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Casey's last ride - meaning?

DigiTrad:
HELP ME MAKE IT THRU THE NIGHT
JAN, CAROL AND WARREN
ME AND BOBBY MCGEE


Related threads:
Lyr Add: The Circle (Kris Kristofferson) (11)
Bobbie McGee's 'harpoon' (119)
Lyr/Chords Req: Casey's Last Ride (Kristofferson) (10)
Help: Me and Bobby McGee (40)
Add: Here Comes that Rainbow Again (Kristofferson) (8)
Lyr Req: Pilgrim (Chapter 33) (Kris Kristofferson) (12)
Lyr Req: Sunday Morning Coming Down (Kristofferson (7)
Kris Kristofferson's new CD (6)
Lyr Add: To Beat the Devil (Kris Kristofferson) (1)
Kris Kristofferson & 'the lady' (9)
Lyr/Chords Req: Me and Bobby McGee (12)
Kris Kristofferson ripped me off (12)
(origins) Origin: For the Good Times (Kristofferson) (14)
Kris Kristofferson-waitress give hobo change (2)


Dave the Gnome 26 May 11 - 03:53 PM
GUEST,Tinker from Chicago 26 May 11 - 05:25 PM
Joe Offer 26 May 11 - 05:55 PM
Joe Offer 26 May 11 - 06:04 PM
Arkie 26 May 11 - 07:44 PM
Leadfingers 26 May 11 - 08:45 PM
Arkie 26 May 11 - 08:55 PM
Joe Offer 27 May 11 - 01:04 AM
Dave the Gnome 27 May 11 - 01:34 AM
breezy 27 May 11 - 09:46 AM
pdq 27 May 11 - 09:56 AM
Phil Edwards 27 May 11 - 10:09 AM
Dave the Gnome 27 May 11 - 12:46 PM
G-Force 27 May 11 - 12:50 PM
GUEST,BigDaddy 27 May 11 - 01:18 PM
GUEST,Songbob 27 May 11 - 01:35 PM
McGrath of Harlow 27 May 11 - 01:40 PM
GUEST,BigDaddy 27 May 11 - 01:43 PM
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McGrath of Harlow 27 May 11 - 02:25 PM
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Joe Offer 27 May 11 - 06:04 PM
GUEST,Alan Whittle 27 May 11 - 08:38 PM
Dave the Gnome 28 May 11 - 04:38 AM
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blinddrunkal 28 May 11 - 08:12 AM
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Susanne (skw) 28 May 11 - 07:32 PM
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Subject: Casey's last ride - meaning?
From: Dave the Gnome
Date: 26 May 11 - 03:53 PM

Only recently come across this haunting song on a recent Johnny Silvo album. I believe it was written by Kris Kristofferson and it sens shivers up and down me - but I am not quite sure why! It is certainly an eerie interplay between Casey's morose bits and the womans part but I am not at all sure I undertsnad what it is about.

Does anyone know?

Cheers

DtG

(Who is sure someone will make it up if no-one knows...)


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Subject: RE: Casey's last ride - meaning?
From: GUEST,Tinker from Chicago
Date: 26 May 11 - 05:25 PM

I've sung this song for many years because it speaks to me, in volumes. The man is a drudge, someone who hates his job dearly but can't quit, even though it has robbed him of his soul. He hates his home life, too ("who reach for anything they can to keep from going home") and apparently has gone from despair to despondency. So in one last effort to feel worth something, anything, he re-visits an old flame. Speaking of her own life she says "Casey, it's a shame to be alone," but he is so much more alone than she is, while surrounded by co-workers and family. All in all, a sad portrait.


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Subject: ADD: Casey's Last Ride (Kris Kristofferson)
From: Joe Offer
Date: 26 May 11 - 05:55 PM

For the record, here are the lyrics:

CASEY'S LAST RIDE
(Kris Kristofferson)

Casey joins the hollow sound of silent people walking down
The stairway to the subway in the shadows down below
Following their footsteps through the neon-darkened corridors
Of silent desperation never speaking to a soul

The poison air he's breathing has the dirty smell of dying
Cause it's never seen the sunshine and it's never felt the rain
But Casey minds the arrows and ignores the fatal echoes
Of the clicking of the turnstyle and the rattle of his chain

    Oh, she said, Casey it's been so long since I've seen you
    Here, she said, just a kiss to make a body smile
    See, she said, I put on new stockings just to please you
    Lord, she said, Casey can you only stay a while

Casey leaves the underground and stops inside the Golden Crown
For something wet to wipe away the chill that's on his bones
Seeing his reflection in the lives of all the lonely men
Who reach for anything they can to keep from going home

Standing in the corner Casey drinks his pint of bitter
Never glancing in the mirror at the people passing by
And he stumbles as he's leavin' and he wonders if the reason
Is the beer that's in his belly or the tear that's in his eye

    Oh, she said, I suppose you seldom think about me
    Now, she said, now that you've a family of your own
    Still, she said, it's so blessed good to feel your body
    Lord, she said, Casey it's a shame to be alone

Emmylou Harris sings the following at the end of the song, but Kristofferson does not
    Oh, she said, Casey it's been so long since I've seen you
    Here, she said, just a kiss to make a body smile
    See, she said, I put on new stockings just to please you
    Oh, she said, Casey can you only stay a while

Words and Music by Kris Kristofferson

source: http://www.sing365.com/music/lyric.nsf/Casey-s-Last-Ride-lyrics-John-Denver/4203B5BBE508CC08482568850008042D

I made a few corrections after listening to the Emmylou Harris and Kris Kristofferson recordings


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Subject: RE: Casey's last ride - meaning?
From: Joe Offer
Date: 26 May 11 - 06:04 PM

Tinker, I think you take too dark a view of the song, although I think your perspective is valid. I think all of us have had loves that didn't work out for one reason or another, but we're still plagued by dreams of that lover and how it could have been - even if we've gone on to a happy life with somebody else.

I've sometimes wondered how it would have been if things had worked out with Emmylou and me. Her recording of this song, is one of the sexiest recordings I've ever heard.

-Joe-


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Subject: RE: Casey's last ride - meaning?
From: Arkie
Date: 26 May 11 - 07:44 PM

I've been intrigued by this song since discovering it in a Kristofferson song book years ago. Emmylou's version is a fine interpretation but I also like versions by Dorothy Hamm and June Tabor. Tabor does a very sultry take on the song. Do not care for the Everly's interpretation and Denver's is a little too sweet. Johnny Cash is about what one would expect from him. Dorothy Hamm's version is my personal favorite.

Dave, thanks for bringing this up.


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Subject: RE: Casey's last ride - meaning?
From: Leadfingers
Date: 26 May 11 - 08:45 PM

Perhaps I just dont care about 'interpreting' songs = I just sing it and enjoy the noise it makes !!


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Subject: RE: Casey's last ride - meaning?
From: Arkie
Date: 26 May 11 - 08:55 PM

The thing about songs is that some people like the words, some like the melody, some like the package, some like the message, some like the way a particular singer does the song some don't like all of the above.


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Subject: RE: Casey's last ride - meaning?
From: Joe Offer
Date: 27 May 11 - 01:04 AM

...and   I   like Emmylou Harris....


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Subject: RE: Casey's last ride - meaning?
From: Dave the Gnome
Date: 27 May 11 - 01:34 AM

I don't really want to 'interpret' the song Terry - Just understand it! :-) I think you would enjoy Johnny's version of it and in case I didn't say on the other thread - he sends his regards:-)

I think Tinkers explanation could be pretty close but maybe if I heard Emmylou's version I may see it as lighter - Both versions I have heard are men singing. Maybe a woman would concentrate more on the ex-lovers joy of seeing him?

Thanks all anyway - and not a bit of it made up!

DtG


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Subject: RE: Casey's last ride - meaning?
From: breezy
Date: 27 May 11 - 09:46 AM

I've only heard K K sing it and was intrigued from the outset.
   
