This song is the ballad of the Hummingbird Hawk-Moth which is a moth that looks and acts like a hummingbird. The bee part comes in because both the moth and the hummingbird act like bees, in the sense that they feed on flowers. It is pretty much a bizarre song pointing out the bizarreness of a bizarre animal.
I dunno if anyone else noticed, but the 'of the bee, of the bird, of the moth' part sounds exactly like the last part of The Residents' "The Making of a Soul"
There is also a type of Hummingbird Moth that resembles a bumble bee: Snowberry Clearwing Hummingbird Moth
Wow! I guess Linnell discovered this via his love of encyclopedia. Top marks for those that figured all this out. I think the song (which I've not heard yet) shows Lennon (circa 67-68) influence or perhaps straight to source: Lewis Carroll. Amazing lyrics that suck you in. One hopes that the music is just as exciting.
Jonathan Lethem has written a song for his 'Promiscuous Songs' project called 'The Moth of the Bee of the Bird.' Lyrics are available here; they include the line, "I read that book / I heard that song / I know the words but I'd rather hum." One of the other songs written as part of this project is The Second Longest Night, of which John Linnell has recorded a version. You can hear two different recordings of 'The Moth of the Bee of the Bird' here.
I think this can just be taken literally, just a weird song about a weird animal. I totally agree about the encyclopedia thing, as James K. Polk is another literal song that could have been lifted straight from one, and as Linnell has said about William Allen White, "He's just some guy from the encyclopedia." (Antgeth)
I think its about the effects of nuclear radiation. Things that are normally one are bing combined (the bird-bee-moth). Then this creature is going around radiating others.
Thought I would mention this because someone brought it up over at LJ. The STP sticker reference is a pun. STP was a highly-advertised line of car oil, and STP is a science term for being at "standard temperature and pressure," which is something like one atmosphere (sea level) at 32 degrees.
Got a brand new shipment of electrical equipment
It's addressed to the bottom of the sea
Send a tangerine-colored nuclear submarine
With a sticker that says 'STP'
A sub at the bottom would indeed be a tiny space of STP in the crushing pressures of the ocean floor. ha ha. Okay, not the best pun. :) ~Christina Miller, June 2007
I am so excited, that this little obscurity was added to the song when it got onto an album! *dances a little*
Here are the words, most added later, a very dream-like way to end the song -
Remember how the cover of the album has a suitcase with a caption from a Goya painting on it?
There is another famous Goya work, a print, I think, of the artist asleep at his desk, head down, and behind him, he is pursued by a flock of horrible winged nightmares. On the table cloth, it says, "El SueÃ±o de la Razon Produce Monstruos" which means "The Sleep of Reason Produces Monsters"!
So the Sleep of Reason Corporation would naturally produce a Clearwing Hummingbird Moth, since it is a monster! Also, monsters in the classical sense were deformations of the natural order, from the latin monstrum omen, warnings of disorder in the universe revealed in deformity of living beings.
If you look at the monsters that are creeping in upon Goya, there are no moths, but the scary winged things are unnerving, and are being compared to the unnerving weirdness of the Hummingbird Moth to the narrator.
How bizarre! What fun!
But thank you, TMBG, for taking the time to put that little connection in, to give us something to search out! *dances a little more*
At the Beacon theater show, Linnell said that this song was written after he saw one in the garden of a friend. Which I didn't expect at all, I thought he read about them, being an urban guy. I myself live four hours north of NYC and have a very large weedy garden. When I first heard this song I couldn't believe it. I saw my first hummingbird moth two summers ago, and it really gave me a shock. I have hummingbirds show up all the time, and my first reflexive reaction to seeing one is to think it's a really big bug, and then realize it's a bird. So when I saw the hummingbird moth I actually went (mentally) 'Bug! Oh, bird. No, wait a minute, holy crap, BUG! WHAT IS THAT THING?!'
But of course, all I did was go inside and hit Google until I figured it out. I didn't go construct a gorgeous funny mind-blowing song with engineering and Goya references, that still slays me after hearing it at least 20 times in the last few months.
--- I interpret this song to be about global warming, rising sea levels and the general "revenge of nature", represented here by the moth.
Not really much of an "interpretation", really, but I have to say that I always found the line "head lice under hats lie in the headlights everywhere" really clever. I guess I'm a sucker for that sort of wordplay. -mister IP address guy
you'd write a song like this about it. Saw a hummingbird clearwing moth in my backyard last year. Hummingbird is freaky enough, but a moth so big it could be a bird acting like a bee... They're common enough too, I'm sure he just saw one & figured out what it was.
