Interpretations:The Big Big Whoredom
I've thought about this a long, long time, and I think that the song's about fear of success, interestingly enough, or to put it in better terms, "selling out."
We open with the first speaker, presumably talking to his depressed friend. "Why haven't you been around lately?" he asks. "Why are you so sad?"
"We've worked the hardest to be the smartest," the depressed friend replies, "but wholesaling our ideas, this whoring out of them, scares me."
"Oh come on, it's not quite THAT bad," the first friend replies. "There's still plenty of opportunities for us, we won't become slaves to the masses."
"I can't help it. I know we'll get rich off this, a huge switch from the state we're living in now, but I still shake off these fears that I have."
And thus the song ends, with the first friend repeatedly trying to console his friend and the latter still stubbornly stating that it scares him. I probably thought way too hard about a song that wasn't intended to mean anything, but hey, I'm bored. - TheNintenGenius
I always thought it was just against conformity and the mainstream. I guess it can be seen as "selling out" too... with the money ideals. I just thought it was criticism to how everyone in this country wants to make money in anyway possible and be popular...
I assume this is a relationship song. He can't commit and he's breaking up with the girl, but doing it in that awful way where he's pretending its not so bad. Just look.
"Cmon baby turn that frown upside down" (He's calling her baby, so this probably IS a relationship song...) "we worked the hardest to be the smartest" (this is very relatable...you always think you'll be smarter than other couples, not fight, not fall into the same traps, but you still can't stay together"
I'm not sure what the big big whoredom is but I'd imagine its some issue he has with her. It scared him.
"it aint so bad as you paint it, theres plenty more heads of hair for us out there" (or theres plenty more fish in the sea. Cmon baby! Things arent so bad as youre saying! We'll find new people!) "we'll strike it rich, a monster switch" (just more lets-end-the-relationship talk. it will be a big switch. again he's trying to convince her this is a good thing)
then we have the choruses of NOOOO NOOO PLEASE DONT STOP STOP... Etc. Sad.
The way I see it, it can be about working for anything. Sure, you can work hard and get rich, but what if you find, after all your hard work, you regret it and wish you'd done something else?
He's either afraid of prostitution or unfaithfulness --Dunklekuh81
he is scared of his sexuality, or of being sexual. it makes him sad that he doesnt know what he wants. he is scared of being used, or of using somebody for his own release of sexual tension, he is conflicted between doing what is right and doing what he wants. its really quite sad, i like how the 1980 version is so up beat and the newer version is very sad and depressing, i wonder why, i mean, they seem to like having a happy songs about sad things.
NintenGenius is on the right track... it's about selling out, the persistent scourge of "underground" bands and "committed" artists and their fans. What would happen to the Johns if they "struck it rich" -- stumbled on the "monster switch" that turned them into stadium rock stalwarts? Now that they have had the taste of making a lot of money (from the Disney records) I have to wonder if Linnell is still afraid of the big whoredom. Being able to pay for your kid's college education and also to retire comfortably are huge concerns of men of Linnell's age / situation. --Nehushtan 17:56, 12 June 2012 (EDT)
- I always assumed, based on its presence in this song, that the phrase "monster switch" pre-existed as music-industry-insider slang for 'the one extra thing (payola radio rotation, Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis, Letterman appearance, opening for Soundgarden, paid-to-faint-and-scream Bobby-Sox-girls, whatever it takes) needed to take this great thing you've got going here guys (awesome new single fellas, killer set last week at Bonaroo) into the stratosphere'. Googling now I can't find evidence for that assumption so it's possible that Linnell coined the phrase. In either case I believe the word monster in this song has the same meaning it does in Pink Floyd's Have a Cigar. By the way, which one of you is Giant? --Nehushtan (talk) 05:34, 15 July 2019 (EDT)
They Might Be Purists
I've always thought of this song as a conversation between the Johns, almost. "Flansy, we work so hard to do our craft well, but it's a big big whoredom out there! It's not fair!" "No, no, Sid. The smart ones always prevail. We'll be alright." "NO!!! the big big whoredom scares me!" They go back and forth until Flansy succumbs to the depressing thought. It's fitting that they're both depressed by the end.
Facing the reality of the business world
This song is sung from the perspective of two different people, seemingly a man and a woman in a relationship.
The first verse is from the man's perspective. He asks his 'baby' what is bringing her down:
She replies that what is bothering her is that "we work the hardest to be the smartest / and the big big whoredom scared me". She is lamenting that they have worked hard to be "smart", perhaps putting themselves through advanced education in the hope of achieving something in the world, but has found herself scared by the reality of the real world where being educated is not enough and one has to metaphorically prostitute oneself in order to get along in life.
The man replies that "it ain't so bad as you paint it", and says there are more opportunities for them ("plenty more heads of hair for us out there"). He then says that "we'll strike it rich" (they will make money) and that this will be a "monster switch" (a huge turnaround of fortune).
The woman repeats that "big big whoredom" scares her, and the backing vocals of this final chorus show the man's reassuring words "no it doesn't do that", "no no don't be sad", "please please stop it" etc. --astralbee (talk) 17:08, 17 September 2020 (EDT)
Many more heads of hair out there
I think this line is a reference to Head (1968), a highly satirical movie about fame and musical stardom. The movie features The Monkees (themselves at the height of their own stardom at the time), and makes heavy use of surrealism to depict musical stardom as a trap or prison into which the band becomes relentlessly ensnared. In one scene, the band members "escape", only to find themselves starring in a TV commercial, where they are dressed as white flakes of dandruff being vacuumed out of an enormous head of hair. It's evocative of the way that musical stardom invariably turns into the corporate whoredom being lamented in "The Big Big Whoredom"
The Johns, being quite avid film buffs (the name "They Might Be Giants" is itself a reference to a film from the same era) would definitely have been aware of "Head", and the use of playful surrealism as a vehicle for weighty social commentary is certainly a familiar theme in their own music. --Blipvert (talk)