Yes – “Roundabout [Yessongs]” Lyrics Meaning

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Written By Joanna Landrum

Joanna holds a BSc in English Literature and uses her expertise in literary analysis to uncover the deeper meaning of her favorite songs.

“Roundabout” by Yes is a surreal blend of imagery and emotions. The song’s lyrics appear to convey a journey – a physical journey through beautiful landscapes and an emotional journey punctuated by connection and self-discovery. The “roundabout” is a metaphor for life’s cyclical nature and the continual return to familiar places and feelings. There’s also an undercurrent of time, symbolized by repeated summers, suggesting enduring love and memory. The songwriter, contemplating life’s intricacies, invites the listener to embark on this path of exploration and understanding.

Piqued your curiosity yet? Join me as we explore the nuances of these lyrics and discover more about the story behind them.

“Roundabout” Lyrics Meaning

Let’s begin with the lyric, “I’ll be the roundabout. The words will make you out ‘n’ out.” The roundabout here could symbolize the songwriter’s role as a guide on this emotional journey. He becomes the constant, the recurring theme, just like a roundabout you come across repeatedly on a long drive.

“Muses dance and sing, they make the children really ring.” This verse paints a picture of creativity and joy, suggesting an appreciation for life’s simple, beautiful moments. The muses, often invoked as sources of artistic inspiration, appear to represent the creative drive.

Moving forward, “Mountains come out of the sky and they stand there. One mile over we’ll be there and we’ll see you. Ten true summers, we’ll be there and laughing too.” Here, the songwriter brings forward the theme of time and enduring connections. The immovable mountains suggest constancy, while ‘ten true summers’ echo the sentiment of passing time and consistent presence, perhaps symbolizing enduring relationships.

“Your silhouette will charge the view of distance atmosphere.” It’s a testament to the profound impact a loved one’s memory can have, so much so that their mere silhouette can influence perceptions.

The next verses portray striking natural elements: “Along the drifting cloud the eagle searching down on the land, catching the swirling wind the sailor sees the rim of the land.” These could be metaphorical representations of seeking one’s purpose (eagle searching) and recognizing one’s boundaries (sailor sees the rim of the land). The lyrical journey beautifully encapsulates the human quest for meaning and self-discovery.

“We stand to lose all time a thousand answers by in our hand. Next to your deeper fears, we stand surrounded by million years.” These lines could denote the transience of life and the perpetual struggle with fears and uncertainties. Life is presented as a fleeting moment standing next to the timeless universe.

“Roundabout” is a metaphorical journey that gracefully mingles physical landscapes with emotional terrains. It evokes a sense of exploration, time, connection, and understanding. But what inspired the creation of such profound verses? Let’s see the story behind the song.

The Story Behind “Roundabout”

As we’ve explored, “Roundabout” is a profound narrative steeped in metaphor and imagery, but the song’s inception is surprisingly rooted in something very tangible: a road trip.

Yes members Jon Anderson and Steve Howe penned the lyrics while on a tour in Scotland in 1971. The scenic journey, which included a multitude of roundabouts, winding roads through the valleys, and a majestic view of mountains seemingly appearing out of nowhere, directly inspired the lyrics. This real-world experience breathed life into their lyrics, painting a vivid picture in which listeners could easily lose themselves.

This physical journey quickly transformed into a metaphorical one. It’s the classic scenario where the journey becomes more important than the destination. The roundabout, a common, almost mundane aspect of the journey, becomes a powerful symbol for the cyclical nature of life and the recurring themes we encounter throughout our existence.

Furthermore, the beautiful landscapes that the band encountered on their trip – valleys, mountains, lakes – inspired the vibrant and immersive imagery in the song. These elements gave a sense of tangibility to the ethereal ideas presented in the lyrics, allowing the listeners to embark on the journey with the band.

The emotionally charged words and their ties to enduring love, memory, and time may also reflect the strong bond between the band members. Ten summers laughing together could represent the camaraderie and shared experiences they had while creating their music.

In essence, “Roundabout” is a masterpiece born out of a simple road trip, but its interpretation goes far beyond. It’s a testament to the band’s creative genius that they were able to translate an ordinary experience into a lyrical exploration of life, love, time, and self-discovery. Through their words, Yes invites us all to reflect on our journey and the roundabouts in our lives.