I posted this in the album thread a while ago but since I bothered to write 4,500 words about it, I decided to immortalise it here. My intepretations of every song on The Longshot's Love is for Losers, with doodles to go with them. These are all based on my own feelings and aren't necessarily correct.
The Last Time
The narrator has upset his lover, they’re giving him the silent treatment, he doesn’t really understand why or if there’s even a valid reason, but he’s promising it’ll be the last time in desperation to keep them. It’s like a prequel to the following songs about lost love.
Summary: a metaphor for jumping in a taxi to anywhere but here to escape misery. It’s frantic like actually trying to get an urgent taxi in New York City during rush hour.
“I got a suitcase in my hand, don’t even know just where I am, so take me to my destination” - the narrator is carrying his emotional baggage, unsure where he even is in his mind and asking the metaphorical taxi driver to take him to a destination he doesn’t even know. It’s like literally running away with just a suitcase in his hand, not even knowing where he is in desperation to escape. “Don’t want a ride, I need a lift, so drop me to the late night shift, somewhere out of your jurisdiction” - he doesn’t want a ride, he just needs a lift to anywhere but here. “Late night shift” could refer to the musings and anxiety of sleepless nights.
“Are we alone or are we all we’ve ever known? Taxi driver, I’m rolling like a stone” - he’s posing questions about life that a taxi driver could never answer, because in this moment, the taxi driver is everything as he takes him away from his misery. His thoughts are rolling like a stone and he feels like he’s triumphantly rolling as he gets away.
“So take me down the motorway, the highway to another day, I’ll take the side street out of vision” - he’s metaphorically out of town, on the highway to another day with the taxi driver he’s expecting way too much of, taking the side street out of vision from the misery he’s escaping. This may be reading way too much into simple word choices, but I like it - “motorway” is British English, “highway” is American English and the contrast feels representative of confusion and how far he’ll go with this metaphorical taxi driver just to get away.
“Give me a sign, give me a home,” asking the taxi driver, currently representative of fate to him, to give him a sign if what he’s feeling is right and a home at the end of his journey; “damned if I do, damned if I don’t” - damned if he stays and accepts his misery, damned if he doesn’t because “oh taxi driver, what’s the mission?” - he doesn’t even know what he’s doing.
“I wanna get around, I wanna get a new ride, I gotta get along so when the hope comes I’m all go!” - he wants to be ready in case he suddenly finds the answer to all these questions he’s asking about life, and in case hope for his situation to improve suddenly presents itself. That could be in the form of hope for his relationship working out, rediscovering love he’s lost, or just for feeling better about life in general.
Chasing a Ghost
Summary: chasing the ghost of a lost love.
“Piss stains and cigarettes, this party’s getting dull, I’m looking for a bump and a wall (???) to call my home” - I’m not sure “wall” is correct but anyway, the former two lines imply the narrator is partying to take his mind off how he’s “chasing a ghost,” but without that person it’s getting dull and his feelings are getting harder to ignore.
“I’m feeling like a moron, bitter and withdrawn” - his feelings about the dying relationship are making him bitter and withdrawn, which he feels like a moron for; “standing in the shadows with all the good times gone” - he’s retreating into the dark, where he’s miserable and feels like all good times are in the past.
“I’ve got the tears oh baby, crying in my soul” - the narrator is putting on a brave face but crying inside; “hang from the chandelier from a long long time ago” - hanging from the chandelier probably refers to wild sex or fantasies they shared (which could in turn be referring to ¡Dos!), but the way it’s sung is sensitive and emotional rather than crude. It’s a “long, long time ago” but he’s still reminiscing about it. He’s “chasing a ghost” because he’s desperately chasing his memory of someone, even though they’re little more than a ghost.
