SW logo Lyrics: Meanings & References

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Ever wonder what in the world SW is singing about? Well, I have a few ideas. And I'm sure you do too - email me about them! And yes, I know he wasn't the lyricist for most of these, but I cannot be convinced that he did not have a great deal of input anyway.

Links to the complete lyrics can be found in the Song Encyclopedia.

Song Title
Album Title
Lyric What does it mean or refer to?
Authors other than myself noted in each entry.
Another Deal Goes Down
Refugees of the Heart
On the street the refugees / Of a war that was lost in the heart This is the phrase that gives the album its name.
Arc of a Diver
Arc of a Diver
She bathes me in sweetness I cannot reveal Viv Stanshall wrote these lyrics about his wife, according to SW.
Back in the High Life Again
Back in the High Life
You used to be the best / To make life be life to me / And I hope that you're still out there / And you're like you used to be It has always seemed to me that this must be about SW's relationship with his fans.
Berkshire Poppies
Mr Fantasy
I could be in Berkshire where the poppies are so pretty Traffic's cottage was on the Berkshire Downs.
Come Out and Dance
Refugees of the Heart
Baby, this is true romance / Take it while you see a chance Reference to the solo song "While You See a Chance".
Dealer
Mr Fantasy
Between the desert and the dove / Money is his only love / Feeling nothing deep inside / His mind is governed by his pride Possibly written about Chris Blackwell, owner of Island records. Sheesh, how did they keep their contract?
Dear Mr Fantasy
Mr Fantasy
Dear Mr Fantasy, Play us a tune Jim Capaldi said in an interview that he had stayed up late one night, doodling a picture of a guitarist being controlled by puppet strings; next to the picture, he wrote the words, "Dear Mr Fantasy", intending it to be a letter to an imaginary friend. He then went to sleep. When he awoke, SW and Chris Wood had written an entire song around it. I wonder if that doodle still exists somewhere?
Dear Mr Fantasy
Mr Fantasy
You were the one who could make us all laugh This is about a blind Alsatian dog Albert Eton owned at the fabled cottage in Aston Tirrold. -- Craig L and Mary L
Don't You Know What the Night Can Do?
Roll With It
Feel the music inside you / I'll be there too There are several of us ladies who feel this lyric is just a tiny bit naughty.
Don't You Know What the Night Can Do?
Roll With It

This is the song that prompted cries of "Sell out!" when SW allowed it and its video to be used in ads for Michelob beer.
Dream Gerrard
When the Eagles Flies
That he may see while he sleeps / Monsieur Old Neddy, he wears spectacles in bed Dream Gerrard is dedicated to the memory of the French "maudit" poet Gerard de Nerval, who went crazy, was obsessed by "Abraham hiding in his wardrobe" and killed himself by hanging from a lamp post in Paris in 1865. This is what Viv Stanshall declared in an interview. -- Ellie
Dream Gerrard
When the Eagles Flies
Hippos don't wear hats, lobsters shriek if provoked Lobsters REALLY DO scream when provoked. One scared the hell out of me as I lowered him into the pot to cook! Eeeewwwww! -- Dawn
Dream Gerrard
When the Eagles Flies
(title) The title is printed correctly on the song-list in the inside booklet and on the lyrics page, but as "Dream Gerrad" on the back of the jewel-case and on the CD itself.
Dust
Chronicles
(title) The title is printed correctly in its orginal album, "Arc of a Diver", but in the discography on the compilation album "Chronicles", it is referred to as "Lust". How's that for a Freudian slip?
Empty Pages
John Barleycorn

