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Rock Island

© Ian Anderson 1989


Kissing Willie

Breaking hearts in a market town. She eats filet of sole
and washes it down with sparkling wine.
Nice girl, but a bad girl's better. Qualifies in both ways
to my mind. But now she's kissing Willie.

She shows a leg -- shows it damn well. Knows how to drive a man
right back to being a child.
Well, she's a -- nice girl, but her bad girl's better. I can read
it in her cheating eyes and know that in a while -- Well,
she'll be kissing Willie. (My best friend, Willie.)

Willie stands and Willie falls. Willie bangs his head
behind grey factory walls.
She's a -- nice girl, but her bad girl's better. Me and Willie
just can't help come, when she calls.
Now she's kissing Willie. (My best friend, Willie.)



The Rattlesnake Trail

Got a hair shirt round my shoulder. Got a cold stew in my spoon.
And I'm falling on my head, lifting feet of lead --
now it's got me baying at the moon.
Well, there's a race on for tomorrow. I'm stretching out
for what might have been.
Going to come out from the night, got my second sight --
play rough -- you know what I mean.
I'm going for the kill. I'm going tooth and nail
up that dusty hill -- on the rattlesnake trail.

Got the law laid down to the left of me. Got the real world to the right.
Heading up through the middle with the cat and my fiddle --
yeah, looking for a fight.
Going to ride hard in bandit country- on the blind side of the bend.
Keep my nose to the wind while the rabbit's skinned --
bed down at the journey's end.
I'm going for the kill. I'm going tooth and nail
up that dusty hill -- on the rattlesnake trail.

The rattlesnake trail.
I'm going on the rattlesnake trail.

Going to be with wolves in winter -- run in angry packs by day.
But when you give the dog a bone, he has to be alone --
growl, keep the other dogs away.
See that thin moon on the mountain. See that cold star in the sky.
Going to bring them down -- shake them to the ground --
put that apple in the pie.
I'm going for the kill. I'm going tooth and nail
up that dusty hill -- on the rattlesnake trail.



Ears Of Tin

In the late hours of a sunset rendezvous --
chill breeze against tide, that carries me from you.
Got a job in a southern city -- got some lead-free in my tank.
Now I must whisper goodbye -- I'm bound for the mainland.

Island in the city, Cut by a cold sea.
People moving on an ocean. Groundswell of humanity.

Now the sum breaks through rain as I climb Glen Shiel
on the trail of those old cattlemen who drove their bargain south again.
And in the eyes of those five sisters of Kintail
there's a wink of seduction from the mainland.

Island in the city. Cut by a cold sea.
People moving on an ocean. Groundswell of humanity.
Storm-lashed on the high-rise -- their words are spray to the wind.
Blown like silent laughter. Falling on ears of tin.

Take my heart and take my brawn.
Take by stealth or take by storm --
set my brain to "cruise."
I can see the glow of the suburb lights.
I'm fresh from the out-world --
singing the mainland blues.

There was a girl where I came from.
Seems a long time, long time gone by.
Wears the west wind in her hair.
She calls from the hill -- yeah, she calls
in my mainland blues.

There's a coast road that winds to heaven's door
where a fat ferry floats on muted diesel roar.
And there's a light on the hillside -- and there's a flame in her
eyes but how cold the lights burn on the mainland.

Island in the city. Cut by a cold sea.
People moving on an ocean. Groundswell of humanity.
Storm-lashed on the high-rise. Their words are spray to the wind.
Blown like silent laughter and falling on ears of tin.
in my mainland blues.



Undressed To Kill

Working on the late shift -- first drink of the day.
Pull a chair up to the table, have to look the other way.
What kind of place am I in? And who's this over here?
Shaking through the silver bubbles climbing through my beer.
Won't let it move me, but I can't sit still.
Could you meet the eyes of a working girl
undressed to kill?

Staring through the smoke haze -- plaid shirts in the night.
Well, I'm making sure that everything is zipped up tight.
Who's that jumping on the table? Putting tonic in my gin?
Brushing silken dollars on her cold white skin.
Won't let it move me, but I can't sit still.
Could you meet the eyes of a working girl
undressed to kill?

She could have been sweet seventeen. There again, well, so could I.
There was a tear drop sparkle on the inside of her thigh.
Going to fetch myself a cold beer. I've got to get a grip.
Find some place to touch down. Find a landing strip.
Won't let it move me, but I can't sit still.
Can you meet the eyes of a working girl
all undressed to kill?

Last one out is a cold duck. Padding down the road.
I wait outside, my motor running -- got a warm dream to unload.
Can I face her in the sunshine? In he harsh real light of day?
She walks out with recognition in her eyes -- I look away.
Won't let it move me, but I can't sit still.
Couldn't meet the eyes of a working girl
undressed to kill.



Rock Island

Savage night on a misty island. Lights wink out on the canyon walls.
Two old boys in a stolen racer. Black rubber contrails in
the unwashed halls.
And all roads out of here, seem to lead right back to the
Rock Island.

I've gone back to Paris, London, and even riding on a
jumbo to Bombay.
The long haul back holds faint attraction, but the people
here know they're O.K.
See the girl following the red balloon: walking all alone
on her Rock Island.

Doesn't everyone have their own Rock Island? Their own little
patch of sand?
Where the slow waves crawl and your angels fall and you find
you can hardly stand.
And just as you're drowning, well, the tide goes down.
And you're back on your Rock Island.