“Everyone is happy and everyone is gay, feeling the spirits and twisting the night away,” refers to a party or show, one that the song’s subject is also at. They could be someone he only sees at events, which could tie into Brutal Love with “dance forever, under the lights” and the trilogy’s forbidden love themes. Perhaps he’s never even been in a relationship with them but just wonders if, as he sings in Stay the Night, they could be “the one that got away.” That would also fit with them being a “ghost” because he can’t actually have them. Or maybe it’s none of that and he just happens to be seeing them at this event. “But when the thrill is gone and I’m staring at my phone,” is a beautiful depiction of modern day longing and disappointment, when the party’s over and he tells the subject “thanks for the company but I’m still standing alone,” because even though the short time they spent together was thrilling, they’re still not together. Instead, he’s aimlessly staring at his phone, as we all have at some point. The party could be a metaphor for how exciting and thrilling the subject’s company is. Lots of interpretations there!
“And it ain’t the same, ain’t it a shame?” - whatever he shares with the subject is no longer the same and he’s lamenting that in both this line and the following “here’s to the painkillers, oh yeah, on a Saturday night.” Saturday nights are associated with fun, partying and letting go for a night, but instead, the narrator is alone taking metaphorical painkillers to numb the pain of his lost love.
“So if you see her tell her that I said hello” - he’s given up hope that he’ll even see her again to say hello, but feels no animosity towards her; “I miss the times we spent and now I gotta go” - whatever they shared, he misses it but now he has to move on, whether because their love was forbidden or just didn’t work out; “she was my last hurrah and always got me stoned” - she was his last thrill, his last love and he enjoyed his time with her so much it was like drugs that left him stoned; “thanks for the sympathy and the punch in the nose” - thanking her, whoever is listening, for the sympathy and sarcastically “thanking” her, or the circumstances that prevent their love, for the “punch in the nose” as a metaphor for heartbreak.
The “ghost” could be a real person who’s become a “ghost” since he’ll never see them again - and in that case, most likely the same one the trilogy is about. It could also be the “imaginary girlfriends” Billie’s mentioned and refers to in Razor Baby, hence why they’re a “ghost.” Some people interpret this entire song as being about drugs and the human subject just a metaphor for that. Whilst I do think it refers to addiction (since an addict wrote it so it naturally does), I think that’s used as a metaphor for the relationship rather than the other way around. This is such a heartbreaking song.
Summary: feeling like his relationship leaves him dead in a body bag.
“She knits me a pastel purple sweater” - she does sweet things for me; “I’m staring blank into the sky” - maybe he’s left staring blank into the sky as he revels in those sweet things, or perhaps he’s doing so because he has to look away, knowing those sweet things won’t last, either because of his own mistakes or hers; “she reads me like a scarlet letter” - she sees through me and won’t take my shit; “she holds my heart and hopes to die” - like “cross my heart and hope to die,” she holds my heart, keeping me in love with her, while holding me to account if I hurt her and even sometimes when I don’t.
“Sometimes it ain’t so bad, like a soul lies on the slab” - sometimes it doesn’t hurt so much, though that seems sarcastic, because even when it’s not so bad it’s still as if his soul has been thrown down on a slab; “this is my life in a body bag” - this is how he lives his life, feeling dead and abandoned in a body bag.
“She’s got a diary of madness” - perhaps referring to his lover’s own issues, or if considered from a forbidden love angle, a diary she keeps of their love that feels like madness because they can’t truly have it; “she is a murder mystery” - referring back to how her love makes him feel like a dead man, but also how he doesn’t really understand her and romanticises her as a mystery; “she dumped me in a brand new address, with a brand new sweater made for me” - she sugarcoats her ruthlessness with sweet gestures.
If I linked this to another song, I’d pick Wild One. He’s almost afraid of the subject of Wild One, because she’s “manic,” ruthless and he’s put her on a pedestal as someone ethereal, but he can’t help but give in to her anyway; Body Bag feels like a more tired, toned down portrayal of the same subject
Love is for Losers
Summary: sarcastically dismissing love as being for losers because he’s been left longing for a love he’s lost.
“I’m riding shotgun in a car that’s broken down” - the narrator is being dragged through a love that’s broken down; “nowhere to run and this city’s like a ghost town” - there’s nowhere to run to avoid facing his feelings and the truth. He feels so alone as his lover has deserted him that the entire city feels like a ghost town. “And I’m feeling like a stranger, and I’m standing in the dark” - he feels like a stranger to his lover and himself in the face of losing her. He’s standing alone in the dark, as he’s “standing in the shadows with all the good times gone” in Chasing a Ghost, where it feels like there’s no light at the end of the tunnel.
