Junk Bond Trader
Elliott Smith Lyrics


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The imitation picks you up like a habit
Writing in the glow of the TV's static
Taking out the trash to the man
Give the people something they'd understand
A stick man flashing a fine-lined smile
Junk bond trader trying to sell a sucker a stock
Rich man in a poor man's clothes
The permanent installment of the daily dose

And you tell off when you tell it like it is
Your world's no wider than your hatred of his
Check into a small reality
Boring as a drug you take too regularly
The athlete's laugh, the broken crutch
The first true love that folded at the slightest touch
Brought down like an old hotel
People digging through rubble for things they can resell

Happy holidays, sad sick savior
The leaving lover that I still favor
I won't take your medicine, I don't need a remedy
To be everything I'm supposed to be
I don't want nobody else, I can do it by myself
We're meant to be together
Oh, oh

Now I'm a policeman directing traffic
Keeping everything moving, everything static
I'm a hitchhiker you'll recognize passing
On your way to some everlasting

Better sell it while you can
Better sell it while you can




Better sell it while you can
Better sell it while you can

Overall Meaning

The lyrics of Elliott Smith's "Junk Bond Trader" delve into themes of capitalism, deceit, and self-destruction. The first verse describes the job of a junk bond trader, who tries to sell stock to unsuspecting clients. The phrase "taking out the trash to the man" implies that the clients are being disposed of rather than served, highlighting the cutthroat nature of the industry. The repetition of "the permanent installment of the daily dose" refers to the addictive and obsessive cycle of greed and corruption that characterizes financial markets. This verse highlights the impact of capitalism on individuals, both rich and poor, who are trapped in a system that perpetuates inequality.


The second verse focuses on the theme of delusion and self-destruction. The singer is described as having a narrow worldview that is limited by their "hatred" of other people. The metaphor of "checking into a small reality, boring as a drug you take too regularly" implies that the singer has become addicted to their own narrow-mindedness. The third line, "the athlete's laugh, the broken crutch," suggests that the singer is simultaneously powerful and weak, laughing at others while also physically broken. The final line, "people digging through rubble for things they can resell," is a commentary on the emptiness of consumer culture and the ways in which people are encouraged to consume and discard objects.


The chorus of "Junk Bond Trader" toggles between resignation and resolve. The first two lines, "Happy holidays, sad sick savior, the leaving lover that I still favor," evoke a sense of melancholy and resignation. However, the final lines, "I won't take your medicine, I don't need a remedy, to be everything I'm supposed to be, I don't want nobody else, I can do it by myself, we're meant to be together," signal a defiant insistence on individualism and self-confidence, perhaps in the face of societal pressures to conform.


Line by Line Meaning

The imitation picks you up like a habit
Something that is not authentic or real attracts you like a habit.


Writing in the glow of the TV's static
Writing or indulging in activities that consume your time and do not add any value to your life.


Taking out the trash to the man
Working for someone else as a means to make a living and not being in control of your own life.


Give the people something they'd understand
Serving the public with something familiar that is easy to buy or sell.


A stick man flashing a fine-lined smile
An illusion of happiness that masks an unhappy reality.


Junk bond trader trying to sell a sucker a stock
Someone selling low-quality investments to unsuspecting people as a means to make money.


Rich man in a poor man's clothes
Someone who has money but chooses to dress modestly, giving off a false image to others.


The permanent installment of the daily dose
The cyclical nature of daily life and habits that are hard to break.


And you tell off when you tell it like it is
Speaking the truth can sometimes offend people, even if it's the right thing to do.


Your world's no wider than your hatred of his
Your perspective may be limited, so you judge or hate other people before getting to know them.


Checking into a small reality
Focusing only on the present and not seeing the bigger picture.


Boring as a drug you take too regularly
Engaging in mundane and repetitive activities that have no real value or purpose, like taking a drug habitually.


The athlete's laugh, the broken crutch
Memories of past experiences and emotions that dictate how we see and respond to the world around us.


The first true love that folded at the slightest touch
An intense emotional connection that dissolved easily, leaving you feeling vulnerable or incomplete.


Brought down like an old hotel
Something that was once grand or impressive but has now deteriorated and lost its value.


People digging through rubble for things they can resell
A desire for material possessions or money that can come at the expense of exploiting or disregarding others' suffering.


Happy holidays, sad sick savior
The irony of the holiday season, which is often associated with happiness, but can also bring about feelings of sadness and emptiness.


The leaving lover that I still favor
An ex-partner that you still have feelings for, even though you know it's not healthy to dwell on the past.


I won't take your medicine
Refusing to conform to someone else's expectations or standards of what's considered 'normal'.


I don't need a remedy
Feeling content with who you are and not seeking external validation or solutions to perceived problems.


To be everything I'm supposed to be
Striving to be the best version of yourself and not conforming to societal expectations or norms.


I don't want nobody else
Being self-sufficient and independent, without the need for someone else to complete you.


I can do it by myself
Relying on your own strength and capabilities to achieve your goals.


We're meant to be together
The belief that some things are meant to happen, even when they seem unlikely or impossible.


Now I'm a policeman directing traffic
Taking control of a situation and directing others, even when it may not be your responsibility to do so.


Keeping everything moving, everything static
Maintaining the status quo, without trying to change anything or challenge existing norms.


I'm a hitchhiker you'll recognize passing
Being familiar to others, but not staying in one place for too long or having any real commitments.


On your way to some everlasting
Unknowingly heading towards something that will last forever, whether that be a physical destination or an emotional one.


Better sell it while you can
The fleeting nature of opportunities and the importance of taking advantage of them when they arise.


Better sell it while you can
The repetition of this line emphasizes the urgency and importance of seizing opportunities before they pass by.




Lyrics © Universal Music Publishing Group
Written by: Steven Paul Smith

Lyrics Licensed & Provided by LyricFind
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