Kelgray and Beyond

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A little glowing friend

Birdhouse In Your Soul.  Voted best song on This Might Be A Wiki.  Arguably one of the deepest songs that They Might Be Giants have written.  It’s a song about a nightlight.  A blue canary that keeps the darkness out of your room.  Many people see the song as stopping there, but I’ve always seen more.  Here’s what I wrote on the interpretations page of the song on tmbw.net:

Okay, let’s try mixing up the lyrics with this version and the demo version. Yes the song is about a night light, but the question is what the night light represents. Now picture one person trying to give another person advice.”I’m your only friend I’m no your only friend but I’m a little glowing friend but really I’m not actually your friend but I am.” Of course this has meaning. I’ve used it as a disclaimer when giving advice to people I barely know. It means that while I’m not your best friend, and I don’t know you as well as I’m sure some do, I am looking out for your best interests and since I’m your only source of unbiased advice I’m going to do my best to give it to you. That’s basically a synopsis of the song.

The song is about giving advice. The night light represents how the advice is meant to illuminate your path, but not necessarily show you which way to go, like a lighthouse would (the night light’s primitive ancestor which stood on rocky shores and kept the beaches shipwreck free). The narrator cannot tell you what to do but can tell you what some of your options are. Now compare with the demo lyrics counterpart “I’d like to cover the earth with a fresh baked yummy desert / people couldn’t live in it but I think it’s worth the money and hurt.” It’s talking about how his intentions (which can never be realized) are to try to find the best thing for everyone. He realizes that this won’t actually work, but one can at least try.

Another lyric in the demo version, “don’t you say anything / if you have anything to do with it” explains why he’s the only one who can offer unbiased advice. Anyone who had anything to do with it would automatically be speaking from a biased perspective.

Taylor – Cowtown Ab, May 19, 2006

I discovered something new about the song the other day while I was belting it out loudly in the comfort of my own home.  At the end of the song the lines “While you’re at it / Keep the nightlight on inside the birdhouse in your soul” are added.  This never made sense to me before as it always seemed that the nightlight was telling the person to make sure to leave itself on.  Doesn’t really fit well in the brain.  This weekend I realized that it was something else.  The birdhouse is supposed to be the place where the night light lives.  So the nightlight inside the birdhouse is a light for the bird to use.  John is asking the person that he is there for to be there for him as well.  The blue bird will gladly act as your night light without expecting anything in return, but he’ll ask that you be his nightlight as well.

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January 30, 2007 - Posted by | Musical Notes, Poetry, They Might Be Giants

1 Comment »

  1. I saw TMBG last night and now I’ve randomly ran across this post while I randomly do a search for an old friend from Calgary. Ha. So to honor THEY, I feel the need to leave a random note. Nice one, as this is one of the best interpretations of this song I’ve run across. I’ve always felt it was a song about clear guidance.
    Take care, random person.

    Comment by Moo | March 16, 2008


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