Interpretations of (I’m Looking for) Cracks in the Pavement

Last week when I discussed The Reflex and what the heck it could possibly mean, I also asked what other songs should I examine and try to figure out meanings.  I got many songs suggested to me but one song in particular was given by more than one person.  That song is from the same era as The Reflex and that is (I’m Looking for) Cracks in the Pavement.  Unlike The Reflex, I don’t have some huge memories attached to this one.  I will say this.  It wasn’t a song that hit me when I first got Seven and the Ragged Tiger as a kid.  Maybe, it was that I didn’t get it back then as I do remember thinking that the lyrics were goofy.  I like it better now.  Do I have a better grasp of what it could mean?  We will see.  On a different note, I do remember a story I heard on an interview with Duran in which Simon discussed how his pants ripped at the seam during the middle of a concert.  Apparently, he decided that stapling the pants together would help, but did not.  John’s response to this story was to ask Simon if they were performing Cracks in the Pavement! Oh, how, I appreciate that sense of humor!!!  Before I dive into possible theories, let’s take a look at a fan video that was made with the song.

Here are the lyrics to the song:

I shed my skin
When the party was about to begin
I’m light years away but I’m walking back tonight
Of all nights
When I should be feeling just right
Don’t want to be in public
My head is full of chopstick
I don’t like it

[CHORUS]
Something on my mind
Breaking open doors I had sealed up before
Something on my mind
Makes me run when I thought I’d run too far

Somebody shaking my tree
Maybe that somebody is me
I’m standing in the light but
I’m making a break for the shadows
On the cinema wall
They should be mine but I’m not that tall
Now I’m saying this in privaate
If I had a car I’d drive it
Insane

[CHORUS]

I’m looking for cracks in the pavement

Unlike The Reflex, there are not as many interpretations online for this song.  There are a few theories, though.  They are as follows:

*Being high

*Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder

*Feeling out of place

*Having a mental breakdown

Those are interesting theories.  Could it be that the song is about being high?  The line about the “head being full of chopsticks” could refer to that.  Yet, it seems to me that I would really have to stretch to get the other lyrics to match drug use.  :A break for the shadows” could be about hiding drug use or hiding when making a drug purchase, but again that would be a stretch.  Perhaps, the theory really is that the lyrics isn’t about being high but written while high.  I have no idea about that, but I tend to think that these lyrics are pretty coherent, if that was the case.

If the first theory doesn’t really fit, what about this idea of obsessive-compulsive disorder?  I immediately have a hard time with this theory because mental illnesses like this were not talked about as much as they are now or even 10 years ago.  Thus, I’m already dubious, but let’s look at the lyrics with that lens on anyway.  Before I do, though, it is important to note, what characteristics are common with OCD.  According to the DSM-IV (manual of mental illness–yes, I own a copy.  I work with children with emotional/behavioral disorders.), a person with OCD has persistent thoughts/impulses/images that cause stress and demonstrate repetitive behavior or acts done to ease that stress.  In all seriousness, typically, the behaviors seen include things like washing hands, counting, checking locks, turning on/off lights, etc.  Now, of course, OCD is often used to describe someone who pays a great deal of attention to detail and has to have everything just so.  (I, of course, have never been described in this way, especially not when it comes to things like the tour binder.  No way.  Absolutely not.)  Does the song indicate any/many/all of these characteristics?  Well, “Something on my mind” and “makes me run when I thought I’d run too far” could indicate persistent thoughts and compulsive running.  Again, though, the rest of the lyrics would be a stretch. 

Keeping to the topic of mental health, does this song imply a mental breakdown?  Obviously, the line about having someone on my mind could be that there is a lot of activity going on.  Likewise, the line about driving the car insane could imply some sort of mental illness.  I suppose the line about having a head full of chopsticks could imply some sort of mental health issue.  My problem with this theory is that not every struggle, mentally and/or emotionally, about one’s life indicates a mental illness or a mental break.  All people struggle, emotionally or mentally, at various times.  That’s normal and this song feels like the person is dealing with something normal/common, at least to me.

What about the third theory?  Could it be about feeling out of place?  It seems to me there are some lyrics to fit this, including lines like “when I should be feeling just right, don’t want to be in public”.  Even the line about standing in light but seeking out the darkness could indicate that the person doesn’t want to be spotted and talked to because the person is feeling out of place.  Heck, even the shadow he is producing doesn’t match.  Thus, this theory out of all of them seems to make the most sense but I think it could be even less complicated than that.  Couldn’t it just be that the person isn’t feeling like himself?  “I shed my skin” could be saying that they are feeling open, feeling vulnerable, emotionally.  This, of course, is particularly problematic when you are leaving for a party.  Instead of being excited about the party, you are thinking about something else, something in the past and can’t let it go, which leaves you feeling like your head is “full of chopsticks”.  In fact, these thoughts are shaking this person, meaning that these thoughts are upsetting.  Perhaps, then, the person decides to try to avoid people and his thoughts by going to the movies but that doesn’t even work.  Maybe, the car reference is that whatever happened in the past, happened somewhere else.  Thus, if a car was available, he would drive to this other place or time but that wouldn’t help either.  It would only “drive” him crazy. 

