Interpretations:Thunderbird

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Interpretations[edit]

Whereas most people seem to think that the "Thunderbird" referred to over and over again in this song is a drug, don't forget it's also a guitar. I think that perhaps this song is about a rock star father who wants to spend more time with his family? The "Spread my thunder wings and fly" could refer to, perhaps, fame. And "Before you fall, you have to learn to crawl..." could refer to his not being humble? The quitting could be him telling his wife he wants to find a new job like he said he would, but he can't resist the fame. And don't forget that Thunderbird is also a car.

Not to be overly nit-picky, but the Thunderbird was a bass guitar. The Firebird was it's six stringed counterpart.

"We'll have fun fun fun until / T-bird takes her dad away" is a reference to the Beach Boys's Fun Fun Fun (Chorus: "She'll have fun fun fun until daddy takes the T-Bird away"). Except it's clearly backwards, like On Earth My Nina.


This song is possibly a reference to the cult classic TV show Thunderbirds, although this is open to debate. See below in the Interpretations section for more information. --Whistling in the dark 18:07, 24 Jan 2005 (EST)


Clearly no one has first hand experience with the twistedly addictive effects of this toxic nectar peddled clandestinely by Messrs. Ernesto and Julio along with it's grapey twin Night Train (which is just as well since many here would end up in juvi court, and that's no way to start a life). For some helpful history and reviews of this "American Classic" and some good reasons to stay away from it, see www.bumwine.com and www.pub.umich.edu/daily/1997/apr/04-10-97/arts/arts3.html. Incidentally, there is nothing theoretical about T-bird; it is a hard cruel reality. (But, if anyone can lead me to a watering hole that still sells it in the Red Bank, NJ area, I'd truly appreciate the lead...)


I believe this song is about drug addiction. I got this from the alcohol addiction theory, but if you think about it the whole "flying" thing is what it feels like to be on drugs and "We like fun, me and my girl We'll have fun fun fun until T-bird takes her dad away" is saying that T-Bird is the drug and when he takes the drug he seperates from the girl mentally and also physically as the girl doesn't want to hang out with him. Plus, the verse "Before you fall, you have to learn to crawl You can't see heaven when you're standing tall To get the whole sky On the ground you have to lie", 'learning to crawl before you fall' could be like ecstacy where you can sometimes forget normal tasks (ie walking, crawling etc) and you forget how to stand and you needed to learn how to crawl. 'you can't see heaven when your standing tall' is probably about an halucinate drug where you see things that arent really there so, 'To get the whole sky On the ground you have to lie' is probably the most cliche of drug abuse where people take deep concentration on the small things in life we take for granted, in this case, the sky. Well, that's pretty much it, you can fill the rest in about trying to give up the drug and forgetting what happened. You can also say "Man, are you thinking what I Am?" is a kind of illerate speech which can be caused by drugs or alcohol.


I agree with the addiction premiss but don't think alcohol is the problem. Alcohol is a depressant and based on his statement about spreading thunderwings and flying makes thunderbird sound like an upper. The comments about seeing heaven makes me think psychotropic drug also, this fits with the line about the dry throat since acid and E both can cause a dry throat*, or inline with the "thunderbird being from native american myth" post perhaps peyote. The problem with this theory is that none of these drugs is technically addicting.**

I don't like the Car theory because I don't think John would do a song about joyriding in a car or idolizing a specific car. Especially considering the song first shows up in '97 and the '97 t-bird is not worth idolizing. -a.lost.boy --

  • LSD increases mucus and saliva production -kurkanus
    • ecstacy is addictive

I agree about the Thunderbird Wine theory, but also the Thunderbird car. So he is drinking and driving. When it says, "we had fun me and my girl", it is refering to his daughter and him driving, while drunk. They end up crashing,"The T-Bird takes my daddy away", and the father,"spreads my thunder wings and fly", up to heaven.- Jake, and Danny,TFP


The narrator is a father struggling with alcohol abuse ("my throat is dry"). He's pleading with his wife, who of course wants him to quit ("I know, I know, I said that I would quit"), but he just can't get over it ("Not to be what I was like / Not to soar across the sky"). He enjoys spending time with his daughter ("fun, me and my girl...") at least while he's sober ("...until T-bird takes her daddy away // I know, I know, I said that I'd desist"). But in the end, he just can't bring himself to quit ("spread my thunder wings and fly ... I remember now / why they callled it Thunderbird").


