Interpretations:Till My Head Falls Off

From This Might Be A Wiki

This song is a series of stories where people lose their train of thought and getting annoyed by it. One man is counting and someone else keeps bothering him so he must start over. The second is a person trying to figure out a complicated problem (Such as Einstein figuring out e=mc2) and someone else is talking and bothering them so they can't reach the solution. The third story is about someone giving a speech, but have lost their notecards, thus annoyed by this fact. This song is about annoyances that can make your head fall off.


Till My Head Falls Off is just about a guy with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. 'Nough said. (Look up OCD and you'll see his symptoms fit pretty well)


Till My Head Falls Off is a song about a very persistent person with high hopes. In the song, the person is always deep in thought causing him to not, "know where [he] put his notes." His Neurotic little obsessions like, counting and keeping track of advil, complement his personal fantasies, "clearing my throat and gripping the lectern, i smile and face my audience, clearing his throat and smiling with his hands on the bathroom sink." The singer is very independent and requests "more respect for someone more forgetful/decrepit than yourself."


~Michael Curtin


The only item missing from the above interpretation is that the narrator is also a senior citizen - specifically one that refuses to be silenced or dismissed. All the behavior suggested in the lyrics seems to point to a cranky, forgetful miser-ish kind of character. Note: the word "forgetful" in the first bridge is often replaced with the word "decrepit" when played live. It's an old man, for sure, and the only way that idea is really disserviced is by the fact that Linnell has such a youthful voice. - Charlie Coniglio


Well, according to what I hear, he doesn't seem so "senior citizen" as "getting older." To me, the speaker sounds more over-the-hill (say, 49), but refusing to accept that he is aging and that his mind is going somewhat. He seems like he's trying to prepare an image that might impress an old friend or an admirer he hasn't met recently. A scenario that has occurred to me is that he could be participating in a convention honoring his past achievements, or giving a graduation speech to a large graduating class at a college, explaining his last moment of primping and inventory-checking in the bathroom.

~Smilton


The song is about suicide, which I know, is a little odd for a band l tmbg, however they manage to wrap their playful and charming wit and tune around the delicate subject that it's hard to tell what they are referring to if you are only passively listening.

"There were eighty-seven Advil in the bottle now there's thirty left I ate forty-seven so what happened to the other ten? Why do you suspiciously change the subject and break my concentration As I dump the bottle out and I count the Advil up again?"

He's trying to kill himself with advil and has a sneaking suspicion someone is trying to sabotage his morbid plan.

"Don't interrupt me as I struggle to complete this thought Have some respect for someone more forgetful than yourself

And I'm not done And I won't be till my head falls off"

He wont stop until hes dead.

"Hitting every pocket on my shirt, pants and overcoat And I'm hitting them again but I don't know where I put my notes"


Referencing a suicide note that he seemed to misplace.

"Clearing my throat, and gripping the lectern I smile and face my audience Clearing his throat and smiling with his hands on the bathroom sink"

Looking at himself in the bathroom mirror.

"And when I lean my head against the frosted shower stall I see a broken figure silhouetted on the wall"

Another reference to a bathroom, which again shows that this whole song likely takes place within one."

-Michael Edward Willenzik III


I feel that this song is just about a nervous guy getting ready to give a speech

"There were eighty-seven Advil in the bottle now there's thirty left
I ate forty-seven so what happened to the other ten?
Why do you suspiciously change the subject and break my concentration
As I dump the bottle out and I count the Advil up again?
Don't interrupt me as I struggle to complete this thought
Have some respect for someone more forgetful than yourself"

This guy is obviously stressed out because of an upcoming speech he has to do. He is using a lot of advil to numb the pain of getting up in front of a crowd. Also, he admits that he is forgetful during this stressful time, so maybe it's possible that he doesn't really know how many advil there were originally, and its just paranoia setting in.

"And I'm not done
And I won't be till my head falls off"

basically he is saying, to whomever he is laying his fears on, that "I won't let you stop me from giving this speech," but in reality it is he who is trying to prevent himself from giving the speech by letting his own inhibitions set in.