I have an interview with SW, where he says this is one of his most heartfelt songs -- Ellie
Empty Pages
John Barleycorn
Staring at empty pages, scented by the same old flowers / Staring at empty pages, flowing along in the ages Writer's block, obviously an acute problem for someone like SW, who, in working on Mad Shadows, was writing his own lyrics regularly for the first time. -- Scott
Every Night, Every Day
Far From Home
But I'm working overtime checking' every wheel is locked in tight / On that production line, baby, running at the speed of light Lawrence Winwood, SW's father, was a works manager at a West Midlands engineering company while SW was growing up. -- from the bio by Chris Welch
Far From Home
Far From Home
I've always tried to do my best, I've never cheated anyone / Not like the place where they once turned the wine into water SW had been heavily involved in purchasing the Traffic name and logo from Island Records for use on this album, and I've always assumed these lyrics referred to his bitterness over that.
Feelin' Alright
Traffic
Don't get too lost in all I say / Though at the time I really felt that way / But that was then, now it's today; I know Dave Mason wrote this about a girl, but there's another key according to which he was writing it to Steve about his situation in the band. I didn't want to believe it, but if you listen to it, it makes sense!! -- Ellie
Fill Me Up
Junction 7
Thy will be done Genia speaks this phrase at intervals throughout the song. Turn up the volume, you'll hear it.
Fill Me Up
Junction 7
I had no faith....[but then] you shined your light on me and renewed my soul. This is a conversation SW is having directly with his "Lord and Savior" (as mentioned in the liner notes). -- Dawn
Fill Me Up
Junction 7
There was a time when I was blind....you gave me your vision, you helped my eyes to see This is a parallel with "Amazing Grace", i.e. "...was blind but now I see". -- Dawn
Freedom Overspill
Back in the High Life
Who cares who knows what's true / Your wounded pride is burning you up I have a sneaking suspicion that this is about SW's divorce from his first wife Nicole.
Gimme Some Lovin'
Autumn '66

Muff Winwood has said that he, SW and Spencer Davis wrote these lyrics in less than 10 minutes in a pub. - Ellie
Go (the entire album) To follow the story-line, you are supposed to listen to Side 2 first.
Go Juan
various "B" sides
Go on! This is to be said in a belligerent New York accent and so becomes a pun on "Go Juan!"
Gotta Get Back to My Baby
Junction 7
I miss her smile, I miss her touch / I know that I just have to see my baby Genia said in an interview that she wrote this about their youngest daughter, Lilly.
Hearts on Fire
Roll With It
Just the two of us sat talking together / I wanted to make her part of my life This is an autobiographical account of SW's first meeting Genia at a Junior Walker show in New York City.
Hearts on Fire
Roll With It
Went up and asked her, "Do you mind if I sit"? / She said, "No, but while you see a chance you better take it" Reference to the song "While You See a Chance".
Hearts on Fire
Roll With It
(the Italian subtitles to the video) Read the translation. -- Ellie
Hidden Treasure
Low Spark
Message in the deep, from a strange eternal sleep / That is waiting there for you / Like hidden treasure "Hidden treasure" is referred to in the Tibetan Book of the Dead, which may be what Jim was referring to. -- Ellie
House for Everyone
Mr Fantasy
The village is a pop-up book, the people wooden dolls/ The roads are made of treacle things Written about the Cottage on the Berkshire Downs.
I'm a Man
Best of SDG
Well, I'm a man, yes I am, and I can't help but love you so Declaration of SW's coming of age. -- Scott
John Barleycorn
John Barleycorn