I kind of figured that this song was about the remake of the Thunderbird line. Of course, the original Thunderbirds were famous for their flashy apperance. If what I'm saying is right, The Johns must've liked this version. Then the makers screwed it up by making it into a larger, uglier car. But with the remake of car it's like the guy is saying "Oh Yeah! Now I remember why they call it a Thunderbird." In my opinion, the first and last verses are about the man's addiction to driving the car. (I know, I know, I said that I would quit. Alright I promise no more after this) I guess the second verse is just there for filler or something. The third is definatly a parody of the Beach Boy's line "Fun Fun Fun 'till her daddy takes the T-Bird away."

Anyway, I'm pretty sure it's about a car.


I think in this song they are referring to Thunderbird the wine, known for its potency and cheap price. The "I know, I know, I said that I would quit / All right, I promise, no more after this" and "Man, oh man, my throat is dry / Man, are you thinking what I Am?" parts sound to me like someone having trouble breaking away from the bottle. The "T-bird takes her dad away" line is certainly a parody, describing the ultimate effect of alcoholism.


Thunderbird as a wine makes sense. The chorus, I think, is about the narrator starting another bout of drinking and realizing he forgot just how strong the stuff was. The analogy could be that getting drunk is like being in a thunderstorm, or having your brain run over by a car. "Before you crawl..." is the guy justifying his actions, his argument being that you have to get messed up before you can really see or do stuff. "They devised a plan..." is the narrator cursing the people who created Thunderbird. "Melt a man" probably means to make a man crack under strain, not turn him into liquid (although with the Johns you never know!)

The "fun fun fun" bit is very funny. In the second chorus this messed up man seems to be a little more hesitant about putting down the bottle. Soaring across the sky would be an amazing experience, so the guy says basically, "Oh, sure I'll stop. I know it's really bad for me to have so much fun." This is sort of an in-depth analysis, and I think it checks out. TMBG have lots of other songs about Drinking. (24.54.55.48)


In the Hitchcock movie Lifeboat, there's a character who was a habitual thief, and an incredibly skilled pickpocket. But at last he had broken this habit - perhaps, this addiction to the thrill of the theft - and had gone clean for many years. But a commanding officer asks him to pick the pocket of a suspicious man, for a good purpose. The pickpocket refuses: he had sworn off that, and never wants to do it again for any reason. But he's ordered to do it, and goes through with it. I think Thunderbird is about an experience like this: it's basically about what addiction really looks like from within. Whenever you manage to break an addiction, there's a period where you occassionally remember the thing you were addicted to, and miss the experience, yearn for it. This isn't the overwhelming urge of the addiction itself: you're no longer compelled to engage in the activity, but you recall the certain glories and enjoyments that there were to it, and you miss them... often, you're tempted to go back "just once." This is especially true when your addiction was over-induglence in something which most people can enjoy in moderation: normal people can enjoy it "just once" without having any problem, and now that you're no longer addicted, can't you that, too?

This song describes the experience of some addict. He swore off his vice: "I said that I would quit." Most likely he has quit, for a long time now. "You don't know how I've tried/to forget what it was like." But now, it's before him again: "I promise, no more. ...After this." He's again in the teeth of his addiction, its appeal overwhelms him: "...not to be what I was like... not to soar across the sky, spread my thunderwings and fly, spread my thunderwings and fly." He's seeing it from within: the thing desired is infinitely appealing, truly glorious. Does he give in? Or does he take a deep breath, pull himself away, and renew his oath to never go there again... but indulges in one trembling, sighing mutter under his breath... "I remember now, I remember now... why they call it Thunderbird..."


I'd just like to point out that these lyrics seem to be following a trend that I'm noticing spread all over this album: the Johns are sneakily inserting references to their earlier material here and there. "Man oh man..." seems to be a callback to an identical line from "I Palindrome I."


The line in I Palindrome I is "Man o Nam", a forced palindrome-version of the line. The expression "Man oh man" is a very common expression. It probably has nothing to do with referencing old material. TVsKyle


I neither drink nor drive, but perhaps "Thunderbird" refers to both the wine and the vehicle? My interpretation of the song is that it's about getting really drunk and driving really fast. The first two lines of the first bridge - "Man, oh man, my throat is dry/Man, are you thinking what I am?" - are pretty self-explanatory: "Jeez, I know I'm not supposed to be drinking, but..." Then, in the second bridge - "We like fun, me and my girl/We'll have fun, fun, fun until/T-bird takes her dad away" - the narrator tells us that he and his girlfriend are going to go for a drive, although they know drunk driving will eventually kill a loved one. I find that in this song, "Thunderbird" is used as a code-word for drinking, driving, and drinking and driving. - Rhinoceros Rex


