Interpretations:Sleeping In The Flowers

From This Might Be A Wiki

Possibly the title of this song is an allusion to the legend of the lotus eaters, in which case the "stoned in central park" explanation would tie in thematically. Besides, from the lyrics to "birdhouse in your soul" we know that TMBG are not averse to borrowing material from Greek myths.

I also like to consider that "sleeping in the flowers" is the non-mob correlative to "sleeping with the fishes". The chorus would be about appreciating life because you could be dead. But the rest of the lyrics make "sleeping in the flowers" sound more interesting than death probably is so the former explanation seems more likely. Plants used as drugs can induce enjoyable stupor, encourage fanciful thought/speech patterns and cause people to get fired (i.e. most of the lyrical content of the song).

I too wonder if 2 songs ("snowball in hell" and "sleeping in the flowers") written so many years apart could be about the same crush...amazing! But I thought the line was "my fantasy is in a xerox shop".

I think that people need to step away from the whole "stoned in central park" theory. Remember that this is They Might Be Giants, notorious for red herrings and planting false ideas, just to see how people will take it; sort of like the comment on Dr. Worm about how its in their contract, or the RIAA's stance on certain instruments in "Stalk of Wheat.: I really wouldn't put it past them that they just wanted to see how a sly remark could change the entire interpretation of the song.

I think the drunk guy that gave him a ride home gives him some alcohol ("He showed me how to spin my head round and round") which gets him drunk, so he talks to the girl. So I think he got the girl, because at the end it changes from "We could be sleeping in the flowers" to "We'll be sleeping in the flowers." -Micah

This is about a guy who loves a girl who he is too shy to ask out, but he always looks ahead to the future. The slow rock parts are reality and the fast pop parts are his fantasies. It fades out in a fantasy which may imply he never gets the girl.

Flans sings about having a crush on a "copy shop clerk" here, while in "Snowball In Hell" he sings "my panacea's in a Xerox shop." Could this panacea have been the very same girl? The answer is I don't know. sinisterscrawl 04:53, 7 Nov 2005 (EST)

I have wondered about that too, Sinisterscrawl. --Tyranny Sue 11:48, 20 August 2011 (EDT)

if taken on a more personal level, this song demonstrates the extremes of ones mind. Though I agree, I dont think that it is fully correct. The manic depression of infatuational love is clearly displayed not only in the lyrics, but in the sound. Everything that he says in the "sad parts" are negative, and the "happy parts" happy. It couldnt be reality vs fantasy, because he eventually turns to "we WILL be sleeping in the flowers". Unless this is a decline into insanity.

This song totally reminds me of thoughts racing and changing when you're baked. After, Flans claims that getting stoned is the subject of the song. I wouldn't put it past the Johns to roll a fat joint on the road.--tehbagel 16:12, 13 Apr 2006 (CDT)

In the most general sense -- like most TMBG songs, this one is about love, and death. In that order exactly. Throw in a bit of work frustration ("tell my boss that I've been fired") and you have that winning TMBG formula! -Jordan

Mr. Flansburgh has already said the song's about getting stoned in Central Park, but I didn't interpret it that way at all. I figured the it was about two different people: an unhappy person and a person who's trying to teach the first person how to be happy, through music and picnics (or generally being outside; I like picnics so I assumed the person in the song would also).

I got a crush
Copy shop clerk
But she won't look up at me
Don't want to be known as the freak
Who just comes around to catch her eye

is the first person being unhappy.

We could be sleeping in the flowers
We could sleep all afternoon

is the second person introducing the first to the joys of flowers and picnics and lazy naturejoy.

You'd proclaim that you're an island
I'd proclaim that I'm one too

This is the second person singing "I Am A Rock," by Simon and Garfunkel. It's the second person introducing the first to music the first could relate to, unhappy music, but unhappy beautiful music. It's edging the first person out of the hole of ugliness in which he lives.

Then we float into the harbor
With just piers and boats around

This either means that they'd go on adventures, doing things the first person had never done before, experiencing that little-kid excitement / love of the world... or it means that they'd float together through the water of music and fresh air and flowers and happiness, where the only things around are things that belong in that water.

I declare that I am England
You declare that I have drowned

Either the first person declares that he IS the music that's been making him so happy (which by now might be the Beatles, or other English bands) and the second one says "No, you're just surrounded by this music; you are yourself and you're going to need to come to terms with that," or the first person--who I'm supposing is American--tells the second that he has changed and grown so much that he may as well be a whole (unfamiliar) country himself, and the second one tries to put things in perspective--either "If you were England, you would be swallowed by the ocean" or something again about how the first person is just a person, and how that's enough, but he needs to accept who he is...

I got a ride
Home with a drunk guy

It's the first person away from the second person. The first person is still spending time with and relying on ("getting rides home from") unhappy, unhealthy people, people who drink to block out the misery they can't get away from, people who care so little about their lives that they drive drunk. This is person one having difficulty changing his life.

