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it's about manatees. The cows beneath the sea, sea cow, manatee. I forgot how the rest of the song went, but there wasn't anything here so i figured id fill with with something. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 13:32, July 24, 2004

The person who wrote the above about manatees solved the interpretation as far as I am concerned. Having watched them at close quarters on a recent trip to Mexico I could only think how apt the song is as they are most restful and beautiful creatures. In someways this is a new wave cousin of Octopuses Garden by the Beatles. Cowtown is better though! (Mr Tuck) 08:49, July 24, 2014‎
I'm with you! This song is like an old sea chantey. A sea cow can be a friend with benefits. Sailors used to (and probably still do) seek out manatees for sexual gratification. You can easily imagine someone singing a happy song, on his way to such an assignation.
Not only manatees but also dugongs. -- Thread Bomb (talk) 22:59, 8 March 2020 (EDT)


I found a delightful interpretation here. For posterity (the linked site is sometimes down when I try it...), here's the text, so it won't be lost:

There was found an esoteric text which held within it great esoteric eristic secrets, disguised as a popular song by the great Discordian Esoterics "They Might Be Giants".
I'm going down to Cowtown
The cow's a friend to me
Lives beneath the ocean and that's where I will be
Beneath the waves, the waves
And that's where I will be
I'm gonna see the cow beneath the sea
Here in the first verse, we are told that we are entering the realm of Eris herself, The Void, or 'Chao'Town. Obviously, the writer feels kinship with her sacred symbol, since "The 'Chao's a friend to me."
Now what of the next lines? If you examine the cover of the Great Principia Discordia, you will find that the Sacred Chao is centered beneath the title, placing the "Chao" beneath the 'c'.
The yellow Roosevelt Avenue leaf overturned
The ardor of arboreality is an adventure we have spurned, we've spurned
A new leaf overturned
It's a new leaf overturned
First, we have a fantastic example a Discordian statement. Words hidden in words, "The Yellow Rose" "Roosevelt Avenue" and "A new leaf overturned" are mashed into a single sentence, hidden between the actual words written. A wise reminder to never believe what we read (In this case what we hear and what we read are different).
The Ardor of Arboreality, of course refers to the "Love of A bor(ing) reality" something which is spurned by the Discordian, who prefers overturning new leaves and exploring different realities.
We yearn to swim for home, but our only home is bone
How sleepless is the egg knowing that which throws the stone
Foresees the bone, the bone
Our only home is bone
Our only home is bone
This verse contains two seperate esoteric messages:
First, we see that the writer sees his life as "egg" to "bone" or birth to death. There is no escaping this, for our only home (our final home) is 'bone' or death.
Of course, there is also the idea of creation, for bone can refer to the bone of Osris. Osris, of course was killed and reborn, killed and reborn again (though this time without his bone). The egg would obviously refer to the Great Mother Isis. Thus we have the story of constant rebirth and life, couched in words that speak of the unavvoidable end of our lives.
Ratatosk, Squirrel of Discord
Sjaantze, Harbringer of Distraction

Cheers! —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 14:14, July 30, 2004

Discordians make me laugh long and hard. Their foolishness makes me grow a big rubbery one, too, it's so funny. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 12:13, December 28, 2005

Interpretation 3[edit]

While I think the song is basically just a stream-of-consciousness thing, there seems to be a general theme of returning to previous evolutionary states. The first verse says that we've spurned "the ardor of our arboreality," i.e., love of trees. So that could refer to humans evolving from apes, and "coming down from the trees," as they say. Even before that, however, our ancestors came from the sea, and I've heard some talk about how we'll eventually return to the sea, or something like that. The word "cowtown" is sometimes used to refer to isolated rural towns, so "going down to Cowtown" could mean returning to an earlier, and perhaps simpler, way of life. I think "our only home is bone" is a reference to the inevitability of death, a favorite TMBG theme.

I hope this comes out coherently. I'm not able to express my thoughts as well as I would like. --VoVat 19:37, February 4, 2005

Yellow Submarine[edit]

I think this song is reminiscent (in lyrical theme) of "Yellow Submarine" by The Beatles. —Preceding unsigned comment added by FireLily (talkcontribs) 03:25, May 6, 2005

Interesting... when I first heard this song I thought of another Ringo song, "Octopus's Garden." I think this song might be a direct reference to the Beatles song. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 20:53, April 20, 2009


Minor footnote to the Discordian interpretation: What does a cow say? Moo. Or, spell it "Mu." Mu is an interchangeable name for "Mummu", the lost continent.

What's ambiguous is the line "The cows a friend to me, lives beneath the ocean." Are the pleased with the JAMs fate? Or are they singing their solidarity? —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 04:19, June 4, 2005

First, let me say this interpretation blew my mind. I never thought of the song that way, and it all makes sense.
Second, one person said cows say "moo", which could be another expression for the lost continent called Mu. I wanted to further that statement, by saying the Land of Mu is also under the sea. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 13:31, July 26, 2012

Interpretation 6[edit]

Holy crap! I just thought there was a cow in the sea that the singer wanted to go and visit, and this was just a message to his mother (who tends to call fairly often as many mothers tend to do) so she will know where he will be as opposed to worrying when he ceases to answer his phone when she makes her routine calls. I then took the two verses which follow and ignored them completely as if they didn't exist as the confusing composition of the sentences that make up said verses frighten me simply because I am unable to make a rational interpretation from them.

