Snakes & Ladders References In Songs By Joni Mitchell, Elvis Costello, George Harrison, Bay City Rollers, Peter Gabriel…

In followup to yesterday’s post, Uncovering The Significance Of “We struggle and we stagger down the snakes and up the ladder” In Leonard Cohen’s Closing Time, today’s entry features a survey of songs by other artists that also incorporate an allusion to the game of Snakes and Ladders. Compare for yourself, but to my ear, Leonard’s use of this trope (in what is almost a throwaway line in Closing Time) is more elegant and effective than the analogous efforts of such singer-songwriter icons as Joni Mitchell, George Harrison, and Elvis Costello.

Leonard Cohen: Closing Time

So we struggle and we stagger
Down the snakes and up the ladder
To the tower where the blessed hours chime


    • Joni Mitchell: Snakes And Ladders

      In a shopping mall
      Finally met the perfect girl
      She is all that matters
      The only one in all the world
      Like a Barbie doll
      Oh love is snakes and ladders
      Snakes and ladders
      Just to have and hold
      Is the perfect air-brushed angel
      Makes you hot just looking at her
      Stapled into all his braincells
      Like a centerfold
      Oh love is snakes and ladders
      Snakes and ladders



    • Joss Stone: Snakes and Ladders
      Don't want to play this game anymore
      I gotta know right now for sure
      What am I giving my heart for
      Baby I need a little more
      Don't leave me hanging on a string
      Now that I gave you everything
      Not when I play to win
      Snakes and ladders


    • Elvis Costello: Chemistry Class
      Sparks are flying from electrical pylons
      Snakes and ladders running up and down her nylons
      Ready to experiment, you're ready to be burned
      If it wasn't for some accidents then some would never ever learn


    • The Waterboys: Out of Control
      Minding my own business
       playing social snakes and ladders
      There's a knock on my door
       the military mad-hatter
      He says someone pressed a button
       only got about 8 minutes
      To get myself and my family into some underground hole
       where we can sit and play twenty questions


    • George Harrison: Wreck of the Hesperus
      Met some Oscars and Tonys
      I slipped on a pavement oyster
      Met a snake climbing ladders
      Got out of the line of fire
      (But it's alright)


    • Radiohead: A Wolf at the Door (It Girl. Rag Doll)
      Drag him out your window
      Dragging out the dead
      Singing I miss you
      Snakes and ladders flip the lid
      Out pops the cracker
      Smacks you in the head


    • INXS: Melting in the Sun
      Everybody's got advice
      Take a snake take a ladder
      And this is what they call the life
      I'm melting in the sun


    • Bay City Rollers: It’s a Game
      Well there's snakes upon your ladder
      And there's dice upon your skirt
      There's lipstick on my collar
      And there's sweat upon my shirt


    • AC/DC: Sin City
      Ladders and snakes
      Ladders give, snakes take
      Rich man poor man
      Beggar man, thief
      Ain't got a hope in hell
      That's my belief


    • Men At Work: Snakes and Ladders
      There's a snake on top of every ladder
      Who will tell you that he's your best friend
      Everyone important needs an adder
      But subtraction gets you in the end


    • Spice Girls: Who Do You Think You Are
      You're swelling out in the wrong direction
      You've got the bug, superstar you've been bitten
      Your trumpet's blowing for far too long
      Climbing the snake of the ladder, but you're wrong


    • Peter Gabriel: Quiet Steam
      You know your ladder from your snake
      You know the throttle from the brake
      You know your straight line from the curve
      You've got a lot of nerve
      But I know you


How About Chutes And Ladders?

Well, there are a few songs that employ the Americanized game title, most notably by The Rembrandts, the folks who brought you I’ll Be There for You, the theme song for Friends.

    • The Rembrandts: If Not For Misery

      It's a game of chutes and ladders
      We only play to win
      And nothing else much matters

Credit Due Department: These lyrics (and more) were found at

One thought on “Snakes & Ladders References In Songs By Joni Mitchell, Elvis Costello, George Harrison, Bay City Rollers, Peter Gabriel…

  1. ok……..thankyou for “snakes and ladders”…………………………….life is good………………

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