At one time I thought he had set it in London with the mention of the Golden Crown as pubs are part of our culture and it was nearby to Victoria Station, yeah I know but I was younger then and didnt think there were pubs anywhere else

Tinker: I concur whole heartedly with your interpretation and as a performer its essential to be able to sing this song with from the soul especially if one can empathize with the scenario .

Leadfingers maybe missing the point.

I did buy an early E Harris album but she wasnt singing the kind of songs I was looking for.

Thanks Joe for posting the words, I had transcribed them into one of my songbooks back in the late 60s and was pleasantly surprised by how accurately I had done it , having become an expert in lifting a stylus on and off the vinyl.


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Subject: RE: Casey's last ride - meaning?
From: pdq
Date: 27 May 11 - 09:56 AM

"...I thought he had set it in London with the mention of the Golden Crown..."

Surly this song is set in England, since it mentions The Underground, the British version of our subway. Paul Simon, Roger Miller, Rod McKuen and may other Yanks wrote songs about England after visiting the place. The best songs on the Grateful Dead's "American Beauty" album were written in a London hotel room by Robert Hunter while he was vacationing.


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Subject: RE: Casey's last ride - meaning?
From: Phil Edwards
Date: 27 May 11 - 10:09 AM

I believe it was a favourite of Capstick's - it's on Does a Turn. It's the track before "The Scarecrow", so I'm afraid what it means to me is "only a couple of minutes before he does something decent". Courses, horses.


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Subject: RE: Casey's last ride - meaning?
From: Dave the Gnome
Date: 27 May 11 - 12:46 PM

One bit that still puzzles me even with the explanations above. Why is it Casey's last ride? Is it his last ride as in he knows he is done for in some way? Last as in he isn't going to do it again? I presume the ride is the ride on the underground - or is it? Is he depressed because he knows he is leaving her or becuase he is going home?

All academic realy I suppose - superb song anyway:-)

DtG


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Subject: RE: Casey's last ride - meaning?
From: G-Force
Date: 27 May 11 - 12:50 PM

I love songs like this, which don't spell everything out to the Nth degree but leave you to fill in the gaps.


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Subject: RE: Casey's last ride - meaning?
From: GUEST,BigDaddy
Date: 27 May 11 - 01:18 PM

I, too, concur with Tinker's assessment. I first heard this on my first Kristofferson LP, circa 1971. After reading Joe's enthusiastic praise for Emmylou's version, I just went to iTunes to give a listen. The woman can do a haunting rendering like few can. Sorry to say, for the first time I have to disagree with Joe. And though I love Emmylou too, I thought it the worst cover I've ever heard her do. Ouch.


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Subject: RE: Casey's last ride - meaning?
From: GUEST,Songbob
Date: 27 May 11 - 01:35 PM

Wow! I'd forgotten this song, though it used to haunt me when I heard it years ago. I've never learned it, though I may do so, now that I'm reminded of it.

The words are good, but the melody is what kills. The change from the melody of the verses, where the words are describing Casey's "Last Ride" and the chorus, where the melody goes from despair to a maybe-forlorn hope as the words do the same, now that's songwriting. A lot of modern songwriters can manage striking lyrics, and a few can provide a melody that grabs you, but this one has not one, but two melodies, with lyrics matching so perfectly that you just feel compelled to "feel" it.

I get the same feeling with only a few other songs -- "Rose of Allendale" comes to mind -- where the "lift" in the chorus just hooks me and won't let go. So many modern songs (especially country-music numbers) try for the "hook," but this is an example of a master of the hook.

Well done.

Bob


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Subject: RE: Casey's last ride - meaning?
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 27 May 11 - 01:40 PM

I think need a story in your mind while you're singing a song like this. Most songs in fact. It doesn't really matter if it's the same story as the person/people who made it had in mind, or the people listening for that matter.

If I sang this one I'd be thinking in terms of jumping under a train...


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Subject: RE: Casey's last ride - meaning?
From: GUEST,BigDaddy
Date: 27 May 11 - 01:43 PM

Thanks, McGrath...I really needed a laugh just now and you delivered it. Cheers!


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Subject: RE: Casey's last ride - meaning?
From: GUEST,Songbob
Date: 27 May 11 - 01:58 PM

Actually, one doesn't "jump under a train." You "fall onto the tracks," so that your family can collect the insurance. Someone with Casey's troubles would almost certainly make sure to do that, maybe stumble a bit and ensure that people knew he looked like he was about to faint or pass out.

Then again, perhaps he was pissed (and not just from the beer in his belly) and doesn't want the bloody missus to get anything from his measly insurance! Probably should have changed the beneficiary to his bit-on-the-side, you know? But it's too late now -- he's lying on the track and the train is almost on him, brakes squealing and the horn blasting. Damn! I think this was a mistake!

Bob


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Subject: RE: Casey's last ride - meaning?
From: GUEST,BigDaddy
Date: 27 May 11 - 02:03 PM

Thanks, Songbob...I really have to start hanging out here more often (again). I sometimes forget what a fun bunch of people there are here.


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Subject: RE: Casey's last ride - meaning?
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 27 May 11 - 02:25 PM

Of course it's in England - he drinks pints of bitter doesn't he?   As for Kris Kristofferson, he was over here a lot longer than just as a tourist - he was a student here, went to Oxford as a Rhodes scholar.


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Subject: RE: Casey's last ride - meaning?
From: GUEST,Grishka
Date: 27 May 11 - 03:02 PM

The only enigmatic phrase I see is "the rattle of his chain", the rest seems quite clear to me.

Hates his job, as Tinker thinks? "You have nothing to lose but your chains"? I am not convinced. More probably it's the chains of his family life, and of his unsociable mental constitution.

Or does it just mean the rattle of the escalator chains, which used to be quite a noise? Has "his" slipped in for "the", accidentally or Freudian? The clicking turnstiles certainly are physical objects typical of Underground (subway) stations.

It is not Kristofferson's task to tell us what exactly happens after the last ride and the drinking in the Golden Crown. It suffices to know that Casey's last vague hope has proved an illusion.

For those who have not found out themselves: The title evokes Casey Jones' famous last ride. A loser is contrasted to a hero.


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Subject: RE: Casey's last ride - meaning?
From: GUEST,BigDaddy
Date: 27 May 11 - 03:03 PM

Many of us Yanks also drink pints of bitter as well. All of our best watering holes offer a number of fine bitters. Oh for a pint of Fuller's ESB on tap right now...


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Subject: RE: Casey's last ride - meaning?
From: Dave the Gnome
Date: 27 May 11 - 03:07 PM

Funnily enough, Johnny sings 'the rattle of his change' which, in context, makes sense and is a very clever play on words. Probably not the right words - but should be :-)

DtG


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Subject: RE: Casey's last ride - meaning?
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 27 May 11 - 03:43 PM

"Hates his job, as Tinker thinks? "You have nothing to lose but your chains"? I am not convinced. More probably it's the chains of his family life, and of his unsociable mental constitution.

Or does it just mean the rattle of the escalator chains, which used to be quite a noise?
"

All three at the same time, I assume, plus whatever other chains the singer or the listener experiences. That's how imagery works in poems and songs.


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Subject: RE: Casey's last ride - meaning?
From: Joe Offer
Date: 27 May 11 - 06:04 PM

I think Emmylou sings, "drinks his pint of bitters." I ignored the "s" in my transcription above.

-Joe-


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Subject: RE: Casey's last ride - meaning?
From: GUEST,Alan Whittle
Date: 27 May 11 - 08:38 PM

As someone said, the late wonderful Tony Capstick used to do this one.

It was a strange song for him to choose. Definitely an American setting - the choice of the word subway. Tony was a great fan of American songwriters though - he used to talk in glowing terms about Shel Silverstein. But his genius was definitely for trad. English/Irish. I can't remember how many times I requested him to do the Bonny Bunch of Roses - tore my heart out, every time.

