Interpretations:Unsupervised, I Hit My Head

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Special Fred[edit]

This isn't really an interpretation, but I kept on thinking of the song "Special Fred." Maybe it's because the same cousin that first played "Special Fred" for me first (consciously) introduced me to TMBG, or maybe not. Whatever. Aurora Hawthorne 16:02, February 19, 2004

What is the sound of one John clapping?[edit]

"When I digress, you'll find me smiling - could be livin' underneath the ground." - I took to mean that now, when I lose my train of thought, instead of being annoyed at being older, I am grateful I'm alive.

"We hoped for better things that were impossible." - Youthful dreams that didn't come true

"We would just clap our hands and wait for the sound." - This is terrific, imho, for suggesting a set of ideas non-explicitly - in our callow youth, we just expected we should attain what we wanted by our own actions, by the work of our hands. Clap your hands, of course, you get the sound you intended, in fact, it's applause! So you get what you wanted _and_ appreciation/adoration for it.

It's also like a magic trick - I clap once, so, and ta da - a career as a working musician, without despair and failure.

It also suggests the famous koan _what is the sound of one hand clapping_, in that one hand clapping produces no sound, the idea being that one meditate on the impossible idea of clapping with one hand to achieve an enlightened state. It suggests he meditated on the sound of hands clapping, and perhaps clued into the idea that the expectation of attaining your goals by your own actions is a folly. Also, that we in the audience meditate on his koan/song about leaving youthful illusions behind and get a little enlightenment.

Whether he built all that stuff in there on purpose, I can't say, but it's a very poetic line.

"I've lost my superpowers, I was invisible, I could just cut myself right out my will." - Now that I'm older, I realize my limitations - I'm not superman, and now I have to live in the public eye, probably for the rest of my life. The second part I take to mean two things at once -

  1. I might as well cut myself out of my will, because I am, in fact, going to die at some point and can't collect on it, an idea I didn't really appreciate in my youth.
  2. I could commit suicide and end this at any time, which is freeing. One of the real choices I have, once youthful illusions have gone, is the choice to keep living - for this you have to read the line as "I could just cut myself; write out my will." This explains the lack of the word "of" in the sentence, other than being hip.

"My friend Joe." - Joe is slang for "coffee." --~Christina Miller, September 2005

I really don't think the coffee thing fits here, coffee really doesn't have an age limit. I think Joe is just the name of a friend he loses touch with. -Anomynous 18:31, June 1, 2006
Sadly, it kinda does. Or, rather, it did for me. Coffee loses its punch as you age, in that it no longer allows you to stay up all night, do without sleep, etc., like it used to. It makes you grumpy, but it no longer adequately substitutes for sleep after a certain age. Of course, I can't be sure he meant Cuppa Joe, and not a person named Joe. :) —Preceding unsigned comment added by Christina (talkcontribs) 16:58, September 10, 2007
Does it really? I've been a coffee drinker since the tender age of 3. I'll probably be drinking an entire pot of espresso to get by by the time I'm 30... which is quite soon.
And so I don't have to make a new comment just to add this... Re: Hit my head = Left-handed lyric, it is suggested that left-handedness may be caused by some sort of brain trauma in utero or during birth. My former neuropsych professor let us in on that bit of research after discovering I was left-handed (or "brain damaged" as he put it). -- Ms Fernandez 13:14, January 17, 2008


How about a misinterpretation? I initially misheard the lyric as "my friend John". This puts a completely different spin on the song, doesn't it?

I love the idea of an adult hitting his head because he's unsupervised. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 19:06, February 16, 2006

I misheard the same thing! It's not even that it sounds ambiguous; I think my brain just expected him to say "John". - Ms Fernandez 13:14, January 17, 2008

Before celebrity[edit]

To me this song kind of sound like an ode to the days before Flans achieved celebrity status (however relatively small it might be). He could dissapear whenever he wanted to without anyone caring. He seems to be nostalgic for the days when he didn't have to worry about the effects his actions had on his public image. -Cronny 18:37, May 20, 2006

Interpretation 5[edit]

I think this song is another one of the johns' happy sounding depressing songs, like They'll Need a Crane.

After reading Flans's comment "This is kind of a personal song that I could easily spoil with too much explanation. Looking at the lyrics, it seems pretty self-pitying, but I assure everyone I was really just trying to put the blame on someone else." This got me thhinking about it.

It sounds to me, like this song is about being drunk and being driven ito a car accident.

As i take it:

He and "joe" had been drinking and whilst being driven somewhere, got into an accident. When this happenned, John managed to escape with a bump on the head and a broken hand(which could explain why he plays an upside down right handed bass). My theory also is that in this same accident his friend joe didn't survive.

