From This Might Be A Wiki

Some guy's dreams[edit]

This song is about some guy's dreams. The first verse is a car crash dream. The he wakes up and realizes it was a dream ("As i lie in my bed") That's pretty much it. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 21:57, July 23, 2005

Interpretation 2[edit]

I think this song it's about subliminal messages, and it's one it self.

"As I got hit by a car there was a message for me
As I went through the windshield, I noticed something"

He got hit by a car and flew through the windshield and discovered a message and when he says "I noticed something", this message becomes subliminal.

"(Subliminal) subliminal
(In an unnoticeable way)
(Important) important
(And hard to see)
(Subliminal) subliminal
(Subliminal) subliminal"

The chorus is reaffirming that the message was a subliminal message, and hard to see.

"While lying there in my bed there was a message for me
As I went through the pillow, I noticed something"

here we have the same thing happening as the first verse, but in a bed. He is doing something and noticed that there was a message, and now we can see that he only discovers this message when he "went through" something.

"Stare into the subliminal / for as long as you can"

He is asking us to stare in this subliminal message, contained in the song, and go as far as we can with it. —Preceding unsigned comment added by Feel (talkcontribs) 22:08, August 3, 2005

Interpretation 3[edit]

Have u guys heard this song entirely backwards? I cant identify any messsages, but I ask you to do it, maybe u can! I had this idea when I was addicted to the final verses in backwards... I kind of says something like : "Plaaaaayyyy on an easy auto... buuuuurrrrnn on the pass through of this raaaace..." just tripping.... —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 20:50, September 6, 2005

Interpretation 4[edit]

There's probably no grand plan to it - I feel that it's like many of Linnell's songs, just setting out to create an atmosphere of Philip K Dick / Twilight Zone style paranoia or altered reality, without necessarily having a literal meaning. --Adam S Leslie 18:48, February 16, 2006

Interpretation 5[edit]

Fun stuff. I like the way Linnell's accordion saws away at the beginning. The last part of the song is a canon. Some phrases are sung in a low register (baritone) to give their rendition a subliminal feel. --Nehushtan 23:19, 9 Apr 2006 (CDT)

Interpretation 6[edit]

I have a two takes on the song. To identify it, we have to identify what A: The subliminal thing B: The car scene C: The dream those are. So here are my two.

1: The car scene is him getting hit by a car, crashing through the windsheild, and possibly dying. The bed scene is him waking up realizing it was a dream, and actually just hitting his pillow not the windshield. The subliminal thing is that dreams are actually like subliminal messages that mean something but it's hard to see what.

2: The car scene is again, getting hit by a car, crashing through the windshield, and getting hospitalized. The moment before he goes unconsious he sees a subliminal hint that the car crash wasn't a freak accident. When he's in his hospital bed, whatever caused the crash realizes that he's not dead yet, and pulls the plug on his life support. Just before he dies, he sees something subliminal about who it is, but he's dead, and as a ghost his transparent body falls through the pillow.

I kinda got the ideas from, but I went with them meself. ~AgentChronon 13:43, August 21, 2006


I don't think the song is actually about this, but it reminds me of L. Ron Hubbard's Dianetics. It blames all of humanity's physical and mental problems on "Engrams," the repressed memories of experiences people have while unconscious, such as going through a windshield or being asleep. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 21:31, September 5, 2006

Beach Boys[edit]

The penultimate section of this song sounds like The Beach Boys. Brian Wilson was schizophrenic. Make your own connections. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 19:11, September 9, 2006

The Boy in the Bubble[edit]

Linnell's accordion solo at the very beginning sounds almost identical to the beginning of "The Boy In The Bubble", track 1 of Paul Simon's album "Graceland". "Subliminal" is the same tempo and a similar rhythm, just a half step down from Simon's song. Perhaps this is the "subliminal message"; starting the album by evoking the first track of a popular Grammy-winning album to secure your unconscious approval! Or it could be a coincidence, but if not, I think it's incredibly clever. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 17:39, March 5, 2007

