Jump to content
Greasy Lake Community

Gypsy Biker - the cocaine theory


Recommended Posts

I just read Rolling Stone's review of Magic for the first time in years and I was reminded of an argument I had with a few fans back when the record came out.

Writing about Gypsy Biker, David Fricke says "the devastated singer is numb with grief, mourning over lines of cocaine."

Bullshit. The assumption that the white lines mentioned at the end of the song are cocaine is wrong.

"Now I'm out countin' white lines, countin' white lines and gettin' stoned."

They're lines on the highway. The narrator of this song is a biker. He's riding. He's in the wind with his grief. 

Gettin' stoned. That's not a phrase you usually associate with coke or any other upper. Wired. Amped. Not stoned.

Anyway, great song. So-so review.

 

 

  • Like 5
  • Thanks 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

I'm probably way off with this, but would it be right to assume the line "getting stoned" then is in reference to the 'debris' of gravel or something similar flying up at him whilst he's riding down the highway?

Agree with it being a great song, I really love it when Bruce just vents at the perpetrators in his songs relating to war, the "Robert McNamara says he's sorry" line in The Wall is a great example of that off the top of my head. 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Well, I've never bought (liked?) the drug addition theory myself, but I see no reason for ruling it out completely. Bruce probably wanted to be ambigous and let the door open to more interpretations.

Most songs on that album have rather obscure lyrics/lines (Last to die / Magic / Devil's Arcade / You're own worst enemy / I'll work for your love) and I think it was done on purpose. I see this writing style as a feature of the album as much as its sound.

  • Like 3
  • Thanks 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

1 hour ago, TheBoss said:

To me it was always about him out on his bike alone counting the white lines on the highway (driving long distances to kill time) and getting stoned by smoking marijuana.

Agree. It's "countin' white lines AND gettin' stoned." Its a song about a biker. Were he to be "snortin'" or sniffin'" white lines, it'd be a no brainier, but would then detract from the verse, because he's just getting off his face, he's not riding. The line as it's best understood now, is that he's riding his machine and getting stoned. It also fits far better into the grand arc of themeatic Bruce. Another traveller. This one riding into a monotonous nothing. 

  • Like 3
Link to comment
Share on other sites

7 hours ago, Promise61 said:

It could be cocaine.

The original version of Shut Out The Light had a drug reference in a verse that they left out of the released version.  Maybe, 20 odd years later,  Bruce wanted to put one back in (?) 

:wacko:

I'm still gonna argue that it's not a cocaine reference.

I know that version of Shut Out The Light. The line about him being stretched out on a chair with a few bad habits he picked up over there?

I agree it's a drug reference, probably heroin, and I agree there's a drug reference in Gypsy Biker. It's a marijuana reference, most likely. He says he's gettin' stoned. That's the drug reference. The countin' white lines is the road. 

The language surrounding the phrase white lines just doesn't lend itself to cocaine binging.

He's out countin' white lines. You powder your pain with cocaine and you're probably in, not keeping track until it's gone. And again, gettin' stoned isn't really used to describe the cocaine euphoria. I'm not saying it hasn't ever been used that way, but stoned usually refers to something more relaxing, almost always pot or pills, but heroin, too. I don't include heroin in this argument because I have serious doubts that a guy who's snorting heroin is conscious enough to be out riding his bike.

It also may or may not matter, but remember also that in this song, the narrator isn't the vet, he's an MC brother.

I know art is subjective. Sometimes it's not. I agree with the earlier post that a lot of Magic is ambiguous. Some of it isn't.

 

 

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

‘White lines’ in a song lyric is very easily read both ways. A good example is Joni Mitchell’s Coyote. (A superb song, by the way. Give it a listen if you’ve never heard it.)

I never really thought that the Gypsy Biker ‘white lines’ was about cocaine. Bruce seems more of a ‘highway’ sort of guy.

But what a song. My favourite Bruce song of the past 30 years!

  • Like 2
Link to comment
Share on other sites

I haven't heard of this theory before. For me, it was always the road and its white lines. I haven't really thought about the meaning of getting stoned as it was obvious to me.
 
Being logical, if you are counting the lines, you probably have a  significant number of lines to count, not just a couple. It is a repetitive, monotonous act. I have zero knowledge about cocaine, but the numbers of the lines probably don't exceed several per hour. It doesn't make sense to count them. You know how much you had taken without the actual counting. 

Merely my assumptions.

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

45 minutes ago, Silvia said:

I haven't heard of this theory before. For me, it was always the road and its white lines. I haven't really thought about the meaning of getting stoned as it was obvious to me.
 
Being logical, if you are counting the lines, you probably have a  significant number of lines to count, not just a couple. It is a repetitive, monotonous act. I have zero knowledge about cocaine, but the numbers of the lines probably don't exceed several per hour. It doesn't make sense to count them. You know how much you had taken without the actual counting. 

Merely my assumptions.

Over the weeks, months, years you might lose count though... 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

11 minutes ago, J said:

Dylan once said something along the lines of (and I'm paraphrasing here): "My songs are about what the listener thinks they're about". 

Of course, this is true. The audience has its own interpretive input. However I think what the OP is about is about looking at what the intention of the writer is. Or at least, what was at the forefront of the writer's mind. 

This reminds me again of the Elvis Costello story about getting a letter thanking him for his lovely song about a boat trip - Shipbuilding - as he said, they're entitled to that interpretation, but no, that's not what I intended. 

The "white lines" as coke interpretation, is so outside of the scope of the song, and Bruce's overall thematic concerns, that it makes it unlikely that that is what he intended. That a listener might read it as that is something else entirely. 

My mate, David, years ago, heard Streets of Philadelphia, when he was an addict, and believed it was speaking to him, about his drug addiction, and of course it was. Even though we know that the specific remit of the song, was to give voice to someone with AIDS. Of course Bruce left it so open, that it could be about pretty much any existential crisis a person is having. 

Thats not the case with GB. There are so many specifics. But if course a listener can make their own reading. However the listener cannot then say, refardoess of all evidence, my personal reading is correct, and expect to go unchallenged. 

So, for example, the line is "countin white lines and getting stoned". I read above that because Bruce ha previously referred to hard drug use in a scalped version of Shut Out The Lights, it makes this a likely reading here. By a stronger extension, we could say that "white lines" is about him getting coked up, and the phrase @getting stoned", is a religious reference, to biblical stoning for transgressions within Stone Age society. Bruce has made much of biblical references over the years, so, that box is ticked. Class a drugs are illegal, so this is a transgression, so we all must accept that my reading, that this man is doing lines of sniff and then being punished by his peers, through the barbaric act of stoning, is correct. 

Either that or we go with the more plausible, given the context, reading. 

  • Haha 2
Link to comment
Share on other sites

I think it's pretty obvious that the white lines in GB are not cocaine. There are things in Bruce's lyrics I haven't caught or understood completely, due to English not being my mother language, but in this case - to me, at least- it was (and is) clear that the narrator is riding a motorcycle, counting the white lines in the road. 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

1 hour ago, Dr. Zoom said:

I think it's pretty obvious that the white lines in GB are not cocaine. There are things in Bruce's lyrics I haven't caught or understood completely, due to English not being my mother language, but in this case - to me, at least- it was (and is) clear that the narrator is riding a motorcycle, counting the white lines in the road. 

"What's a ramrod? I looked it up in the dictionary but it made no sense!" - Wrongbus (Rune) 2003

  • Haha 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Restore formatting

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

 Share

×
×
  • Create New...