How ungrateful I must have seemed

I don't know whether he feels like he's being ungrateful to the second person--"This person is putting so much energy into helping me and yet I'm still doing this"--or to life in general--getting a ride home with a drunk guy shows a lack of gratitude for his very life. In any case, this line shows that even though the first person backslides, he knows he's doing it and wants to stop. Or at least he's aware--if he's ungrateful for life, he is aware that life is not worthless. If he ungrateful for the second person, he at least realizes that the second person is putting energy into making him happy. Perhaps he feels bad because he isn't as far along as he's like to be, happinesswise.

He showed me how
To spin my head round and round

Mr. Drunk Guy taught the first person how to think. He started undoing the work of the second person.

The second chorus, and then the instrumental, and then the third chorus... the second person has to re-teach the first person how to be happy, using song and the outside world time and time again. And after lesson after lesson, after picnic after picnic and song after song...

We'll be sleeping in the flowers
Tell my boss that I've been fired
We'll be sleeping in the flowers
Tell my boss that I've been fired
We'll be sleeping in the flowers
Tell my boss I'm fired
We'll be sleeping in the flowers
Tell my boss I'm fired

...the first person learns. His boss is his brain--he's been unhappy "like it's his job" his whole life, and now he's telling himself that he's been fired from that job. He's traded misery for picnics. Well done, imaginary song friend.  : )

I know it's not what Mr. Flansburgh meant, but I'm quite attached to this interpretation.

Love, Alice Mott


I can't love you. I'm all alone... an island. (You proclaim that you're an island)

Baby, I'm an island too. We're the same. *lying through teeth* (I proclaim that I'm one too)

-later- But I'm England, baby. On my island, there's always room for two (I declare that I am England)

You liar and jerk... you've "drowned". (You declare that I have drowned)


I always saw this song as about a nerd day dreaming about a girl he's got a crush on. Instead of her seeing him as ugly, she could forget about that and they could have fun together. But his daydream is ended abruptly by the reality he's accepted.

Perhaps it's a little too literal, but I just don't see how it's much worse than a dumb explanation like "stoned in the park".

My dark interpretation[edit]

I don't usually go with the dark, depressing interpretations of TMBG songs, but I can't help it on this one.

The first couple verses have always seemed literal to me. The narrator is in a coffee shop looking at a girl but trying not to look like he's looking at her. He dreams of frolicking amongst flowers and swimming and playing.

Then he gets a ride home with a drunk guy. They get in a wreck, showing the narrator how to spin his head around and around. Suddenly the chorus takes on a new meaning, and Sleeping in the Flowers and sleeping all afternoon is now about their death. Floating in the harbor is what their bodies are doing. You proclaim that I have drowned becomes literal instead of frollicky playfullness...

Commercial Flans

The stoned in Central Park line that Flans spins on this is utterly unconvincing and is a rare example of him trying to sound early 90s cool. Rather this is a alternative rocks song welded to romantic pre rock and roll 50s romance. Musically you have the 90s depressive cynicism of the verses with a 50s chorus and a jaunty orchestral arrangement. Played live they play the chorus first which helps but it's still too sweet and frothy by half. The lyrics are almost unbearably twee and the mash between 90s alternative rock and 50s musical doesn't hold up to repeat listens. At the time I felt this was an example of Flans trying to write in a more commercial way. Rarely played these days. (Mr Tuck)

I always think of this when I hear the song. So during the first stanza, the narrator has a crush on a girl. He wants her to notice him, but doesn't want to come across as a creep(pretty self explanatory). The chorus is him dreaming of the things they could do together. During the second verse, our narrator has been drinking his woes away at a bar and got a ride home from someone else there. Since he's drunk, our narrator has an obscured sense of judgement, which causes him to be a jerk to the driver. The driver, also drunk, breaks the neck of our narrator (hence, the "spin my head round and round"). During the next chorus, he is in some afterlife unaware of his demise. He still dreams of being with this girl. During the Guitar Solo, he realizes that he is dead. During the next chorus, he is thinking of what could have been. When he starts singing the "We'll be sleeping in the flowers" part he has realized that someday, she will die too, and he will see her again.--MidoFS (talk) 09:34, 20 November 2016 (EST)

John Henry is All About the Same Death, But in Alternate Realities Tour[edit]

Welcome, folks of the wiki, to my HotelDetectiveInTheFuture "John Henry is All About the Same Death, But in Alternate Realities Tour". Tonight, we're playing in the depressing old town of the Sleeping in the Flowers interpretations page! Ok, the objective of the tour is this: I'm posting interpretations on how the John Henry album is a concept album about the same guy's death but in alternate realities! Here. we. go!

The first verse is literal: a guy going to a coffee shop to catch the clerk's eye, and he wants to frolic in the fields. But then, the song takes a way darker turn. He mistakes a drunk guy's probably stolen car for a Taxi, and he ends up decapitated. And now, instead of frolicking, the chorus is about being in a coffin.

Next stop: the Unrelated Thing interpretations page. - HotelDetectiveInTheFuture🪗 talk 🎸