The best religious conservative song ever

Sting-cover … is by Sting. From his 1999 Brand New Day album.

If you like, listen to the song while reading the lyrics below (YouTube version here). Then further below are the lyrics with my thematic-dramatic-arc notes added.

“Fill Her Up”

Mobil station
Where I stand
This old gas pump
In my hand.

The boss don’t like me
A face like a weasel
All on my hands
The smell of diesel.

Here come a big shot
Here he come!
From the city
God damn!
V-8 engine
She runs so pretty.
Fill ‘er up, son
I need a full tank of gas
where I’m headed

Up in the front seat
A pretty red head,
We’re going to Vegas
We’re gonna get wed
So fill her up, son!
Don’t be starin’
Yeah, that’s a real diamond she be wearin’

I’m gonna treat my baby one day.
I’m gonna fill ‘er up and head west.
That’s it
I’m gonna find some money all right.

See orange tail lights headed west
I got no money to invest
I got no prospects
Or education
I was lucky to get the job at this gas station.

That old cash box
That old cash box
On the top shelf
On the top shelf
The boss is sleeping
The boss is sleeping
I’ll just help myself.
Let’s consider this
As just a loan
I can sort it out later on the phone.

I’m gonna pick my girl up tonight
I’m gonna fill ‘er up and head west
I’m gonna show her all the bright lights
We’re gonna say we lived ‘fore we come home.

And as I head through the woods on the way back
The evening sun is slanting through the pine trees real pretty
It’s like I walked into a glade of heaven
And there’s music playing
And this money is cold in my hand and a voice somewhere is saying:
Why would you want to take that stolen thing?
What real happiness can it bring?

Ohhh Ahhhohhhh Ohhhh
You’re gonna fill her up with sadness
You’re gonna fill her up with shame
You’re gonna fill her up with sorrow before she even takes your name
You’re gonna fill her up with badness
You’re gonna fill her up with pain
You’re gonna live with no tomorrow
You’re gonna fill her up with hate
You’re gonna fill her up darkness
You’re gonna fill her up with light

You gotta fill her up with Jesus!
You gotta fill her up with light!
You gotta fill her up with spirit
You’ve gotta fill her up with faith
You gotta fill her up with heaven
You’ve got the rest of life to face
You’ve gotta fill her up right away
You’ve gotta fill her up with faith
You’ve gotta fill her up with babies
You’ve gotta fill her up with this way
You’re gonna love that girl forever
Your gonna fill her up for life
You’re gonna be her loving husband
She gonna be your lovely wife
You’ve gotta fill her up with gladness.
You gotta fill her up with joy
You gotta fill her up with love
You gotta fill her up with love …

* * *

Here is my gloss: the lyrics on the left side and my theme-notes on the right side.




I am neither religious nor conservative, but I like this song very much, both musically and thematically.

It captures one strain of religious conservatism: the kind that wants one to live morally upright life — but for that to be integrated with a happy life filled with real value in this world — that recognizes the pull of temptations to take shortcuts — but holds that even the most common of common people can decide the proper course for themselves and successfully embark upon it.

The title is an over-statement, perhaps. Maybe it’s the best American religious conservative song. I’m thinking of the stereotype of optimistic-American-everyman-of-humble-origins who combines practical worldliness with religion. But I am open to suggestion.

4 thoughts on “The best religious conservative song ever

  • March 25, 2015 at 1:22 pm

    I’d change your characterization where you wrote “the end justifies the means”. In my opinion, “short-term satisfaction vs. long-term consequences” might be better.

    And that, in a nutshell, is what makes traditional religion so hard to do without. Leaving aside the metaphysical question of whether the universe can be entirely explained by a combination of material causation and random chance, human societies require a means of organically transmitting the rules and self-restraint required for a successful life within a viable community. Without that, going to Las Vegas in a blaze of glory starts to look pretty good to someone with an otherwise dead-end life.

    Thus far, methods of transmitting “The Rules” in a top-down fashion or without the force of religion have been found…somewhat lacking.

  • March 25, 2015 at 3:39 pm

    Interesting suggestion, Neil.
    My characterization is a reading of what’s going on inside the young man’s head. He knows he’s stealing (means) but he pushes that out of his mind to focus on the good times it buys (end).
    It doesn’t register to me that he’s weighing short- against long-term consequences.

  • March 25, 2015 at 4:16 pm

    Perhaps I could have chosen my words better. 🙂 You’re quite right, at that moment in the song he’s not weighing anything, he’s only thinking about the short-term pleasure of having “lived” once. Although he must know there will be negative consequences, he’s ignoring them. He’s ignoring what “home” will look like to him when he gets back. But he’s also not really thinking about the “means” as a negative–he’s already rationalized it as a “loan” and has moved on to his plans for the money. He’s completely focused on the the next day or so of his life, with no history and no future beyond that. That’s what struck me as off in the phrase “ends justify the means”.

    So maybe it should just be “short-term pleasure without concern for the consequences”.

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