Interpretations:The Songs Of The 50 States

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Interpretation 1[edit]

Ostensibly an introduction to State Songs, the reference in the lyrics to people who live under the ground, and the men controlling his mind seem to reference a paranoid conspiracy involving the power brokers in the US military and their secret mind-control projects they operate on John Linnell. This seems to be added to throw another bit of perspective on the US, as well as a disclaimer that whatever is on the album, Linnell cannot be blamed for it, or even praised for it, since he is under the influence of mind-control. This is evidenced in the line "I'm not gonna say they're great, I ain't gonna say they ain't." Being trapped in the role of the conduit for the expressions, Linnell here indicates that he cannot really judge the songs for worse or better from such a vantage point. At the end, he sings, "I can't wait for my favorite one," and a prefrain of Arkansas closes the number. Arkansas then, is Linnell's favorite song on the album, and that is as far as he will go in clueing us in on the album.

In general, the song is preparing us to search for secret, hidden meanings in the songs. These meanings may be hidden from the artist himself, as he is more of a receptor of the music, which is designed by the men living under the ground. This encourages the listener to embrace strange ideas and lyrics that don't really make sense on their face.

--Pandastan 18:57, 16 Jan 2006 (EST)

Interpretation 2[edit]

Perhaps the ones in control are our dead ancestors. The ideas of Jefferson, Franklin, Lincoln, etc. are still controlling the country, guiding our thoughts. --Nehushtan 12:55, 10 Feb 2006 (CST)

Interpretation 3[edit]

Sounds to me like John is going insane trying to write all those songs of the fifty states. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talkcontribs) 10:59, 22 May 2006

Interpretation 4[edit]

I'd say it's just about John writing all these songs and introducing them to the world and how he can't wait to do it. Pretty up front I think. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talkcontribs)

Interpretation 5[edit]

Apparently the spasmodic aliens controlling John's brain are on a coffee break, giving him the opportunity to tell everyone worms are controlling his music. He's obviously insane.

Now, seriously, he's saying each song is connected in a vague sort of way, and that these songs, while nothing special, are very well written, and clever. I think the little bits about whose control it's in are referencing the fact that save for maybe South Carolina these are all made up. Yes, even the instrumentals are made up. --Apollo 18:18, 19 February 2009 (UTC)

Interpretation of the State Songs album as a whole[edit]

It seems to me that "State Songs" is like a pun about states of consciousness, sang about through the "Songs of the 50 States". I've come to this conclusion based on the introductory song and the words in most of the preceding songs.

  • Iowa is talking about a state of consciousness that comes from a drug that was associated with witches. It has to do with the chemical that LSD is derived from, that was in grain back in the old days, and caused people to act funny:

"Just for kicks, LSD came from tests on Ergot, the fungi thought to be responsible (by some) for the witch hysteria in New England in the 1600’s." from

"The time has come for us to sing about a certain place
Where everything is in the control
Of people who are down in a hole"
^Talking about how people get themselves down in holes by becoming addicted to drugs. Yet, the people think that they are in control of their own lives, when really they need help.

"No two alike but each connected by a golden thread
I'll try not to forget all the words
And leave that job to those who have heard"
^ Those who have heard, the people who were abusing the drugs and will forget everything they witnessed in those altered states of consciousness.

"The time is nigh for us to sigh about a certain place
Where everything is in the control
Of people who are under the ground"
^So I guess they are sighing about it, which means that they are making fun of those people or looking down on it. PERHAPS singing about a former period in his life and COULD be from experience, but he could just be singing about other people; there is no way for us to know.

  • "West Virginia

Deep within ya
There's another deep inside you
and inside the other one there is another in the other"

A song about circular thinking, and how each thought originates from the other and you just get yourself deeper into the hole/confusion.

  • On the TMBW page for "Idaho", it says that Linnell even admits himself,

"Linnell: "The untold secret of this song is that it's based on a probably apocryphal story that I heard about, um, John Lennon which is that he one evening took so much LSD that he thought he had to drive his house and his wife and son were in bed asleep but he stayed up all night sitting at the window because he thought the house would crash if he went to sleep." (All Things Considered 1999.10.12) "

^ So, he pretty much says himself that this is about the altered state achieved by LSD, and the hallucinations someone experienced on it.

  • (Linnell on "Montana is a leg": "It's grammatical, sure. It's not true and it doesn't strictly make sense. The explanation for that song is that the person singing is delusional."

^ Possibly someone who had overdosed on something and was delirious? Or they could've just been sick and dying. I don't know for sure. But they ARE delusional in any case.

  • "Maine" just seems so obvious to me:

"Relaxing on my hands and knees
Relaxing on my face
Reclining in the bear trap of its tender, warm embrace
Glazed with coniferous green
Glazed with excitement and dread
Exhausted from oversleep
Awake but still in bed"

Sounds like somebody who is trapped in a situation like that; the entire thing sounds like a metaphor for someone who is on drugs, and not getting anything accomplished whatsoever. The bear trap is the situation they find themself trapped in, but in their mind, it is "tender" and "warm". Also, the feelings that they describe seem probable.

Is the world that went south
Is a punch in the mouth"

Someone's world going downhill. Ex: "Yeah, our plans kinda went south from there"

Is the devil you know
Is the heaven below"

This is about paradoxes, or conflicting feelings about the situation. You believe it's a "heaven", but in there is that devil, showing it really isn't heaven at all, but you only find out when you get there.

"I love you anyway (I love you anyway)
I promise there's no other state (there's no other state)
But only if you stay away (but only if you leave)
And leave me to my ugly state (me to my ugly state)

And give me back my evil heart so I can see you as you aren't"

Once again referencing how later on, they'll think once more that the altered state is the good thing "seeing the state as it isn't".

  • "Oregon" must be about a really bad drug, perhaps something potentially life-ruining or addictive.
  • "Michigan" just screams dependence.
  • "New Hampshire" must be about opiates at the very least... They can make people very itchy.

"Woman wonders who's your itchy friend?"
Reference: "This is due to the fact that morphine releases histamine. This is also the reason for the itching and perspiration often seen in opiate users." -

"Broken-hearted old man of New Hampshire
Flower-sniffing poet of New Hampshire
Charming witty drunk
Gate-crashing parasite
Self-pitying, embittered
Morose New Hampshire man"
About someone who bums stuff.. "parasite".

Also... flower sniffing...

  • "Louisiana" is about a bad trip, and wishing to be out of it.

"Although I'm glad that Louisiana is a place
So I don't have to spin in dark and empty space
I wish that everything went just as I wish everything would go
I wish I didn't have the blanket on my face"

He's glad that it's a place he can escape to, because of the dull, empty everyday reality for this particular abuser. But he wishes that life could just be okay, then he wouldn't seemingly have to do this.