- 1 Original comments (pre-2004)
- 2 Interpretation 4
- 3 Interpretation 5
- 4 Sick kid
- 5 Interpretation 7
- 6 Interpretation 8
- 7 Interpretation 9
- 8 Interpretation 10
- 9 Interpretation 11
- 10 Interpretation 12
- 11 Interpretation 13
- 12 Get to the moon
- 13 Interpretation 15
- 14 Interpretation 16
- 15 Environmental reference
- 16 Happy TMBG songs
- 17 Interpretation 19
- 18 Interpretation 20
- 19 Interpretation 21
- 20 Interpretation 22
- 21 Interpretation 23
- 22 Cartooners
- 23 Unreliable narrator
- 24 Interpretation 26
- 25 This song is
- 26 Buy/by
- 27 Interpretation 29
- 28 Interpretation 30
- 29 Interpretation 31
- 30 Interpretation 32
- 31 Interpretation 33
- 32 interpretation 34
- 33 Embarrassing but true
- 34 The melody
- 35 JL's Meaning
Original comments (pre-2004)
The first verse describes a man who is leaving a "room," and that he has a flight to catch. It says he's "checking out" which could suggest a hotel, a hospital, or could suggest death.
Then the chorus for the first time, which breaks down traveling to the moon into a very simple process. Simply throw back the blanket, get up, go out the front door, get in a taxi, go to the airport, get plane to a launch pad, get in the rocket, and go to the moon. Pretty simple, anyone should be able to do it!
The second verse suggests that the person is in a hospital, as someone gives a Get Well Soon card with a cartoon nurse on it, but he says "There's nothing wrong with me." This strongly hints at a mental hospital, because people who are mentally ill often do not understand or deny that they are sick. But the man understands that no one believes him when he says he's not ill, but that he'll prove them wrong when he will "Blow you away," when he takes off for the moon.
We then get the bridge, which confirms that the guy is crazy as he expects the janitor to bring him a "secret telegram" that reads "COMMENCE OFFICIAL INTERPLANETARY EXPLORATION." So to sum up, this is the story of a mental case who has planned a trip to the moon.
This song is about the procrastination of an insane man. He clearly states what he needs to do to get to the moon, yet he doesn't do it. Later on in the song, it describes "throwing down the witherd legs," "coughing to the rocket," ect. This indicates that he finally waited too long to acomplish his dreams, and is now old. - Mr. Nuclear
I have always taken this song to mean specifically an elderly person in a hospital &/or rest home who is suffering from senility; "withered leg" and the blanket upon it... either elderly or unable to walk for years and years. The song is the dream the person has about throwing off their shackles and (re)claiming the world that has been lost to them. Crankysysadmin
The narrator actually is an alien. His legs are withered and he is crawling and coughing because he hasn't adapted to the Earth's gravity and atmosphere. He is unable to physically pick up the phone due to the weakness of his muscles, but he doesn't know anyone on Earth to speak to anyway. In the line, "Thank you for the card with the cartoon, nurse," he is addressing the nurse--the card has a cartoon on it. You would expect someone in a hospital to have cards from their family and friends, but since the narrator doesn't know anyone, the nurse has given him one out of pity. He says there's nothing wrong with him because there really is nothing wrong with him, other than the fact that he's an alien.
