Interpretations:Rabid Child

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Interpretation 1[edit]

After a good amount of contemplation, I think I've figured out a decent interpretation for this song.

Rabid Child, Chess Piece Face, The Big Duluth, and all the other truckers are spies, secret agents, or something of the sort. When "truckers pass calling out their handles to the kid", they're passing encoded information to Rabid Child. Chess Piece Face and The Big Duluth calling her every day suggests that they're her two main contacts. They communicate using only the words "Hammer Down" and "Rabbit Ears", which may suggest they're using something akin to Morse code(hammer down-hammer down-rabbit ears would be like dot-dot-dash) that wouldn't make sense to anyone who didn't know their version of Morse code in case anyone listens to their CB messages. The line at the end("If you see The Rabid Child say Hammer Down for me") suggests that the narrator of the song is giving a counterspy against Rabid Child information on Rabid Child, and ordering him to find Rabid Child and let him know the code's been found out.

See my interpretation of "Chess Piece Face" for more explanation and for more clarity on how I made this association. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 19:45, October 5, 2004

Interpretation 2[edit]

Alternatively the song seems very simple to me. The child is ill at home and talks on a CB radio to truckers, whose 'handles' are just their CB names. 'hammer down' in CB slang means accelerate and 'rabbit ears' are a radio antenna. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 07:36, December 16, 2004

Interpretation 3[edit]

I think this is simply about a child who has a CB radio. His handle is "Rabid Child". He plays with his radio all the time and talks to truckers passing by all day. His two friends (also kids), whose handles are Chess Piece Face and The Big Duluth, play with their own radios as well and the three of them talk to each other every day. I assume they are children because they only know two words (radio terms)...Hammer Down & Rabbit Ears. I like spy idea too though. It's a lot more creative. --[[User:Mr. 3D PHD| <--Mr. 3D PHD]] 19:25, 10 May 2005 (EDT)

Wikians getting creeped out[edit]

its not really an interp, but this song creeps me out when i listen to it late at night and or alone. i dont know why it just freaks the hell out of me. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 01:18, October 8, 2005

Everyone thinks this tracks is creepy, that or Hide Away Folk Family. Personally, I'm creeped out by Chess Piece Face. As in the song. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 00:24, November 20, 2006
To me, the creepiest thing is the distorted Lord, please don't take away sample at the start (of which I'm still not sure whatever it's Flans or someone else). Perhaps someone has an idea what it might has to do with the rest of the song? —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 15:15, March 8, 2010

Interpretation 5[edit]

I think I heard somewhere that this is about a real person: a handicapped CB operator who talked to truckers. If not, it's a good story. I think the creepiness factor in the song comes from the overwhelming isolationism implied. Tutt 09:47, 10 Oct 2005 (EDT)MasterChivo

Just a note: "Hammer-down" in CB slang means "accelerate", and rabbit ears are headphones, which aid the CB communication process. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 21:46, November 16, 2005

Interpretation 6[edit]

I first heard this song in Christmas 1990, aged 15, hallucinating with a heavy flu. I didn't know what rabbit ears, hammer down, or even handles were back then - it was all pretty random then. The melancholic melody, vocals and arrangement all make it one of the most affecting songs on the first album. I don't know if it's about anything deeper than its surface meaning, but it sure is creepy. --[[Adam S Leslie 18:09, February 16, 2006

Gender note[edit]

All of you saying "he" for the Rabid Child:

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
"Hammer down" and "rabbit ears" are the only words they know

The kid's a girl. Just letting you know. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 21:13, June 20, 2007


I think it's about loneliness. Kid have no friends, she have to talk to truckers. This song creeps me out too. I feel very, very lonely when I listen to it. But what do I know? —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 10:39, March 15, 2010

"Teddy Bear"[edit]

The song's a parody of "Teddy Bear" by Red Sovine -- which follows the same sort of narrative. In "Teddy Bear", that's the sick kid's handle, and he talks to truckers all day and talks about how he's confined to bed. Anyway, end of the song, the kid's about to croak, and the truckers all come up to his house and make the kid basically be all "WHOA TRUCKS" and then kacks. (It's a pretty cheezy, schmaltzy song. IIRC, Red Sovine actually had a few "Teddy Bear" knockoffs and sequels. Which is weird, what with the kid dyin' and all.