“Hey kid, love is for losers now, alright. Stupid kid, you’re a loser now, alright” - he’s sarcastically - because he doesn’t really mean it since he’s still pathetically in love - telling himself and his lover that love is for losers, calling them stupid for falling for it, to make himself feel better. He refers to himself and her as kids because that’s how vulnerable he feels.
“My heart’s a has-been for my long lost valentine” - his lover is long gone now, but his heart is a has-been, stuck in the past as he’s longing for her and “chasing a ghost.” Then, he laments that “I searched the winter for the bride of Frankenstein.” He searched and fought desperately for someone that could never exist as his bride. When Frankenstein’s monster asked for a bride so he wouldn’t be so alone, Dr. Frankenstein initially agreed to create one. However, he abandoned it out of fear they might produce more monsters. The monster remained alone. His bride couldn’t exist. She was never more than an unattainable dream, as the narrator is searching for someone who couldn’t be more than that. This is one of my favourite lines Billie has ever written. I got it tattooed on my arm right before the Vancouver show and it’s a bit faded because dancing on the front row with a fresh tattoo is a Bad Idea, but that makes me love it more.
In See You Tonight on ¡Dos!, the narrator says “the colder it gets you won’t see me anymore.” Then in Love is for Losers, he’s desperately searching that winter, where he once said she wouldn’t see him anymore, for someone he’ll never find. “But we all got our delusions” - but we all have that one dream, like my bride of Frankenstein, that we cling onto and delude ourselves might be real. “Say goodbye to an old flame” - but now I have to move on.
“It goes to show ya, when they say that love is pain” - taking a cliche that turned out to be true for him to describe his feelings; “only the lonesome, got nowhere to run but the tears to go…” - inviting all the lonesome to lament with him and accept they have nowhere to run but to face the heartbreak.
Summary: turning someone, whether himself or another, who’s unknown and/or doesn’t fit the image of a “hero” into a “cult hero.”
“I am the patron of a story never told” - the narrator is nobody, but only because his story will never be told; “I am the longest shot in town” - a great line because it refers back to the band’s name and how he feels everything about him is a long shot; “I ride the darkest horses in the rodeo” - unlike your regular hero, I walk a darker path; "I am the unsung of the clowns“ - I’m the unheard representative of fools.
”I am hyena at the dog and pony show" - I’m an outcast; ”I’m the last of the lesser knowns, ‘cause I wanna be a cult hero“ - in a sense, he’s making fun of himself by sarcastically exaggerating his own importance as the last person to be lesser known, which isn’t something most people would be proud of; but he wants to be a cult hero.
”I got my darkest secrets and whispers at the moon, where all the stars never align" - acknowledging that he has dark secrets, which most "heroes” don’t, that only the moon and unaligned stars will ever hear because he’s a “lesser known”; “well, I can self destruct on any given note, my ruin is my storyline” - he has issues, he’s imperfect, but that in itself is his storyline. It’s what makes him a cult hero.
When Billie posted clips of Cult Hero, he included a photo of his dad, who was on the teamsters and always fighting for the right thing. That could be considered heroic. But obviously, no one outside of his family, friends and fans even knows who his father is; and even if they did, he’s not the kind of person who’s generally celebrated as a hero. So I interpret this song as making a cult hero of someone like his father who’d never achieve mainstream hero status and putting that on a pedestal.
Kill Your Friends
Summary: using killing your friends as a violent metaphor to mock, and as a contrast to, the meaningless and surface level kindness that’s rife in society today. The narrator is letting go and doing whatever he wants, because everything is going to shit anyway.
