When You Were Young

Album: Sam's Town (2006)
Charted: 2 14
  • songfacts ®
  • Artistfacts ®
  • Lyrics
  • Written by all four band members, this song is about growing up and moving on in the world, leaving the past behind you. It deals with how your perceptions change as you look back on your youth. >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Arianna - Largo, FL
  • This was the first single from Sam's Town, which is The Killers second album. Much of the album was influenced by Bruce Springsteen, who often wrote about restless youth.
  • This was a very important song for the group, as they were worried about meeting expectations in the wake of their highly acclaimed first album, Hot Fuss. According to Brandon Flowers, when he came up with the lyrics "He doesn't look a thing like Jesus, but he talks like a gentleman," he knew he had something special and that things would work out.
  • There are two videos for this song. In one version, the man at the beginning finds the girl on the hill and in the second version the girls jumps off the hill. >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Katie - Tuscaloosa, AL
  • The original version of this song was used in the 2007 video game Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock. >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Jonathan - Johnstown, PA
  • This was one of the easier Killers songs to write. Brandon Flowers recalled to NME: "We've been guilty of having a lot of chords in our songs, and there's not anything necessarily wrong with that, but there's something great about simplicity."

    "'When You Were Young' is just one progression which repeats, with a couple of small variations, but it was instantly powerful and once I heard it, I came up with the melody and the title within 20 minutes. It was one of those exciting moments that you read about, and I've been lucky enough to be part of it a few times. This was definitely one of them."
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Comments: 35

  • William from HawaiiI think that Keith of Boston really strikes the truth when it comes to any work of art whether that be music, literature, films, painting, etc,. He says, "SO, what is the meaning of When you were young? It's whatever you want it to be according to how it help you in your own life." While it is interesting to know the personal context under which any artist creates their work, it is the least of its value to the world. Art provokes complex feelings. Why would I want to relive the feelings of the artist when my own feelings within the context of my world are so much richer.
  • Don from Palo Alto This sound is about young women, but from an average-to-shy male perspective. Young women are told from childhood that they are looking for a man to "save them" or "rescue them" as if their life will be ruined if they don't marry a perfect guy. So when they are young they imagine finding someone perfect to marry, somebody like Jesus. So why (from a male perspective) do so many young and beautiful women end up dating mostly asshole men in their younger years, leaving the real saints in the dustbin? I mean are you kidding me? It was quite annoying to watch this happen over and over and over again, in my college years.

    Two reasons are alluded to in the middle of the song. One is, "He doesn't look a bit like Jesus, but he talks like a gentleman .. like you imagined .. when you were young", i.e. women are very easy to fool when they are attracted to somebody else. And they make dumb choices.

    A second reason is also alluded to, "They say the devil's water - it ain't so sweet .. You don't have to drink right now .. But you can dip your feet .. Every once in a little while" and this means that with their newfound sexual power women sometimes just date schmucks for the hell of it, because they can, they have a one-night stand to boost their self esteem (quote from my sister), playing the dark side, or get into a relationship with e.g. a two-timing cheat (as in the music video) just to be wild.

    the very last stanza might be about the nice guy that she eventually settles for (hopefully) after dating all the assholes, "He doesn't look a thing like Jesus, but more than you'll ever know" means that when the marriageable guy eventually shows up, she doesn't recognize him, either.