I shouldn't have to point this out, but this is about the life-cycle of grain, not a real person, y'know?
John Barleycorn
John Barleycorn
They've rolled him and tied him by the way / wain David S has a very interesting interpretation of this.
John Barleycorn
John Barleycorn
And little Sir John with his nut brown bowl / And his brandy in the glass / And little Sir John with his nut brown bowl / Proved the strongest man at last SW and Jim Capaldi have said in interviews that Chris Wood brought this song to their attention. It's a very old traditional song, and exists in hundreds of arrangements with many lyrical variations. Between the years of 1900 and 1910, Cecil Sharp collected a number of songs, John Barleycorn among them. The many versions of this song are said to have come from Oxfordshire, Sussex, Hampshire, Surrey and Somerset, and there are estimated to be between 100 and 140 versions. The earliest known copy is of the age of James I in the Pepoysian collection, 1465 printed in black letter by H. Gorson (1607-1641). The popular interpretation is the effort of the people to give up the alcohol distilled from barley.
Junction Seven and Last Exit (both albums in entirety) These album titles are the only studio albums whose titles (excluding the eponymous titles) derive neither from song titles nor lyrical phrases, but rather from some aspect of SW's life at the time.
Junction Seven (album title) Junction 7 is the Great Barr motorway exit on the M6 in the West Midland's. Steve would have got off here to visit his mom and dad. It is also the last exit when travelling up the M5 from Gloucestershire. - Keith
Low Spark of High Heeled Boys
Low Spark ...
The man in the suit has just bought a new car / From the profit he's made on your dream This may be about Traffic's relationship with the record label. Jim Capaldi reports that he got the title from the actor Michael Pollard (best known from the film Bonnie and Clyde) who had joined them in Morocco.
Low Spark of High Heeled Boys
Low Spark ...
And your head is spinning from a loud guitar / And you just can't escape from the sound A trivia question posed in the Roxy Music/Bryan Ferry mailing list asked, "Traffic slams the glam movement in their recording "Low Spark Of High Heeled Boys", but it is directed at one band in particular. Who were these high heeled boys?" The answer given was "Mott The Hoople. They were bitter over SW being the golden child of Island Records and getting all of the cash and attention." -- Arnie S
Low Spark of High Heeled Boys
Low Spark ...

I have an interview with Muff Winwood that says "Low Spark" is exactly a musical description of Steve as a person. Its title came from a book the Dutch Director Antoine Coyas was reading in Morocco during the shooting of a movie called "Nevertheless", whose soundtrack was to be written by Traffic. (It never happened, though.) Capaldi just thought it was the right sounding title for the musical piece Steve had just composed. So it's just a nice sounding ensemble of words. The song is about music industry shattering the dream of integrity and the importance of the Spirit in all things. - Ellie
Low Spark of High Heeled Boys
Low Spark ...

I think the song is (eerily) a premonition of Steve Winwood's own future. He is singing it to himself - his older self - that "bought a new car on the profit he made from your ("your" being his own) dreams". It is a song about (the evils of) bowing to money pressures from a musician who, at the time the song was recorded, was so against commercialism that he had left a band (Blind Faith) that could have made him a millionaire. He had done that twice remember. He left the Spencer Davis Group right when it was on the verge of becoming huge. But then, later in the decade, as he says in his biography he ended up with lots of praise but no money and set about to "maximize" his career. I think the message of hope "the spirit is something that no one destroys" transcends the conflict and points the way to Steve Winwood's own future. (By the way, I think the song is close to the greatist song of all times.) - Virginia
Memories of a Rock 'n' Rolla
When the Eagle Flies
A country house and sixty acres are a heavy load In 1971, SW had purchased a house and 60 acres of farmland in Gloucestershire, in the Cotswolds.
Midland Maniac
Steve Winwood

I have an interview with SW, where he says this is one of his most heartfelt songs -- Ellie
Nowhere Is Their Freedom
Far From Home
All is magic on a mushroom ride / it's so tragic when you realize Reference to the Traffic song "Tragic Magic".
One and Only Man
Refugees of the Heart
We'll live in the country and raise some children of our own ... which is exactly what SW and Genia are doing. They have 4 children. SW has called this song an ode to monogamy.
Pearly Queen
Traffic
I bought a sequined suit from a pearly queen You've no doubt heard of the Cockney's of London? They 'ave that accent, that is unmistakable.. Anyways, where Queen Elizabeth II is Queen of England, the Pearly Queen and Pearly King, are the queen and king of the Cockney people. Both the Pearly King and Queen wear sequined suits as their "Robes Of Monarchy". -- Stuart Reynolds
Put On Your Dancing Shoes
Roll With It
And who's the saint? And where's the clown? The saint-clown juxtaposition.
Reach for the Light
Balto soundtrack
(the chorus) SW's 2 eldest daughters sing on this track.
Rock 'n' Roll Stew
Low Spark ...
Sitting in a transit all night long / Playing clubs and rocking right on A rock star writing about life on the road while in an airport/train station. --Scott

I don't think "Transit" means an airport or train station but instead refers to a Ford Transit - a van sold in the UK and that I remember interviews with Muff Winwood (I think) talking about the SDG going up and down the M1 (a motorway in the UK) in a Transit van. --Ian

Roll With It
Roll With It

On the album Roll With It, this is credited to SW and Will Jennings; on the boxed set The Finer Things, Holland/Dozier/Holland has been added. SW had been sued for plagiarism.
Roll-Right Stones
Shoot Out ...
But the only thing that will sustain is the Roll-Right Stones This is a Bronze Age stone circle in the Cotswolds in Oxfordshire.