"Hitting every pocket on my shirt, pants and overcoat
And I'm hitting them again but I don't know where I put my notes
Clearing my throat, and gripping the lectern I smile and face my audience
Clearing his throat and smiling with his hands on the bathroom sink

He is practicing his speech in front of the mirror, pretending his sink is the lectern that he will have when he actually has to give his speech. the first thing he notices is that he has forgotten his notes, this goes back to the idea that his own fears are trying to prevent him from giving the speech.

"And when I lean my head against the frosted shower stall
I see stuff through the glass that I don't recognize at all""

He looks into the mirror and sees how unfamiliar his own face is looking back at him.

"I'm not done talking yet
I'm not done talking yet"

The fear comes back and tries to tell him that he must finish the speech to beat all the conspirators trying to stop him.

"And when I lean my head against the frosted shower stall
I see a broken figure silhouetted on the wall"

Finally, he looks into the mirror and sees what all this paranoia has done to him.

"And I'm not done
And I won't be till my head falls off
Though it may not be a long way off
I won't be done until my head falls off

either his fear completely consumes him, or, a lighter idea, he sees that his own fear was irrational and that the powers that be would have to kill him now to stop him from delivering the speech, and though his fears may come back inevitably killing him, he will still give his speech.

-[Calvin McMillan]


I just heard this song the other day and I love it already. =)

My theory: It's from the narration point of a very (perhaps with OCD as somebody had said earlier), very nervous person. This is displayed in his counting, he trying to find the notes he has for a public speaking affair frantically, and how he thinks he sees things in the bathroom that aren't there. Also (I'm listening to this now, I just noticed this) the fast paced tempo... you know how when people are nervous they talk fast or are shaking? Yeah, that might symbolize that, but probably now. Ok, I'm done. ^^ --Lemita 10:26, 25 Jun 2006 (MDT)


I think it's about a "Odd Couple" type living situation. His roommate uses his stuff but never tells him. When the guy is counting up his Advil his roommate interrupts him so he doesn't know he used the Advil. The guy has to give a speech but because his roommate is messy he grabbed the wrong jacket. So he is in the bathroom of the speech place stressing that he grabbed the wrong jacket. Up on stage he pats himself doing the thing most people do when they forget the speech. Back at home, he is in his own bathroom and being mad he leans his head against the shower stall he sees someone he doesn't know because his roommate invited that person in. He also yells at his roommate a lot, but it is useless hence "I won't be done until my head falls off" Meaning he'll keep yelling until his head falls off.


I've always thought, as per the Johns' description of an old-timer refusing to yeild the floor, that this song might have some sub-textual significance relating to their position at the time. John Henry supposedly lost them quite a few fans (I say supposedly because I was not a fan at that time, and because I'm sure they've gained far more fans since than they lost), who accused them of being washed-up and cow-towing to the alternative music of the moment. I see this as an answer song to those complaints, in which Linnell is telling us that, though they may be getting old for rock stars, They Might Be Giants are going nowhere. This, of course, is not to belie the textual meaning of the song, which most people agree is told from the POV of an OCd afflicted soul.


In the lyrics it says 'advil' I don't know the source of the lyrics page, could be right off of one of the John's notes on the song but when I listen to the song I hear adderall. Adderall is a medication used to treat ADD/ADHD. Adderall helps patients focus, it's shown to dramatically increase study skills and for this reason it's sold on the black market to those who are nervous about upcoming tests. So in the first verse "Why do you suspiciously change the subject and break my concentration as I dump the bottle out and I count the (adderall) up again?" Maybe he suspects someone's stealing his meds.


While an old decrepit man is the obvious choice as a narrator, the fact the narrator is looking into shower glass (and not a mirror) is significant to me. He could be of any age really (from 40-100+). I can't recognize myself in translucent shower-glass; I would certainly look disfigured. The only thing that suggests he's old is the large consumption of advil and the love of talking.

It's still possible he could simply be brain-damaged and hospitalized. Of course it's probably most likely the subject of this song is mortality and old age.