    This song is just so true to me ...
  • Keith from BostonThere are a lot of good ideas on this board about the meaning of the song, HOWEVER, I just want to point out one thing...While I agree that this song is about a girl, (BTW I am heterosexual), at no point in the song does it say "she or her" it says YOU. It could be about a gay man wanting to find his soul mate but is conflicted with his religious beliefs (Regardless of the video where it's clearly a woman). Listen, my REAL point here is this: Yes the song is great, and one thing you can do with the song, as you can with all great songs, is come up with your own meaning, that is, letting the song speak to you and affecting your own thoughts with your own life. FOR EXAMPLE, in the movie Pulp Fiction, there is/was a lot of debate over what's in the suitcase...HOWEVER, I read that Tarantino, when asked what is supposed to be in the suitcase, that he replied with "It's whatever you want to be in it." Point is, all really great songs can have multiple meanings...SO, what is the meaning of When you were young? It's whatever you want it to be according to how it help you in your own life.
  • Flip from Wilmintno, DeWOW, I took this song very differently. I saw her as a girl lonely, and in heartache waiting for a beautiful boy to fall in love with. It says to "save you from your old ways" Her not him. I took it she was not the outgoing type, shy yet wanting it all. She is playing forgivness by not changing her old ways and setting back wanting him to activly "save" herand not wanting to "settle for less then she thinks she can get. Watch it now, here he comes - she tenses up goes her old ways not saying or doing anything to attract him. Is he "not good enough" for her? He doesn't look like Jesus, maybe he doesn't have a big time job, not rich, not what she and all her friends think he "should "have but he is a good guy and would treat her well which is what she always wanted. Can they climb that mountain? It is higher now and higher each time the opportunity is missed. It is more difficult to say anything to him. Her career is moving along , she seems to really have things together, she is a real hurricane just like she wanted to be, but alone, leading her to try the devils water, (bad relationships? sex?) now and then only leading to more heartache. And he may not look like Jesus, but he is a gentleman, and would treat her well and love her, but she will never know because she will not let him in, let him know she wants him. Her old ways, wants, friends keep her from getting to know him.
  • Amber from Clarksville, InThis song is about a girl who is trying to fill her emptiness with trying to find love through relationships with men that appear to be sweet and caring but then when she rushes into a relationship she finds out that they were using her....all the while she could have went to Jesus with her problems instead of putting her hopes on men. She has dealt with this problem for a long time and it always ends the same
  • Trenton from Emmett, Idthis is a hard song to interpret. though one symbol that is not brought up enough is the devil's water being sex. teenagers dont often find what they expected and some definately want to wait until their more prepared. dipping your feet can be seen as sexual relationships (i.e. boyfriends and girlfriends that indulge sexual desires without actually having intercourse)
  • Eduardo from Toronto, OnI think that this song is about a man who on the outside was a person who people thought was pretending to be a good person when in reality he was a good person(he doesn't look a bit like Jesus but more than you'll ever know)
  • Paris from Cardiff, United Kingdomi love these guys so much- they can do no wrong in my eyes, and when they closed their Hard Rock Calling show with this i was just brimming with emotion. they have amazing stage prescence about them, and Rachel, from South Point- how could you say that?! Brandon Flowers is amazing, and one of the best ever songwriters of all time- think before you type!
  • Ameelia from London, United KingdomTo me this song is definitely about a girl who is very devout and expects to meet this 'saviour' of a man, like Jesus - pure / trustworthy / honest / will love her unconditionally / of strong character - but he does not come along - apparently a lot of latin girls grow up looking to Jesus as their hero, rather others look towards the fairy tale prince charming type characters.

    She then meets someone she is very attractive to, he is not a 'church' boy in any way or form, but he talks like a gentleman (ie talks the talk, is charming) and against what she thinks (or has been told) is right, she is very attractive to him - classic 'good girl' falling for the 'bad boy'. It also seems to be about that age old human internal struggle with trying to be 'good', but finding the more 'risky/exciting/dangerous' path - ie the 'Devils Water' - more appealing. So she gets into a relationship with him, maybe thinking she will tame him. The lyrics "On the back of a hurricane that started turning
    When you were young" implies that maybe actually the whole idea of meeting a 'good boy next door' was not what she really wanted, but felt it was the right thing. As she is seen in a church praying implies she is trying to keep the link with her faith and knows she is in a relationship that her parents/priest/God would not approve of - hence she is seen coming back from church and resting her crucifix on the table in the kitchen before going into the bedroom, only to find him with another women anyway. But in the end she can't leave him. I think lyric about "You play forgiveness, Watch it now, here he comes" implies that he will test her 'christianity' and she will have to really practice forgiveness...but ultimately she wants to be with him hence goes back to him.

    I do get a bit confused by how it is sung though in the third then first person, and the lingering looks between her and the lead singer towards the end of the video.

    Sorry for the long post, I do find the song intriguing, especially coming from a religious background myself!
  • Thomas from Washington D.c., VaI saw a one-man show based on the Black Dahlia, and this was the theme song. The premise of the play was the Elizabeth Short was murdered by a mobster that she fell in with, thinking that she loved him.