Alternatively, the narrator is a mentally and/or physically sick person with no family or friends who's having a delusion about the alien scenario. I guess it depends whether you want to view the song as whimsical and fantastical or grim and realistic. incandenza 18:39, April 4, 2005
I always believed that the song was about an ex-astronaut. Clearly, the peak of his life was stepping foot on the moon. Now he's become a cripple in his old age. He is in denial about his condition, and insists that one day he'll be able to escape his miserable life in the hospital and visit the moon once more. Of course, this attitude has earned him the reputation of being somewhat of a nut, and all the doctors are very condescending to him, giving him things like cartoony get well soon cards. The only one who really respects him any more is the janitor, who does his best to make the old man feel like he's eventually going to achieve his goal, doing things like giving him fake orders from his superiors. Think of the narrator sort of like a patient in the movie "Patch Adams." —Preceding unsigned comment added by 18.104.22.168 (talk) 20:06, May 31, 2005
- This last guy has it - this narrator isn't crazy, he is playing a little mental game with himself because he's crippled and angry about it. Aging or even just injured astronaut is a good interpretation; he knows that there really is something wrong with him, because he tells us at the end the of the song about his withered leg and how he would really look getting to the rocket - the limping, the crawling - he's not delusional, he just doesn't like being disabled. --Christina Miller 23:19, May 31, 2005
I always pictured a sick kid, not an adult. I find the closing line, where reality disrupts the poor kid's imaginary moon shot, very sad. —Preceding unsigned comment added by 22.214.171.124 (talk) 17:55, July 19, 2005
Oh, very interesting to read other's interpretations... Like CM, I don't think the singer is insane at all; I know the coughing at the end suggests illness, but I still always imagine he's been in an accident and is badly injured, perhaps partially paralysed so that he can no longer walk well, if at all. He's tired of sympathy and pity and would prefer optimism, so responds that he'll eventually be well again – well enough to even go to the moon. At the end of the song it's a bit of reality stepping in and we see more of what the best the singer could possibly hope for. --zytka 23:22, July 25, 2005
I always thought that this song was literal: A crippled person gives a big FU to everyone who pities him (gives him cards with cartoon nurses on them) and flies to the moon even though they doubt he can do it. --Max Ace 20:33, August 29, 2005
I agree in principle with the previous entry. I've read people thinking this is literally about an astronaut, or that he literally believes the janitor hands him orders, but I think these are just crazy TMBG metaphors. A rocket to the moon is just a general metaphor for going places in life - which the singer who is sick or crippled or injured or whatever still believes he can do. I think the reference to the janitor may either be just a bit of metaphor silliness but it may refer to an unexpected figure in the person's life giving him the encouragement that he needs. I do agree with the general assessment about the last chorus which shows him still aiming for the moon while acknowledging his current obstacles. This is an awesome song and if I'm ever crippled I want this to be my theme song! —Preceding unsigned comment added by 126.96.36.199 (talk) 12:20, October 6, 2005
- I disagree. I think the song is about an ugly break-up. She sends him a 'get well' card even though he isn't sick. It's the same kind of witty nastiness the girl in I'll Sink Manhattan dispenses -- "He's my lower half". --Nehushtan 21:24, 6 Mar 2006 (CST)
This song is about a crippled person, who is in complete denial about his situation. It describes a person saying " don't bother to call this room, there's nobody here who can pick up" Which means, of corse, that he is far to injured to pick up the phone. Then he says he will be checking out to fly a rocket to the moon. He is saying that no-matter what anybody says about his condition, he is going to take a rocket to the moon to prove this. He says "thank you for the card with the cartoon nurse but ,you see, there's nothing wrong with me, you think,'That's what you think,That's what they all say,'Before I blow you away, by rocket to the moon, by airplane to the rocket, by taxi to the airport, by front door to the taxi, by throwing off the blanket hanging down the legs Soon the man who sweeps the room brings a secret telegram 'comence oficial interplanitary exploration' What he is saying here is everybody says that he is crippled, but he just stubornly replys " no I'm not. Ill take a rocket to the moon to prove it too." Then he says the janitor is going to bring him a secret telegram telling him its time to go to the moon.
Then the final verse says-By rocket to the moon: Crawl to the rocket, By coughing at the airport, By limping to the taxi, By throwing back the blanket, hanging down the withered leg. Thats it. Unlike many TMBG songs, I don't think you can find any way to linking this song with religion or any of that nonsense - drworm818 - visit me on IM sometime.