Well its pretty clear this song is referring to the moth shown in the picture above.
But I have another possible interpretation for the first verse.
Several parasites have been identified which effect the brains of their hosts-- getting them to preform bizarre behaviors like making them approach (and even signal) their natural predators or imitate the behaviors of other animals.
One example is Toxoplasma Gondii, which makes its home in Cats (cat bug). Should this bug find itself in another creature, such as a mouse, it has a problem (or has messed up the plan, you might say) - it can only reproduce in a cat. So it will alter the brain of the mouse to make it less afraid and maybe even attracted to the smell of cats. This way the mouse will likely get eaten depositing the parasite exactly where it wants to be...in the gut of the cat.
Parasites can create such bizzare behavior in human hosts as well.
Granted...its a stretch, but when I heard lines like...
"Catbug is a cat, but he's got bugness in his veins Manhouse lives within himself with thoughtful human brain
"Protozoa, snakes, and horses have enlisted in the forces Of the bee of the bird of the moth All are irresistibly directed by the suction Of a hypnotizing tractor beam presenting a production Of the sleep of reason corporation in association With the bee of the bird of the moth"
...I couldn't help but to think of the bizarre behavior of parasites manipulating the minds of their hosts.
But I have to admit, now seeing the picture of the Snowberry Clearwing Moth, even I dont think this is the best interpretation.
Just an addition to the "tangerine colored nuclear submarine with a sticker that says STP": doesn't that sound like an off reference to The Beatles? Yellow submarines, and I would expect the sticker to say Sgt. P.
That line gives me that weird feeling of seeing someone famous in real life right in front of you at the mall and you go, "oh, that's what they really look like."
The title "Bee of the Bird of the Moth" refers to the size of the organism: A moth's version of something the size of a bird (to us) would be incredibly small. Then take that creature and conceptualize another organism that's comparable to the size of a bee to us. To me that means that the creature is either a virus or a bacteria.
"Now the moth defeats the mouse and man. It's messing with the plan. It can't be believed."
To me that represents how the disease is killing people. the same goes with the first set of lyrics:
"Everyone is crying at the dread hypnotic flying Of the bee of the bird of the moth You can't walk, you can't ramble 'cause you're gonna have to scramble From the bee of the bird of the moth"
I like both the Snowberry Clearwing and cat-brain parasite. Also, I used to know a guy who made smart houses, which were basically computerized inside and out; Manhouse reminded me of that.
As for the song itself, to me it seems like it's about man's attempts to (ineffectually) impose order on nature. The fact that there is something that confuses us because it won't fit into bee/bird/moth categories, speaks to our need for taxonomy. The bee/bird/moth seems to be closely associated with natural forces, especially biological ones. Protozoa, snakes, horses, swarming, catbug, head lice, etc. Other parts of the song seem to be about man's efforts to impose his order on nature, frequently to no avail. Shipments of electronics to the ocean, washer fluid spraying in the air, even head lice lurking despite efforts cover them up with hats or search them out with headlights. The bee/bitd/moth is messing with the best laid plans, simply by existing. The reactions to it range from being hypnotized to crying and scrambling. Basically, we can't cope with the fact that nature defies our efforts to impose a sense of order on it.
Anyways, that's the way I like to look at it.
My initial interpretation was Cthulhu, however, after listening to Dirtbike a few more times I've deduced that the song is about the deity worshipped by the Dirtbike, and the titular moth lives in R'lyah and the submarine was a sacrifice. I also like to believe that the religion built bigger and better in Cake's song Comfort Eagle, said eagle being a different worshipped deity more prevalent, or at least more directly involved with the outside world, like the pope, but an immortal ethnocentric smoker who likes to hold parties use magic to become multiple people in order to both converse with and serve his subjects at a more personal level.
For some reason, it strikes me as to be about a bizarre military base. I'm not sure why, it might be because of the nuclear submarine part.
I think the section about electrical equipment, submarine, and STP sticker, is conflating "electric boat" (something the Johns would have heard much of growing up in Lincoln, the big govt contractor/submarine builder called "Electric Boat" had many locations in New England) with electrical equipment, and STP stickers with cars, and then rolling it into headlights and then back to bugs (head lice) in the next section.
This almost sounds like a parody of a They Might be Giants. As Linnell goes on he can retreat into factual songs or songs smothered in metaphor, or unreliable narrators to retain his sense of self. This is a prime example and with a dreary medley it's one that think doesn't work. (Mr Tuck)