    The use of the song was how the person in the song has finaly found who they think is their "special person," but in fact he not a messianic savior, but rather someone bad, based on the idea that being with him would be dipping your feet in "the Devil's water."

    It was really good :)
  • Theresa from Murfreesboro, TnThis is really sweet song, I am a huge fan of this band.
  • Christian from Oslo, Norwaywhat ARE you on about "Killer, El Paso"?
  • Killer from El Paso, TxI think that the song is about someone that in his youth sold his soul to the devil and because of that he reached power and richess (easy climbed the mountain), but now he is dying remembering his miskakes (playing forgivness) and is hoping for Jesus to save him, he sees that boy and thinks that is Jesus but he will never know because is satan comming for him. The devils waters pharagraph is the devil tempting him. This make sense with the album theme and with the next track about offering survival, again is a pact with the devil. Not what you were specting huh?
  • Kylie from Ventura, CaI think it's about a girl who's been having a hard time in life, she's waiting for some man to sweep her off her feet and make everything right. Then this guy comes along who is very charming, but is not really a good guy. He cheats on her, as seen in the video, and the "but more than you'll ever know" means she'll never find a good guy. By the way, I looove all the albums but Sam's Town is my favorite. And don't judge the music because Brandon occasionally says things he shouldn't.
  • Kat from Leicester, United KingdomI don't know why people are using this space to discuss which album is better, or indeed why anybody would want to know my opinion on the subject, but I'm going to give it anyway! I think overall, Sam's Town is a better album; musically it's more complex and the sound is much 'bigger.' Hot Fuss has a few good songs but what seems like a lot of filler, whereas every song on Sam Town's moves me. Just my thoughts :-)
  • Zach from Boston, Maawesome song in every way
  • Chris from Buffalo, Nytoo bad this is the only song even remotely good on this album...
  • Stuart from Glasgow, United KingdomIn my opinion Brandon uses Jesus as a metaphor for saviour because Jesus was like our saviour. So when he sings " he doesnt look a thing like jesus" he means that the guy doesnt look anything like this girls saviour or the person who she imagined "when she was young" that would rescue her from herself, sweep her of her feet. If anyone catches my drift :P Also with the video the whole thing is shot back to front.
  • Robert from Glasgow, United KingdomThis is without a doubt the best pop song of the last 25 years. I know that it's derivative of Springsteen's Thunder Road and Born To Run, but musically and lyrically I just think It's flawless. The whole Sam's Town album is fantastic and Brandon Flowers is a brilliant lyricist; he should be writing novels.
    I was studying Tess of the d'Urbervilles in English and my friend pointed out the connection with this song. The ideas of youth, progress both in society and personaly (for better or for worse), religious imagery and loss of innocence are deffinately in both the book and this song. The line "He doesn't look a thing like Jesus" could be seen as a reference to faith, or to the return of the Alec d'Urberville character under the guise of a priest. I think that Angel Clare - Tess' lost love who she met as a young girl, and whom she could have been happy with- is the one who "talks like a gentlemen, like you imagined when you were young".
  • Henry from Bath, United Kingdomthis song reminds me of my time in newquay last summer with friends, i was out on a golf course in the middle of the night with a girl and some mates, id liked her for a while and we finally kissed, when it happened i was so overjoyed at how awesome the holiday had been

    all i rememebr was after, me and my friend running down the road, singing this song st the top of our voices, i was so happy, good memories...
  • Beth from Mahtomedi, MnWho can watch this video or listen to the song without feeling some strong emotion? Therein lies the value - and in my opinion the mark of a great band. I can't listen passively to The Killers. Same thing goes for watching the video- The shock of that young girl catching her husband cheating made my stomach drop. The song makes me remember feeling innocent and trusting and hopeful. It also underscores the hurt of coming to grips with the disillusionments in life.
    P.S. I think The Killers would rather be like The Cure than U2 - either way, they are not obligated to be depressing like emo bands and they aren't angry like traditional punk. I like their eclectic collection of songs. Thanks for reading/sharing!
  • Matt from Adelaide, AustraliaFrom that Jesus line, I get that, the protagonist in the song, like a lot of Christian chicks, has grown up idolising Jeses and sees him as the perfect man. Now she's grown up and has been looking for her perfect man. She meets someone and, having these traditional values, appreciates that he 'talks like a gentlemen' although 'he doesn't look a thing like Jesus', the perfect man she imagined when she was young that she'd have as an adult. So for me it's comparing the expectations you have as a child with the realities of what eventuates as an adult. And it's quite poignant in that way. Then again, maybe the singer just thought it was a cool lyric that fit in well with the music... that'd be good enough for me if it was true!
  • Eric from Barcelona, SpainI simply think the artist is trying to coax a significant individual from his past, to whom he is so fascinated with. He is stating the truth while trying to sell himself.."You sit there in your heartache Waiting on some beautiful boy to save you from your old ways...He doesn't look a thing like Jesus But he talks like a gentleman Like you imagined when you were young". In the end he knows the answer to his sincere invitation. "..But more than you'll ever know".. he knows he will never end up with her.