On page 184 of The View Over Atlantis John Mitchell says: "Standing stones and old stones in general are often said by people of their locality to move of their own accord down a certain line on particular day of the year, those at Rollright for example being supposed to go down to a neighbouring stream on Christmas Eve." -- Tony Clarke

Shining Song
Roll With It
Baby's eyes ...
Love the night cos that's when I hold you ...
Shining star, shine for all who still cry ...
Each verse is about a female in SW's life - new daughter Mary Claire, wife Eugenia, and mother Lillian who had recently passed on. -- from the bio by Chris Welch
Shouldn't Have Took More Than You Gave
Welcome to the Canteen
You're coming on too strong for me to stay This could be a reference to Dave Mason's situation in Traffic. -- Ellie
Some Kinda Woman
Far From Home
The way you stand there in your clothes / Giving me a look like Edward G Who?? Edward G Robinson?
State of Grace
Far From Home
Some people lives end in ruins, some people's lives never start... There's nothing worse than sorrow of the loved ones you have lost You can't face tomorrow, you can't bear the cross..... A reference to Chris Wood. -- Ellie
Talking Back to the Night
Talking Back to the Night
Talking back to the night / it's how they make it through SW has said in an interview that this is an anti-drug manifesto.
Talking Back to the Night
Talking Back to the Night
An out of work musician plays a solo saxophone, he's a preacher and a teacher... A reference to Chris Wood. -- Ellie
Talking Back to the Night
Talking Back to the Night
A poet in his madness tries to find another line / And he's losing and he's using / And he says he's doing fine A reference to Viv Stanshall. -- Ellie
That's Love One gentle heart easily burned "Gentle Heart" is Jim's nickname. -- Ellie
Tragic Magic
Shoot Out At the Fantasy Factory

In an interview, Chris's wife Jeanette Jacobs "explained the song was about heroin". Chris himself can be heard very clearly on one of the live renditions of the song, at the very end, addressing the audience "Don't you ever touch that stuff Tragic Magic". -- Ellie
Vacant Chair
Steve Winwood
Without belief he knows his empty grief / Is a name for his own fear This is about the death, possibly suicide, of Graham Bond, and SW's spiritual reaction to it. -- from the bio by Chris Welch
Vacant Chair
Steve Winwood
O-ku Nsu-kun No-ko Yoruban for "The dead are weeping for the dead".
Valerie
Talking Back to the Night
Music, high and sweet, then she just blew away This appears to be about Marianne Faithfull. SW was working on her albums just prior to this song being written and has said that it's a very angry song about a girl singer who has descended into the druggy life-style.
Valerie
Talking Back to the Night
So cool, she was like / Jazz on a summer's day This of course could mean exactly what it says, but SW has said that one of his favorite movies when he was a young teen was Jazz On a Summer's Day, released in 1959. -- from the bio by Chris Welch
Wake Me Up On Judgment Day
Back In the High life

SW donated this song to the Earth Love Fund - Rainforest Appeal; it appears on their compilation album Earthrise.
While You See a Chance
Arc of a Diver
While you see a chance, take it The lyricist, Will Jennings, said in an interview that this song was written as a wake-up call to SW himself, that he wanted SW to get out of the funk he was in after the self-titled album stiffed.
Withering Tree
Last Exit
... the touchables who touch liquid skies This song was apparently written for the soundtrack to a movie "The Touchables". See the 1968 NME article (on this site) or Kheft's review for more information.
You'll Keep on Searching
Refugees of the Heart
Laughed with saints and cried with clowns The saint-clown juxtaposition.

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The inspiration for this page came from a post in Volume 95 of the mailing list. Thanks, Andrea!

Page created August 14, 1997.
Last updated July 10, 2002.
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