I tend to think it's about alcohol abuse, but it seems to me that the singer is a recovering alcoholic who is unable to resist the temptation of alcohol and is getting back on the wagon. The lines "I remember now, why they called it Thunderbird" seems to indicate that he has quit before, but that's just my take. -- Duke33


I found it interesting that the line can be taken 2 ways: "All right, I promise: No more after this", as in "I promise not to further engage in this activity".... OR.... "All right, I promise no more after this", as in "I will make no more promises past this point." I definitely think it's the first, but still something interesting... to me at least. ...And to add my vote to the ongoing debate, I think it's about a car, not alcohol, and I don't know that it has to be about anything more complicated than the guy wanting to drive his old Thunderbird off into the sunset; just typical midlife readjustment. JoeMcDuck


Well, I am nearly certain it is about alcoholism. All of the lyrics make sence. He said he would quit, and did, but started to drink again, hence he remembers. Then he talks about "you cant see heaven when your standing tall.... to get the whole sky you have to lie on the ground." He is saying he prefers being passed out on the ground and that it is better since you can only see the whole sky when youre on the ground. And the fun fun fun part is him talking about his daughter. They always have fun together, or at least they used to, until he gets drunk and therfore "T-bird takes her dad away" he isnt himself when hes drunk.


I am going to agree with the car guys, not only that, but I think it is about a guy who used to steal cars. At this point he has all but given up the profession, but then he finds a vintage Thunderbird. It is such an awesome car that he thinks about stealing it, but he looks over at his companion and says [alright a promise: no more after this], like he would quit, but this is a special circumstance where a REAL Thunderbird is involved. [...my throat is dry] refers to the anticipation of getting to drive such a car. [Are you thinking what I am? Well what about it then?] Is like the phrase, "are you thinking what I?m thinking?? later he says [You can't see heaven when you're standing tall], which means that just standing around sucks and that driving in a Thunderbird is the closest thing to heaven. [We'll have fun me and my girl...} there I think he's just fantasizing about getting girls and leaving their dads in the dust, with this car. The last verse [I know, I know, I said that I'd desist...] he reassures his companion that this is the last time, and that this doesn't mean he will go back to car jacking [Not to be what I was like]. Then the two ride off with the car [Spread my thunder wings and fly]. As for the chorus, I think it refers to them having already stolen the car and remarking how great it is to be in a Thunderbird.- Calvin McMillan

i just occured to me to add, that in the live version of the song they added the following verse:

"they devised a plan they would melt a man and they'd call it thunderbird yes, they'd call it thunderbird"

this goes further to set up the idea that the car has soul, like a person


All right, what if the song is really about the Garvin School of International Management? (http://www.thunderbird.edu) Our narrator just can't bring himself to drop out of grad school?

Naaaaaah.


For some odd reason, I the "Thunderbird" the narrrator sings about is actually a carnival ride that bordrers on death.The narrator has had horrible experiences with the ride, but wants to give it one last go. The second verse, he's on the ride, he's screaming his head off, making his throat dry. He's soon off the ride, sick to his stomach, crawling to a safe area and laying down. While he's in his sick state, he believes that the ride will be the death of him. -Groucho Marx


Wasn't there an old TV show called Thunderbirds? I think they made a bad movie out of it recently. I'm pretty sure it features a lot of flying around, and maybe someone named Deeper, but I'm not really sure. Here's a link to the Wikipedia page about it: [[1]] --Whistling in the dark 18:07, 24 Jan 2005 (EST)


Alcoholic fathers? Maybe. Classic car models? Plausible, I guess. Theme park rides? Sure, why not. But if you want a *really* obscure, overly-complicated interpretation, here's what I came up with:

Basically, I see it as the tale of a young guy who has grown up in a very small, very quiet and very boring dustbowl town. All his peer group can't wait to graduate and get the hell out of there to the wider world, but all he wants is to pursue his favourite hobby, "thunderbirding", where he parks his car right against the border fence of the local airport and lays on the bonnet/roof as the planes come in to land, passing close enough overhead that the sound makes his whole body vibrate and the noise is so loud that it blocks out the ability to even think. All the kids of the town do it as teenagers, but eventually grow out of it. Not this guy though. He is way more into it than anyone he knows, it is basically his only recreational activity and he spends way more time than is entirely healthy doing it. He has no other drives in his life, no ambitions, no dreams, all he wants is to lay there and thunderbird all day long. His friends and family try and get him to stop;

"I know, I know, I said that I would quit. Alright, I promise no more after this."

