Lived in Bars by Cat Power Lyrics Meaning – Unraveling the Anthems of Transience

You can view the lyrics, alternate interprations and sheet music for Cat Power's Lived in Bars at
Article Contents:
  1. Music Video
  2. Lyrics
  3. Song Meaning


We’ve lived in bars
And danced on the tables
Hotels, trains and ships that sail
We swim with sharks
And fly with aeroplanes in the air

Send in the trumpets
The marching wheelchairs
Open the blankets and give them some air
Swords and arches, bones and cement
The light and the dark of the innocence of men

We know your house so very well
And we will wake you once we’ve walked up all your stairs

There’s nothing like living in a bottle
And nothing like ending it all for the world
We’re so glad you have come back
Every living lion will lay in your lap

The kid has a homecoming! The champion, the whores!
Who’s gonna play drums, guitar or organ with chorus
As far as we’ve walked from both of ends of the sand
Never have we caught a glimpse of this man

We know your house so very well
And we will bust down your door if you’re not there

We’ve lived in bars
And danced on tables
Hotels, trains and ships that sail
We swim with sharks
And fly with aeroplanes out of here

Out of here
Out of here
Out of here
Out of here

Full Lyrics

In the haunting tune ‘Lived in Bars’ by Cat Power, also known as Chan Marshall, there is a fusion of wistfulness and exuberance that offers a complex view into the life of a modern vagabond. The song, a standout track from her 2006 album ‘The Greatest’, resonates with listeners through its melodic sway and captivating storytelling, inviting a deep dive into the innards of its meaning and relatability.

Marshall’s lyrics are enigmatic, painting a picture of a life spent in transitory spaces – bars, hotels, trains, and even the thrilling depths of the ocean or the skies above. It speaks to a lifestyle that diverges from the traditional trajectory, blending the glamorous with the gritty in a way that challenges listeners to reinterpret their own visions of freedom and escapism.

The Spirit of the Wanderer: Embracing Transient Pleasures

The opening lines conjure the spirit of itinerancy, of reveling in the impermanence that fixtures like bars and traveling convey. ‘Dancing on the tables’ isn’t just about literally letting loose, but about embracing those fleeting moments of joy and connection found in life’s in-between places. The song captures that thrill of spontaneity and the richness that comes with experiencing life unchained by typical societal norms.

The connotation of swimming with sharks and flying with airplanes adds layers to these experiences. It’s not just the wanderlust but also the danger and bravery that come with a life spent darting from one adventure to another – a nomadic existence that reckons with risk as much as reward.

Marching Wheelchairs and Trumpets: A Celebration of Contrasts

The imagery of ‘marching wheelchairs’ and ‘swords and arches’ in the second verse presents a striking juxtaposition – parading the infirm alongside symbols of warfare and triumph. It suggests a celebration of life in all its iterations, acknowledging the complexities and the contrasts that define humanity. There is a revelry in the acknowledgment that each person, regardless of situation or ability, contributes to the larger tapestry of mankind’s story.

This verse can also be interpreted as a metaphor for the collective experiences and the colorful characters one encounters when living a life less ordinary. The ‘light and the dark of the innocence of men’ seems to recognize that within each meeting and parting, there’s an exchange of innate goodness and inherent vice, questioning the dualities we navigate in social bonds.

The Illusion of Permanence in ‘Your House’

The recurring lines that reference ‘knowing your house so very well’ could symbolize the familiarity with the transient places the narrator occupies. In deeper terms, this could be an allusion to the universal human experience – how we all ‘live in bars’ metaphorically, moving through different phases, relationships, and understandings of the world.

The promise to ‘wake you’ and ‘bust down your door’ reinforces an inevitable rupture or awakening. It might suggest the intervention necessary when one becomes too comfortable in stagnation or too far removed from the living world – a world bustling with living lions ready to remind us of the wildness we’re a part of.

Deciphering the Hidden Meaning Behind the Celebration

At first glance, the lines celebrating the homecoming with ‘the kid,’ ‘the champion,’ and ‘the whores’ read like a vibrant cast from a raucous party scene. But there’s more here – it’s also a tongue-in-cheek nod to the diversity of life and the acceptance of all forms of victory and vice. The refusal to catch a glimpse of ‘this man’ may refer to the elusive search for self or the Divine – the ultimate essence that is sought but never fully seen or understood.

The characters might also represent facets of the self, the inner child, the winner, and the sinner that all play their parts in the grand composition of one’s identity. The assertion to play ‘drums, guitar, or organ with chorus’ points to the different roles we take up, contributing to the harmony or chaos of our world.

Memorable Lines that Echo the Song’s Core

Amid the vivid verses, ‘There’s nothing like living in a bottle / And nothing like ending it all for the world’ are lines that encapsulate the song’s essence – that to live avidly, openly, vulnerably, is perhaps the most remarkable way to exist. It expresses a desire to live authentically and to share that authenticity with others, no matter the cost.

Similarly, the repetition of ‘Out of here’ at the song’s close serves as a potent refrain, reverberating with the urgency and restlessness of a life in motion. It is a declaration of departure, but more so an endless yearning for the next horizon. ‘Lived in Bars’ is not just a song, it is an anthem for those whose hearts beat to the rhythm of the road less traveled, and whose spirits refuse to be caged.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may also like...