--Anonymous


I generally agree with most people's opinions about this song, but I think the part where he says something about his audience who is gripping the bathroom sink is actually him looking in a mirror. Everything he says about himself in that line is reflected in the line about his audience. But especially the part about the bathroom sink, that really makes me think 'mirror'.


I am truly shocked at the lack of people who think it's about a person who is addicted to Advil. -Apollo.


I'm not 100% sure, but I think this song is about 1 of 2 things: either a paranoid and possibly insane man who thinks somebody is trying to kill him, or an important person, maybe a scientist or a politician, whom someone is actually trying to kill.

In the first verse, the speaker is either curious or paranoid about his advil. If he's a crazy old man, then chances are he isn't in any danger, but he's suspicious that the other person is trying to poison him. He's obsessively trying to figure it out, and the other person is bothered by the man's behavior and wants to get him to stop. If he's not paranoid, then he's probably the obsessive, nervous type as was mentioned, and he's wondering why his advil is missing.

The chorus would fit either one; that whether or not someone is really out to get him, he's not going to die so easily, and he can't be killed unless his head is actually removed.

In the second verse, the man is preparing for a speech, but can't find his notes, probably because of his mental state. He's feeling nervous and a bit sick, so he goes to the bathroom. In the bathroom he starts to practice his speech, but he's feeling even worse so he takes a shower. Now is where it can go two different ways.

"And when I lean my head against the frosted shower stall I see stuff through the glass that I don't recognize at all"

- Either he is paranoid and delusional, thinking that someone has come to kill him, or he's not, and A. someone has succeeded in drugging him and now he's hallucinating, or possibly his mental faculties are starting to be compromised and his thinking is messed up, or B. someone has really come to kill him.

"And when I lean my head against the frosted shower stall I see a broken figure silhouetted on the wall"

-Either he's the old man and he's suffering a mental breakdown and collapses on the floor, or the non-paranoid man has been either attacked and might be dying, or was drugged and is feeling the final effects which are killing him.


I always thought it was about someone with ADHD. Most of the song is really similar to my experience with the disorder. Not the Advil so much, but the breaking concentration in the first verse. The speed of the song reminds me of when I struggle to slow down when I talk.

"struggle to complete this thought" can be an issue because of tangents, distractions, or unrelated thoughts. "More forgetful than yourself" struggling with keeping instructions or information in his head.

The chorus could show that he still has more to say and do despite how much he already fit in, but people interrupt if someone goes on too long or too fast or if they get off topic.

"Hitting every pocket on my shirt, pants and overcoat/And I'm hitting them again but I don't know where I put my notes" losing things consistently is a symptom, and "notes" might also refer not only to whatever speech he's giving but to losing track of what he's thinking in general.

"Clearing my throat, and gripping the lectern I smile and face my audience/Clearing his throat and smiling with his hands on the bathroom sink" anxiety is often found in people with ADHD and I interpreted this as him remembering practicing repeatedly in the bathroom.

I don't really know how the rest of the song would fit into this theory other than the repeat of the chorus and the "I'm not done talking" line, as the impulsivity can give certain people a tendency to ramble or blurt things out or interrupt.

This is, of course, just what i saw in the song, and I fully accept that it might be projecting.


Bipolar disorder?[edit]

I may be projecting here, seeing as how I myself am bipolar, but I can quite easily see the song as being about the disorder.

The first verse is (pretty transparently, IMO) about an attempted (interrupted?) suicide by overdose. This is a representation of a depressive phase.

The second verse seems like a representation of a manic phase--that whole "I can do anything!" attitude, combined with irritability.

Not sure about the rest of the song, but that's what makes sense to me. (I know I'm probably wrong, but yeah.)