this could be anyone who's sick, crippled, depressed, or unstable. the most striking thing is the chorus describes a journey (probably a metaphor) in reverse. this is either the narrator thinking through how he'll accomplish his goal or thinking back in time to before his affliction got him stuck in the room (thus his journey is fantasy). the janitor talks to him one day and encourages him, he makes his effort, fails and, in the final chorus, thinks his plan/fantasy through one more time with a (sadly) more realistic outlook. --kreplock 01:31, March 31, 2006
I've always felt this song was about the process of endeavor, going for something big and different in your life. Whenever someone tries for something creative and glorious in this life--like flying to the moon--there are others who a) don't get it, and b) tell them it can't be done, that they're crazy or unwell to even consider it. What the narrator is saying is, "don't bother to call this room, there's nobody here who can pick up or has stuff they need to talk about", in other words, I'm not available for discussion about why my life plans are foolish--don't bother. And then the narrator explains how one achieves one's dreams: one step at a time, one little action to the next. They work backwards from the rocket: the plane, the cab, walking to the cab, and at first simply getting out of bed. This is a metaphor for all the little actions we must take, often humble actions, which lead to the big glorious events of our lives. The bit about the card with the cartoon nurse (which nicely captures the cheesy lowbrow mindset which would reject the glorious dreams of the narrator) represents yet another attempt for a friend or family member who doesn't get it, trying to undermine the dream by suggesting the person is "sick" (metaphor for misguided). "But you see, there's nothing wrong with me" is the answer. And then the person denies that and the narrator "blows them away by rocket to the moon". Lastly, the verse about the crawling to the rocket, limping, coughing, etc., represents the person continuing to live his/her life in this gutsy manner to the very end, even if it means getting older and having to "crawl to the rocket" (struggle to be the person he or she wants, to achieve). It is heroic. It is a great song. —Preceding unsigned comment added by 188.8.131.52 (talk) 23:05, April 5, 2006
I don't think this is an unhappy song at all. Someone is sick or injured, but doesn't let that stop him from going to the moon--from adventuring and being alive. The person's friends try to make him feel better about his sickness or cripplehood, but he doesn't need that. The janitor is someone who doesn't know him, doesn't have a preconceived idea of what he is capable of, and who encourages him to shoot for the moon if that's what he wants to do. The person rejects the pity and does his thing despite his limitations. Basically I agree with Max Ace and the person below him. --Friend! 17:35, June 12, 2006
Get to the moon
I bet he's actually going to get to the moon. Shii 21:55, July 16, 2006
I've always felt that it's about a guy on morphine in the hospital, oblivious to why he's there instead of in space. He also proceeds to think that everyone else (including the janitor) knows he's alright, and that no matter how crippled he may be,he's determined to go to the moon. By the last chorus, though, he seems to realise that he's ill, or at the least feeling the effects of it, though he doesn't seem all that deterred. —Preceding unsigned comment added by 184.108.40.206 (talk) 18:22, October 17, 2006
I've always thought that the song was about how somethin or someone who starts out unimportant can become something great. DarkSideOfTheSchwartz 14:17, February 22, 2007
"By coughing at the airport" may be a subtle environmental reference. Jnelson09 16:55, March 19, 2007
Happy TMBG songs
This is one of the happiest TMBG songs, I think. A guy succeeding in spite of incredible odds, either really going to the moon, or doing something so great that the metaphor is warranted. - ElbridgeGerry 22:17, 17 July 2007 (UTC)
- People who think this song is "happy" obviously aren't listening to the lyrics, particularly the end, where the narrator finally comes to reality and realizes the hopelessness of his situation. Any other interpretation would just kind of ruin the song now, wouldn't it? --pants_catalog 01:16, March 21, 2008
Good GOD! Didn't anybody ever see the documentary about TMBG - "Gigantic"? In that documentary, some guy who was an NYC TV talk show host mentions that he once challenged the boys to write a song about some space germ invading the earth. They wrote a really boring obvious one you can hear on "They Got Lost". But it's pretty clear to me that they were dissatisfied with it and kept on writing, eventually producing THIS song as their final answer to his challenge. The song is primarily from the point of view of the virus/bacteria/germ, but like many of their songs the point of view changes back and forth, often within one sentence. The chorus is written as a backwards timeline to disguise the narrative and make you think about it. It's about a germ or virus from space. The janitor's message is the activation of the germ itself, spread by the act of attempting to clean the hospital room or perhaps the inside of the rocket. The rest of the song is about the disease spreading via the astronauts. It's not about a breakup with a girl who has a nasty sense of humor. And it's BACKWARDS! Trunkmonkey8 13:22, 26 August 2007
- Now there's an interesting thought. ~Christina Miller 10:02, September 14, 2007
- Well, aside from the fact that John Henry had already been out for around five years before the Johns started working on the Brave New World material. -VoVat 14:44, June 22, 2008
I can't tell if the above interps are supposed to be jokes or not, but they are pretty out there. This is an early example of Linnell's recurring "unreliable narrator" theme, about a guy who is delusional or paranoid. He's sick in the hospital, so we can assume he's not flying to the moon anytime soon. His friends are even trying to discourage his babblings- "That's what they all say." Another sign of his delusions is the quasi-futuristic sci-fi manner in which he envisions the rocket taking off; he's probaby seen too many Buck ROgers movies in his youth.