I feel dumb. <--Mr. 3D PHD 15:56, July 6, 2005‎

Interpretation 7[edit]

One possible interpretation is that this is retelling the "aquatic ape" hypothesis, which states that some of the ancestors of humans were apes who lives partially-aquatic lives. The singer is the first ape to go down into the water to live with the manatees, the sea cows who had already done what he is doing. He has decided to spurn the "ardor of arboreality," the work that comes with living in the trees, so that he can live with the manatees. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 21:28, September 26, 2005

I'm gonna have to agree with this theory! —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 17:46, December 15, 2006

Interpretation 8[edit]

Okay, you're all being WAY too existential. The song is about cutting down trees to make room for raising cattle to provide beef. “The yellow Roosevelt Avenue leaf overturned. The ardor of arboreality is an adventure we have spurned, we've spurned.

"How sleepless is the egg knowing that which throws the stone
Foresees the bone, the bone
Our only home is bone
Our only home is bone"

This is talking about raising chickens and how the embryonic chicken must be sleepless knowing its only future is being a bone on someone’s plate. That which throws the stone is the farmer throwing feed. He foresees the bone because he knows his chickens are going to end up on our plates and all that’ll be left are their bones.

Sheesh! --Satori 16:14, October 3, 2008

Interpretation 9[edit]

Overall, I see the song as one about disillusionment with the human race. (Not an unusual theme for TMBG.) The speaker is seeking to depart from the land where people live, to go as far away as possible: to a land populated only by benign vegetarian animals (cows), or a land beneath the sea, or BOTH, if possible. That's where he will find friendship ("Cow's a friend to me"). Reasons for his disillusionment:

(1) We were once primates living in the trees, but we evolved "intelligence" that caused us to abandon that life of simple joy and exploration in the trees, and eventually create our present existence ("the ardor of our arboreality is an adventure we have spurned"). [Note the nice word here, "aboreality": rather like a joining of "arboreal reality".] "The yellow Roosevelt Avenue leaf overturned" is a symbol of leaving that arboreal world behind: like a leaf in Autumn, we fell from the trees at the end of a "summer" in our evolution, and the green leaf is now fallen and dead. Winter is approaching. We think we've made progress (turning over a new leaf), but in fact we've gone backwards.

(2) "We yearn to swim for home, but our only home is bone." We're looking for a unity, a home, but can't find it. We left that behind us in the trees. Now all we see in our future is death (bone = the lifeless skeleton), at the end of life's futile existence. It's a troubling thought (sleepless), that even in our infancy (as eggs), where we'd like to think we're full of new possibilities, we are doomed to this end. Even though we think we're powerful and dominant, able to control our destinies by being tool-users and weapon makers, in fact we can see that death is the only thing waiting for us ("that which throws the stone foresees the bone").

This same theme is echoed in the Bible's Genesis, with our ejection from the Garden of Eden, and the subsequent slaying of Abel by his brother Cain. Christians believe that we're doomed to death by our original sin. However, they see hope through salvation; TMBG sees no hope. – Wdfarmer 11:31, 19 July 2009 (UTC)

Of Faerie Tales and Cows[edit]

Upon first hearing this song I was reminded of traditional Irish Faerie Tales that reference a parallel world that can sometimes be glimpsed beneath the waves. In this land another sky, forests, and yes, even cows, may be seen. --J.Freels 13:17, August 20, 2009

Geographic song[edit]

They're driving to the Cowtown Rodeo (in NJ) from their home in NY. On the way, they would pass Roosevelt Avenue, and Haddonfield, NJ, home of the Bone Wars of the 1850s. I don't think this excludes the other interpretations. What childhood would be complete without the rodeo? —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 22:35, July 10, 2010

This makes sense, but why did they have dugongs or manatees (sea-cows) on their minds as well? -- Thread Bomb (talk) 23:02, 8 March 2020 (EDT)

Hippie Quest[edit]

This is about a hippie who wants to live with the cows to renew his life. As for the sea I suppose he's high and the only home is bone is using raw material around him to create a little home for him. BaconWithoutBeaks 20:37, August 15, 2011

Rich vs. poor[edit]

WELL....I think it's about a tenuous friendship between a working-class person and a rich dude. "Cowtown" could mean the rich part of the city(you know, like "cash cow"). The awesome instrumental interludes could be them arguing. "Our only home is bone" could mean the narrator (the wc one) is poor. I have to go to pre-algebra. BYE! —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 10:05, December 6, 2013

Texas Hambone Blues[edit]

Posting this as an interp instead of on the actual page coz I'm not so confident in this, but the song may be inspired by Texas Hambone Blues, a 1936 song by Milton Brown. It includes the lyric "I'm going down to Cowtown to get my ham bone boiled," which is a variation on a popular blues line (also an innuendo). Might not be a reference to this song specifically, but I can still imagine the blues phrase "I'm goin down to ___" influencing the song. --Batwho (talk) 00:29, 30 August 2022 (EDT)