ANYWAY: Rabid Child's basically the same thing, just that the illness is named ("Rabies"), and the gender's swapped. And it also doesn't suck, there's that, too. - TODCRA 23:02, 4 May 2011 (EDT)

I endorse this theory. IN FACT I think it might be legit enough to be song page material. Does anyone else have an opinion here? - Apollo (colloquia!) 00:35, 5 May 2011 (EDT)
I AGREE WITH THIS. And thank you for sharing, we just all listened to it together in Cowtown and were blown away. --Self Called Nowhere 00:37, 5 May 2011 (EDT)
Seeing as Trucker's Coffee is also inspired by Red Sovine, this has got to be true. Thanks TODCRA, my love for TMBG just skyrocketed. ~ magbatz 00:47, 5 May 2011 (EDT)

Chess Piece Face[edit]

This is random, but on the same album there is another song called "Chess Piece Face". Are they connected? I wonder. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 17:21, October 9, 2011

New Angles on an old disease[edit]

"Truckers pass, calling out their handles to the kid"
"CPF/BD call her every day"
"Hammer down and rabbit ears are the only words they know"
Hammer down: speed up quickly/floor it
Rabbit ears: prick up your ears/listen up

Truckers hammer down because they need to make good time, time is of the essence, because for them, time is money. But there's nowhere for a bedridden sick kid to go to... Right?

If you pass the Rabid Child, tell her to (hurry up) for me...?

Hurry up and do what? Rabies isn't something you just wait to die from, like a terminal illness. It's really kind of a ridiculous illness to have in the first place, in our day and age.

Aha! Rabbit ears! LISTEN TO US!!!

They call her EVERY DAY, only having one thing on their minds:

RABID CHILD, SAVE YOURSELF!!! QUIT PLAYING WITH THE DAMN CB RADIO AND SEEK MEDICAL ATTENTION!! Or you'll die, rabid child. Death has his rabbit ears on, and he always hammers down.

Maybe it says something about childhood. Truckers (adults) seem obsessed with making good time, but everyone is only here for a limited time. The rabid CHILD is having such a good time with her radio, that she doesn't care that she's slowly succumbing to fever and insanity. And by the time she's too sick to help herself, she can only listen to the truckers beg her to save her own life.

Also, at the end of "TEDDY BEAR," which RC is a parody of, all of the truckers show up at the kid's house to meet him, and then he promptly dies. Hammer down may indicate the truckers speeding to try to get to the Rabid Child and save her.

(How selfless of them. CPF's twin could learn a thing or two. See Chess Piece Face, interp.) 02:38, 14 March 2013 (EDT)Jacquie Cotillard

Hammer Down (HD) (.) Rabbit Ears (RE) (_)[edit]

Rabbit Ears Rabbit Ears - Rabbit Ears Hammer Down Rabbit Ears Rabbit Ears - (Space) - Rabbit Ears Hammer Down Rabbit Ears Rabbit Ears - Rabbit Ears Rabbit Ears Rabbit Ears - Hammer Down Hammer Down Rabbit Ears - Rabbit Ears - Hammer Down Hammer Down Hammer Down Hammer Down - Hammer Down Hammer Down Rabbit Ears - Rabbit Ears Hammer Down Hammer Down Hammer Down - Hammer Down - (Space) Hammer Down Hammer Down - Hammer Down Hammer Down Hammer Down - (Space) - Hammer Down Hammer Down Hammer Down - Hammer Down Rabbit Ears - Rabbit Ears Rabbit Ears - Rabbit Ears Rabbit Ears - Rabbit Ears Hammer Down Rabbit Ears Rabbit Ears - Hammer Down Hammer Down Hammer Down - Hammer Down Hammer Down Hammer Down Hammer Down - Hammer Down Hammer Down - Rabbit Ears Hammer Down - Rabbit Ears Hammer Down Hammer Down Rabbit Ears

When you are done, post what this message decodes as. Once you do, make sure to subscribe to it as well. BlockyCuzco 21:24, 14 March 2013 (EDT)

It's obviously Morse Code, but some of those (like _ . _ _) aren't valid US Morse Code. -Steve Worek

Using international morse code, the message in the song is EAAR, using american morse code it's EAAF. No clue what it means. The message from BlockyCuzco in American Morse, only 8 years late is M # # 5 U T H U B E I H H A M M # S H I N 9? What am I missing here? --jimmyZenShinsThreeHundred11 (talk)

You guys read WAY too much into this song.[edit]

"She" is not just A KID - she's the daughter of one of the band members.. who has a daughter... who has a CB... See where I'm going with this?

Artists can write songs about really simple things that they observe in their simple lives... that are just as simple as yours. :-) It's funny how people have come up with all kinds of amazing and complicated scenarios out of this (to me) really simple song. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 15:27, April 17, 2013

guess the handle of BD makes sense[edit]

i live in and am from the city of Duluth, MN.

i have always enjoyed tmbg and hopefully always will. that said, i have not kept up with the group for the last decade and a half. when i was an early teen, at one time i would gladly tell any soul they were the tops of my list.

my grandfather, and his father before him owned/ran a menswear store founded on the late nineteenth century by the name of "The Big Duluth". at the age of 13, i felt their lyric inclusion special but puzzling.

neat feeling then, nice to find likely explanation now 21 years later.