--12.248.24.194 15:32, 12 November 2011 (EST)


retirement home?[edit]

The narrator of this song is probably an old man-just old enough, in fact, that his younger relatives are considering putting him in a retirement home. The narrator, the song clearly states, does not like this one bit. He seems to feel that going into a retirement home indicates that he is finished, or that he has nothing more to offer the world (i'm not done); and while he admits that he may not have long to live, he refuses to accept that as an excuse to stop doing whatever he has been doing up until now (and i wont be till my head falls off, though that may not be a long way off). Though his family may see him as rather demanding and crotchety (Don't interrupt me as I struggle to complete this thought/Have some respect for someone more forgetful than yourself), he prefers to see himself as reliving his "glory days," reminiscing about all his favorite moments (Clearing my throat, and gripping the lectern I smile and face my audience/Clearing his throat and smiling with his hands on the bathroom sink). Perhaps, towards the end of the song, he begins to doubt himself, realizing just how old and frail he really is getting ( And when I lean my head against the frosted shower stall/I see stuff through the glass that I don't recognize at all...And when I lean my head against the frosted shower stall/I see a broken figure silhouetted on the wall), but he is still determined that he will NOT go to a nursing home or to a hospital until he is practically on his deathbed.

-TheMightyBlondeGirl


Stroke or Migraine?[edit]

I've always leaned towards the more morbid interpretations - if only because the shifting perspectives and the phrase "until my head falls off" itself suggests something isn't right (or functioning optimally) upstairs. But since no one else has said it - Advil can be a blood thinner, so once you've eaten 37 or 47 (never a good idea) it's possible that a hemorrhagic event is on the table. So we don't know why the protagonist is fumbling with the Advil - it could have just begun with a "splitting headache" rather than ill intent - but now he's disoriented, forgetful, counting pills - what happened to the other ten? - and also imagining that he's giving a public performance (because maybe that's his regular gig? and it's similar to what the band's doing in front of you when they're playing this song?), only to snap back to realizing that he's actually in the bathroom (how many famous moments in rock'n'roll history have occurred in bathrooms? You'd expect TMBG's audience probably knows the similar scene in The Wall movie; Elvis also had a bad time in one) ... and somehow has gone from the sink to the shower (maybe seeking relief from the headache that brought him to the Advil?) only to see stuff through the glass that he doesn't recognize at all - which, of course, anyone can relate to because you can't see clearly through frosted glass, but also suggests either a disruption in visual processing or a migraine scotoma, so it's a great twist of words/mental image to leave the listener feeling as disoriented as the character must.

He's "not done talking yet" - so there's a sense of unfinished business, and that's also a phrase parents or authority figures use to scold children, so another twist to give the listener a sense of 'on the spot' discomfort or panic. Maybe that means he didn't mean to give himself a stroke from too much Advil - or maybe just that he didn't realize he's given himself one and what's left of his brain is still stuck in the fugue of thinking he's trying to deliver a speech that he can't remember - or maybe he's just that disoriented from a migraine and, after some time in the shower and if the Advil doesn't do him too much damage, he will not be done talking - recover and go on with life, a nice thought.

[I actually had the, er, 'miscellaneous luck' of living through this vicariously when a houseguest on blood thinners and with some other problems had just such a stroke - in the bathroom, as certain other things that go on there will raise your blood pressure - which he unfortunately didn't recover from (he lost the faculty to say or recognize 'I think I'm having a stroke' but could communicate 'I'm fine', so we lost hours thinking he was just dealing with a GI bug) ... so even if this isn't what the song is about, if you ever feel like you're living it -- please consider that possibility and call for help!] —Preceding unsigned comment added by 24.184.118.91 (talk) 05:33, July 11, 2014

The same sad old story[edit]

Despite the upbeat music, analysis of the lyrics shows it to be a rather sad song. The narrator is in the early stages of Alzheimer's Disease (dementia). This is why he has miscounted his pills, and why he is obsessed with the miscount (obsession is a typical trait of dementia sufferers).

The second verse shows a situation in two different ways: subjective ("Clearing my throat and gripping the lectern, I smile and face my audience"), and objective ("Clearing his throat and smiling, with his hands on the bathroom sink"). This deluded behavior indicates hallucinations, or at least memory problems.

The refrain about the "frosted shower stall" shows that the narrator doesn't recognise his surroundings, which is a characteristic of entrenched Alzheimer's.

Despite this, the message of the song's chorus is one of defiance. The narrator won't stop being active in life until he has no choice.
-- Thread Bomb (talk) 00:58, 2 April 2020 (EDT)