else could.
    rusty_shackleford13on January 19, 2014   Link
  • +2
    General CommentMardyAss, "You don't meet nice girls in coffee shops" is the man excusing his bad treatment of the woman.
    He's saying "Yes i've treated you badly, but you can't have been worth much in the first place because you were easy to win."
    It's the idea that a woman who gives love freely is not as worthy as one who plays hard to get, coupled with the pragmatic view that if she was easy to get she'll be easy to keep. A possession that was expensive or hard to acquire is cherished for the effort in getting it, partly to prove to oneself that it was worth the cost.
    He's treating her as a cheap possession: "he gave her a dime-store watch and a ring made from a spoon."

    It's also how other people will view the situation; "the cops" for example.
    She's burst out of her small town with ideals of love, life and freedom, and now she's been exploited and cheated she'll find that those things are privileges that society does not grant to everyday losers.
    azkmon May 13, 2009   Link
  • +2
    My InterpretationThere is this young free spirited girl who realizes she needs to change her setting to where all the cool cats go. She goes to hollywood. She comes from a flea bitten small town big on the bible and not big on hollywood.

    So she's feels the call and she's already got a guy. Come along with me Jim. Cmon. Let's try it! It will be great (I promise) hahah.

    She gives him a ra ra speech. Let's grab the bull by the horns and just hold on to one another, it will be alright. What do these small town backwoods people know.

    So now they are in the big city. He gives her everything he can, but it looks like pathetic small town stuff in a sense and doesn't impress her. He feels less like a man because he can't provide or impress his woman. He get's defensive about it and is just like, hey tough luck you married me this is what you are getting for better or worse you are stuck with me.
    OK This next part I'm not sure about. Does she say this part? Or is he saying it to her?
    Well, go ahead and call the cops
    You don't meet nice girls in coffee shops
    Maybe he got mad and beat her up a bit and she threatened the cops and he's like muttering under his breath, well guess this is what I get, should of figured I would get a no class tramp meeting her in a no class place.
    That's my best guess.
    But then again, maybe she's leaving him at this point and he's whining about calling the cops and she's pointing out they are different.
    Regardless at this point of the song, they break up. And shes like oh but dont worry I still love you. I will always love you. But see you later babe and out the door she goes, he's crying and heartbroken, she goes to chase her fame.
    So the chorus remains. And hold on... And its haunting because its like just hold on babe and everything will work out. You gotta hold on. And that chorus is indeed a wonderful positive way to look at the world. Hey if we can just hold on, we will make it, things will work out. And we can all related to this. Only, as you get older you realize even though sometimes you really want stuff to work out really bad and you do hold on hard as hell, sometimes things in fact do not work out (and yes I've been this dude crying in real life I'm sure, haha!).

    So now he's in St Louis and just heartwrecked, still loves her, misses the heck out of her. She took him to such a high (build it up) and then she thrashes him when she dumps him and moves on.

    There's nothing left to keep you here (he realizes he is not flashy enough for her, and of course he's selling himself short because he thinks so highly of her).

    Then funny enough he gives her encouragement to hold on. Keep chasing that dream babe. I love you no matter what. Drive a truck over me. Hold on and it will all work out for you baby.

    Now the twist, here he is broken all jacked up. But surprise she didn't make it either. She failed. She wasn't that hot stuff after all. And after ditching the dude, there she is in buttville and all she can do is dance around doing her drugs and hanging out with the whinos, now just impressing the other junkies.

    And once again the chorus, hold on, hold on. Now quite ironic, in fact "holding on" doesn't always fix stuff. And it wouldn't have hurt that biotch to have a heart along the way, she would ended off better if she had held on to to the dude in the little old town.

    yes! haha. No idea how far I am off, but took a stab. Anyway, to me this song is purely a sad song obviously. But I don't even know who Tom Waits is. Just heard this song on The Zombie show!
    wordup301on February 26, 2013   Link
  • +2
    My InterpretationAnalyzing the lyrics along with the music video really clears things up.

    Everyone sees that it's about a small-town girl with ambitions of making it big in LA and she wants her boyfriend to go with her.

    The thing is, from the video, it's clear that he doesn't go with her. The 2nd stanza where we hear his voice is from a conversation that took place before she left: while she suggested that he leave with her, he wanted her to say and proposed to her. And even though she loves him, she leaves, dream chasing.

    The next two stanzas really deliver the image of his regret and the precariousness and bleakness of her situation. But the key part is at the end of the last stanza where, at her lowest spiritual point, she plays the song of her memories in her head. Since up to this point in the song Waits has been singing about the characters' real lives, the shift into her fantasy is marked by a change to the refrain that had been continuously until now.

    Heretofore, we've had: Take my hand, I'm standing right HERE, you gotta hold on

    In her reverie we have: Take my hand, I'm standing right THERE, you gotta hold on

    And you can sense her distance from Jim, signaled by the shift from being HERE to THERE.

    But the real kicker is that after repeating this dream-refrain twice, Waits brings it back to the HERE refrain. This is subtle but it means that the distance has been bridged, indicating that he had eventually decided to go and follow her, Will Hunting style.
    ZeksAtLibertyon August 24, 2017   Link
  • +1
    General Commentthis song just makes me want to do exactly what it says... hold on... theres just a hopeful tune to the music
    imoveritfoshoon February 24, 2006   Link
  • +1
    MemoryI was at a craft fair in Harvard Square, and I saw someone selling jewelery made from old silverware, including (of course) rings made from the ends of old spoons. I immediately thought of this song, and mentioned to the craftsperson that Tom Waits had mentioned "a ring made from a spoon" in one of his songs. She replied that Tom Waits had actually bought spoon rings from her- I think she said it was at the Newport Folk Festival. I wonder if that was what inspired that line...
    revolutionofoneon December 25, 2011   Link
  • 0
    General CommentDamn right, Tom Waits is simply one of the best lyricists ever. "Well, go ahead and call the cops / You don't meet nice girls in coffee shops" is just genius.
    [inactive account]on September 19, 2004   Link

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