The phrase above is the first line of the Rolling Stones "Before they make me run" song lyrics. Here's the complete verse:

Worked the bars and sideshows along the twilight zone / Only a crowd can make you feel so alone / And it really hit home

I never was able to find out what's the meaning of this phrase, none of the possible translations for it in Portuguese makes any sense.

Also: in some sites the lyrics appears with the expression "Worked in bars" in place of "Worked the bars", but I have no clue about which of them should be considered the "correct" one.


to work the bars means: to go from bar to bar and sideshow to sideshow

In other words, to be looking for something like sex or companionship by wandering around at night in those kinds of place.

The Twilight Zone was (and is again) a famous TV series where weird things happen. So the twilight zone has come to mean something like: an eerie or odd space in a real place or in one's head.

To work used like this is very old gangster lingo. Also used by law enforcement. It's the kind of expression you hear in old movies from the 1930s and 1940s.

| improve this answer | |
  • Thanks, Lambie. Awesome explanation. – Itamar Jun 5 '19 at 20:02
  • É preciso ser "veia" pra saber tudo isso. :) A ideia é rodar pelos botecos. – Lambie Jun 5 '19 at 20:04
  • Boa observação... rs – Itamar Jun 5 '19 at 20:09

When you "work in a bar," you are typically employed by the bar or have permission to be there working an organized activity, like playing in a band.

"Working" a location or group of people treats the people or place as an object. It refers to some kind of informal, sometimes sketchy activity. For example, working as a pool shark, gambler, pickpocket, or travelling salesman. People often use the phrase "working the crowd" when referring to someone giving a speech and trying to rile the crowd up. The phrase often expresses a subtle contempt for the object (people or places) being worked.

"Working" can also refer to non-employment activities, like "working the beaches" for a surfer might mean systematically going from one beach to another, surfing. Working the nightclub scene might mean going from club to club over a period of time.

I was not previously familiar with the Rolling Stones song. In the context of drugs and intoxicants "working" can mean going around selling drugs, but in this song I think it means going from bar to bar, buying and using drugs and alcohol with the people who frequent those establishments.

| improve this answer | |

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.