Anyway he was attracted to this song with its funereal pace and its tale of urban hopelessness. It was perhaps a hint to us in the audience that despite brilliant witty introductions, and an ability for verbal riposte (Derek Brimstone once told me that Tony and Diz Disley were the quickest onstage wits he had ever encountered) that his life had some very dark corners.

I've often wondered if there is an ambiguity in the title. Is the last ride - the subway ride, or is it ride in a sexual sense? The man no longer desires the woman. She pathetically waits in the new stockings that once used to excite his interest, The loss of desire on his part is just one sympton of the alienation and general shutting off of the world. He can only spectate on his own decline, and his loss of interest in the world once so vital, but now driven deep underground and dying is like the half life that is possible for subterranean creatures.

The crowd flooding underground to make a living and claim a role and career in life, is a metaphor for everything he has driven underground and suppressed in himself - and now it has expunged in him the vitality that made relationships valuable.

A very dark song - not the sort for sunny personalities like me - but godammit - well written!


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Subject: RE: Casey's last ride - meaning?
From: Dave the Gnome
Date: 28 May 11 - 04:38 AM

I wondered about that sense of 'ride' too, Alan - When she says "just a kiss to make a body smile." it sounds like a bit of an offer. I had sort of decided against it though, thinking it was just me, but either you are just as daft or we may be on to something :-)

I have decided I am pondering too much on it though - I should just enjoy it. I am going to ponder on another song I first heard on the same album - The Scarlet Tide. Can't find the version I know but this is the original as performed by Alison Krauss for the film 'Cold Mountain' ((whicjh I remember being desperately miserable but I could be wrong)

Maybe I should have called the thread 'songs I don't understand' but it would have gone on too long...

DtG


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Subject: RE: Casey's last ride - meaning?
From: GUEST
Date: 28 May 11 - 07:25 AM

Is Casey's last ride the train journey to visit his dying mother who is in a nursing home? Is this the last time he'll see her?
He's depressed with his job, his home life is not great and he feels he be loosing the last link with happy memories.
Read the words again with this idea in mind.
Cheers Bill


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Subject: RE: Casey's last ride - meaning?
From: blinddrunkal
Date: 28 May 11 - 08:12 AM

I think Kris sings "The rattle of the trains" refering to the noise from the underground and not "The rattle of his chains".

http://youtu.be/XG08McpK2jI


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Subject: RE: Casey's last ride - meaning?
From: GUEST,Grishka
Date: 28 May 11 - 09:09 AM

My last post has somehow vanished (censored?). I argued that "the rattle of the [elevator] chain" seemed to me the best solution by the criterion of consistent symbolism, i.e. all the objects mentioned being physically present and symbolic at the same time.

But it seems that KK and others insist on singing "the rattle of his chain", so the question remains whether there is a physical object called "his chain" - the chain of his pocket watch???

A question for Londoners: is it a common belief (as I was told) that stumbling onto the electric rails can be lethal withot any train involved? If so (true or not), KK might be referring to it.
    We censor very little here, Grishka - often to the chagrin of a number of people who would like us to censor more. There are no deleted messages in this thread, so I'm guessing your message just didn't "take." That sometimes happen when your browser cache is working off a stored page.
    -Joe Offer-


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Subject: RE: Casey's last ride - meaning?
From: Susanne (skw)
Date: 28 May 11 - 07:32 PM

I've only ever heard this song sung by Iain MacKintosh who, sadly, never recorded it. His matter-of-fact style suited the song well, I think. (Incidentally, he sang "the rattle of his change" - see here.)

I imagine that Casey has done what a certain British royal has since made acceptable: carried on with an earlier love after marrying and fathering a child (or possibly the other way round - getting another woman pregnant and marrying her, for whatever reason). He doesn't really love his wife, doesn't really know what he is toiling for, but finds his (ex-)lover's demands equally off-putting. In short, Casey finds the demands of his double life too much and gets lost, in whatever way. It is a haunting song, and certainly one giving a lot of space for speculating and creating your own story.


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Subject: RE: Casey's last ride - meaning?
From: Arkie
Date: 28 May 11 - 11:06 PM

The rattle of his change, rattle of the trains, rattle of his chain, all could fit. Here in the US the phrase "chained to his/her desk, etc." is common and Casey could feel chained to his routine life.


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Subject: RE: Casey's last ride - meaning?
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 29 May 11 - 10:22 AM

A question for Londoners: is it a common belief (as I was told) that stumbling onto the electric rails can be lethal without any train involved?

It's a common belief alright - and it's a perfectly true belief. Don't risk it. Polish tourist killed by urinating on 750-volt electric railway line
.....................................

Like most Londoners, I think, I'm just as likely to use the expression "subway" as an alternative to "underground" and "tube", Alan.

As for "pint of bitters", that sounds a highly unlikely drink, even if Emmylou might have sung it.


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Subject: RE: Casey's last ride - meaning?
From: MGM·Lion
Date: 29 May 11 - 11:02 AM

Don't agree, McGrath. 'Subway', in London, means an underground passage to cross a road ~~ sometimes in connection with two entrances to an Underground, or Tube, station, sometimes independently provided. The term Subway, for the rail system, while not unknown, I do not think is much used by Londoners themselves. "Will you go by bus or tube [or Underground]?" a Londoner would ask; not "bus or subway?"

~Michael~


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Subject: RE: Casey's last ride - meaning?
From: goatfell
Date: 29 May 11 - 11:09 AM

i like the song no matter who's the singer


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Subject: RE: Casey's last ride - meaning?
From: Musket
Date: 29 May 11 - 12:36 PM

I've been singing this for years now. First heard it when Tony Capstick used to sing it regularly, and having heard many versions, I still sing it in a similar arrangement to how he did it, possibly for reasons of nostalgia!

When I introduce the song, it is normally after singing Eric Bogle's "Love Song of a Simple Man." Hence I introduce it as "Love Song of a Complicated Man." It is, as has been said above, about playing an away fixture to see if it helps get his life into focus, but he only realises that whilst she is lonely, it is nothing to his loneliness despite everything.

The song does seem, by some of the words, to be set in England. Kristofferson was a Rhodes scholar so I am not surprised he anglicised a song or two.

One of my favourites and if I am playing a set, it normally gets an airing.


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Subject: RE: Casey's last ride - meaning?
From: Dave the Gnome
Date: 29 May 11 - 03:21 PM

I do not think is much used by Londoners themselves. I agree, but remember that Khris Kristofferson is not a Londoner. He may have lived in England a long time but I would have thought his first word for a train that runs underground would be subway and he wrote the song after all. I think a better indication of it being Anglocised (Is there such a word?) is him going to the Golden Lion for a pint of Bitter. While such things do happen Stateside they are not as common as over here and, as Emmylou's version shows, not everyone in the US knows what a pint of Bitter is!

Mind you, our very own Marie Little had someone drinking a bottle of Wild Turtle instead of Wild Turkey! I suppose it is not so much knowing your language as knowing your booze:-)

Cheers

DtG


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Subject: RE: Casey's last ride - meaning?
From: MGM·Lion
Date: 29 May 11 - 03:37 PM

Indeed DtG ~~ esp as he may well have seen a sign saying "Underground and subway", meaning entrance to the tube stn *++* passage under the street. But I was in fact answering McGrath's suggestion that "subway" is catching on as Londoners' own name for their underground rail system, which I {& you} do not believe to be the case.

~M~


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Subject: RE: Casey's last ride - meaning?
From: GUEST,who8dmous
Date: 17 Sep 11 - 09:43 AM

I stumbled on this trying to find the meaning of Casey's Last Ride. Very interesting true story of an engineer called Casey.
http://www.watervalley.net/users/caseyjones/cj~long.htm


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Subject: RE: Casey's last ride - meaning?
From: GUEST
Date: 19 Nov 11 - 12:22 AM

I first heard this song when I was 6 sung by my dad who was a muso... I cried and asked his what it meant. he told me that it was about a man who was promised to marry a girl but when he came up from working underground he married another.. later he goes to see her! Not sure but i've always thought this fitted!


