Interpretations:Doctor Worm

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Richard Dubb's Interpretation: Doctor Worm is a Drum Machine[edit]

(Quoted here from his original posting to

Two individuals and a drum machine tearing up a nerdy alternative music storm throughout the eighties. Sound familiar? The Sisters set the stage for TMBG. And yes, that's right, they named their drum machine Doktor Avalanche. And they never, ever refer to him as anything less than a band member. Doktor Avalanche is a he, not an it; a person, not a thing.

Somebody must have noticed the similarities between TMBG and The Sisters, because in one interview, John and John were asked what they thought of Doktor Avalanche. John and John liked him. They thought that naming a drum machine was a good idea, and if I recall correctly, they said that maybe they would consider naming their machine some time in the future. (I have searched high and low for this interview, but can't find it again. Can anyone help?). Years later, TMBG releases a song called Doctor Worm about a drum-playing character. The link is pretty obvious!

Doctor Worm is a response to John Henry. It's the drum machine's turn to talk, and he's not the inhuman piece of electronics you thought he was. He's not a monster; he's just a drummer trying to do the best he can. But he wants to be alive, just like a modern Pinocchio. 'Good Morning. How Are You? I'm Doctor Worm. I'm Interested In Things' - Doctor Worm tries to emulate human sayings, but comes off as algorithmic and trivial. He asks you for your advice, hoping that he might learn some of that human emotion that will help him with his art. He accepts the name he has been given and is called by, but politely has to remind you that no, he's not a real doctor, that's just a wish.

Or: is Doctor Worm just self-indulgent?

Hmm. I always thought it was just that Doctor Worm was a musician with low self-esteem. He tries to convince the audience that he is 'interested in things,' but really he's a nerd who just likes to play the drums. And not too well. Or so he thinks. He 'lives like a worm.' The chorus of She's An Angel ('sometimes I think I'm already there') looks like a similar theme poking its head in: 'let's indulge in a little musical self-pity here with an up-tempo song.'

Interpretation 2[edit]

'Doctor Worm' is about my friend Neal. --Mar 00:12, August 25, 2003

Update from 2020: Dr. Worm is in fact not this man's friend Neal. Neal, however, is Neal a Navy seal; a real seal but not a real Navy seal. He has too many health issues and was not accepted into the Navy seals. He is now in the Air Force. (He is not interested in things.) --Nov 13:00, November 12, 2020

Interpretation 3[edit]

I've got to say, I think "Doctor Worm" is just a song about a worm who plays the drums. TMBG occasionally has songs that aren't deep and mysterious in their meaning, and I think this is one of them. His name is Doctor Worm, he's not a real doctor, but he is a real, actual worm. He's interested in things, he likes to play the drums, and he thinks he is getting better, but he'd like your opinion. It's just a silly little song, and Rabbi Vole plays the solo. :) --FireLily 18:14, June 29, 2004

Interpretation 4[edit]

Hmm, don't voles eat worms?
I guess they really must be underground musicians. :} --HearingAid 12:08, October 2, 2004

ah yes. me and my mom noticed this, and being a vermont raised kid who now lives on a farm, she goes: "Well there from NYC. They don't know what a vole is."... Something along those lines... them darn newyork-yens

Interpretation 5[edit]

I think the song is about an old, washed-up guy who always wanted to be a musician but never made it. The "doctor" thing may be to infer his age and experience (therefore he points out that he is not a real doctor), while contrasted with "worm", a creature often downtrodden and considered worthless. I think one of the important lines that reveals what the song is about is "I'll leave the front unlocked 'cause I can't hear the doorbell". His inability to hear the doorbell might show extreme age, (or possibly Doctor Worm is simply hard-of-hearing, not old) but he leaves the front unlocked because he wants people to come hear him so he can be recognized as a great musician. As was mentioned, if voles eat worms, perhaps Rabbi Vole is a successful musician friend of his (respected like a rabbi). Doctor Worm, then, has Rabbi Vole do the solo rather than himself: Doctor Worm wants to hide behind other musicians, since he is not particularly good. --Chuckie 17:26, November 30, 2004