I actually hate these interpretations pages because so many people fill them with psychotic ramblings but I must admit this was kind of fun. --Oddjob 13:18, 21 March 2008 (UTC)
After listening to this song a few times, I believe it is about an old man (or a very sick one) stuck in a hospital or nursing home, with delusions of escaping his prison, and going to the moon. Though it's most likely a delusion (believing the janitor is leaving him secret messages is somewhat delusional), I still find the story to be optimistic (dreaming of getting to the rocket, even after acknowledging his ailments) --220.127.116.11 06:44, 22 May 2008 (UTC)
Here's what I think. I think this is a song not about one specific person, but the rather the nature of dreams, and how often it is simply the most mundane of details that keep us from accomplishing them (indeed, the very nature of time suggest that we will never accomplish anything--see Xeno's Paradox). The song seems to me to be fairly Kafkaesque, indeed it reminds me greatly of the short story "A message from the emperor", which I highly recommend. —Preceding unsigned comment added by 18.104.22.168 (talk) 10:20, July 7, 2008
Reading many of these interpretations, but I think they fail occam's razor--too complicated, and requiring too many assumptions that aren't actually part of the song. For my part, I think it's simply about a man in the hospital who has learned that he is dying, and is in denial (the first stage of grief) about it. --The Cowch 05:42, July 12, 2008
Does anyone else think it's funny that when i first heard the song I thought they were saying "Thank you for the car with the cartooners" instead of "Thank you for the card with the cartoon nurse"? After learning the truth I miss the random image of a car filled with cartoonists. lol. Just my two cents. —Preceding unsigned comment added by 22.214.171.124 (talk) 20:41, December 9, 2008
"Destination Moon" has a classic unreliable narrator. The protagonist makes a series of outrageous claims while occasionally letting slip details that show he isn't being honest with himself about his situation.
"Thank you for the card with the cartoon nurse, but there's really nothing wrong with me" gives away that he is in a medical facility of some kind. The part about "withered legs" at the end implies he's stuck in bed and his legs have atrophied as a result of disuse. It also implies he's been in his current state for some time.
Possible interpretations could include a sick child (although much of the language used is a bit complex for that) a mental patient (wouldn't really explain the muscle atrophy) or my interpretation, a man who has had a serious accident of some kind and is stuck in a hospital under bed rest, and probably the influence of pain killing drugs. Ultimately the song is tragic; we know there are no secret plans, and the evidence points to the fact that not only will the man not reach the moon, he may never walk again. —Preceding unsigned comment added by 126.96.36.199 (talk) 13:23, December 1, 2009
this might be a stretch, but I find that it's starring me in the face now
ok first the title of the song match the title of Robert A. Heinlein's first story made into a movie (and the only one he both got credited for and as alive for). Then we have the fact that quite nearly all of Heinlein's works were about space travel, with several stories taking place in or on the Moon Add to that that he suffered from pulmonary tuberculosis, He spent the last year or so of his life in a hospital bed, his last wife was an organic chemist and biochemist(which could be satrized as a nurse), and he was often considered mad by critics..
This might be a leap but Maybe this is song is song by a critic trying to sing through Heinlein's eyes? -Invisable Man 21:38, July 26, 2010
This song is
This song is TMBG telling the smart people of the world that they have the greatest potential, though it will be a very hard and long journey to get there. It will still be worth it to know that you're on top.