“Heaven’s making rent, there’s a vacancy for me and all my friends” - heaven (notably not hell) has room for the narrator and his fairweather friends who’ll metaphorically die; “the end of days are on the way” - he feels a metaphorical apocalypse is coming, so it doesn’t matter what he does; “who needs eulogies? When you got your loved ones and everyone’s depressed” - mocking the concept of performative loved ones and gratitude for them when in reality everyone’s depressed, by saying you don’t even need eulogies when you have something so falsely perfect; “party in the morgue tonight, everything’s gonna be alright” - what happens matters so little they they’ll practically still be alive when they’re dead.
“And we’ll be singing kill your friends and we better get it, and we’ll show up missing” - we’ll be singing something crass and gory, but who cares? It means little to him because the friends he’s singing about aren’t really his friends. “Show up missing” is some fun wordplay.
“Deadbeats on parade, gonna bite the bullet and jump on the grenade” - calling these people displaying false kindness deadbeats. He’s going to say what he wants instead of holding back, even though that might be like jumping on a grenade. “Fuck the world, it’s judgment day!” - again, he’s going to do what he wants, because it feels like judgment day is coming anyway; “we got thoughts and prayers” - mocking another societal concept of “thoughts and prayers” which don’t really help anyone, so he sings “nothing comes to mind and I don’t even care.” Instead, “I’m gonna take it to the mausoleum” - similar to “waking up the dead and everything will be alright in Angel Blue” - “and we’re not going 'til you’re screaming…” because he will be heard, he won’t be brushed off with thoughts and prayers and he’s not afraid to use violent imagery to get that across.
“One finger on the trigger and lying on the stereo” - he’s got one finger on a metaphorical trigger while he lies on the stereo (mass publicity) that everything is fine; “I think you’re killing me with kindness” - he’s sick of pity parties that mean nothing; “gunslinger, dead ringer and Michelangelo” - he wants to feel like he’s dangerous; “I’m in stitches blowing kisses and a death wish” - he’s laughing as he does something morbid and offensive because he doesn’t care anymore and in reality, what he’s mocking is equally offensive. The song as a whole could reflect his reckless feelings as he loses his lover.
Summary: ironically singing about happiness to communicate the opposite.
“Where is my sanctuary town? My love is reaching for a higher ground” - the narrator is asking where he can find this mythical sanctuary of happiness he’s never known, trying and failing to reach a higher ground where love doesn’t hurt; “I’m in the church of broken hearts, these congregations for the after dark” - he’s wallowing in heartbreak like it’s a religion, shared with people who spiritually congregate on sleepness nights, in the dark where they’ll never be seen.
“How lonely is your lonely? How lonely is your restlessness?” - do you feel as lonely as I do? “See when the war is over, some day when hell freezes over, how unhappy is your happiness?” - it’s a rhetorical question, because he knows hell will freeze over before he gets an answer and feels less alone.
“Up on the lonely avenue, my ride is running late or I’m too soon” - using the metaphor of a ride again to describe how nothing goes right for him; “my wheels are spinning in a ditch” - he can’t escape his loneliness; “that sinking feeling on a floating bridge” - comparing that to feeling like standing on a bridge that’s bound to sink and drown you.
“Lonely nights and too dumb to cry, as the songs are down” - lamenting how lonely he is, awake at night writing songs about his lost love and misery, unable to cry and feeling dumb as a result; “safety pins and purge all my sins, seasons of my murder” - again, I’m not actually sure what that last word is (release the lyrics Billie), but regardless that line is probably still, to me, about unhappiness escalating to the point where you think about death.
Summary: surrendering your soul to someone in love and feeling an almost spiritual connection with them, even when they’re gone.
“Sweet soul surrender” - the narrator describes his love with the subject as baring their souls to each other in devotion, even if that is “sweet old suicide.” It feels almost like a spiritual connection of their souls. “She’s my sole/soul defender,” because despite the faults the relationship had and her absence now, she’s still the only person who’ll defend him. If it’s “soul,” not “sole” defender, he could feel her presence literally defends his soul from negativity. He tells her “don’t be so uptight” because there’s no need to be when they were this close. He could also be telling other people not to be so uptight about their relationship because she’s his “soul surrender.”