Interpretation 6[edit]

I think it's about an aspiring drummer who wants to be known as Dr. Worm. I agree with FireLily about the non-depth of the song. Dr. Worm can't hear the doorbell because he's playing the drums so loud. Rabbi Vole is the guitarist's nickname. Frankly, I think it's just a song that's fun to sing along to. :) —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talkcontribs) 05:19, January 23, 2005

Interpretation 7[edit]

He cannot hear the doorbell because he is a real worm and worms cannot hear things, they can only feel vibrations, nor can they see. In my humble opinion there is not depth to the song. I agree with FireLily. --bmerz 14:51, February 8, 2005

Interpretation 8[edit]

I was at a TMBG concert several years ago in Boston, shortly after they released the Severe Tire Damage album (the one with Doctor Worm on it). John (or was it John?) said that the song was about "a doctor, who thinks he's a worm." Take that for what it's worth. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talkcontribs) 13:14, February 28, 2005

Interpretation 9[edit]

I think this song is about tequila. In this song, tequila is the doctor. It relieves one from pain, alienation, inhibitions and the like. There is a worm in good tequilas. The part of the song about playing the drums is simple. Whenever I have got drunk off of tequila there has been a massive headache afterwords, almost as if someone is playing the drums in my brain. Not hearing the doorbell can have a double meaning. When you get plastered and pass out, the doorbell won't wake you up. --Aleph Null 14:43, March 1, 2005

Tequila does not contain worms. That's Mezcal. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talkcontribs) 14:53, October 25, 2005

Interpretation 10[edit]

I think it's about an aspiring musician. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talkcontribs) 17:45, March 14, 2005

Deep and unique. :-| --MisterMe 16:57, 26 November 2012 (EST)
I always thought it was about a musician, too. When he says he lives like a worm, I have two thought about that:
He lives in a very cluttered apartment. He has to tunnel through pizza boxes, candy wrappers, and broken drumsticks.
Or, he is famous, and he has to dig through the fans that pile onto him whenever he goes to the supermarket. --bigblargh 21:27, May 25, 2005
I always thought is was about an aspiring drummer too... "Someday, somebody else besides me, will call me by my stage name" gave me that feeling. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talkcontribs) 15:54, October 11, 2005
This song is about a worm who aspires to be a famous drummer. --Whirlwind 14:15, May 9, 2006

Interpretation 11[edit]

Didn't the Johns outright say this was about a drummer friend of their's from the early days? I think they did. Voles don't eat worms; that's moles, isn't it? --Christina Miller June 2005

Interpretation 12[edit]

Worms dont have ears.... i think you are reading to much into it, just enjoy the song. --fish 16:16, June 13, 2005

Interpretation 13[edit]

Dr.Worm is a normal person that nobody thinks much of carelessly practicing the drums. They can't hear the dorrbell because they're playing too loud. "Rabbi Vole" confuses me. --Alice 20:52, June 14, 2005

Interpretation 14[edit]

Seriously, guys, it's just a song. And voles are pretty much like mice, not exactly, but close. They destroy crops, not worms. It's just a strange song to fit their strange song theme. Why does everyone need to know what songs are about? Also, I'd put a thousand dollars on the table flat out that it's not about a stupid drum machine. Drums are loud, they make it impossible to hear things, such as, say, doorbells. Buy a kit, people, it'll teach you a valuable lesson about how sound works. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talkcontribs) 03:43, July 11, 2005

Interpretation 15[edit]

Oddly enough, there really isn't that much drums on this track. I mean, considering it's a song about a drummer. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talkcontribs) 20:05, August 6, 2005

naw, there's a good drum beat —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talkcontribs) 20:52, October 21, 2005

Interpretation 16[edit]

You know, I find the part where there's no instuments and it's only speaking to be very sad. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talkcontribs) 18:14, August 20, 2005

Interpretation 17[edit]

I dont think that this song has any long complicated meaning, I think that John thought it would be funny to sing about the irony of being a worm, as well as a drummer... just my 2 cents --drworm818 18:00, October 3, 2005 Visit me on AIM some time, always good to meet another TMBG fan.