  • Austin from Smallsville, NeNot a big Killers fan but I think the song is about picking personality over looks. Good songwriting, average musicianship but the singing is unbearable.
  • Alison from Houston, TxI'm really liking this song, but I'm not quite sure what the artist is trying to get across and/or what he really means. I generally listen to Christian music and I recently have found a "hobby" in Guitar Hero. This is my favorite song to play. I haven't really found anything onlilne other than other people's perception which is kinda what I'm thinking...... It's like remembering my restless youth. The visions I had about the future when I was young are nothing like reality. What is your perception? Anyone? If you can't tell, I'm kinda bored today....

    Lyrics for: When You Were Young

    "You sit there in your heartache
    Waiting on some beautiful boy to
    To save you from your old ways"
    This is kinda a scary thought. It makes me think of how, when I was young, I thought some magical boy was going to sweep me off my feet and "rescue me" and then I would finally be happy.
    "You play forgiveness"
    Careful who you forgive...
    "Watch it now
    Here he comes"
    A wise warning? Don't put your faith in some earthly idol. A receipe for disaster. I can so look back and remember idoling the star football player, etc. He would simply acknowlege my existence and I had a sense of worth. Looking back, I wish I knew what I know now. Only Jesus has the answer to everything I was searching for when I was young. Those false idols and the search for that feeling of worth basically put me out to the wolves. I feel so lucky and loved and saved to know Christ like I do now which is nothing compared to the desire I have to know Him more.
    "He doesn't look a thing like Jesus
    But he talks like a gentleman
    Like you imagined
    When you were young"
    This makes me think of how we put someone on a pedastool and then we're disappointed when we realize that they're just as broken as we are. Like how you put a father on a pedastool when you're young and then you grow up to realize he's nothing close to perfect like you used to believe, but you love him anyway.
    "Can we climb this mountain
    I don't know
    Higher now than ever before
    I know we can make it if we take it slow
    Let's take it easy
    Easy now
    Watch it go"
    Not sure what I think about this verse... The last line makes me think that when you think you can "climb this mountain on your own", in other words, you don't need God's help, then you can plan on sitting back and watching your world crumble around you.
    "We're burning down the highway skyline
    On the back of a hurricane
    That started turning
    When you were young
    When you were young"
    A very accurate visual of my youth...
    "And sometimes you close your eyes
    And see the place where you used to live
    When you were young"
    The past, especially our youth is bitter sweet. I'm happy to be older and wiser and happy that I simply survived, but I think we all close our eyes sometimes and remember that fun loving, no cares in the world, time of my life feeling...
    "They say the devil's water
    It ain't so sweet
    You don't have to drink right now
    But you can dip your feet
    Every once in a little while"
    I can't tell you how many times I told myself "I can dabble in sin a little...I have the rest of my life to be good..." That was brilliant...
    "You sit there in your heartache
    Waiting on some beautiful boy to
    To save you from your old ways
    You play forgiveness
    Watch it now
    Here he comes"
    Silly girl....
    "He doesn't look a thing like Jesus
    But he talks like a gentleman
    Like you imagined
    When you were young
    (Talks like a gentleman)
    (Like you imagined)
    When you were young