And for a little while, he seems to kick the habit;

"You don't know how I tried to forget what it was like."

But the pull is too strong and eventually he falls off the wagon, rediscovering his love for it;

"I remember now, I remember now, Why they called it Thunderbird. Why they called it Thunderbird."

It consumes his every waking thought. When he's out with friends, he always tries to talk them into coming thunderbirding with him;

"Man oh man, my throat is dry. Man, are you thinking what I am? Well, what about it then?"

What, to others, is merely an amusing distraction, he has elevated to a philosophy, almost a religion;

"Before you fall you have to learn to crawl. You can't see Heaven when you're standing tall. To get the whole sky, on the ground you have to lie."

He even takes his girlfriend with him, and at first she seems to enjoy it, and plays along;

"We like fun, me and my girl."

But things take a sour turn. His girlfriend loses interest after a family tragedy;

"We have fun, fun, fun until T-bird takes her dad away."

The girl's father leaves, running out on the family and flying out of town. She is so distraught that she cannot bear to be around planes anymore, and given the choice between his girl or his hobby, he chooses the latter, losing her forever.

Eventually things become more serious, the airport security and police order him to stay away;

"I know, I know, I said that I'd 'desist'. Alright, I promise no more after this."

And like all addicts, he suffers withdrawal, thinking about how it used to make him feel ,what it meant to him, and finally giving us a clue as to what the appeal had really been;

"Not to be what I was like, not to soar across the sky. Spread my Thunderwings and fly! Spread my thunderwings and fly!"

Maybe it's all about freedom. The planes, the "thunderbirds", are free to fly through the limitless, untouchable skies. they are not bound to the earth, nor the town, nor the life that the boy feels trapped in. He wishes he could *be* one of them, to be a shining vessel of steel, riding the winds to places far off and beautiful, places he's never heard of and knows nothing about but by God they have to be better than this craphole town stuck out the back of nowhere that he is a miserable prisoner of.

So how does it end? As the songs final chords play out, I like to imagine the boy making one final heroic attempt to gain his dream, sneaking into the airport one night, he stows away in the luggage compartment of one of the planes, and is carried away to somewhere else, where he will emerge from the belly of the Thunderbird, like a child from the womb, reborn into a new world of freedom and adventure.

Or am I just reading into this way too deeply?


It seems to be a song about duty and honor. The song reminds me of a hero, like a superhero, or someone brave, that has fallen from grace. The singer could be a person who was a famous person, one whom everyone looked up to, an idol. The song chronicle the resrise to greatness of a figure. -King of Hearts


I'm surprised that I didn't see anybody think of this. Thunderbird, the car, is a tool that the narrator uses to "take care of" ignorant people who think they are better than everyone else (you can't see heaven when you're standing tall), and thinks they need a different perspective on life. So he gives them another perspective, by running them over. (To get the whole sky On the ground you have to lie) His girlfriend knows about this, and her dad is one of those people that he hates. She is trying to get him to stop these crazy hit and runs, but instead he decides that he is first going to run over her dad(We'll have fun fun fun until T-bird takes her dad away). And he realizes the power he feels from this car, like he is Thor, the god of thunder, striking people down with his Thunderbird (I remember now / why they callled it Thunderbird). -and thats my 2 cents worth. Diet poop


I love reading these interpretations - some real food for thought here. Personally I'd always gone with the alcohol line because of a comment I read somewhere official, and when I found out today that "Thunderbird" is an actual drink in the US, that tied it up for me. That said, I definitely see what people are coming from with the car idea, and it's entirely possible that it was deliberately written to offer both interpretations. I still think the alcoholic one is the stronger, though, concerns about the symptons described not being typical of drunkenness notwithstanding, because here we're talking about an alcoholic who's addicted to a particularly nasty substance, so who knows what that experience would feel like to him. I also like the on-the-wagon-but-about-to-fall-off variant, which is an aspect I hadn't thought of before. In particular, I'd like to comment on the lines "You can't see heaven when you're standing tall - to get the whole sky, on the ground you have to lie", as a claim that the only way to appreciate life fully is to hit rock-bottom (anyone who's seen the 'Saw' films will note a parallel with what the psychopathic killer was trying to achieve there with his victims), which fits in particularly well with the recovering alcoholic interpretation, but not so much with the car (why should driving make a person hit rock bottom?). Lordrosemount 09:35, 30 Jun 2006 (MDT)


Just for a more original take on the meaning of this song, I thought I'd add an idea which occurred to me. I think 'Thunderbird' represents a deep seated longing for revenge.