Interpretation 10[edit]

Excellent advice, Anonymouse. This song is about me. I didn't actually get hit by a car, but I did stare into the light. Then the cops arrested me and put me in the back of the car. I was listening to the radio and I realized I was secretly racist and elitist while I was listening to generic RnB, thinking of it as such and not of souls pouring out for love. —Preceding unsigned comment added by HearingAid (talkcontribs) 01:53, March 27, 2007

Interpretation 11[edit]

I get the feeling that it's about searching for a deeper meaning that's impossible to find (that is, if the meaning is even there in the first place). The protagonist in this tune is trying to find the meaning for his unfortunate accident. He tries to find it while recovering in his bed. —Preceding unsigned comment added by Almo (talkcontribs) 05:30, July 16, 2007

You're comment got me thinking. If the song is about "looking for a deeper meaning" when there really isn't any deeper meaning to be found, this could about TMBG fans. I really don't think that all TMBG songs are supposed to be as deep as some fans (Including myself) make them, and I think that TMBG has recognized this fact before. It could be a little more general though. "Subliminal in an unnoticeable way. Unimportant, and hard to see." This could just refer to people, (which could include and possibly be directed towards TMBG fans) finding tiny details that are almost definitely coincidences, and blowing them out of proportion, when really, even if the connection is there, it doesn't matter. "As I was hit by a car, I noticed something" This seems to give the song a deeper meaning, about people focusing on little things that don't matter (the subliminal thing) when there is something huge to be focused on (The fact that you're getting hit by a car and are probably going to die.) But, it could be that (going off of the notion that it's directed towards the fans,) that line was specifically put in because TMBG new that TMBG fans would give it a deeper meaning, which would mean that this song is creating the situation that it's describing. Although it starts to seem a like a bit of a paradise, interpreting this TMBG song as a song about TMBG fans interpreting TMBG songs to be about something when they really aren't about anything. Just a small(but not really) thought. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 23:09, December 12, 2014
I've come to think this song is more like a forward from the band to their fans for the rest of the album. Most of the other songs are about depressed, defeated or helpless people who will never realize their dreams or escape their predicament. Subliminal is an invitation to listen and a warning not to look for profound meaning (and also sets a good intro to the loud, layered style of the album). It makes John Henry the perfect title: John Henry is a great man full of potential who is worn down and defeated by a relentless machine. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 15:36, September 13, 2016

Post traumatic flashbacks - "message for me"[edit]

I don't know if this is what they meant, but i get flashbacks to an MVA in which I was seriously injured years ago, almost always while lying in my bed, just before falling fully asleep. Maybe that's what the pillow/bed part is about. (It took me a while to realise that these things were flashbacks, since they don't usually reproduce much about the accident except the sound of the impact on my head - my skull was fractured in the accident - and they jolt me awake. But they could be called a 'message' from a my own brain, because I have some amnesia around the actual event, so these little reminders could be considered a person's own memory/mind sending them little 'messages'.) The message probably being translatable as "you're going to die (at some point, possibly now)". Then there's also exploding head syndrome, which doesn't require head trauma to happen. It could be a confusing combination of both.

The first line might also (simultaneously) be ironic, because there is (usually) no sense of meaningfulness, there is only confusion, chaos and disempowerment for most people who get injured in a traumatic event like an MVA. He might be in denial and desperately trying to believe in a meaning that isn't there, or desperately trying to impose something meaningful (because getting injured is important/meaningful but only in an awful way) on a frustratingly 'meaningless' event.