Hey there girlie with the torn dress, shaking: who was it
toughed you? Who was it ruined your day?
Whose footprint calling card? And what they want, stepping
on your beach anyway?
I'll be your life raft out of here, but you'd only drift right
back to your Rock Island.

Hey, boy with the personal stereo: nothing 'tween the ears
but that hard rock sound.
Playing to your empty room, empty guitar tune, No use waiting
for that C.B.S. to come around.
'Cos all roads out of here, seem to lead right back to the
Rock Island.



Heavy Water

I walked out in the city night,
A burning in my eyes, like it was broad daylight.
And it was hot, down there in the crowd.
The stars went out behind a thunder cloud.
Chatter in the air, like a telegraph line.
Big drops hissing on the neon sign.
Thumping in my heart, and it's hurting me to see
smokestack blowing, now they're pouring
heavy water on me.

She was a southern girl. We stood man to man.
I move like a stranger in a strange land.
She was a round hole, I was a square peg.
I watched the little black specks running down her leg.
Didn't seem to mind that dirty rain coming down --
shirt hanging open. She was wet and brown.
Thumping in my heart, and it's hurting me to see
smokestack blowing, bow they're pouring
heavy water on me.

What goes up has to fall back down.
It's no night to be out dancing in a party town
when it runs hot and it runs so wide --
running in the street like a thin black tide.
Chatter in the air, like a telegraph line.
Big drops hissing on the neon sign.
Thumping in my heart, and it's hurting me to see
smokestack blowing, now they're pouring
heavy water on me.



Another Christmas Song

Hope everybody's ringing on their own bell, this fine morning.
Hope everyone's connected to that long distance phone.
Old man, he's a mountain.
Old man, he's an island.
Old man he's a walking says
"I'm going to call, call all my children home."

Hope everybody's dancing to their own drum, this fine morning --
the beat of distant Africa or a Polish factory town.
Old man, he's calling for his supper.
Calling for his whisky.
Calling for his sons and daughters, yeah --
calling all his children round.

Sharp ears are tuned to the drones and chanter's warning.
Mist blowing round some headland, somewhere in your memory.
Everyone is from somewhere --
even if you've never been there.
So take a minute to remember the part of you
that might be the old man calling me.

How many wars you fighting out there, this fine winter's morning?
Maybe there's always time for another Christmas song.
Old man is asleep now.
Got appointments to keep now.
Dreaming of his sons and daughters, and proving --
proving that the blood is strong.



The Whaler's Dues

Money speaks. Soft hearts lose. The truth only whispers.
It's the whaler's dues.

I've been running on diesel. Been running on coal.
Running on borrowed time, if truth's to be told.
Two whales in the ocean, cruising the night
search for each other before we turn out their light.

Been accused of deep murder on the North Atlantic swell
but I have three hungry children and a young wife as well.
And behind stand generations of hard hunting men
who raised a glass to the living, and went killing again.
Are you with me?

Money speaks, soft hearts lose. The truth only whispers.
Now pay the whaler's dues.
Can you forgive me?

Now I'm old and I sit land-locked in a back-country jail
to reflect on all of my sins and the death of the whale.
Send me back down the ages. Put me to sea once again
when the oceans were full -- yes, and men would be men.
Can you forgive me?



Big Riff and Mando

Marty loved the sound of the stolen mandolin.
Somebody took it on a dare in the night-time.
Run up to the radio, calling out to the wind.
Now, bring it, bring it back at least an hour before flight time.
It was a souvenir, but it was a right arm missing.
Swap a woodwork rhythm for a humbucking top line.

Big Riff, rough boy, wants to be a singer in a band.
A little slow in the brain box, but he had a quick right hand.
Run left, run right -- everywhere he look --
nobody watching, no, but that was all he took last night.

Running on the power of a stolen mandolin.
Steal a little inspiration. Steal a little muscle.
Will he wake in the morning, wondering -- was it really worth it?
So make a little deal, Yeah, make a little hustle.

Ringing on the radio -- got a proposition for those English boys.
I'll make the sing-song -- you can make the background noise.
One, two, three, four -- one bar and in.
Give you back the mando, if you'll let this singer sing tonight.

Marty loved the sound of the stolen mandolin.
Big Riff took it on a dare in the night-time.
Now it's four o'clock, and we're waiting at the sound-check.
Looking for a face staring in from the sunshine.
We got two strong lawmen from the sheriff's office.
They're going to lift Big Riff before he plays the first line.

Big Riff, rough boy, wants to be a singer in a band.
Yeah, help him on the stage now, put the microphone in his hand.
Think hard. Think right -- nothing in his mind --
So Riff did a runner, but he left the mandolin behind.



Strange Avenues

Strange avenues where you lose all sense of direction
and everywhere is Main Street in the winter sun.
The wino sleeps -- cold coat lined with he money section.
Looking like a a record cover from 1971.

And here an I -- warm feet and the limo waiting.
Shall I make us both feel good? And would a dollar do?
But in your streets, I have no credit rating
and it might not take a lot to be alone just like you.

Heading up and out now, from your rock island.
Really good to have had you here with me.
And somewhere in the crowd I think I hear a young girl whisper
"Are you ever lonely, just like me?"






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