I know, I know, I said that I would quit All right, I promise, no more after this You don't know how I've tried To forget what it was like

This is a person who is trying to suppress his thirst for revenge. He is trying hard to forget what happened to him/her in the past, but can't help dwelling on it. It's likely that someone close to them is trying to help him get over this, and this is who they promise to.

Man, oh man, my throat is dry Man, are you thinking what I Am? Well what about it then?

I think this is about the person meeting whoever it is they want revenge on. Their throat is dry as their adrenaline races and all of their history is brought back in seconds as soon as they make eye contact. The last two lines are the person threatening whoever they want revenge on. Asking them to consider how the person they've provoked so much must be feeling and what they're thinking right now and then finally challenging them to a fight.

Before you fall, you have to learn to crawl You can't see heaven when you're standing tall To get the whole sky On the ground you have to lie

This is basically the revenge seeker being beaten down by the person who crossed him. Possibly getting knocked out and waking up on the ground some time later.

We like fun, me and my girl We'll have fun fun fun until T-bird takes her dad away

This is about the person not being any fun once they've been totally consumed by revenge.

I know, I know, I said that I'd desist All right, I promise, no more after this Not to be what I was like Not to soar across the sky Spread my thunder wings and fly Spread my thunder wings and fly

The person knows he's made a promise, but now that he's lost a fight to the person he wants revenge on, his pride has suffered even more. He longs to go back to how it was before the incident and before he was filled with a lust for revenge. Remembering that Thunderbird = revenge, here the thunder wings represent the same thing. He fells like the only way to be free of the revenge that has consumed him is to wreak his vengeance upon the person responsible for the incident.


This song is obviously about Zapdos. The singer is fed up with trying to catch Zapdos because he keeps breaking out of his Great Balls. You can't stand tall when facing Zapdos or else you will be hit by lightning. His pokemon lies on the ground because it has fainted. The singer is 30 years old and probably has a daughter but is probably a shutin and can't function without video games. Then he prevails, catches Zapdos with an Ultra Ball, teaches it HM 02 Fly, and flies away from the Power Plant.

--Mc Frown 10:59, 30 September 2011 (EDT)



My bona fides. I'm a recovering alcoholic. This song is about alcoholism, plain and simple. There are other themes wrapped up in the narrative, because live is complicated, but the narrator is recounting his alcoholism.

Thunderbird is a cheap wine. Right off the bat this references alcohol, but it could be other stuff, so lets keep going.

The pleadings in the first verse are common among alcoholics. This might be a conversation either with himself or with someone else. Both are equally common. We know we should stop drinking, but we can't, no matter who is asking us to. Our self-will is gone and we are powerless over alcohol.

Once he drinks, he remembers why it's called Thunderbird, the good and bad. It probably burns and causes a headache, but it also makes him feel powerful, like a mythic creature, the Thunderbird.

The dry throat/mouth is another stereotypical problem for the alcoholic. Either it's dehydration from not drinking enough water, a put on/excuse for having another drink (often at the expense of someone around them [bumming a drink]), or a combination of the two. I think he's also prompting the listener to engage in another round.

Here's where we get into the effects of the alcohol. "Before you fall" is probably a literal, physical fall. "Learn to crawl" might be a reference to the pub crawl, after which people are typically pretty drunk. After the fall, one stays down, and can see the sky, which you can't do standing up, sober. He's trying to make an argument about how being drunk is romantic and opens your eyes, but he's literally lying on the ground after a fall. It's not a pretty picture.

The fun fun fun is a reference to a Beach Boys song, but the context is definitely different. In this case, the T-bird is the alcohol, the car, or both (as in a drunk driving accident, which kills her father).

More claims of stopping. But then romanticizing the feelings brought on by drinking, in this case, like flying. Also, I think this is another double reference to the feeling of flying that alcohol brings and the mythic bird. It's double entendre.

The end is ambiguous. Did he finally stop drinking or is it a cycle of alcohol abuse that will continue?