“Just me and my imagination, I swear I think I saw a ghost” - this line tells us he’s actually alone. Seeing a “ghost” refers back to Chasing a Ghost. He’s longing for her so much, and he still feels so connected to her that he’s seeing her like a ghost who isn’t there, but almost wants to believe that image is real. “Oh, lead me out of my temptation, I got a case of letting go” - he’s asking a higher power, or her as if she’s that higher power herself, to stop him spiralling back into his worst throes of longing or trying to find her again.
“Send me a message through the window, something that I have never known” - in wanting to know if she still thinks about him, or if that ghost could metaphorically be real like a manifestation of their reciprocal longing, he asks her to send him a message through the window. The window is like a divide between them, because she can’t or won’t tell him in person, going back to the forbidden love theme. He wants something he’s never known, because he wants to know how that feels for once in his life and because it would identify that message as being from her. “I think I need a long vacation, to keep me clean and blow my nose” - he needs a vacation, where he can cry and forget, to escape this longing and avoid giving in to it, or relapsing in distress.
Some people interpret this song as being about rehab because of the “keep me clean” line. That’s an interesting angle too. For me though, “soul surrender” is the furthest you can go in your love for someone, and experiencing something like that leaves a mark so deep you might still see the person’s ghost after they’re gone.
Turn Me Loose
Summary: trying to be triumphant in the face of a relationship ending.
“Don’t let your ponytail get out of line, I got a feeling on my mind,” stop and pay attention to me, because I have something to say; “I’m on the spectrum and the borderline, I got the shakes but I’m alright,” I’m dealing with my own issues but I’m alright, insisting he’s fine despite how his lover made him feel, when in reality he knows he isn’t.
“Turn me loose,” let me go, “I’m only gonna stagger” - I’ll “stagger” but won’t fall, it won’t hurt too much; “April Fool’s and I’m not a runner,” I’m already a fool anyway, so whatever; just “don’t call me a loser with dumb tattoos” and hurt me, but “it doesn’t matter,” pretending he doesn’t care, which is sarcastic because he’s just admitted he does.
“I’ll go down swinging for the final line,” I’ll fight for myself until the end; “I’m not the rebel for my bride,” I’m a rebel for myself and not for you; “just for the record and the afterlife, I’ll take a beating not a dive,” I’ll take a beating but I won’t be knocked down, also linking back to Fell For You - “steal a kiss and I took a dive” - saying this time, I won’t take a dive for you.
Because it’s all bluster and he is hurting really, he sings “I’m gonna make a racket, I’m gonna start a riot, I’m gonna make you crash and burn,” saying he’s going to be immature and break the person’s heart in return.
Goodbye to Romance
So this is an Ozzy Osbourne cover and Billie didn’t write it, so it could be argued it means nothing. To me it’s there for a reason though. It’s like hope for the unattainable love he’s been singing about for the whole album - “we’ll meet in the end” and “it won’t be me this time around to love in vain” - while empowering himself by saying “goodbye to friends and to romance” at the same time. It was also played by Green Day at the first trilogy show at the Tiki Bar in Costa Mesa, so this is a nice way of that whole concept coming full circle.
Finally, some takes on a few of the b-sides, which I’m sure weren’t meant to be analysed but let’s go with it:
The narrator uses the concept of a fever blister and being contagious as a metaphor for how repulsive he considers himself, his self-hatred and how he feels he’s so awful people should avoid him.
I can’t even discern all the lyrics to this so it’s a bit of a shot in the dark (or long shot?). I get the impression it’s from the perspective of a female character like Gloria (“of love and razor blades”) that’s loosely based on Billie, using her self-harm (“razor baby” / “she covers up all through the summer”) to empower her instead of put her down. Also refers to her having “imaginary girlfriends, someone that she can share her pain,” tying into the “ghost” theme.
I've Got My Problems
A simple and cynical love song. The narrator plays down his desire for romance - he just wants someone rousing (“I wanna be a girl like you”) to hang around with. Finding that feels like a temporary “solution” to his problems, while he’s “hitting bottom” but “she’s alright.” He feels more strongly about her than he’s letting on, since he doesn’t “wanna fuck around with nobody else” and will “take one on the chin for you.” Whilst Baby Blue is a song written for These Paper Bullets, in this case I think “like voodoo dolls and baby blue” refers back to Angel Blue, someone who’ll “cut my chest just to see the blood.”
