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May I first say, aside from this being one of my top Regina songs of them all, the clapping transition into the second verse area at 1:45, and its juxtaposition with the rest of the song is possibly one of my favorite things in musical history.

That said, I like the line, "If Hans Christian Anderson would have had his way with me, then none of this shit would have ever gone dow-oowwnn.", because it's an amazing way of saying someone was robbed of their childhood. They never even had the chance to be enamored by tales and bedtime stories, such as Anderson's works, because they were robbed of their innocence, and just led to everything else rotten going wrong in their life. Like the line, "My Mama thinks I'm grown but I'm really just little", I see as saying that they never truly emotionally matured. Maybe they were from a broken home, or they were forced to live in an environment that made them grow up too fast. Going back to being robbed of one's innocence, in this case the person's Mother/Father, or just life, treated them with the blunt force and unforgiving rules of adulthood, rather than just letting them grow.

And the "tattooing" parts, I see as their one way of expressing themselve in this secluded world. But sometimes it's not always so refined: "cusses, like cavemen, 'your mama was here' ", a result of their tattered life. And the "Mermaids and Swallows, and oh I do swallow." I see as that inner-creative expression, but even those beautiful artworks of Mermaids and Swallows are then just turned into lewd jokes of "swallowing".

Basically it's just a sorrowful lament for these souls that may have never been given a fair shot in life. With a hopeful light at the end that "someday I will remember" and shed this life.

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Each verse is a new perspective on lifelong inmates!

verse one: assumes that they're praying for a miracle that will destroy the institution retaining them; maybe this includes the social limitations as well. they want what they did to be socially acceptable (?)

verse 2: starts off (according to Mod's interp. of the lyrics, not with a little noise, but with an active, "Aw, there's nothing wrong with them..." this implies someone new is interjcting their opinion, that supposes that a simple, anticlimactic, and/or understated solution is realistic and rational. This solution is unique in that it is unconcerned with the feelings/emotional state of the inmates. Instead, their hopes and prayers can be ignored, as long as enough manpower and firearms are employed. they are likened to cavemen (not the most flattering/respectful comparison).

verse three: expresses distinctly the opposite focus from V2: no rational action is mentioned. instead, it focuses on their wants and, again, their dreams (as in V1). this time, the prisoners care nothing for blending with society. they instead feel deep hate for that society.

Verse 4: the "interlude" is categorized as the beginning of verse 4, according to Mod. so the new narrarator is clapping their hands and shouting "ah-ah-ah-ah-ah" "or "Uh-uh, uh-uh!"). that they want attention. i picture the narators of verses 1-3 at a table, discussing the psychology of inmates, when all of a sudden, someone goes, "ah-ah ah-ah ah" a noise of disagreement, and being followed by a reprimand. the camera shifts to show nararator 4 seated in the corner; someone not allowed into the doscussion, someone excluded and ignored. Based on the dialogue that follows, it can be assumed that the speaker is an inmate sharing their opinion on the matter.

"If Hans Christian Andersen could've had his way with me

Then none of this s*** would have ever gone down"

weird lines, considering the fact that the cussing, caveman-esque criminal /knows who hans christian andersen is/. I agree with sgtcampsalot: it's a great way to illustrate the lack of a happy childhood. But this line doesn't illustrate that the prisoner was neglected. it implies the opposite: they were taken care of (at least well-read, if not nurtured and read the stories; how else do you learn of HCA?). Note the use of the word "could've"... there are two possibilities: the inmate is cocky, saying "yeah, maybe if you coulda controlled me, i would have acted how you wanted. but i do what i want". OR 2: the prisoner views their illegal behavior as inevitable. "if society had been able to contain me, then i wouldn't be here. but what happened happened, and that's just the way it is."

notice that the illegal behavior "went down". it was not committed, it's viewed like some unstoppable force. the inmate sees no personal fault or responsibility. in the prisoner's eyes, this was an occurance, not an action.

"in my cell


i do swallow"

i like sgtcamp's interpretation of these lines, and have nothing to add. here, we're focusing on inmate behavior, rather than their psychology and desires. frankly, i don't know why exactly this is significant Razzer

"my momma thinks i'm grown, but i'm really just little and someday i will remember"


what i take from this is that this song makes inmates out to be some hardcore troublemakers who are not to be held accountable for their actions.

it's late, this is crazy long, so i'm stopping.

I feel like a spammer in this section. Frowner

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i was in orange county NY jail last year

for sixty days. i know all of the words

and notes to the song. often i had to make

appoximately 2500 4" pancakes on a grill

from around 4 in the morning till around

2 in the afternoon, for the next mornings

breakfast. many times i stood at that grill

for hours, and would sing prisoners, and

tears would come to my eyes. i always waited

for one of my homies to walk over and see me

cryin', but no one ever did. it was a fun kitchen, they made me go into the trustees dorm about halfway through the sentence, and it made

life in jail much more tolerable, having to work hard all day. plus i've worked in food

a lot in my life, i grew up working in food,

a big family catering hall in orange county.

a few of the guys had little peeves about the food, about making sure it's right, wearing gloves, being caring about the poplulace we were serving. i'd joke with them, hey, what's the big deal, it's for prisoners. today at work, i thought about the song, which in turn made me think about the jerk by steve martin, a favorite movie of mine, where he gets sued, and karl reiner plays the crosseyed judge, who

chastises, 'mr johnson marketed a product without even testing it on prisoners!'

paraphrasing anyway. yeah, mary ann meets the gravediggers, it's flat out quintessential.

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