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Subject: RE: Casey's last ride - meaning?
From: GUEST,Isis
Date: 25 Dec 11 - 11:35 PM

I think it is about war and jail
boo hoo


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Subject: RE: Casey's last ride - meaning?
From: GUEST,Casey himself!
Date: 06 Apr 12 - 12:51 AM

I think that the song is about an alcoholic who drinks to escape the regrets he has about leading the inauthentic life he is leading. The chain that rattles is from his family (ball and chain) and his desire for drink (chill that's on his bone - clearly an addict). But, I don't think he is actually meeting some old flame in a bar. Too many indicators point to him standing alone in a bar full of men who are drinking for their own reasons in order to slack their pain. He stands in a corner and doesn't even look up in the bar mirror to see behind him, like a lonely and sad man who is nursing his drink.
The women he meets is the memory of his old flame and real love of his life and I believe she exists solely in his mind and she becomes more verbose and her words sadder as he drinks.
I don't think he commits suicide - he just stumbles on the threshold of the bar as he leaves - an ancient omen of misfortune and misery.
The best version is John Denver's from either his album or the BBC special. Check it out on YouTube and let me know what you think.


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Subject: RE: Casey's last ride - meaning?
From: GUEST,Elbe55
Date: 13 Jun 12 - 02:09 PM

Having sung this song myself for aboout 40 years and done some translations of KK:s songs this is how I see it.
Casey's is entering the subway. He passes the turnstile and he hears the sound of chains. Could be his own key or watch chain or if Kris sings "the chain" it could be chains in the subway. There he starts thinking of the woman whom he just had been visiting, maybe an old flame, maybe a hooker he frequently uses. He'd probably go for her if he could but something keeps him from doing that. She's anyhow fond of Casey. Leaving the UG he feels he need a pint. He also need to kill some time as he don't want to go home. He's thinking so much about her, her being alone too, that he don't see others in the bar. When he's leaving he stumbles. Obviously he's in tears and maybe the beer is hitting his brain and he can't figure out which one was making him stumble. This would explain the song but the title is still a mystery to me.


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Subject: RE: Casey's last ride - meaning?
From: GUEST,Songbob
Date: 13 Jun 12 - 04:32 PM

Ths song's title is so that we'll still be discussing it 30-40 years after he wrote it! It is what it means and means what it is. What else could it be?

And I always thought it was "underground," not "subway," anyway. But then, my ur-text comes from Charlie Waller and the Country Gentlemen, so what do I know? Now someone will look up a recording by them and it'll be "subway," so my memory is doing its usual thing, but that is how I "hear" it.

Bob Clayton


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Subject: RE: Casey's last ride - meaning?
From: zozimus
Date: 14 Jun 12 - 05:40 AM

i think the key line in the song is "now that you've a family of your own". He finally takes his last ride to visit someone he picked up in London before going back to wear the ball and chain of family life.
Kris's version is enough for me, he's the man.


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Subject: RE: Casey's last ride - meaning?
From: Kevin Sheils
Date: 14 Jun 12 - 10:31 AM

I first heard at in a wonderful version on a 45rpm single by Suzie Adams, it was around the New Victory Band time and I think Helen Hockenhull (then Watson) may well be singing harmonies. The other side was a version of Nostrodamus.

Another excuse to go searching through the vinyl.


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Subject: RE: Casey's last ride - meaning?
From: meself
Date: 14 Jun 12 - 10:51 AM

And people accuse Leonard Cohen of being depressing ....


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Subject: RE: Casey's last ride - meaning?
From: Slag
Date: 14 Jul 12 - 09:54 PM

Kristofferson nailed down a winner with this poetry and the song which accompanies it. It has been one of my all time favorites since I heard the John Denver version so long ago. And YES the Emmylou Harris version and that brings up a point. Could the woman be the focal point of the song?
Couldn't she be Casey's last shot at salvation? All that Casey has sought by following the "Capitalist Dream" or the American Dream, if you will has not resulted in "Life" for Casey. But the unknown woman with a lonely passion in her heart and tears in her voice, she has the answer but knows that it would take them both to realize that "love" is the answer to their need.


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Subject: RE: Casey's last ride - meaning?
From: GUEST,TAFF
Date: 14 Oct 12 - 07:16 PM

I see that Arkie in May 2011 did not care for the Everlys version. Fair enough. There were two, one done in one take in 1968, messing about with it, and one done in 1972 when they had lost it bigtime and were just faffing around looking for something. Sad by then but great in their time. Both versions were never released on any album and I only came upon them when buying the CDs with all the unreleased tracks. I found the song haunting to be honest, never heard it before, but have now listened to the Emmylou version as well. I love her stuff. I am a lifelong fan of The Everlys and to me the first version was one of the best things they ever did. Most of their great work was short and about love and life and all that, apart from Ebony Eyes. They had no idea what they were doing by the end of the 60s they were out of it, fighting all the time and doomed. They just put down a version and left it at that. The second version was practised a lot you could tell but it was naff. In the first one they captured the mood of what Kristofferson was trying to convey. I think it is set in England. The guy has an empty existence although he has a family. He is moving out of the area with his job perhaps, and takes one last ride to see his old flame, mistress, prostitute or whatever and they both independently realise after the last liason that they are alone but should perhaps have made a go of it together. He just has a drink and resigns himself to that fact and goes home. Shrugs his shoulders in short. I don't see any thoughts of suicide. Plenty looking back these days and wondering if life would have been better with another. Not me I might add. But as I get much older I find myself analysing some songs in detail and this is one of them. Sunday Morning Coming Down by Kris is a great one too but done fbetter by other artists. Never liked anything Kris sang apart from Bobby Mc Gee but admire his writing. Hope I have not bored you.


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Subject: RE: Casey's last ride - meaning?
From: GUEST
Date: 29 Jan 13 - 12:23 PM

I'm surprised nobody's mention Waylon Jennings's version, which is easily the best of those I've heard. It's probably on the YT somewhere, you'd do yourself a favor to give it a listen.


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Subject: RE: Casey's last ride - meaning?
From: GUEST,originaluncleagent
Date: 02 Feb 13 - 08:58 AM

I was a young Radio Disc Jockey, working for Sam Phillips of Sun Recording Studios/Sun Records, but in South Florida.

The year was 1970- I had "discovered" Kris' music while at a local Country Music station. "Casey's last Ride" - for ME, anyway, is
about a very sad man who is in England, on the Underground, then in the "Golden Crown" as he drinks his pint of bitter. He is HAUNTED by the Love of His Life, whom he is "quoting" in his head.

I was going through VERY turbulent times then- a lot like Kris was,
and I think I have gotten into the meaning of the song THEN, and all these years LATER. This song still haunts ME, since I have
lived Kris' life as a helicopter pilot, too. But the WOMEN- oh...those WOMEN. They will, if you are not careful, will send you on your "Last Ride." The pain is still with me. No doubt, "Casey" is still in pain, too....unless he took that "Last Ride."


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Subject: RE: Casey's last ride - meaning?
From: GUEST,guest
Date: 29 Jul 13 - 09:25 AM

Casey is an American living in London.
His last ride is the journey is back to his family after a visiting an ex-lover in New York.
Neither his family, his lover, his birth country, his current home, nor his beer can satisfy his inner loneliness.
This trip was his last desperate chance for hapiness, and now it's over.
Both he and we have no idea where he's going now, as he stumbles out of the song.


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Subject: RE: Casey's last ride - meaning?
From: Musket
Date: 29 Jul 13 - 09:44 AM

Tell you what, regardless of any literal story Mr Kristofferson may have attached to the words, (and I doubt he did) the song strikes a chord with many men.

When Tony Capstick sang it, the room used to be more quiet and thoughtful than usual. Mind you, he normally finished a profound song such as this, let the audience absorb it and then say something equally profound to follow it, such as;

What's the difference between light and hard?