--nixonismyhero 2:54, 18 November 2018 (EDT)


I'm definitely with the camp that sees it as alcoholism, and failing to stay quit. Here is my evidence before the jury. Thunderbird wine - known as mostly a "wino wine", mostly drank out of a paper sack. "My throat is dry" might be a reference to an old song and staple of drunks on TV "How Dry I Am," (actually, I guess it is called "The Near Future" by Irving Berlin) which was often used, such as in cartoons like Looney Tunes, to depict a drunk needing a drink. (https://www.funtrivia.com/askft/Question107399.html). It's how I've always interpreted that line. "Before you fall, you have to learn to crawl\You can't see heaven when you're standing tall\To get the whole sky\On the ground you have to lie" feels like something that they would say at Alcoholics Anonymous. You have to hit your lowest points before you can pick yourself up and appreciate sobriety, or whatnot. The "girl" I don't think I ever took as the author's daughter in the Beach Boys reference, but it makes more sense. I always thought his wife/girlfriend had a dad that died of alcoholism, but it does say "until t-bird takes her dad away," so now I definitely see it as such. And it makes me sadder. Other than that, things that have been covered before. The thrill and rush of drinking and being drunk being the flying and connection with the mythic bird. I definitely think the mythic bird and car were intentional, but not the point. Which is part of what I love about this song. --Cagliostro 11/7/2019

Comments[edit]

Another Linnell by numbers track, using his favourite up and down the scales style it's got a lot of energy but fails to fully excite, which is probably why it got dropped from Mink Car. Sure you can spot the Beach Boy references and the familiar half-fears of the aging process, but this does not really convince. The worst Linnell track on the new album...so still quite good then. (Mr Tuck)


Worst track? This isn't Beethoven, guys, it's rock. And "it's got a lot of energy but fails to fully excite" - speak for yourself, my friend. Yes, I noticed he is doing that annoying up up up the scales then down down. I agree it makes several of the tunes he has written sound the same, like variations on a theme. I agree with several posters about the wine and driving a T-Bird being a double meaning and that the Beach Boy references definitely pull in the "driving a T-bird fast" idea. I really like the car thief notion, it's inventive and fits really well!


In the song a man is struggling with a compulsion, with a returning desire for something that lets him see heaven, see the whole sky. I dig the imagery where the desire is returning, and he talks about it in terms of the air, heaven, the sky, soaring, flying - has anyone thought that the layered meanings for the title "Thunderbird" might include: 1. bad wine 2. driving a T-Bird too fast and 3. the desire itself imagined as a "Thunderbird," the mythical beast that rises from its own ashes and 4. himself in the grips of the compulsion? Consider that he is coming back to being what he was before (I remember now, I remember now!), and spreading his thunder wings and flying, like his desire, he is rising from the ashes and becoming the soaring thunderbird again. I see that in there, so I forgive the rising scales retread. I think they work here, given the topic.

(Okay, before I get jumped on this one - the Thunderbird is not strictly a Phoenix. The Thunderbird is Native American and the Phoenix is old world, but they are associated sometimes, although the Thunderbird is a bringer of thunder & lightening and has some association with coming from the sun and returning to it, it doesn't rise from its ashes, per se. The periodicity is implied. So no snarky remarks, guys. I still think he is referring to the mythical bird on some level.)

Thank God Mssrs. Linnell and Flansburgh don't read this interpretation stuff. They'd laugh their asses off, wouldn't they? I know I did.  ;) ~Christina Miller


I disagree that this song is about drinking, I assumed it was sung from the perspective of a former superhero (with the ability of flight) who has since separated himself from his old alter ego and tried to forget that he has powers. This is possibly due to a situation wherein he made an error (T-Bird takes her dad away) similar to the film 'the Incredibles'. But his realization is that he can't deny who he is and decides to 'spread [his] thunderwings and fly." This is my favorite song on The Spine, so stop messing with it.


(have you ever wondered if the Johns are just crazy and we're reading way to much into it? though, either way, they make excellent music...EB)


Have any of you listened to this song and James K. Polk? I think the first two lines of both songs' verses have the same notes.

Polk? Agreed. The resemblance of the opening lines is striking.--M. Fudd 20:27, 21 Dec 2005 (EST)
Definitely-- exactly today I was walking home from my bus stop, singing Thunderbird except varying and stretching it, and I came to just that conclusion. Magbatz
Additionally, the first lines of both songs (split/quit) rhyme. Weird. Whirrrlwind

As of today, the song remains opaque to me. But I like it for the line about not being able to see heaven when you are standing tall. This is touching, and makes me imagine that a drop of wisdom has been distilled from Linnell's normally dry intellect. --Nehushtan 16:47, 22 Mar 2006 (CST)

  Scratch that.  Now I understand the song and it's as dry as the narrator's throat.  --Nehushtan 15:20, 9 June 2007 (UTC)

I think of this song a bit differently...

