Locked In The Trunk Of A Car references


Downie was inspired to write this song after reading The Killer Inside Me by American author Jim Thompson. Michael Barclay's excellent book The Never Ending Present contains this quote from Gord: "It was probably the most chilling and believable first-person story of a criminally warped mind I have ever read." Like most of Downie's work, this song is about a collection of things. The song, Gord said, "was never about one historical incident. It was about trying to evoke the claustrophobic atmosphere around guilt and shame."

Downie is further quoted in Barclay's book:

"Downie says the narrator was deliberately modelled on Crime and Punishment's Raskolnikov. He "appears first as an ageless shark moving through the centuries; then as an Everyman at the gas station, getting the tank topped off. In the end his mind is a forest of voices - he's howling in the third person, 'It'd be better for us if you don't understand.' I wrote and sang this in the first-person, the monster's-eye view. It is probably for this reason that this one has always made me vaguely uneasy. It's just so... graphic. I don't always feel like I can be near it, let alone own it."

"...They don't know how old I am
They found armour in my belly
From the 16th century
Conquistador, I think"

In search of El Dorado, the mythical land of gold and plenty, the Conquistadors were Spanish soldiers and explorers who were sent to conquer the Inca Empire for Spain. The Inca's ruled over what is today Brazil, Peru, Ecuador, Columbia, Bolivia, Chile and Argentina. The conquest of the Inca territory lasted 45 years, cost hundreds of thousands of lives and solidified Spain as the dominant colonial power on earth.

The opening of "Locked" may be a shark-tale in the first-fish-narrative. This particular shark seems to have swallowed one of the historic Spanish soldiers. Sharks do have a reputation for being scavengers of the sea. Although this is not true, as sharks keep a pretty strict diet (YOU try counting carbs with no fingers.) A longstanding myth does exists about a soldier being discovered in the stomach of a shark.

One variation of the myth says "A shark will swallow anything – up to half its own size in one gulp. Several hundred years ago, a naturalist wrote that the headless body of a knight in armor was found in a white shark’s stomach. Inside another was more recently found a sea lion, a horse and the body of another seven-foot-long shark." As for the "they don't know how old I am" lyric: " Scientists often examine animal teeth to determine age, but this technique isn't possible with sharks because they go through so many teeth during their lives. This makes determining the age of a shark difficult, so the lifespan of sharks isn't known." The estimated life span of a Great White is 40-50 years.

From what I've been able to gather from Herman Melville's novels and Bill Curtis's mob specials on A&E, being entombed in a shark is sorta like being locked in the trunk of a car. In either case, you find yourself at the will of someone who is bound to wind up sleeping with the fishes.

Canada's most famous trunk incident happened in October 1970 when a group of incompetent bandits and amateur terrorists turned to murder to achieve their political ends. The Front de la Liberation du Quebec (Which loosely translated means "reactionary cowards with guns and silly looking toques") murdered Quebec labour minister Pierre Laporte and informed police that they could find his body in the trunk of a car at Montreal's St. Hubert airport. The murder and subsequent man-hunt was part of the infamous October Crisis.

"...Then, I found a place it's dark and it's rotted
It's a cool, sweet kinda place
Where the copters won't spot it
And I destroyed the map, I even thought I forgot it
However, every-day I'm dumping the body
It'd be better for us if you don't understand
It'd be better for me if you don't understand"

The conscience of our killer may also have been inspired by the remorse ridden protagonist from Edgar Allan Poe's "The Tell Tale Heart". Poe's narrator murders a man and is driven insane by his inability to forget the crime or live with his guilt.

Reader Warren Townsend feels the FLQ may play a larger role in the song:

"The first quote from the song about the Conquistador sounds like the insane ramblings of a killer. Consider that most serial murderers and terrorists find someone who did similar things and then emulate their crimes in tribute. However, our man's hero, the vicious Conquistador, dies in a shark instead of in an act of rebellion. He may be distancing his hero from evil actions.

Also, while not a physical map, the Surete De Quebec did find Minister Laporte's body after members of the FLQ had called a Montreal radio station and left directions.

The most telling sign, aside from the trunk, is the quote "better for us if you don't understand". The FLQ had some support among hard line separatists before they killed Laporte. I think they killed him to confuse people, so they wouldn't understand the motivations of the organization."

Reader Tyson Hay adds (what we now know Gord was thinking all along. Well done Tyson) :

"When I hear this song and consider the lyrics I can't help but think of Crime and Punishment by Dostoyevsky.

The entire second half of the song is like a sonnet. The first 8 lines seem to be leading us towards the conclusion that he doesn't care about the murder, that he has done a good job of it and is now bragging about it. But the truth is revealed in the last three lines - "every day I'm dumping the body" - he can't get it out of his head, he can't forget the murder, and as a result he feels as if he is the one locked in the trunk of the car ("Lemme out!").

I just can't imagine hearing these lines without thinking of Raskolnikov in C & P. He commits this heinous double murder on the theory that, as a great man, he is inherently allowed to transgress the laws of society. But he can't live up to his own self-definition - he cannot forget his gruesome act, no matter how much he tries to do so. It makes him physically ill, it makes him give himself away to the police and finally surrender to them. Every day, he dumps the bodies.

The next two lines remind me of his conversation with Sonya, where he hints that he was the murderer. At the same time that he hopes that, as a fellow criminal, she will understand him, he hopes that she will not, because it would mean that her mind is not as pure as he wants it to be. "It'd be better for us if you don't understand / It'd be better for me if you don't understand."

Hip Head Charlie thinks the song may lay roots in a malicious 1992 murder:

"In October, Caroline Case, a 47-year-old Toronto merchant and mother of three, vanished shortly after a telephone conversation with her youngest daughter. The next day, police found Case's blood-splattered 1990 Mercedes-Benz station wagon overturned in a ditch near the Devil's Pulpit golf club, close to the scenic town of Caledon, 45 km northwest of Toronto. There has been no trace of the missing woman, and police say that she was almost certainly the victim of foul play. Then, in early April, the bodies of two other Torontonians, Ian and Nancy Blackburn, were discovered by a family member in the trunk of their blue Chevrolet outside their home in a prosperous north Toronto neighborhood. The following day, police found a Cadillac belonging to the couple abandoned on a side road near where Case's car was discovered…"