(only discerned "replacements" subject MN reference into my twenties. slow on the childproof i must be(as my brother would once say) —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 23:20, November 14, 2013

Opening prayer[edit]

"Lord, please don't take me away" - this phrase, or something like it, comes up in a few prayers posted online, and seems to derive from Psalms chapter 102, verse 24: "My God, don't take me away in the midst of my days." I can't find the specific recording that is sampled for this song, but the voice does sound suspiciously like Red Sovine, "singer" of Teddy Bear, of which Rabid Child is a parody. -- Thread Bomb (talk) 22:12, 8 March 2020 (EDT)

Raccoon Flans bit a baby[edit]

Flansburgh is a raccoon and he bit a child, maybe a relative... --jimmyZenShinsThreeHundred11 (talk)

Rabid Child isn’t actually a rabid child, but a “celebrity”[edit]

MY theory on Rabid Child is that there is this woman who has a C.B. radio, and her handle is Rabid Child. She and her friends (their handles are Chess Piece Face and The Big Duluth) talk to truckers, and leaves inspirational messages.

Word spreads about this mysterious “Rabid Child” (CPF and Duluth are kinda left out), and she becomes somewhat famous in the trucking community. And when trucks pass her house, they call out their handles, so they can be “inspired” by Rabid Child.

Later, after Rabid Child gets popular, she decides she doesn’t need Chess Piece Face and the Big Duluth. For more info on THAT, check out my interpretation for Chess Piece Face. - HotelDetectiveInTheFuture🪗 talk 🎸 18:22, 9 April 2022 (EDT)

Arthur Koestler and Liaquat Ali Khan[edit]

In the music video, the Johns and Bill Krauss don masks of the two political figures listed above. During the beginning of the Cold War, they both opposed Communism to at least some degree. I believe "Rabid Child" is about the continuation and end of the Cold War in the '80s, where a few American spies with trucks and codenames discover the Soviet Union is falling and communicate with their homeland "Hammer down", referencing the hammer and sickle in the Soviet flag.

"rabid" as in "[nudge-and-point-over-shoulder] she's a rabid one alright"[edit]

the "rabid child" 's primary mode of socialization isn't face-to-face, and she never really meets anyone she talks to in real life. she's friends with "abnormal" people like Chess Piece Face, and her eccentricity and tendency to hang around "oddballs" gets her labeled as "rabid". the narrator says if you meet her, to tell her to "hammer down" - to hurry up already and get over whatever this weird phase is and start being normal. or maybe die. it's presented condescendingly as though the "rabid child" is legitimately sick. this could easily be extended to the sort of condescending discrimination applied to trans youth, though other marginalized identities similarly exist, and this could also be applied to disabilities and mental disorders. why no, this isn't projection, why do you ask. --Ncrecc (talk) 12:01, 25 July 2022 (EDT)

"Childhood Neurodevelopmental disability"[edit]

This song is likely based off an another song about a child with a physical disability. I believe this song is about a child with some sort of emotional or developmental disability. "Rabid" is a term often used to describe someone who is unruly, uncontrollable, and untamed, which children with mental disabilities, especially mood and neurological disorders, often are or come off as. The child is so "rabid" that they don't have any real life friendships and might even be unable to attend school, which wasn't and still isn't uncommon, thus they stay at home, likely inside all day.

The child is also described as knowing two words: "Hammer Down" and "Rabbit Ears". Taken literally, the Rabid Child is nonverbal. Taken metaphorically, the Rabid Child tends to use trucker lingo a lot and maybe repeats it a lot, a common thing in autistic children called 'echolalia'. The constant repeating of their favorite phrases can come off as them only knowing these words.

If this is the case, it also had a bit of prediction in it. The internet today is populated by children and teenagers with neurodevelopmental disabilities and conditions who are often unable to make friendships outside of their computer, similar to how the Rabid Child can only talk on the CB and appears to be in regular communication with people who use pseudonyms rather than their own names.

The snippet of music video and the overall tone and melody of the song conveys a mental derangement that's detached from the Johns' usual joyously demented behavior. It feels darker and scarier. When I was younger i'd have these episodes (seizures maybe?) where suddenly my vision would become very dim, voices would become very distorted, i'd hallucinate a little, i'd feel immense fear like I was going to die, and sometimes would faint. These episodes would last a minute at most. The song and video reminded me of these episodes and how they felt in an almost nostalgic way.

Antihistamines (talk) 19:58, 10 June 2023 (EDT)

Genie: The Feral Child[edit]

The title and song contents make me think this song was inspired by the case of Genie, the pseudonym for one of the most prolific cases of child abuse and isolation in American history. A "Rabid Child" who received no socialization and had to stay at home all day. The Rabid Child knows very few words, and they are seemingly nonsensical. This is much like the actual Genie, who eventually learned to string words together despite her condition, but could not grasp grammar. The Rabid child in the song has truckers to talk to, maybe they represent the numerous psychologists that took Genie under their care.