Oberst told the Independent newspaper July 18,2008 that this song is "about infidelity, and acceptance of the way things are."
Oberst told MTV News the story behind this song: "We were on the bus one day and a friend of ours that travels with us and works for the band kind of came out from the back of the bus and said that first line: 'Saw an eagle on a pole... I think it was an eagle.' And then this guy Simon Joyner, who is a great songwriter from Omaha and one of my great friends, he was on tour with us and sitting there and he was like, 'You know, that's a great name for a song.' We kind of had a contest where he wrote a song with that first line, and [then] I did, and a couple of our other friends. We kind of all played them for each other. Simon's is better than mine, but it is a good line to start a song."
"Bittersweet Symphony" by The Verve samples an obscure orchestral arrangement of the 1965 Rolling Stones song "The Last Time." The Verve had to sign away most of the royalties before they could release the song.