“Trainwreck 1979” by Death From Above 1979

“Trainwreck 1979” is both factual and symbolic at the same time. Death from Above frontman Sebastian Grainger was in fact “born… in a train wreck”.  Or more specifically he was born in the city of Mississauga, which is located in Ontario, during the same year that said locality witnessed a sizable ecological catastrophe via a train wreck. 

You can view the lyrics, alternate interprations and sheet music for Death From Above 1979's Trainwreck 1979 at Lyrics.org.

But concerning the ‘heart beating out of his chest’ and what have you, that language is rather metaphorical. And possibly what he is partially putting forth in the second verse is this. No, he clearly wouldn’t remember the aforementioned disaster himself, but he did grow up being influenced by it, i.e. constantly hearing about the incident. 

And resultantly he has become more sensitive to the suffering of others. That is why for instance he notices “every cross on the roadside”, as such ornaments are to memorialize individuals who have died in car accidents. But such a sentiment is more like the subtheme of the track.

“Train Wreck”

Meanwhile the bridge is based on the titular “train wreck”, which actually occurred on 10 November 1979 – or as the vocalist puts it “in 11, ‘79”. He notes that it occurred “while the immigrants slept”. 

We don’t know exactly what “immigrants” Sebastian is referring to. For despite Mississauga housing a vast number of nationalities, it is predominantly English. But perhaps he means all of such peoples, who collectively make up half the population, in total. And yes, the wreck did occur while most of the residents would have likely been sleeping, at 11:53 in the night.

And to make the rest of a long story short, the train was carrying hazardous chemicals, which the vocalist refers to as “a poison cloud”. This resulted in Mississauga’s mayor, Hazel McCallion, promptly evacuating the area. In all, as implied by the song, some 200,000 people were temporarily relocated. 

Indeed this incident entered history as the biggest non-war related evacuation exercise every conducted in North America. But also as detailed in the song, “no one died”. And also as noted earlier, these are not facts and symbols which Sebastian Grainger is relaying from memory as, being born in April of 1979, he would have only been about six months’ old at the time.

The Mississauga Train Disaster

But all of that noted, in the grand scheme of the song he is using the 1979 Mississauga train derailment as a point of context. Relatedly in fact in the third verse, he uses a movie-based, train-related allegory of being “tied to the track” – i.e. in some type of serious, imminent peril. 

However, unlike a movie, “there’s no hero” to save him or “villain” to blame the situation on.  Rather, this is a situation which the vocalist has put himself into. And it has something to do with him “never [being] satisfied”. Indeed as the chorus relays, he can never “get enough”.

In Conclusion

So  all lyrics considered, we can conclude that the vocalist is also referring to himself as a “trainwreck”. He appears to be a drifter or someone of the sort who is on a dangerous path. If you go into this song with the 1979 Mississauga train derailment in mind, you may miss the point. And why? That incident, despite being heavily referenced, doesn’t seem to have anything to do with the vocalist’s personal situation, which is actually the predominant subject matter of the song, besides them sharing a common nickname, if you will. 

In fact in the overall context of the narrative, one may even say the bridge is misleading considering that it doesn’t directly appear to have anything to do with the rest of the track. But then again, who knows. For example considering that the literal train wreck is part of the vocalist’s personal history, perhaps what he is implying is that incident having something to do with his current modus operandi.

So conclusively, we will say this song is dual-themed on. On one hand it details an actual train wreck that transpired. And on another, it depicts the vocalist as a “trainwreck”, i.e. living a wild life that is headed down a metaphorically-similar path of destruction.

Lyrics for "Trainwreck 1979"

“Trainwreck 1979” Facts

Artist(s): Death from Above 1979
Writing: Jesse F. Keeler wrote this with Sebastian Grainger
Production: Dave Sardy
Release: July 8 of 2014
Album/EP: “The Physical World”

Was ” Trainwreck 1979” a single release?

 Yes. Single No.1 from the band’s album of 2014, ” The Physical World”.


  • Evan Patterson – 2015
  • Ericplaysbass – 2014
Sebastien Grainger explains "Trainwreck 1979"

“The Physical World” Album

“Trainwreck 1979” was the seventh track on from a 2014 Death from Above album entitled The Physical World.

The album was the group’s second studio album, and it was released on September 9, 2014, through their label, Last Gang Records. Dave Sardy produced all the songs on the album.

The album was the first release from the group after they had split up in 2006. It combined the genres of alternative rock, dance-punk, and noise rock.

When taken as a whole, the group has explained that songs on the album were composed purposely to act as anthems to navigate lost innocence on subjects such as adolescence and sexual politics. The songs were also to help society to stay on the right path, as it is permanently drifting into the digital era and losing contact with the physical world.

Album’s Success

The album reached number 3 on Canada’s Billboard’s Album chart. It also hit number 28 on U.S.A’s Billboard 200 chart. In addition, it received the 2015 Rock Album of the Year award at the Juno Awards. It is also one of the most nominated albums at the 2015 Polaris Music Prize ceremony. 

"Trainwreck 1979"

The Mississauga Miracle

Mississauga, a city in Ontario, Canada, became an emergency safety guide model for several cities following the 1979 train derailment incident.

On November 10th, 1979, a train moving from Windsor, Ontario ran off its trails almost closely into the intersection between Dundas street in Mississauga and the Mavis Road.

The cargo train carried dangerous goods and chemicals such as propane, toluene, caustic soda, styrene, and chlorine which when exposed to the air could cause lethal damage to human health.

The derailment was caused by the heat buildup from the train’s axle overheating on a piece of the railway’s rolling stock making it lose total balance.

A blowout with the tankers containing the goods caused a spill of the chemicals into the air. The spill resulted in an explosion that was seen about 60 miles (100 km) away.

The two crew members managed the crisis by detaching the front part of the train from its track, away from danger. The spill of the gases through the suburb raised concerns for the residents of Mississauga. An immediate evacuation of 200,000 residents was conducted.

Though the explosion was described as the greatest in the area until the 2008 Sunrise Propane blast, no single death or health complications were reported. Residents returned safely to their homes on November 16, 1979.




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