You can go to sleep with the light on.




Still miss the complicated old bugger.... I don't sing it because of getting drunk and playing away fixtures, I sing it in homage to an old friend whom I first heard sing it.


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Subject: RE: Casey's last ride - meaning?
From: GUEST,Paulus
Date: 18 Sep 13 - 09:31 AM

This is the tale of a man returning home (across London) after the last meeting he intends with a former lover.

The man's mood is down, so he notices the gloom and melancholy of his environment and the people around him. But he is not sure if it's this or the end of his affair that causes the lowness inside.

The interlude verses of the women's voice are there to reflect on what has happened in the past, his thoughts as he travels.


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Subject: RE: Casey's last ride - meaning?
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 18 Sep 13 - 08:13 PM

The title presumably is a reference to Hobo Bill's Last Ride, sung by Hank Snow. Which being about death ties in with my hunch Casey might be thinking about death, and possibly even jumping under a train.

Like most good songs it can mean just about anything the singer has in mind. Or the listener for that matter.


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Subject: RE: Casey's last ride - meaning?
From: GUEST,Grishka
Date: 19 Sep 13 - 07:47 AM

"Last ride" strongly suggests death, even without any allusion to earlier texts. If it were just the last ride for its particular purpose, the title would be inappropriate. Casey Jones was a hero, Hobo Bill a poor victim, both die before the respective song is over.

I have the strong feeling that we are missing some existing additional information to shed light on the obscure details. One of the keys may be found in the London Underground of that time.

(Suicide by self-electrocution on the rails is a risky endeavour; most seem to fail - but KK might not have known this, in pre-Google times.)


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Subject: RE: Casey's last ride - meaning?
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 19 Sep 13 - 11:50 AM

Being run over by a train is quite bad for the health too. And your chances of climbing back on the platform after an encounter with the live rail in the London Tube aren't too great.


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Subject: RE: Casey's last ride - meaning?
From: GUEST,Grishka
Date: 19 Sep 13 - 01:24 PM

When this was discussed more than two years ago (yes, time flies), I read on an official website that only 30% of all suicide attempts on the London Underground rails are successful - notably including those involving trains. That Polish tourist seems to have been of remarkable marksmanship. Not all survivors are likely to be at excellent health, though.

Anyway, KK's fictional Casey seems to have been among those 30%, half deliberately, half by accident / drunkenness / carelessness.


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Subject: RE: Casey's last ride - meaning?
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 19 Sep 13 - 01:52 PM

"Casey's Last Ride" is confusing to most of us in North America who immediately think of the story and song "Casey Jones" (in the DT) and the train wreck described in the article linked by Guest 17 Sept 11, in which the engineer, Casey Jones, died.

I was unaware of the Kristopherson song until I found it here, posted by Joe.

Subway, to Americans, = Underground (most in UK). "Pint of bitter, and later reference to "underground" would set the song in UK.
In the Wikipedia article, Kristopherson is identified as an American country music singer, songwriter, musician, etc.

I would guess Kristopherson took the name Casey from the song about Casey Jones, and last ride (as it does in cowboy as well as RR parlance, means he kicked the bucket.


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Subject: RE: Casey's last ride - meaning?
From: Phil Cooper
Date: 20 Sep 13 - 08:07 AM

It may have been posted earlier, but Kristofferson was a rhodes scholar and spent time in Britain.


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Subject: RE: Casey's last ride - meaning?
From: GUEST,Joe Pineapples
Date: 10 Jan 14 - 06:13 AM

I think Paulus has it dead on.

The hint is in the title...

Casey is heading home after being with his lover. He has decided that is the last time he will see her and on the trip home, he stops off at the pub... can't face going home to his wife and children... the sadness of resigning himself to the life 'a family of your own'.

The 'choruses' of the woman is him thinking back to her, the things she said to him in that last meeting. She knows he is unhappy in this life and wants him to stay with her 'Casey it's so sad to be alone' but he has made his decision.

Such an amazing song.


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Subject: RE: Casey's last ride - meaning?
From: GUEST,Ryan Moore
Date: 24 Jun 14 - 09:24 AM

This is about a man who feels chained to his everyday, mundane life. The poison air of the subway that never sees the sun nor feels the rain is a metaphor for his life, which is devoid of passion, freedom and love. He tries to recapture the spirit of a long-lost flame, but what he really wants is his freedom back, to be rid of the rattle of his chains. When he sees her, she is willing and welcoming, and does her utmost to please him, but he realises that although he could have her, he's already lost his spirit and soul, his freedom, and therefore won't ever ride that horse/train again. So he has a beer and resigns himself to the company of men just like him, walking the rut in a crowd just like him.


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Subject: RE: Casey's last ride - meaning?
From: GUEST
Date: 22 Oct 14 - 02:30 PM

The ride of the title suggests both a sexual and literal sense of the word. I have no doubt about that. In the literal sense I believe the song hints at suicide though it's not made explicit in the lyrics.
The despair in this song is palpable. June Tabor and Dorothy Hamm best captured the essence of this song. I love Waylon but I feel like he's off the mark with this one.


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Subject: RE: Casey's last ride - meaning?
From: Mrrzy
Date: 23 Oct 14 - 01:29 PM

Oh, I think the mistress he sees on his way home is real, and he hates her just as much as his wife and his job and his drinking.

This is a tremendously depressing song. I love it.

I always figured it was his "last ride" because this was the last time he was going to see his mistress, either because of that family of his own but probably not, more likely because he was going to fall under the next subway train be could.

I think only the title hints at suicide; the song is about being a miserable man, and a poor sad woman trying so hard to cheer him up.

I am weeping as I type. What a great song.


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Subject: RE: Casey's last ride - meaning?
From: GUEST,Andy T
Date: 23 Oct 14 - 09:35 PM

That Dorothy Hamm recording of this song is incredible! But aside from that one YouTube video, she doesn't seem to exist. Does anyone know anything about her?


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Subject: RE: Casey's last ride - meaning?
From: GUEST,Andy T
Date: 05 Nov 14 - 10:56 PM

This is a great thread if you read the whole thing.

Before I read it I was puzzled by what I thought was a mix of British and American terms. I thought "subway" was only American. But Michael pointed out that in England a subway can be part of a tube station, a subterranean passageway that you might very well pass through between the stair and the turnstile, so it fits in perfectly.

I like Bill's suggestion that the woman in the chorus is Casey's mother in a nursing home. The chorus lyrics make more sense that way, particularly the line "now that you've a family of your own."

The only problem with Bill's idea, to an American ear, is Casey's mother putting on new stockings to please him. But perhaps in England in 1960 stockings didn't have a sexual connotation? Perhaps she's always dressed in a bathrobe and slippers and socks, as are many nursing home residents, and on a previous visit he said something about her socks being old, maybe suggesting that he could buy her new ones.

If the stockings are the same thing that we think of in 2014 America (after years of seeing hosiery advertisements showing young women in sexy poses with their stockinged legs completely exposed) then the woman must be an old flame or a hooker, and the fact that her way of looking attractive to him is to wear new stockings is sad. But the whole tone of the song is melancholy, so it fits in well.

Other than that, the only thing that's mysterious is the word "chain," as several people have pointed out. The song doesn't give us any clue as to what "his chain" is, and if it's a metaphor it doesn't fit in very well. I would be inclined to regard it as an unfortunate re-write, and sing "his train" instead, as Al suggested.

Casey went up to London and visited someone, perhaps his mother, and now he's riding the tube back to Victoria station, and as he has a little time before his train and is saddened by the whole trip he stops for a drink. He hadn't seen her for a long time before that, so if he's decided not to make this trip again it should come as no surprise.

A few things not mentioned previously: Kristofferson was at Oxford between 1958 and 1960, and was stationed in Germany in the early 1960's. The song was on his first album, released in 1970. His son born in 1973 by Rita Coolidge was named Casey.


