“Rusty Cage” by Soundgarden

The titular “rusty cage” is akin to a feeling of imprisonment that defines the vocalist’s life. And all lyrics considered, this construct is not meant to be taken literally. For instance, the real-life inspiration behind the lyrics was actually these “very claustrophobic” tours Soundgarden used to go on – consisting of only a van, “one crew guy and a… U-Haul filled with gear” – before they blew up.

But that noted, it does not read as if the oppressor in this song is a situation such as that. Rather it comes off as being very much another person(s), who would also be the addressee. And the respective verses, despite being heavily metaphorical, appear to follow a linear storyline.

The first is indicative of the fact that the vocalist finds himself in some type of torturous situation at the hands of the addressee. In the second, he is basically telling this person that whereas he may be under his power at the moment, eventually he will eventually break free – and violently at that. 

That is also the tone upon which the bridge concludes, while reiterating just how painful this captivity is on the vocalist. And the third verse is apparently set after he has successfully escaped, and subsequently judgment is being rained upon his oppressor(s).

Thesis Sentiment

Indeed the thesis sentiment of this song isn’t that the narrator finds himself in a rusty cage. That’s more like a premise upon which the narrative is set. Rather, it is his resolve to “break” free which stands at the center of the lyrics. And no, by the looks of things it hasn’t happened as of yet. However he does appear quite confident that he will prevail from this situation, kinda like those action movies where the hero has been captured but is still telling the villain how he’s going to kill him once he frees himself.

Lyrics for "Rusty Cage"

Facts about “Rusty Cage”

This is another of Soundgarden’s songs that was written by Chris Cornell (1964-2017) and co-produced by the entire band. And in the latter case, they worked alongside Terry Date.

Chris came up with the lyrics while Soundgarden were on tour in Europe, even though he never bothered to write them down until returning to the States.

This track is from the crew’s third album, which is entitled “Badmotorfinger” (1991). In fact being released by A&M Records during April of 1992, it was the third and final single from that project.

The director of the music video to the first single from “Badmotorfinger”, which is called “Jesus Christ Pose“, also served the same role on this song’s official visual. And his name is Eric Zimmerman.

And just the note, the second single that came from the album was “Outshined” (1991). The entire project, which went double-platinum in the United States, proved to be a notable success for Soundgarden.

And “Rusty Cage” itself was a moderate hit, just barely missing the top 40 of the UK Singles Chart.

The late Johnny Cash took this song to higher heights in terms of its critical reception. That is to say that his cover, which came out in 1996, in addition to being featured on a couple of TV shows and videogames, was nominated for a Grammy Award in 1998.

Chris Cornell and Soundgarden

And concerning said cover, Chris Cornell admitted that he “thought it was a stupid idea” at first. But later when he heard how Rick Rubin, the producer working with Cash, was able to “Rusty Cage”, he “felt so stupid” for not seeing the potential in the first place. But that being said, he was still “knocked over”, as in flattered, that an artist of Johnny Cash’s caliber had decided to cover one of his songs.

The other members of Soundgarden at the time this track was released, besides lead singer Chris, were as follows:

  • guitarist Kim Thayil
  • drummer Matt Cameron
  • bassist Ben Shepherd
Soundgarden's Chris Cornell explains "Rusty Cage"

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