Interpretations:Chess Piece Face

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Chess Piece Face is a mobster.

The narrator of Hey, Mr. DJ, I Thought You Said We Had A Deal says, "Chess Piece Face's patience must be wearing thin / Because they haven't played my song on the air." In the context of that song, the narrator was expecting to get rich after his song got popular on the radio. Without radio play, there was no money, so the narator was presumably testing the patience of a loan shark.

In the song named after Chess Piece Face, the narrator crossed CPF, or was set up to take the blame. He is now in hiding for fear of retaliation.

"All I know could be defaced by the facts in the life of Chess Piece Face" In this line, it sounds like the narator is an informant.

"I don't know where he lives/ Or if he knows to sail" The narrator has gone overseas to hide, and doesn't know if CPF is pursuing him.

"Or if little schemes like this one ever cross his trail/ But I don't believe he's dreaming/ Or if he cares to know" These lines suggest that the narrator was set up. "Dreaming" might represent CPF being fooled by a double-crosser into laying blame on a patsy. "If he cares to know" could mean CPF doesn't need to find the guilty person, he just needs to make an example of the person perceived by the underworld as guilty.

"So I shudder in my lampshade" A lampshade is a poor hiding place. The narrator doesn't feel safe.


My interpretation of this song is similar to AntiEgo's; however, there is another element to it. I believe Chess Piece Face is part of a major underground criminal organization along with such figures as Rabid Child and The Big Duluth(see my interpretation for Rabid Child) and the narrator in Chess Piece Face is an informant who ratted on Chess Piece Face. Chess Piece Face is now seeking revenge, but the informant is in the protective arms of the Witness Protection Program and has been shipped overseas. Still, though, he is nervous about Chess Piece Face's vengeance.

01-jul-03 - According to Flansy, this song was inspired by a former employer of his, whom he no longer remembers. - Charlie Coniglio

It's not an interp, but this song's always been the creepiest of the album to me. The surreal lyrics combined with the ominous music-just kinda unsettling. I like the mobster interp.

I thought the song was about Flan's brother. Judging from Paxus' internet status, his radical activist philosophies match perfectly with the first two songs on Their eponymous album. You may then read the meaning of "Number Three" as saying "okay, we've written the only two songs we meant to write, so i guess now we're just going to write some other songs too." TMBG is a fake band; it was all an elaborate plan to implant messages of mind control into American pop-culture, and now they're headed straight for our youth! They must be stopped. We must not be silent, for they might be giants. You know that song "The Bells Are Ringing"? Makes sense right? Remeber "Youth Culture Killed My Dog"? Am I Right? Eh. That's all I got.

TMBG = best band ever.

Chess Piece Face = Insult[edit]

I know Flans has said that not only is there a real CPF, but that was actually an unflattering nickname for him. So, what could CPF mean? My two guesses:

  • The boring one: Dude had a horse-face.
  • The interesting one: Dude had a scar running horizontal across his face, sorta like a bishop.


Probably not. - TODCRA 14:40, 27 June 2011 (EDT)

I'd guess the chess piece part stood for someone who makes plans and strategies, but the face part shows that these are all shown on the face.

I'd imagine it's about a record producer or some 'head honcho' trying to drive TMBGs style somewhere more commercial but "little schemes like this one" are TMBG's attempts to go their own way. Ferret 08:04, 4 November 2011 (EDT)

The government...[edit]

Chess is very much a military game. You use the chess pieces to face an opposing "army". I think the narrator is a politician or a group of politicians, and chess piece face is their metaphor for their military, who they view as pawns.

"So what's gonna happen to Chess Piece Face? There go I but for my face all I know could be defaced By the facts in the life of Chess Piece Face"...

Could mean that the politician narrator singing the song is worried that the large amount of free information available to people via the internet, books, etc. will convince people to not join the military, thus demeaning his power.

"I don't know where he lives or if he knows to sail or if little schemes like this one ever cross his trail"...

This could mean there's disconnect between him and the people he sends to their death. He knows nothing about them, their education, or if they've ever been similarly ripped off like he is currently doing to them.

"But I don't believe he's dreaming or if he cares to know so I shudder in my lampshade".

I think this means that the politician is worried and thinks all his soldiers are self-aware like him, and he can't tell if they care about what he's done to them. The lampshade I think is a metaphor for the politician's public image. Lampshades block the light from the light bulb within them, so I think that would make the lampshade the mask he wears in public to hide the person he really is. So basically this line is him being paranoid, but hiding behind his phony political image so he doesn't show it.

witness protection program? maybe[edit]

"there go i but for my face"

sounds like that witness protection program theory. his history is erased as he becomes a new person, but his face is unchanged.