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Subject: RE: Casey's last ride - meaning?
From: Stewie
Date: 06 Nov 14 - 09:02 AM

Andy T, many thanks for referencing the Dorothy Hamm recording. It is indeed first rate.

--Stewie.


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Subject: RE: Casey's last ride - meaning?
From: GUEST,Andy T
Date: 06 Nov 14 - 11:45 AM

Stewie, I did find one other Dorothy Hamm recording, of a song that she wrote called John Bridges, at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S-KqiaBTb-Y. But nothing else except Pagan Maestro's comment that she's been a music writer and publicist most of her life. I'd really like to hear more of her singing.


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Subject: RE: Casey's last ride - meaning?
From: GUEST,Andy T
Date: 06 Nov 14 - 05:52 PM

Breezy said the Golden Crown was a pub near Victoria Station, but I can't find any mention of it on the internet. In fact, I can't find any Golden Crown pubs anywhere. Just a fried chicken/car rental place, which seems like an interesting combination; but that's in a different part of London. And they probably don't sell beer, since they're renting cars. And maybe it's not likely to have been in operation in 1960. By appointment to her majesty, purveyors of fried chicken and automobile rental agents?

Can any of you Brits tell us anything about a Golden Crown pub near Victoria Station, or anywhere else in England, circa 1960?


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Subject: RE: Casey's last ride - meaning?
From: Stewie
Date: 06 Nov 14 - 07:06 PM

Thanks, Andy. Another fine recording - it's a pity that is all there is.

--Stewie.


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Subject: RE: Casey's last ride - meaning?
From: GUEST,LaLobagirl
Date: 06 Dec 14 - 08:53 AM

I have just heard "Casey's Last Ride" sung by John Denver for the very first time. It touched the very core of my soul with a cold finger and an icy shiver went straight down my back. Oh John, I REALLY miss you. The width and breadth of your talent was limitless. Incredible interpretation.


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Subject: RE: Casey's last ride - meaning?
From: GUEST
Date: 06 Dec 14 - 01:28 PM

I just read (here) that when Kristofferson was performing in England, at the time that he wrote this song, he was billed as Kris Carson. So he was K.C. And he named his next child Casey. FWIW.


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Subject: RE: Casey's last ride - meaning?
From: GUEST,Andy T
Date: 07 Dec 14 - 07:43 PM

Intrigued by Bill's suggestion that the woman in the chorus is Casey's mother in a nursing home, but troubled by the use of the word "stockings," I did some research to try to figure out what that word might have meant to a woman who was living in a nursing home in England in 1960. It's a shame there aren't any elderly English people on Mudcat. They would be able to answer this question quite easily.

My research revealed that women didn't have legs until the 1920's. Before that, stockings were more of a men's garment, as many references attest, going back at least to Shakespeare -- Hamlet had his stockings fouled, and Malvolio wore cross-garter'd yellow stockings.

In the 19th century, kids of both genders wore stockings, and about the middle of the century they started hanging them by the chimney on Christmas eve. As late as 1944, a young Swedish girl named Pippi could wear long stockings without anyone assuming they were made of sheer nylon.

Stockings were commonly worn by soldiers and athletes, along with their knickerbockers, kilts, and lederhosen. Long stockings are useful in rural settings as protection from biting insects such as chiggers, especially if you put powdered sulfur in them. And in winter the combination of long stockings and short trousers provides warmth without hampering maneuverability.

American baseball teams stopped being called the Red or White or Brown Stockings around the turn of the century, opting instead for Sox (using a spelling system touted by Teddy Roosevelt); but baseball players continued to wear stockings. So when American women sprouted legs it would have been natural to put stockings on them, though of course, being women, they would have wanted the skin exposed, which was accomplished by making them of diaphanous silk and, from 1940 on, nylon.

Once stockings became a feminine sex symbol, American men switched to wearing only socks, no matter how far up the calf they went and whether they were exposed or covered by other clothes. But several references suggest that English men continued to wear stockings after the 1920's; so the things that women wore on their seemingly naked exposed legs may have been called something else in England. And in fact I have a vague memory from when I was there in 1972 that what we called stockings they called tights at that time, though I could be mistaken about that.

An article in History and Anthropology magazine, volume 22, issue 1, says that British anthropologist Beatrice Blackwood (1889-1975) wrote this about her mentor Bronislaw Malinowski in a 1930 field journal:
I wonder how much time Malinowski used up on household and domestic jobs—Did he ever darn his stockings? He seems to have lived in a tent.

English writer Enid Blyton (1897-1968) published a story in Sunny Stories for Little Folks magazine, No.175, Oct 1933, called "Holes in His Stockings."

Both of those women were contemporaries of Casey's mother, and they and she might have continued to say stockings when they meant socks on into their dotage even if the world around them had begun to give it a different meaning. But here's one from 1954:

Lord of the Flies, by English writer William Golding (1911-1993), published in 1954, chapter 1, 4th paragraph:
The fair boy stopped and jerked his stockings with an automatic gesture that made the jungle seem for a moment like the Home Counties.


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Subject: RE: Casey's last ride - meaning?
From: MGM·Lion
Date: 08 Dec 14 - 05:38 AM

"there aren't any elderly English people on Mudcat."
.,,.

I'm 82. How elderlier do you want?

I have called them nothing but socks all my long life; in my family, stockings were something women wore. But have been aware that some people called them 'stockings', as in Richmal Crompton as you wrote; and team colours as shown on soccer match programmes would sometimes say stockings, sometimes socks; and some fellow schoolboys would refer to their stockings, which I always found a bit funny.

So my impression is that, idiomatically, stockings and socks were interchangeable for men's/boys' foot & lower-leg garments, tho I think socks much more common; but the ladies' pre-tights garments, up to the thighs and suspended or elastic-topped, were only called stockings.

Hope that helps.

≈M≈


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Subject: RE: Casey's last ride - meaning?
From: GUEST,Andy T
Date: 08 Dec 14 - 08:40 AM

How does that affect the line "I've put on new stockings just to please you"?

Does it have to be a pathetic attempt by an old girlfriend or hooker to give Casey a rise, as it would in the US?

Or could it be Casey's mother pointing out that she's not wearing the same dirty old socks that he complained about during a previous visit to the nursing home?


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Subject: RE: Casey's last ride - meaning?
From: MGM·Lion
Date: 08 Dec 14 - 09:23 AM

Dunno. Don't find the topic of this thread of remotest interest & haven't really read the lyric. Just replying to your silly comment about there being no elderly English about these parts; & endeavouring to enlighten your darkness as to English hosiery usage.

≈M≈


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Subject: RE: Casey's last ride - meaning?
From: MGM·Lion
Date: 08 Dec 14 - 01:48 PM

... tho, looking back, I did get a bit interested about 3½ years ago [May 2011] in whether Londoners ever call The Tube the Subway; but can't quite remember why...


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Subject: RE: Casey's last ride - meaning?
From: GUEST,Andy T
Date: 08 Dec 14 - 02:36 PM

M, how kind of you to contribute despite your lack of interest in the subject. It was very helpful.

And thank you for correcting my misunderstanding about Mudcat demographics. Who knew?

But if there's one olde Englishman, perhaps there are others, and perhaps one of them will have the answer to my question about stockings. And my earlier question about the Golden Crown pub that was mentioned in the song and by Breezy above.


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Subject: RE: Casey's last ride - meaning?
From: GUEST,Grishka
Date: 09 Dec 14 - 10:59 AM

Nylons or not, she "put on new stockings just to please" Casey. Two other passages refer even more directly to a physical/erotic attitude: "just a kiss to make a body smile" and "Still, she said, it's so blessed good to feel your body". If it is the mother, she is either demented or incestuous, by English standards.

The strongest argument in favour of the mother theory is the line "now that you've a family of your own", suggesting that formerly both were members of the same family (could be brother and sister, though).