Summary: a new romance is compared to the devil because it’s typically “sinful.”
“Beer stains and cigarettes, the party is in my pocket” - two interpretations here. “Party is in my pocket” could mean a party is dependant on the narrator because he’s in control. Like the phrase “in your pocket” typically means being extremely close to, or dependant on, someone. It could also, as some others interpret it, refer to cocaine (especially with the following “bump” line). If so, I think that whilst this “party” might literally involve drugs, it’s also a metaphor for how high the subject makes him feel - “she was my last hurrah and always got me stoned.”
“I’m looking for a drink and a couch to call my home / give me a bump and I will call” - drugs and alcohol could be giving the narrator the confidence to behave like “the devil’s kind” with the subject or even approach her at all. It could also be the same metaphor as the previous line, asking the subject to get him drunk and high on her.
“And whisper dirty lies, the rapture in your ear and we’ll both be terrified” - the couple are revelling in their “sin.” Being “terrified” is like a high, or sarcastic because they’re actually loving it. Or they could be doing things that do terrify them, but fired up by each other, they’re up for it. I’d link this again to Wild One and Body Bag; how he’s almost afraid of the subject because she’s ruthless and so idealised by him.
“Bloodshot eyes and you’re peppermint” - their eyes are bloodshot because they’re up all night and partying (whether metaphorically or literally), but like peppermint is associated with lowered heart rate and blood pressure, the subject is like a cure for the narrator. Like taking ecstasy so you don’t have to sleep. “We can roll like dogs from the devil” - they should be afraid of the devil, but instead in their sin they’ll come close to him, only to roll like dogs without a care away.
“Give me one last try for your love tonight” - this isn’t their first encounter and the narrator doesn’t want it to last just one more night as fun, he actually wants her love. Reminds me yet again of Wild One and the note in the lyric book, “let’s fall in love (just for an hour)” when really, he wants more than just an hour’s love.
“I’ll be the king forever and you can be my sunshine” - to use a cliche, he’ll be king of the subject’s heart forever. Again, he wants her forever, not just now and he wants to leave a mark on her. In return, she’ll be like his sunshine in the dark. Her being like a “cure” or “defender” is a recurring theme. “We are the devil’s kind” - they’re the devil’s kind of people because they’re sinful. I think a lot of the implications of sin are subtle references to sex. “And now I won’t back down, I said I won’t back down” - he won’t give up on trying to win the subject’s love, like in Stop When the Red Lights Flash, he insists "I'll make you surrender."
“Take me into the water” - could refer to holy water or water as cleansing for his demons or sins, or alternatively her metaphorically drowning him; “and pull me from the slaughter” - the defender theme coming up again, like she’s the only one who can pull him from negativity; “because I’ve got the shakes and I’m so petrified” - this time only he’s petrified. The way it’s sung is confident and assertive, but admitting this to her as if she’s his comfort is quite vulnerable. Could be linked to “I’ve got the shakes but I’m alright” in Turn Me Loose, which is a bit of a heartbreaking comparison because at that point the relationship is over, but he’s trying to insist he’ll be alright anyway.
For the drawing, I used the “sunshine” theme and link to “dance forever, under the lights.” The girl is loosely based on how I imagine the character in Wow! That’s Loud and the guy on the young Perry Miller performing Devil’s Kind in Ordinary World.
So I might be reading way too much into some of this, but as some of my favourite songs Billie has written, they deserve it. These are of course my own personal interpretations based on my own feelings and I could be completely wrong about them all. I also don’t mean to imply anything about Billie personally or his private life. I have no idea who or what he’s singing about and knowing wouldn’t change any of my intepretations. Because hey, some people find analysing art fun… and I have a photography degree so finding meaning in things no one else cares about is what I do for a living.
Feel free to comment with your own interpretations! And if lyric analysis interests you, check out our extended discussion in the album thread.