The narrator is doing something (car related maybe?) that killed his girlfriend's dad. He loves doing whatever it is (I think it could be motorcycling or speeding or something) and she's like, "NOOOPLEASESTOP!" and he does it anyways. Ummm... maybe that's not different. Ok. I'm done.

Oh, and this does sound like James K. Polk. I noticed that from the first time I heard it.--Lemita 15:04, 7 Jun 2006 (MDT)



I don't have a finely tuned ear, but I'm pretty sure that Thunderbird's second line of melody rises from the first (a fifth? maybe a fourth), while James K. Polk's second line is an exact repeat of the first. I will admit that they sound quite similar, and whoever notices this for themself is to be commended as an observant listener and a true Superfan (I dind't notice until I read this page). However, I don't think that it's a musical sin for a songwriter to use similar phrases in multiple songs. After all, there are only so many combinations of notes within the western 12 tone scale, and TMBG have a lot of songs. Plus, if you listen carefully, the rythms are different - Thunderbird is in straight-time while Polk is more syncopated, and if I concentrate my limited powers of aural perception, I think I hear that the songs are in different keys (someone verify...). An interesting comparison, but not a blatant copy (for a blatant copy, listen to the basslines of Ice Ice Baby by Vanilla Ice and Under Pressure by David Bowie) All in all, the the two songs' opening phrases differ enough in feel and overall effect that I would not judge one to be a copy of the other. --Phlodo 19:49, 25 July 2006 (UTC)


There's a Beach Boys song where the "We like fun, me and my girl..." Lyric is reversed. This might have some effect on interpritations. I just thought I should mention that.


Wow... My interpretation is milder than everyones...[edit]

Everyone who has a drug theory is talking about meth and crack and things like that, but for some reason I've always assumed that this song is about caffeine. That's what my mind goes to when I hear the line "It's kicking in, yeah! Shocked awake in the middle of the day!" And it's obviously talking about a drink. I dont know if it was intended for this, but it sounds like it's about caffeine, maybe more specifically energy drinks.


But that's a different song - that's from the song It's Kickin' In, not Thunderbird. Both on the same album, though, so there could be a connection?

Thunderbird[edit]

I read almost all of the other interpretations (not all though, there was a lot) and I'm pretty familiar with TMBG's music, I have almost every CD and love almost every song, and I know it doesn't seem like the John's to do a song about drugs (at least not them being addicted to one) it strikes me that this is almost exactly what this song is about.

Just those beginning few words, they are so emotionally driven, like a plea for help. The drug I would choose for this song is so obvious to me, either weed or alcohol whichever you choose. There's evidence for both, thats what this song is about. Both are non-addictive but the feeling itself is, its even an escape to some.

You don't do it for a while and then get really high/drunk one day and you "remember why they call it thunderbird"

Also, you get cotton mouth, or "man oh man my throat is dry" whenever smoking weed

You usually end up doing some non-sensical things and agreeing with all your friends, "man, are you thinking what I, Am, well what about it then?"

The whole "before you fall you have to learn to crawl, and you can't see heaven when your standing tall" perhaps the confusion or disorientation, also when your drunk loss of motor function, not standing up straight, crawling on the ground.

When you get high/drunk you have a lot of fun. "we like fun me and my girl" until T-Bird takes her dad away, until the drugs take her away? Not death, but maybe just sleep. Also the beach boys reference.



Alcohol.[edit]

There is a type of alcoholic drink called Thunderbird. (No really, it exists. Look it up.) The song is about an alcoholic trying to stop drinking Thunderbird.


Alcohol.[edit]

There is a type of alcoholic drink called Thunderbird. (No really, it exists. Look it up.) The song is about an alcoholic trying to stop drinking Thunderbird.


Another Car Accident Song[edit]

Given that every TMBG song is interpreted as a car accident, I'm really surprised I haven't seen this interpretation.

The song seems to hinge on that line "We'll have fun fun fun until / tbird takes her dad away" -- which represents a hard tempo change and a clear reference to another song.

Looking at the song-writing style of John and John, it seems they write a lot of songs as a conversation with an untrustworthy narrator, throwing in a twist at the end (Hopeless Bleak Dispair is a great example of their twist endings).