Whatever the relation, Casey is not pleased, but more depressed than before. The family of his own is in fact no longer in function, probably by divorce, without the lady's knowledge, and probably without Casey informing her of her error (as he would have done if he considered reviving an old friendship).

The song being so well-known for a long time, KK must have been asked about its meaning. I guess his answers will one day surface to the Internet, if it has not already.


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Subject: RE: Casey's last ride - meaning?
From: GUEST,KenD
Date: 14 Jul 15 - 07:08 AM

This is definitely set in England. Casey is likely to be an Irishman as Casey is an Irish name, and there is a massive Irish community living in North London, although he could have lived in the US. Many Irish work in building and road construction here. The reference to the Golden Crown pub, Underground and to Bitter are a dead give away. American Emmy Lou Harris is so unfamiliar with the concept of bitter beer she sings it as "bitters". The use of subway is correct for the UK as the Underground is the generic name for the railway, but the passageways under the roads that lead to the stations are called subways here.
The last ride refers to the girl Casey is thinking about. He remembers how she welcomed him and still wanted him. He is regretting choosing somebody else instead of her and is now locked into a sour, loveless, non physical marriage but his children prevent him from leaving. Where the girl is located could be Ireland, the US or even in London.
He is thinking about the last time he spent with her and has not had a "ride" since. The ride he is thinking about has a double meaning - the trip to visit her and what happened when he did!
I think Emmy Lou understands this and she identifies very much with the woman in her version, which is probably why she covered the song and added the extra "I suppose you seldom think about me" and the "it's so good to feel your body" lines to express the woman's feelings. Sadly, Casey is trapped and can only reminisce over his beer.


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Subject: RE: Casey's last ride - meaning?
From: Dave the Gnome
Date: 14 Jul 15 - 07:47 AM

Nice to see this pop up again and thanks, Ken D, that certainly fits all the sentiments expressed in the song.


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Subject: RE: Casey's last ride - meaning?
From: GUEST,KenD
Date: 14 Jul 15 - 07:48 AM

In the UK, nylon stockings are usually called "stockings" not nylons. As in our love of ladies in "stockings and suspenders" which would probably be called "nylons and garter belt" in the US. We NEVER call women's stockings socks, and we don't call socks stockings either except for those that come to just below the knee. I am NOT elderly, but I am English.
A lady wearing stockings instead of tights (pantyhose in the US) would be a very good way to get a man excited.
Unless Casey had a very peculiar relationship with his mother, this song is about a man remembering the last woman he made love to. He would find it difficult to be turned on by his wife afterwards as he would always be comparing her to this much sexier girl and this would adversely affect his marriage.
The reference to "a family of your own" may well be because the woman is a married woman with a family who has had an affair with Casey, which would go a long way to explain why he cannot be with her and why she is willing to see him in the first place.


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Subject: RE: Casey's last ride - meaning?
From: GUEST,Grishka
Date: 14 Jul 15 - 08:50 AM

Ken, interesting aspects. The meeting need not have taken place directly before the Golden Crown scene, but may well be a distant memory. "Last ride" referring to sex long ago, or to both scenes as a double entendre? Possible, but not too convincing.

What seems clear to me from the last verse is that at that time
a) the lady is lonely and quite willing to revive the old relationship that started before Casey's marriage
b) Casey has a family of his own, i.e. a wife and at least one child,
c) Casey visits her, but - sex or not - is obviously not enjoying himself (- why else would she desperately try to encourage him, even appealing for his pity?). Bad conscience, or lost erotic interest, or probably both. Therefore, the encounter cannot compare all that positively to his marital life.

We still need good explanations of the title, the "chain" (physical metaphor), and the "stumbling" etc.


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Subject: RE: Casey's last ride - meaning?
From: GUEST,Dave Illingworth
Date: 14 Jul 15 - 09:50 AM

I loved the song the first time I heard it on Peter Rowan's LP
"The Walls Of Time" (1982). Excellent version. I was pretty sure I knew what it was all about then and still am. Please don't start confusing me.


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Subject: RE: Casey's last ride - meaning?
From: GUEST,Grishka
Date: 14 Jul 15 - 10:43 AM

OK, Dave: write down your interpretation, then read the thread, and then decide what to post.

A full explanation of lyrics is not always required, but if one exists (preferably based on facts or first-hand testimony), we'd like to know it. Valuable testimony can also come from people who are familiar with popular (though possibly "incorrect") interpretations of the song. For example, if there is a line "heave away, you ruler king", we want to know not only that it is corrupted, but also the thoughts of those who sang it that way: which king? "Who was Lady Mondegreen?"


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Subject: RE: Casey's last ride - meaning?
From: GUEST
Date: 11 Aug 15 - 09:46 AM

Everybody got the meaning wrong. The titles of a song says it all - Casey's Last Ride. Emphasis on LAST. This is a bitter and sad song about drug abuse, guys. Get it straight.


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Subject: RE: Casey's last ride - meaning?
From: GUEST,leeneia
Date: 11 Aug 15 - 11:38 AM

I don't think so. It's a freeloader's song. If songs today had the the long, long titles that books used to have, the title of 'Casey's Last Ride' would be:

CASEY'S LAST RIDE, a Song in which the Working Man is Shown to be a Hapless, Victimized Wage Slave OR

Why I don't have a Job and Prefer to Live off My Girlfriend.


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Subject: RE: Casey's last ride - meaning?
From: GUEST
Date: 11 Aug 15 - 04:10 PM

There is nothing that could have told us about he is missing a job. Even between the lines. Just a man who is on a way to be completely broken...


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Subject: RE: Casey's last ride - meaning?
From: GUEST,Grishka
Date: 12 Aug 15 - 11:03 AM

Interesting new aspects, GUERT and leeneia. Was that irony, or can you elaborate?

A drug trip is the usual explanation for apparently meaningless song lyrics such as "Lucy in the Sky". But KK does give us many good clues, most of which we managed to explain without guesswork. In fact, beer is a potent drug which can kill a man with or without help of external forces.


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Subject: RE: Casey's last ride - meaning?
From: GUEST,leeneia
Date: 13 Aug 15 - 10:40 AM

Guest, it's not Casey who doesn't have a job, it's the singer.


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Subject: RE: Casey's last ride - meaning?
From: GUEST,Stewart
Date: 28 Aug 15 - 09:02 PM

I love Kristofferson. I think he's one of America's best songwriters and poets. I write working class poems. I'm surprised to see so many trying to find an exact meaning in the song. Most songs and poems come from a feeling or a first line or two and go from there. They tumble from different experiences. Often the words are used because they rhyme or fit. It ain't journalism. Kris' best album is Third World Warrior. He's a strong progressive, and he represents the best of American musical and literary art.


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Subject: RE: Casey's last ride - meaning?
From: GUEST,Mississippi Gal
Date: 25 Sep 15 - 05:22 PM

I was excited today to come across these threads. I thought I was the only one who was fixated on "Casey's Last Ride." In 1971 when I was in Houston where my 50 year old father was in a coma for 6 weeks following a massive stroke, my mother and I listened to WaylonJennings sing this time after time trying to understand it. I even wrote to Kris Kristofferson asking what the meaning was but never heard from him.
It haunts me yet!


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Subject: RE: Casey's last ride - meaning?
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 26 Sep 15 - 05:30 PM

Interesting to see this old thread again, and see how it had explored other ways of reading the song. Or rather, extra ways. I don't think there is only one way of understanding a song, even the plot of a song.

I like the idea of it's being his old mother he's visiting, and it makes sense - stockings can just as easily mean warm woolen stockings as nylons - if it is long enough to cover the knees, I'd call it a stocking, either on a man or woman, if it isn't long enough, I'd call it a sock, man or woman. That might be my generation talking.

"Just a kiss to make a body smile" sounds very much like on old lady of a previous generation", perhaps particularly so if Irish. "So blessed good to feel your body" maybe less so, but quite possible, and no need to take it as meaning anything innappropriate.