And "stare into the subliminal for as long as you can" sounds to me like not being able to stop thinking about the accident, and/or going through years of psychotherapy or psychoanalysis, and/or TMBGs poking fun at their own (obsessive?) introspectiveness.--Tirranie 15:30, 17 July 2009 (UTC)

Accordion groove[edit]

When "John Henry" first came out, I was afraid TMBG might have changed, and I wouldn't like them any more. But when the first cut starts with that choppin' accordion groove, how can it be bad? —Preceding unsigned comment added by RealOldFred (talkcontribs) 21:27, August 31, 2009

Interpretation 14[edit]

Even the structure of this song feels like something that might contain subliminal content. The bulk of the song is just 4 lines long (the accident section and the pillow section), which only encourages all of us to pour through those select few words and images, holding them up to the light and scrutinizing them for a deeper meaning. Jstohler 22:55, 13 October 2009 (UTC)

Strange thing about the backwards part...[edit]

For some reason, you can hear "Subliminal" in the background both when the song is played forward and when it is reversed. Rather fitting, that. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 16:18, November 28, 2009

Interpretation 15[edit]

I always have thought that the subliminal messages on the windshield and the pillow are the messages on each that one might not notice. On the windshield, it's the safety glass information in the corner (or perhaps the vehicle identification number on the dashboard). On the pillow, it's the tag that May Not Be Removed (Except By The Consumer). —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 15:36, May 19, 2010

Reminds me of Beatles "Rain"[edit]

Several parts of John Henry remind me of the Beatles' Revolver. Maybe shouldn't be surprising, as Revolver was a step towards guitar+drum rock for both bands. Now Rain wasn't actually on Revolver, but it preceded it, so I'm going to include it just for the analogy.

The demo version of Subliminal, in particular really feels a lot like "Rain". —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 22:00, June 16, 2012

I <3 Huckabee's and RANT[edit]

I agree that this is likely Linnel being Linnel. It reminds me of two things, though:

  • The film I <3 Huckabee's discusses the interconnectedness of all things, and that we can see it (a Holistic view) if we pay attention directly to it. It helps us to have this perspective, but we can't hold onto it, as the human drama pulls us back into the experiential view.
  • The book RANT, by Chuck Palahniuck, discusses liminal and subliminal experiences, and how during car crashes, we experience the subliminal as liminal, seeing the totality of the event.

It's fascinating to me to contemplate this song as a kind of juncture of these two thoughts; in a moment of distress (car accident) or sadness (depression, breakup) our minds may contemplate existence and the vast picture of the universe, but that we can't easily maintain an objective overview. The singer encourages us to keep it "for as long as [we] can".

Pedestrian vs Car MVA[edit]

As a side note... Pedestrian vs Car MVA's where the pedestrian "goes through the windshield" are extremely unusual occurrences, and the pedestrian passing completely through the windshield is even more rare. They are horrific traumas, and I have never heard of anyone surviving it. (this is completely different from being struck by a car at a moderate speed and bouncing off the windshield (whether starring or breaking the windshield) which is survivable.

Paul is dead[edit]

The reference to a car crash and the backwards bit at the end remind me of that stupid theory about Paul McCartney being dead. Could this song be making fun of that, and the way that people derive absurd conclusions based on noises their brains mold into words when they play a record backwards? There's also a reference to lying in bed and noticing something as you "go through the pillow", which I interpret to mean falling asleep. Maybe it's just me, but a state of half-wakefulness has the effect of making my brain more likely to jump to conclusions and see things that aren't really there, which would reinforce this reading.

Grinnace (talk) 16:55, 13 July 2021 (EDT)

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

Welcome, one and all, to my, HotelDetectiveInTheFuture "John Henry is All About the Same Death, But in Alternate Realities Tour"! For this tour, I will be posting interpretations on how the John Henry album is a concept album about this guy's death, but each song is an alternate reality. Ok, here we go.

Ok, in Subliminal, the narrator gets hit by a car, that’s pretty obvious. ”As I get hit by a car, there was a message for me. As I went through the windshield, I noticed something”. His remains get splattered across the windshield. End of 1st verse.

2nd verse, 2nd alternate reality. This guy falls asleep, and gets suffocated. "As I went through the pillow, I noticed something". He buries his face in the pillow, gets suffocated, and dies.

Next stop on the tour: Snail Shell! - HotelDetectiveInTheFuture🪗 talk 🎸