Interpretations:Piece Of Dirt

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This song seems to be about a man suffering from the lost love of a woman he first heard on the radio and last heard on the phone. This leaves him feeling both isolated on this 'Piece of Dirt' (The Earth) and trapped in this life he no longer is contented with. But maybe it's just me.

I think this song is about a stranded sailor. "Piece of Dirt" refers to the island he's on. "A woman's voice on the radio can convince you you're in love". Maybe he salvaged a radio and he's fallen in love with the only voice he's been able to hear. He's going a bit insane with loneliness("I find myself haunted by a spooky man named me, I wish that I could jump out of my skin"). He's been stranded for so long they "revoked his sailor's badge".

I kind of agree, but I don't think it's that literal. I think it's more a guy who's so depressed and lonely that he feels like he's stranded on a desert island. I have to wonder if the "inkspot" means the guy is a writer, but I'm not sure about that. ______________________________________________________________________________________________

I kinda agree with the sailor theory, except I think it's about a sailor who's been made to retire from sailing even though his whole life has been about ships and nautical stuff. This is backed up by the lines "I set my sail so long ago, they've revoked my sailor's badge/said I should be content and happy on this ink spot where I stand". He's so desperate to get back to water he'd "climb the highest mountain just to jump into a fountain".

"a woman's voice on the radio can convince you you're in love" - ships communicate via radio, so maybe he was talking to his girlfriend on the ships radio and fell in love with her through talking

"A woman's voice on the telephone can convince you you're alone" - now he's back to his life on land, he's called her up to get together, but she's got someone else/isn't interested/isn't the person he thought she was.


I think that Mr. Me and Piece of Dirt are related somehow. The songs are right next to each other on Lincoln, both talk about sailors, and Piece of Dirt talks about being "haunted by a spooky man named Me." Perhaps the two songs are both talking about the same person or the narrators are split personalities talking about themselves. In Mr. Me, "He ended up sad" could be talking about the narrator of Piece of Dirt, who sings the song in a very sad tone.

The "piece of dirt" refers to the earth after a romantic mishap, and the rest of the song backs up his dreams/wishes. He feels that the world doesn't mean much since he can feel so down, and is just a piece of dirt.

I'll take a few liberties in my literal interpretation of the song, but I do think that the song represents this sort of situation if not this situation exactly. The woman's voice on the radio is the girl he met on an old HAM radio. He started talking to this girl on a regular basis, and after a significant period of time, he fell in love with her. He told her that he wanted to marry her and she giggled and said she'd love to marry him too. She never stopped to think that she'd been the only contact he'd had with the female species in what was probably a very long time. He never stopped to think that she lived in a city full of people and that she didn't think of their communications as being a relationship (after all, she didn't even know what he looked like). So when he finally made port in the city that she lived in, he called her up. She was shocked, she wasn't expecting him to actually want to meet her in person. So she said maybe when he asked her out, and he could tell by the sound of her voice that he'd just made a big mistake. He'd quit his job to move to the city that his beloved lived in, and when he'd found out that he wasn't her beloved he tried to get his job back, but they didn't want someone on the boat who might just leave at any port, so he wasn't allowed to go back out on the water.

The song is about a sailor who isn't so much stranded on an island as he is simply stranded on land. It's about how people who yearn to be on the water see any piece of land, be it a small island or a large continent. It's not on the water and so it's still just a piece of dirt. The inkspot that he stands on is the part of a map which represents the land that he's on, and the reference to it as an inkspot shows a sort of resentment that he feels about it due to his broken heart.

As for a more abstract version. This song represents the sort of feeling you get when you finally tell that person you're infatuated with (and who you think has been giving you positive signals) that you want to be with them, and they don't say no because they don't want to hurt your feelings, but they do say maybe in that way which makes you feel like you'll never be able to be with someone that you really want to be with.

I think its about a guy who fell in love with someone, and she left him. And he's decided to run away from everything, but he cant seem to get away (But I set my sails so long ago they've revoked my sailor's badge) So he just finds himself living the same horrible day with everything reminding him about her. --Raulbloodworth 10:30, 13 August 2009 (UTC)

I think this song is about painful introversion. The singer shut himself in and has now become out of touch with the world. He would do anything to get back, but he finds it too hard to come out of his own shell. It has reached the point where he has trouble speaking to women, a fact that only makes him more ashamed of himself, which only makes him want to break out more and more in spite of himself, something he knows he has no idea how to do.

The song always makes me think of the last scene in 'Duck Dogers' - Daffy/Duck Dogers standing atop the last crumbling bit of Planet X, the rest having been destroyed by a pair of doomsday explosions.

Piece of dirt // That is all I'm standing on today // Piece of dirt // The whole world has slipped away

As others have said, the singer is isolated in a place of insignificance because "the whole world" left. Adding to that, the use of "slipped away" would indicate it:

  • left intentionally and without notice
  • couldn't be held onto, possibly leaving slowly

I would climb the highest mountain // Just to jump into a fountain

A fountain is not the smallest amount of water, but it's often shallow. The singer appears willing to do something difficult and dangerous to obtain a meager reward.

Or to fly // I'd fly away

What seems like a paradox ("I would do the impossible to gain the ability to do the impossible") might actually be an agreement ("If you set me free, I promise to go far away").

A woman's voice on the radio // Can convince you you're in love // A woman's voice on the telephone // Can convince you you're alone

A voice on the radio is impersonal, directed to the open air. Voices on the radio are often in a song, so it may refer to a love song. The lyrics don't say the phone call means the listener is not in a relationship, only that it convinced them they are alone.

But I set my sails so long ago // They've revoked my sailor's badge // Said I should be content and happy // On this ink spot where I stand

To "set sail" is to leave or go on a journey. "Sailor's badge" could mean a lot of things, but probably alludes to recognition that one is a sailor. Taken literally, it would mean that the singer hasn't gone on a voyage in such a long time, that they are no longer considered capable. Taken metaphorically, it would mean something once familiar to them is now strange. An inkspot would be a small, irregular blemish, caused accidentally.

I find myself haunted // By a spooky man named Me // I wish that I // Could jump out of my skin

This could be an allusion to the adjacent track "Mr. Me", could refer to the singer's self in a formal and separate way, or both. "Jumping out of my skin" is often an idiom for being startled by a sudden and surprising thing, but could also mean "leaving behind identity" The singer is either unsurprised by the things that are happening, or wants to be someone else.

I'd say the narrator is unable to leave a relationship that began idealistically like a love song, and is now a loveless and boring phone call. Trapped in the very small world of that life, after everything else fell through their fingers. They are desperate for even shallow affection, but are afraid they've been in this too long, and wouldn't know how to be single. Rationally, they feel they ought to be grateful for someone in their life, even if it's not perfect. Thoughts of leaving or waiting for that person to die make them feel alienated from themselves, but they aren't surprised.