It doesn't really alter too much either way. He's been saying goodbye to someone he doesn't expect to see again, and he's feeling his life is on a downward spiral. Haven't we all felt like that sometimes?


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Subject: RE: Casey's last ride - meaning?
From: GUEST,Jesse Mccartney
Date: 01 Dec 15 - 11:33 PM

Its seems that when he is saying the rattle of his chains it should be Casey minds the arrows and ignores the fatal echoes of the clicking of the turnstile and the rattle of its change. Seeing that he is describing arrows for direction and the fatal echoes of the turnstile machine itself when you go through it is clicking as it changes. Another gent said it could be chains on him but i don't think you would hear them on yourself or describe them as it is done here. Just a thought but could it be that Kris just never bothered to correct it after all these years. Guess it really doesn't matter its still one of his best and hope Kris is around for a good long time yet. Cheers


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Subject: RE: Casey's last ride - meaning?
From: GUEST,Paul Clarke
Date: 02 Dec 15 - 11:27 AM

"In the 19th century, kids of both genders wore stockings, and about the middle of the century they started hanging them by the chimney on Christmas eve. As late as 1944, a young Swedish girl named Pippi could wear long stockings without anyone assuming they were made of sheer nylon".
Back in the 18th Century, the term "bluestocking" was a denigratory description of women of intellect (the days when men didn't know women had any… ). So women definitely wore the all the way back then.

I'm not sure how authentic Joe's transcription is: the first half of verse 2 has, in the version I first heard (c.1972 by Shep Woolley, ex-submariner/sailor, originally from Tamworth, north of Birmingham, England), the lyric "who stoop and grab at anything, to keep from going home". Not sure which is the earlier, thus if this is a bit of folk-processing. I seem to recall he sings "the rattle of the chains", which I'd always assumed to be the chains pulled across by platform staff (yes, there WERE some back then!!) to stop late arrivals rushing a train stopped at the platform, to minimize accidents. You might interpret this as Casey being just about to miss a train he'd wish to catch, a metaphorical echo of his put-upon existence. There always used to be a lot of clanking sounds like that (escalators, as someone has mooted on here already) on the Tube when I travelled on it in the 70s.

Back then, the turnstiles wouldn't have given change: that interpretation is from a post-Millennium perspective of self-service ticket machines, Oyster cards, etc.


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Subject: RE: Casey's last ride - meaning?
From: GUEST,Grishka
Date: 05 Dec 15 - 07:14 PM

The idea behind the "change" theory is that the word is often used synonymously for "coins". But we dismissed that theory, basically because KK can be clearly heard and seen on YouTube singing "chains".

Now, those "chains pulled across by platform staff" - that is the sort of explanation I was looking for, if Londoners can positively assure that they existed in the Tube in KK's time. How exactly did they work? Did they replace the doors? Hard to imagine. I remember trams without doors, but underground??


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Subject: RE: Casey's last ride - meaning?
From: GUEST,henryp
Date: 05 Dec 15 - 08:12 PM

I hear the words;

"But Casey minds the arrows and ignores the fatal echoes
Of the clicking of the turnstiles and the rattle of his chains"

In that case, the chains belong to Casey, not the Underground.


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Subject: RE: Casey's last ride - meaning?
From: GUEST
Date: 29 Dec 15 - 11:14 PM

So... rattle of his chains has to be a reference to him feeling trapped by his family. Also the Last Ride is what makes it interesting. As someone who had only heard Kris do the song previously i think it's up to the singer and the listener to understand. To me when Kris sings the song it's a night on its way to a grisly suicide. When John Denver sings it, the man has resolved to stop cheating on his wife, said goodbye to an old lover, and hopes to be a better father and husband.


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Subject: RE: Casey's last ride - meaning?
From: GUEST,Postercowboy
Date: 17 Feb 16 - 03:59 PM

Interesting to see this thread go on for years...

Here's my take: Casey is an addict, he's most unhappy with his life, in need of a drink, tense and easily upset. He's having a hard time making his way through life, feeling alienated to all the people around him, so he needs a lot of energy to concentrate on his way ('minds the arrows') while trying to block out any disturbances (the fatal echoes...) and especially the other people who 'rattle his chains', i.e. upset him, probably by their mere existence. This is not exactly about riding the underground, it's more like Casey's whole life feels like he's in a tunnel, with no way out. The 'turnstiles' are a probably a symbol for crossing a line, for the feeling of being trapped with no way back (or out).
He's obviously unhappy with his family life, but the encounter with an old lover does not do any good either. This encounter is most likely a fantasy, but he's so depressed, he can't even come up with a pleasant fantasy anymore. Casey wishes nothing more than to end it all, finally taking the 'last ride', as in committing suicide. Let's keep in mind he's a loser and a drunk, so he's most likely unable to put an end to things.

Does this make any sense to you?


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Subject: RE: Casey's last ride - meaning?
From: GUEST,Mrr
Date: 17 Feb 16 - 09:21 PM

Definitely bitter, definitely sad. I always thought it was the last time he went to see his old love, which is even sadder than seeing her. I think he's miserable but not suicidal - if he were, there would be some hope to the song. I always got the impression he was going to keep suffering, just not with the woman he's visiting.


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Subject: RE: Casey's last ride - meaning?
From: GUEST
Date: 31 Jul 16 - 11:06 AM

Re. earlier discussion about is this song set in London or not. I just heard this song for the first time today and it was a live recording of KK. At the start he says "Here's a song I wrote in London about half a century ago". So I think it's pretty clear it is set in London.


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Subject: RE: Casey's last ride - meaning?
From: GUEST,henryp
Date: 31 Jul 16 - 01:33 PM

Sarah Carson The Telegraph 22 JANUARY 2016 wrote;

"It was hard to believe, during Kris Kristofferson's sold-out evening at [London] Islington's Union Chapel, that the country singer-songwriter will turn 80 this year.

"Kristofferson's voice creaked with fragility here, as it did during "Casey's Last Ride" from his debut album from 1970, when he spoke of "neon-darkened corridors of silent desperation", describing the tragic reunion of former partners."

However, that may be the reporter's interpretation rather than the singer's.


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Subject: RE: Casey's last ride - meaning?
From: GUEST
Date: 17 Sep 17 - 07:23 PM

Sounds to me like Casey visited his lover just before committing suicide.


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Subject: RE: Casey's last ride - meaning?
From: Thompson
Date: 17 Sep 17 - 08:59 PM

A song full of puns.

I heard Casey Jones called Casey's Last Ride in my youth. 'Ride' to an Irish person is a jokey term for sexual intercourse, that's one of the puns, drinking a pint of bitter(ness) is another, and so on.

If you like, it's a visit to the psychic underground, on his way to Hades; Casey has married (or stayed married to) the wrong woman and his former lover also still longs for him.

The mixture of Anglo and American usages may be Kristophersen's tin ear for exact dialogue; "to make a body smile" sounds Cockney to me, but perhaps not; following arrows through the subway to the turnstile sounds British, but perhaps not.


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Subject: RE: Casey's last ride - meaning?
From: GUEST,Phil d'Conch
Date: 18 Sep 17 - 02:06 AM

My guess:

Men define themselves by what they do for a living. The job is an escape mechanism from a world that makes little or no sense otherwise. It's medication.

Then comes the gold watch, the handshake and that "last ride" home. Tomorrow, and forevermore, he can sleep in late and nobody will care. Nobody ever really cared... including Casey.

The music changes everytime the old lover speaks. She never married, never had a family of her own… because she never stopped loving Casey. He used the affair to escape from his life as well and he's carrying the memory of that guilt and regret on top of all the rest.

This, and KK was a Lit major, makes me think of author Robert Ardrey's "Casey." A "real" working man shorn of the song's romanticism (...but based on same &c &c.)


PS: Didja know KK's first language was Tejano Tex-Mex? Shout out to his "Mom" Cantu and all the good folks in McAllen-Brownsville.


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