What do the rest of you think?  Do you think one of these theories make sense?  Do you have a different idea? 

-A

P.S. What song should I tackle next???

11 thoughts on “Interpretations of (I’m Looking for) Cracks in the Pavement”

  1. I have to say that I enjoy reading these interpretations of these songs and the perspective that one could have for these lyrics. I would have to agree on the theory of feeling out place. It seems to make the most sense,to me and we have all felt like that at one time or another throughout our lives. I couldn't even begin to come up with theories like you have,I know it took a lot of practice and time to get this good,but I applaud you for doing this. It does get me thinking about the lyrics at times,or even inspiration for writing a poem or having an idea for something based off of something I see or hear.

    As far as the next song to tackle,I'm not sure if you did this song,but one of them is Nightboat,and the other is Of Crime and Passion. That song popped in my head as I was thinking that there should've been a special “Seven and the Ragged Tiger” edition of the lyrics. That's just me,though. And yes,I finally came out of hiding (so to speak) to comment on something. Now its time to go back to the “Shadows on My Side”. Yes,pun intended.

  2. I think a lot of the lyrics from SATRT reflect Simon and the band's attempts to deal with their newfound stardom and the associated pressures that came with trying to live up to the artistic and commercial standard set by Rio. Thus lyrics about feeling out of place, being on a ride that you want to get off, loneliness etc all show up on SATRT.

  3. Well I agree with the third theory this time – feeling out of place.

    For me this is a very personal song, because it expresses something that I feel quite often. I've always been on the outskirts of things, shy and introverted and just began opening myself up in recent years. So when all those fears and problems hit me it's “Breaking open doors I've sealed up before”. And “Somebody's shaking my tree, maybe that somebody is me” – that the problems that have occured are my fault and don't come from the people around me i.e. I have to beat my fears. 🙂 And so on and so on.

    For me this song falls in the same cathegory as “She's too much” – a song that helps me when I'm down, to let me know someone understands. 🙂

    Oh and for the next song – maybe Palomino?

  4. Hi Byron! Glad that you came out of the “shadows” to comment! Perhaps, that theory that it is about being out of place is the one that we can all relate to. Thank you for the song suggestions!

    -A

  5. I can definitely see how this song could be one to turn to when down because we all can relate to it, assuming we buy into the theory about it being out of place.

    Thanks for the song suggestion!

    -A

  6. There was a Seven and the ragged tiger music book it came out in the 80's. I used to have it but got lost in a move. It had chords and tabs and lyrics to every song for the album. In the center or Simon's interpretations of what heyou thought the songs were about. I remember him stating that The Reflex was a result of standing in front of the mic and making the word up as you go along.
    And if I'm not mistaken, New moon on Monday is about a guy who was at a party. Who meet this girl and wants to hook up with her and she wants to hook up with him. But typical party girl fashion she won't come off the dance floor. I'm guessing it's because she loves the attention she's getting from everyone else. So the guy leave the party goes outside. And celebrates by himself in the moonlight the fact that he didn't get this girl get to him. I hope one of your other fans has it so they can post what is written in there.

  7. I wonder how truthful Simon was being in that book. I only ask because he is notorious (pun intended) for refusing to say what his lyrics meant. Do you think The Reflex is about making up the words as you go? It doesn't really fit for me. I'll add New Moon on Monday to my list. 🙂 Thanks!

    -A

  8. I agree with C.K.. I think this is about feeling out of place in that Simon and/or the other band members are torn between what's expected of them as celebrities and what they actually want or how they feel privately. I feel that the first set of lyrics are describing how the narrator doesn't want to do the interview or go to the party or function etc. His “head is full of chopstick”, he doesn't feel well, or he's agitated or has a lot on his mind etc. He wants to just go home or go and do his own thing, but he “sheds his skin”, puts on a big smile and goes through with it. “I'm standing the light but I'm making a break for the shadows…”, I feel he's saying he's in the spotlight, but he doesn't always want to be there. He needs a break to get away and be himself, not always be a celebrity. The rest of the lyrics I feel have to do with him not seeing himself as this larger than life celebrity and star. He's just wants to be normal sometimes and get away. Just my two cents.

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