“The Bartender and the Thief” by Stereophonics

The lyrics of “The Bartender and the Thief”, which aren’t that easy to totally make sense out of, are indeed centered on a bartender and thief. Most simply explained, the two of them are depicted as “lovers” who run scams together. According to a couple of unverified quotes made by Kelly Jones, the inspiration behind this piece came from his observations of a particular bar he once came across in New Zealand, one that really fascinated him due to the way patrons were behaving.

So with that in mind, the first verse can be interpreted as pointing to the idea of the bartender in the narrative getting customers “sussed… out” or, more simply inferred, thoroughly boozed. Then after “he calls her up”, i.e. the thief, who “comes and hustles” said patrons when they’re most vulnerable, i.e. in an inebriated state.

There were also lesbians which Kelly observed at the aforementioned establishment. And as shown in the second verse, the bartender is so enraptured by them, i.e. ‘kissing and groping’ and talking dirty, that he’s not able to call the thief to come in and exploit them.

But that said, he and his lover are shown to be an unscrupulous pair, with their crime-ridden relationship actually beginning in a church. In fact the story concludes with them using their ill-gotten gains to get married “at the altar” and then proceed to “set up a bar” of their own in the name of ‘robbing all the locals’.

Takeaway

So basically, what it looks like we’re met with here is Kelly using a real-life location as inspiration to relay a fictional tale. In other words, there doesn’t seem to be any type of hidden meaning or lesson to this song, though it is interesting how the church plays a recurring role in this story which is ultimately about thievery.  But in any event, the featured narrative comes off as one that is primarily meant to entertain.

"The Bartender and the Thief" Lyrics

Date of Release of “The Bartender and the Thief”

“The Bartender and the Thief” is one of five singles issued from Stereophonics’ second studio offering, “Performance and Cocktails”.

The track was commercially released on November 9 of 1998. It was issued, through V2 Records, as the first single of the above-mentioned album. And to note, this tune is the second song on the tracklist of its album.

This single is one of Stereophonics’ most-performed songs at live shows. It enjoyed massive success in the United Kingdom, peaking at number 3 on the region’s main singles chart.

Impressive sales earned this tune a Silver certification from the BPI in the United Kingdom.  

Credits

Three songwriters, including Kelly Jones, were involved in composing “The Bartender and the Thief”. The track’s other two writers are:

  • Stuart Cable
  • Richard Jones

The song’s production has been credited to Bird & Bush, a production duo from New Zealand.

The Bartender and the Thief

Stereophonics’ “Performance and Cocktails” Album

This record was launched on March 8 of 1999, and its release was made possible by V2 Records. The album follows Stereophonics’ debut project “Word Gets Around”, which dropped two years earlier.

The album’s four other singles were all issued during 1999. “Just Looking” is its second single, and this track was released on 22 February. The third single, “Pick a Part That’s New”, dropped on May 3.

“I Wouldn’t Believe Your Radio” and “Hurry Up and Wait” are the fourth and fifth singles of this project. They were issued on August 23 and November 3, respectively.

“Performance and Cocktails” has proven to be one of the group’s most successful projects, especially the UK, where it became the number 1 album on the region’s official albums chart.

In addition, the record’s strong sales assured it of a 6x Platinum certification from the British Phonographic Industry. On top of that, this project was named “Best Album” at 1999’s Kerrang! Awards.

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