Obviously things don't make sense when you are drunk. You have a good time and perhaps you may think you have superpowers. I'm sure most of us have been there...The drunkennes also makes sense with the portion of the song:

We hoped for better things that were impossible. (Who doesn't....)
We would just clap our hands and wait for the sound. (alcohol delays receptiveness, and this could possibly be found entertaining and fun whilst intoxicated)
We were unsupervised. (they were young and foolish and probably weren't supposed to be drinking)

Also dramatic events do tend to be sobering. So "We had a real good time. Until i... i hit my head"
they had the time of their lives until they got in an accident and then it went awry.

This is my theory i just came up with in the past few hours....anyone see what i mean? -Dr_Worm 14:57, June 6, 2006


His friend joe is his coffee... Joe is slang for coffee... So He was distracted by his coffee! And when he says he lost his super powers and became left handed, Well maybe when he hit his head, There was a loss of brain cells. Becuase everytime you hit your head, you lose brain cells. So he lost them. So his super powers, maybe being a righty, which were in brain cells that were closest to the side of his head he hit. But I think Flans has always been a lefty so... maybe he could walk through walls and hypnotize people. -User:Nerdy4ever95 16:28, August 12, 2009

Just a note on the left-handed line...[edit]

If you want it to fit with the interp that has to do with transition from youthfulness to age, the line could be about the time everyone goes through when you are learning to write and you are deemed to be either left or right handed. It's probably something a kid doesn't think about at all, and then suddenly this label is pushed onto them. Just a little part of growing up (that is perhaps slightly more memorable if you are a lefty). —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 19:44, September 4, 2009


I'm probably raving mad, but I could have sworn I heard someone discussing the meaning of this song on TMBG's Clock Radio or something like that.

From what I heard, or came to believe is:

The song is literally about a man who hit's his head. A man is working with a saw or something, and when distracted by a friend, and in the process of hitting his head, also cuts off his right hand. "Now I'm left-handed" / "You could count on me with just one hand" / "We would just clap our hands, And wait for the sound" He can try to clap his hands, maybe with a fake hand, but since he has no hand, or no real hand, he will not get a sound (or right sound).

The event is so terrible, that no one will leave him unsupervised while working anymore. Before he was ignored often and seemed "invisible." ("I was invisible") And they don't let Joe around, afraid he will distract him again. Or something like that…

"When I digress You'll find me smiling Could be living underneath the ground" As someone put it, I agree, it seems to be that as you get older or worse off, you can be happy, to still be alive. There's plenty more in this song to elaborate on, but I will leave it at this I guess.

I don't know, maybe my interpretation is too literal... —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 00:07, September 15, 2009

Highly personal[edit]

Am I wrong in thinking this song is highly personal? Either that, or just an unreliable, disillusioned narrator that is very convincing. I feel like it's about just... unhappiness, an unhappiness that comes with being an adult. The narrator is reminiscing about the days where he could be reliable to friends, where, as youthful people, they could, "clap [their] hands, wait for the sound" (which I always interpreted as a show-- the audience claps and waits eagerly for the next song). As a young person, he's full of hopes for a better tomorrow: "We hoped for better things/That were impossible." Now is seems like the narrator is saying that even when he is distracted with his own thoughts, he will pretend to be interested and helpful ("When I digress/You'll find me smiling/Could be living underneath the ground.")

The narrator symbolically hits his head; it represents the narrator's coming-of-age, a realization that he isn't young anymore. He is lonely, and coping with the adult world has depressed him (hence the alternate interpretations of the "cut myself right/write out my will" line). He's lost friends and generally changed as a person because he has matured. He used to be able to silently fit in, but this maturity has turned him into someone else. --Lemita 20:22, 11 November 2010 (UTC)

Lord of the Flies[edit]

Lord of the Flies, people. Especially Ralph. That is all. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 17:22, December 12, 2010

Interpretation 11[edit]

I think perhaps this is about a kid in his room alone pretending he's a superhero and when he hits his head he's forced to be supervised by his parent. After that he's trying to convince his parents that he actually had superpowers and isn't doing super stuff because he hit his head making him lose his powers. I think "Joe" is an imaginary friend (actually I think the other interpretations about "Joe" being "coffee" would be a lot more flansy-ish you know) though the whole thing about superpowers is just the kid lying. —Preceding unsigned comment added by Buzzmusic100 (talkcontribs) 16:39, January 3, 2011

Interpretation 12[edit]

The song could be about someone who was good at avoiding attention (i.e. "invisible") and used that to "have a real good time", then suffered some sort of horrific head injury and is now very noticeable. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 08:17, October 11, 2013


Not a full interpretation, but did anybody notice the pun? He was "un-supervised." He lost his superpowers. Get it? --DoubleDenial (talk) 19:27, 25 February 2018 (EST)