Could someone explain what the lyrics of "Roxy Roller" by Sweeney Todd mean?

Roxy Roller by Sweeney Todd

Could someone explain what these lyrics mean? “Fab up job she gets bubble gum on her knees…down between the seats sometimes she’ll pass you the keys” - this sounds vaguely sexual, but under scrutiny, just doesn’t make sense.

Also - what is he saying about her daddy? Is he saying “the commissioner?” Because it almost sounds like he’s saying “La Commissioner” (a French word?) Is he saying her daddy is some kind of commissioner, or is there some meaning that I’m missing here? The line about “took far more than his share” makes me think the “daddy” might be a pimp or something…but then what is “the syndicate” that Roxy joins?

And who is this Roxy Roller? At the beginning he says “Foxy from the Roxy”…I take it the Roxy was a club, back in the 1970s. So she is somehow connected with this. What does the “roller” part mean? Nowadays people talk about “rolling” on Ecstasy but I’m pretty sure that didn’t exist back then and I don’t know if the term “roller” had some other meaning I’m not aware of. Is Roxy a prostitute? A drug dealer? Or just some extremely alluring woman?

The latter would make sense but what is all this cryptic storyline about the keys, the commissioner, the syndicate…what on earth does it all mean?

People took a lot of drugs in the 70’s. Just sayin’ you might want to keep that in mind when you’re listening to songs from that era. :slight_smile:

I see looking up the lyrics that another version is “Five-bob job, she gets bubblegum on her knees” - yeah, it all does sound vaguely sexual. She’s giving blowjobs in movie theatres?

People who write songs always do a lot of drugs, and there are a lot of songs that are utter nonsense (everything by Phish, for instance.) I Am The Walrus is an example of a “nonsense song.” Much rarer are songs that contain lyrics which are ostensibly coherent but seem to describe some kind of cryptic story that is open to different interpretations. Many Steely Dan’s songs fall into this category, and so, in my opinion, does Roxy Roller.

There were several well-known clubs called The Roxy in the latter part of the 20th century. The most famous one still operating is probably the one on the Sunset Strip in L.A., originally founded by a group including David Geffen. It was the first U.S. venue in which The Rocky Horror Show was performed, and has hosted hundreds of famous musical acts.

The original Roxy. Never to be equaled.

I don 't think there’s any deeper meaning to “Roxy Roller” than what’s already there. It was the 70s and Sweeney Todd was a glam rock band (where the stage show is arguably just as if not more important than the lyrics).

I’d suggest also that “Roxy Roller” is a song that could be included in the bubblegum genre–a catchy hook, simple lyrics, and no real purpose other than to get the pre- and early-teens in the habit of buying records. Technically, bubblegum’s heyday was over by 1975 (the year “Roxy Roller” was released), but according to the Wikipedia entry on bubblegum pop, Bubblegum did have an influence on glam rockers, so this theory would seem to have some plausibility.

I wouldn’t call Roxy Roller Bubblegum pop. The music is a little harder than most bubblegum pop. I’d say it’s just rock, with the typical ‘artsy’ cryptic lyrics of the time. Go back and listen to early Genesis or Pink Floyd.

Maybe a good comparison is America’s ‘Horse with No Name’. Not bubblegum pop, it has artsy pretentions it doesn’t come close to attaining. So it’s just a strange song with bizarre lyrics that kinda sorta make sense if you don’t listen to them too closely.

Bob is an English word for shilling which refers to a low paying job cleaning in the Roxbury which is what the song is about.

I think to understand this song, you need to be familiar with the time period in which it was composed. I was in my late teens when Roxy Roller came out in the mid 1970s. This is my interpretation based on a bit of an interest in pop culture.

But first, let’s get past all the crap about drugs. Not everybody was writing about drugs or under the influence of drugs when composing, I think this song is a little too sly to simply be a drug-induced bit of nonsense.

So, onto my thoughts.

I don’t believe any proper names are used in the lyrics. The main character is a good-looking woman, hence ‘Foxy’. ‘Roxy Roller’ is a pseudonym or nickname.

The Roxy is a theatre. Likely one that has seen better days. Don’t forget, this is the mid ‘70s. There is no internet. VCRs are rare. It’s before the multi-channel universe. In the U.S, TV basically offered the three main networks, PBS and some small local channels. Adult theatres and their porn offerings are likely at their zenith. Single screen theatres were starting to fall victim to multi-screen cineplexes. Sometimes the old theatres offered ‘art’ films. Occasionally, they served up porn.

Into such a scene comes the foxy Roxy Roller. The men who come to the Roxy really like her for some obvious reasons. At one time, the term ‘rock and roll’ didn’t refer to a form of music. The phrase was basically a euphemism for sex. For example, in ‘Good Golly, Miss Molly’, we know that she sure likes to ball. Any questions as to what that means? We also know that when she’s ‘rockin’ and a rollin’ (having sex) she couldn’t hear her mama call. Hence, the ‘Roller’ in Roxy Roller indicates she was providing sexual services at the Roxy theatre.

It’s dark in the theatre, so it’s a bit of a flashlight dream to see this woman and when you get a glimpse of her, she’s got that peaches and cream look of the girl next door. At least to the theatre pervs, that is. Her ‘five-bob job’ refers to her giving blow-jobs to the patrons . . . for cash, of course. ‘Bob’ was a term for cash in the UK; Nick Gilder was born in London before his family moved to Vancouver. ‘Bob’ has also been used as a slang term for oral sex, especially if the person giving it also plays with the recipients balls. Doing this in a skuzzy theatre, she’s going to end up with bubble gum and other disgusting sticky stuff on her knees.

So you know what she was doing down between the seats at the Roxy. If you were ‘lucky,’ sometimes she’d pass you the keys – as in turn you on, get your motor running . . . you know what I mean.

Her ‘daddy le commissioner’ is not her biological father. More like her pimp. When it comes to her money, he took more than his share. So the woman known to the theatre pervs only as Roxy Roller, left the jerk because it wasn’t fair. Instead, she joined ‘the syndicate’ – perhaps an escort agency operated by other hookers who decided to run things their way.

That’s my interpretation and I’m sticking to it!

I couldn’t have put it clearer. That’s exactly what Sweeney Todd’s lyrics mean. You have to go back to the 70’s and picture a beautiful girl turned pro. Working for an Escort service with “benefits” instead of working for a pimp. When I heard this song for the first time I pictured this slim tall blonde girl dressed in pink with cherry lipstick and blowing bubble gum all the while serving customers drinks on a tray at a drive in. Haha now that I think about it, it makes me laugh but I was just a teen.

Is this song seriously sung by a dude? I looked this up expecting the members to feature a woman in the band singing this song. Wowzers…