    I said he doesn't look a thing like Jesus
    He doesn't look a thing like Jesus
    But more than you'll ever know"
    What does he mean by the last line?
  • Jonas from Leverkusen, GermanySam's town is not bad, it's got great songs, sure. But compared to Hot Fuss it's nearly nothing. The songs on Sam's town go for the mainstream, simple music, to hear in the radio, somewhere in the background, and for humming the melody while doing something different. The songs from Hot Fuss, and the very extraordinary thing is, that this means really every song on the album: All songs are to listen to carefully, all of them you can hear more than twice, all of them are like little wonders. They make me that happy and that optimistic, I love them.
    I think that's music in his best form. Music which is as big as a mountain, music going directly into my heart, but made so simple. You don't need much for a really good song. Nothing like making the most volume, or the most complicated constuctions (which is great too because of its depth). No, the killers are making the greatest out of simplicity. That's my opinion. Maybe it's got to do with your likes.
  • Anna from Paris, Txi think that every artist can express themselves in different ways... and this song to me is amazing... its so true, with me being in the age that alot of this happens... growing up, leaving behind what you've gotten used to... it just rings true...
  • Topia from Near The Gulf Of Mexico, TxI try not to let an artist's attitude influence if I like their music or not. If we all do that, we'd have to stop watching most of the movies we like or stop listening to our favorite musicians.
    The Killers are one of my favorite bands, I like Sam's Town better than Hot Fuss, but they're both good.
  • Jepha from Citra, FlI agree with you,Alex.The Killers have a big head and it shows through in there music
  • Alex from Perth, AustraliaThis album wont be appreciate in the future at all, the killer should focus on the ideas the created in hot fuss more that tring to be the next u2. The lead singer has been quoted to say that they are the best band of the last ten years...i don't know about you but that couldnt be further from reality, this album contiuned the bad parts of hotfuss rather than the good parts. Plus quite frankly at BDO they were very boring live as opposed to muse who rocked out.
  • Alexandra from Maui, HiI really didnt understand the video for this song but I love it all the same. It's a little different from the usual Killers but it has great vocals good phrases. I still like their Hot Fuss CD better than Sam's town though.
  • Maha from Auckland, New ZealandI heard this song live in concert at the Big Day Out 2007 in Auckland a week ago. The Killers were absolutely amazing, the highlight of my day! Here is my interpretation of the song: It's about growing up and the disillusionment that we are constantly faced with. "You sit there in your heart ache, waiting on some beautiful boy to save you from your old ways" makes me think of how often young women spend their lives waiting for the next person to come into their lives and make everything better. They can't stand being alone because that would mean facing their own true emptiness and unhappiness. When we're young, unhappiness is fixed quickly: by playing with a new toy, hanging out with cool new friends, etc. When you grow up you spend more time alone, fending for yourself, and sometimes no one is there to make all your troubles go away and make you happy again when you really want it. "He doesn't look a thing like jesus..." I think that deals with what we are conditioned to believe when we are young and then finding out it doesn't really work out that way as we grow up and learn things. Many young girls are told stories of heroic men rescuing beautiful young "damsels in distress", and for a while they believe men are all fundamentally heroic, good-hearted creatures. But as they grow older they find out that they've got to put their heroic visions aside and settle for the best they can find: i.e. someone who "TALKS like a gentleman", but isn't quite what you imagined when you were young.
  • Katie from Tuscaloosa, AlHot Fuss isn't better than Sam's Town, just different. They needed all the flashy effects and catchy tunes to build a fan base before they could really get to the real, deep, and powerful lyrics. I actually prefer Sam's Town because I can relate to it more, and it's inspiring. Yes, some parts are depressing, but there is an underlying optimism if you really listen
  • Nick from Arlington Heights, IlI think this may be one of those albums that people don't appreciate at first, but five or ten years from now might be regarded better than it is today..its sincere and heartfelt and this particular song I feel will stand up over time
  • Rachel from South Point, OhI kinda assumed at the end there where he says "He doesn't look a thing like Jesus/but more than you'll ever know" that the guy in the song actually WAS Jesus. He didn't look like she thought he would, or anything like pictures of him, but that was him, and she missed it.

    But I'm probably wayyy overinterpreting. And this cd, while better than most out thre now, sucks compared to Hot Fuss! Where was the crazy techno? The lyrics whose meaning you could really argue over? The passion? Brandon Flowers just sounds depressed, the whole cd through..
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