I originally thought the lines were BUY rocket to the moon, etc. instead of by. I thought the song was about a millionaire (perhaps the deranged one?) imagining his future but procrastinates again and again until he is ob his deathbed, then finally deciding to do it, but dies en route. -Garythesnail 16:13, December 5, 2013
Contains one of the best lyrics in a Giants song: "Thank you for the card with the cartoon nurse but you see there's nothing wrong with me" (Mr Tuck) 18:16, July 31, 2014
My personal take is that this song is about someone who wants to be an astronaut, but has "withered legs" -- which the narrator believes will be no problem in space with the weightlessness. However, the respective well-wishers sending their "card with the cartoon nurse" think he/she is misguided because of their disability, but our narrator is going to make it to the rocket and so to the moon, where they can still feel useful without the use of their legs. —Preceding unsigned comment added by 188.8.131.52 (talk) 00:45, October 2, 2014
To me it always seemed like it was about a schizophrenic man planning to escape a psychiatric hospital for, go figure, a completely delusional reason. Obviously, he doesn't think he belongs in psychiatric care, and instead believes he's a famous astronaut with an upcoming mission. The "blanket hanging from the withered leg" is the stereotypical blanket rope you see in any movie or TV show where somebody has to climb down from the second or higher floor of a building. Once he's outside, away from the nay-saying doctors and orderlies, surely the rest of the world will understand and give him rides to the launch site. —Preceding unsigned comment added by 184.108.40.206 (talk) 22:41, June 23, 2015
I couldn't see a message in the song until I looked at the lyrics. And to me its a man who is crazy, not seeing things but none the less crazy. And thinks he's ok to go to the moon! As lyrics like this say.
"Thank you for the card with the cartoon nurse, but you see theres nothing wrong with me" He believes that theres nothing wrong with him. thats clear.
"You think that's what you think that's what they all say before I blow you away" Maybe the card from the family member or the relative or the relatives kid said the first part and the crazy man, knowing that people do not believe him, must prove it buy showing it.
"By rocket to the moon, by airplane to the rocket" exedra.
"By throwing back the blanket, hanging down the legs" The blanket to me is the blanket A hospital may put on you. Also I don't know if this has to do with the song but I see him in A wheel chair. Just me on that? —Preceding unsigned comment added by Pinatatime (talk • contribs) 02:48, September 16, 2016
The speaker is a sick man in a hospital, even though he can't even get the phone, he wants to go to the moon. In the second verse, it appears that he is mentally ill, because he denies over and over again that is not ill. Then he proves that he will "blow you away" by actually doing it. At the end, we see reality, that he is actually trying to go to the moon. Saskia16 (talk) 11:18, 22 January 2017 (EST)Saskia16
It's a metaphor for rallying against/arguing with people, or being of a chronic disposition or situation in which the arguing is constant, all the steps of the song are a metaphor for just how great the feat of his arguments are, everyone thinks he's crazy/ or maybe he is just paranoid that this is the case, by the end of it he has become worn out from all the arguing but continues exhausted anyway.
Embarrassing but true
In 1992, I was living in NYC and listening to TMBG. The only fan letter I've sent in my life was a lewd card of a cartoon nurse to TMBG - along with a silly, pretentious note. When I first heard this song I froze where I stood for some minutes. I still feel ashamed when I hear the song today, thinking it was meant to let Me know they hated my card. My wife thinks I’m crazy for thinking that and I should be happy they included it in a song…
Is it just me, or was this song built off of a throwaway riff in the middle of the piano outro to Derek and the Dominos' "Layla"? You can hear it at about 5:24 here: https://youtu.be/TngViNw2pOo
220.127.116.11 23:47, 7 April 2022 (EDT)
I'm going with JL's meaning of the song. If you forgot what it was, it was "about being really, really sick when you think you're not". Here's the reason why, why. (nice Rhythm Section Want Ad reference, Joey :/). Oh, I also think that it's also about imagining that you're an astronaut.
Starting off strong, the lyrics: "Thank you for the card with the cartoon nurse / But you see there's nothing wrong with me" shows that JL is sick, but he tries to explain that he's completely fine, even though he's sick.
The lyrics: "By rocket to the moon / By airplane to the rocket / By taxi to the airport / By front door to the taxi / By throwing back the blanket, hanging down the legs" shows that JL's memory is blurry and he put the way to travel to the moon in backwards order.
The rest of the song is about going to the moon in backwards order, etc, etc. Overall, JL thinks he's completely fine and he pretends that he's an astronaut so he can get away from his hospital room.