It strikes me that drinking is key to the song as well. The opening stanza begins:

"I know, I know, I said that I would quit All right, I promise, no more after this You don't know how I've tried To forget what it was like"

So there's something the narrator needs to quit, he promised already, but is promising again, and there's something he's trying to forget. As yet we have no clue what he's talking about, apart from the title, so it should have something to do with a Thunderbird.

"I remember now I remember now Why they called it Thunderbird Why they called it Thunderbird"

This seems to be rather plainly letting us know that we're about to enter a flashback or a recolection of some kind. That paired with "trying to forget" makes this pretty easy to see. The narrator is trying to forget and then remembers. Whenever somebody says, "I remember now--" we should expect a memory to come next. That suggests the next lines are probably either a recollection or a flashback.

"Man, oh man, my throat is dry Man, are you thinking what I Am? Well what about it then?"

The narrator remembers some dialogue where he proposed something involving a dry throat. It's logical to think he is talking about a drink. It's also a common way to ask somebody to drink with you, or at least it was in the 50's and 60's: "Man oh man, anybody else here's throat dry? Let's get a drink."

If that interpretation is correct, it would explain the thing he means to "quit" - alcohol is a good guess, but we still don't have enough clue.

Before you fall, you have to learn to crawl You can't see heaven when you're standing tall To get the whole sky On the ground you have to lie

It certainly sounds like getting drunk or doing some drug and veging out, laid back, having a good time, looking up at the sky. But again, we don't know for sure. Drink hasn't even been mentioned. Although Thunderbird is a drink, it's also a mythical beast and a car.

"We like fun, me and my girl We'll have fun fun fun until T-bird takes her dad away"

This is the point in the song that takes a turn. It's the second-to-last stanza, and it takes a hard turn lyrically with changes in rhythm and references. The tbird here obviously references the car, since the original Beach Boys song references the car and there would be absolutely no reason for such a bald reference unless it was intentionally dtawing a parallel.

So what would it mean for a thunderbird to take her dad away? Why do we use the phrase "took her dad away."

Basically, that phrase is only used literally when somebody is stolen, and figuratively when the person is killed. In this case, it isn't a huge stretch to say the T-bird has killed her dad. The other options (drink and lireral beast) don't work with the reference they've plaining placed in there. But how does that make sense in the frame of the song?

Well, it would all make sense if this were a drunk driving accident. If the speaker wanted to forget that day he had fun with his girl, got drunk, went driving and killed her dad, it might be a painful memory he'd want to "forget." At the same time, he loved the freedom of driving and drinking, seeing the "whole sky" and had trouble giving that up. Here he is, he promised he would quit (drinking), but it's too hard to remember the freedom, just as it's too hard to remember the man he killed while out driving drunk.

The last stanza is then:

"I know, I know, I said that I'd desist All right, I promise, no more after this Not to be what I was like Not to soar across the sky Spread my thunder wings and fly Spread my thunder wings and fly"

So far, like most TMBG songs, there's no clear interpretation that definitively answers all the riddles, but the interpretation I've offered works well here. He wants that freedom, misses it, needs what the drinking did for him, despite the consequences. He can't give it up. Driving free, in the T-bird ("Spread my thunder wings and fly"

Additionally, there's a possibility of seeing freedom in death in this. If

"To get the whole sky On the ground you have to lie"

Then it's logical that to get to heaven you have to die. And that's what he finds so romantic about the time he took her dad away. If he was dead, he'd be free, which explains his love of risky behaviour.

I see this similar to the great american myth of the greaser who drives his T-bird out into the desert with his girl and dies a free death. Except this guy didn't die. He killed somebody, and how he's got to live his whole life striving for that freedom he can never touch. He remembers why they called it Thunderbird and he wishes he could forget.


Sums up my early twenties....[edit]

When I was at college we used to drink Thunderbird cause it was dirt cheap. The song is simple to me it just reminds me of when you are younger...going out getting smashed...saying you will never do it again and then doing it all over again. Great times...for a while at least. It's the feeling of wanting to give up, not doing it and every time still enjoying the rush you get. Sadly things things don't last. I listen to it as it is a bit of nostalgia for me. Now? I am 38 and don't drink. Still have good times though :D


Part 7 of The Spine

As The Skullivan drinks his woes away, The Spine comes over and stops him, since he was supposed to stop drinking. He reminisces on how Thunderbird has affected his life, even remembering how it was the cause of The Spine's father's death.

Singers: The Skullivan

--MidoFS (talk) 16:36, 1 June 2018 (EDT)