"all i know could be defaced by the facts in the life of chess piece face"

assuming the above is correct, this would mean whatever CPF is doing is what's endangering the narrator ("the FACTS in the life"), which means he and CPF knew each other previously and now the narrator has made CPF angry somehow. that's all I've got.

I dunno, this is my first interp, i could be completely off.

There Go I[edit]

"There go I but for my face" is a variation of a phrase by an un verified Englishman. "There go I but for the grace of God", as he watched a man walk to the gallows. I am saved from this fate by the grace of God (or, the way my face looks)

What's gonna happen to Chess Piece Face? There go I but for my face All I know could be defaced By the facts in the life of CPF

What will CPF's fate be? It would be my fate, if not for the way my face looks. But the outer appearance of my life could be shattered (de-faced) By the FACTS of what really is.

But presumably he is across a large body of water It's uncertain whether he even knows about this SCHEME But (I) don't think he's asleep and dreaming peacefully, He could be awake and aware and coming for me But then, how do I know he'd even care if he knew? So I sit terrified and waiting and horrifically vulnerable.

The lampshade only covers his head. Or his FACE. The speaker (SP) had a scheme, and the unaware victim was CPF Chess Piece = Pawn The poor guy looked like a schmuck, so he got taken advantage of. But SP looks just like him. CPF's fate is uncertain. "Good thing my life isn't that uncertain! If he didn't look just like me, then maybe I'd be in his predicament."

I theorize that the speaker is CPF's twin. SP lives the life that CPF was supposed to live. He stole his twin's place, he IS CPF on the surface, on the FACE, and he's been living a fake life all along. The evidence, the FACTS tell the real story which has been ignored all along due to MERE APPEARANCE. The facts of CPF's WHOLE LIFE, which has been a lie. He may not even know it's lie!

SP's life, though outwardly normal, is inwardly plagued by guilt and fear of the unknown. But all of this could change if someone looked deeper. By calling him Chess Piece Face, he dehumanizes the person behind the face. But he has taken the place of his twin, and has literally become a pawn of fear in his own game. He hides only his face, overcome by absolute paranoia of UNCERTAINTY This also carries the theme of PLANS THAT GO AWRY "I would have to live CPF's cruddy, uncertain life, but since he's my twin I can use my face to take advantage of him, and escape that fate." Surprise. You're caught in your own device. Because you can't escape the unknown.

(Also worth noting-- in ref. to Rabid Child: If my analysis holds true, then CPF is alternatively spending his life on the road, and has been desprately urging the dying child to save herself and seek medical attention. (See Rabid Child interp.) CPF is totally unaware of the nature of his circumstances, but he is more concerned with saving a child's life than with his own gains. His brother is self-serving, and pays for it in fear. This is another example of goodness working against not-goodness in TMBG songs.) 02:33, 14 March 2013 (EDT)Jacquie Cotillard

The Demo Tape Could Have Answers[edit]

I was listening to the demo tape they gave out in the mid 80's at their concerts before they sighned with Bar/None and after the song Chess Piece Face is a song called Rabid Child. The first lyrics are "Rabid child stays at home, talks on a CB / Truckers pass calling out their handles to the kid / Chess Piece Face and The Big Duluth call her every day". Perhaps Chess Piece Face is talking about the trucker in the song; it says that him and "The Big Duluth" call her every day so perhaps Chess Piece Face was either involved in a serious crime and Rabid Child was asked to testify or Chess Piece just stopped calling and she is worrying about what happened to him. Also at one point in Rabid Child it says "If you pass the rabid child say 'hammer down' for me", both songs were next to each other in the 1985 demo tape so perhaps they had a sort of Spoiler Alert kind of thing going on with it and Rabid Child is sung from the point of view of Chess Piece and Chess Piece is sung from the point of view of Rabid.

Rabid Child stays at home, basking in her fame[edit]

In my mind, this song is a sequel to Rabid Child. In that song, a lady in her mid-20s with the handle “Rabid Child” talks to truckers on a C.B. radio, leaving inspirational messages.

Somehow, the woman makes an impression on several truckers, becoming a somewhat celebrity in the trucking community. And when truckers pass her house, they yell out their handles, so they could be “inspired” by Rabid Child.

ANYWAY, my theory on THIS song is that Chess Piece Face and The Big Duluth used to help with the messages, but when Rabid Child got famous, she decided she didn’t need them anymore.

The Big Duluth is fine with this, but Chess Piece Face is sad about it, and wants to get revenge. After Rabid Child leaves some solo messages, truckers start wondering “What happened to Chess Piece Face”?

And this song is basically from the perspective of those truckers who kinda miss Chess Piece Face.