Monday, September 12, 2005

More Mistaken Lyrics

Big lizard in my backyard
Can't afford to feed him anymore
Big lizard in my backyard
Bustin' down my neighbour's door

I bought a big lizard
Only a dollar fifty
Well, that's pretty neat
Yeah it's fuckin' nifty
But I just can't afford to feed it
And you should see the way it shits!

I've got a big lizard in my backyard
Can't afford to feed it anymore
Big lizard in my backyard
Bustin' down my neighbour's door

I was knocked outta bed
Late last night
I was woken up by the sound of dynamite
I ran downstairs to find an army man
He said "We gotta blow up those things we don't understand!"

There's no more big lizard in my backyard
I won't have to feed him anymore
No more lizard in my backyard
They shipped his ass to El Salvador!

from, Big Lizard by The Dead Milkmen


Here is another example of lyrics that I have long cherished, sung and reflected upon turning out to be different than I had thought they were. This title song from the Dead Milkmen's first album (1985) is about a boy and his pet lizard. When the army man shows up, I always thought he said,

"We gotta grow up; there's things we don't understand"

I'll admit, the actual version is more in keeping with the Milkmen's ironic commentary on the world, but I had always saw the song as a kind of melancholy reflection on getting older. The giant lizard is like Puff the Magic Dragon; he is the boy's imaginary friend, until the army man shows up and takes him away because we all "gotta grow up".

That the Milkmen should have such a sentimental song on this otherwise raucous album had always puzzled me, and now the mystery is solved. The line about blowing up what we don't understand seems more pertinent than ever, and my sympathy goes out to big lizards everywhere, but in my own private lyrical world, the song will remain a coming of age story.


Dr. F said...

I always thought that "Big Lizard in My Back Yard" was a covert homosexual reference.

flatlander said...

Sorry, Dr. F. Despite the thinly disguised sexual innuendos in much modern music, sometimes a campy punk song is nothing more than a campy punk song.