Interpretation 18[edit]

It sort of hits me like this: the local highschool garage bands in my town all have these really badass-sounding, obviously obtuse and blatantly weird names stage and band names(Dr. Worm would fall under that) but , they want to be taken realy seriously seriously ("Someday somebody besides me will call me by my stage name") but they just come off as sort of goofy and sophmoric. Much like Dr. Worm, Rabbi Vole, and whoever else is in this crazy band. They want to be taken seriously, but their overdone weirdness gets in the way. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talkcontribs) 23:33, October 13, 2005

Interpretation 19[edit]

I always thought he couldn't hear the doorbell because he was living in such poverty (since his job as a drummer clearly isn't paying off very much at the time), that his doorbell wasn't even hooked up properly. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talkcontribs) 20:48, October 25, 2005

Interpretation 20[edit]

Well, if he is "an actual worm" he wouldn't have ears, and therefore wouldn't be able to hear the doorbell or the drums and thus needs others opinions to inform him of his prowess on the drums. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talkcontribs) 11:30, November 2, 2005

But he would be able to feel the vibration of the drums, unlike the doorbell.

Interpretation 21[edit]

It seems to me that the narrator is a socially awkward person who's trying to start a conversation - "I'm interested in things" is an exaggeration of the sort of banal thing a lot of people would say when asked to describe themselves. He's not a real doctor - that is, he's pretending to be something he's not, because people don't like him for who he is. In fact, the line "I live like a worm" sounds like a euphemism for "Okay, I'm not really a worm" - he's not even a real worm.

His only real passion is the drums, a passion which no-one else seems to share. He doesn't seem very confident in his ability to play ("I think I'm getting good, but I can handle criticism" - emphasising his own modesty in case he screws up). "Can't hear the doorbell" - in other words, he doesn't hear the doorbell because it never rings, another allusion to his poor social life.

Rabbi Vole, I'm guessing, is his only real friend. Note that the name "Rabbi Vole" is similar in construction to "Doctor Worm" - impressive title plus animal. That makes me think that Vole and Worm are in the same boat; they're both lacking in social skills, so they're willing to settle for each other.

"Someone else besides me will call me by my stage name" - the most poignant part of the song. Worm has dreamt up a nickname for himself, but no-one ever uses it because he has no friends. The "they call me Doctor Worm" at the beginning is just the expression of a desperate pipe dream that this rather hopeless, pathetic character clings to.

Poor Doctor Worm. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talkcontribs) 11:07, December 17, 2005

Interpretation 22[edit]

Rabbi Vole is definitely a bassist. I'm just saying that because someone said he was the guitarist. And the thought of a bass-playing vole is pretty amusing. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talkcontribs) 01:02, January 30, 2006

Interpretation 23[edit]

My interpretation of the "I'm interested in things" lyric has always been that Doctor Worm spends all his time alone playing the drums, so he's not good at talking to people(that is, he's not a good conversationalist). So he knows to say that he does have interests, but he doesn't know how to discuss them. --"Guest" 12:26, February 11, 2006

Interpretation 24[edit]

I don't think of myself as professional music critic, but I think everyone looks way too deeply into some of these songs. Let's just take it literally for a second. The first lines are just some plays on words; They call me Dr. Worm, Good morning how are you?- like he is a doctor. Then you expect(not literally) the song to say "I'm not a real worm, but I am an actual doctor", not I'm a real Worm, an actual worm". The thing you think first is a guy with a houmorous name, not a worm with an inferiority complex slapping Dr. in front of his name to make him feel better. "I like to play the drums,I think I'm getting good, but I can handle criticism-" he wants to get better at the drums.Now, what makes me irritated is the whole "I'll leave the door unlocked "controversy".The worm apparently likes to jam, drums are LOUD, trust me.How do you expect someone to hear a doorbell ring if there is like 500 decibels next to their head? He probably just invited a friend to watch him play, not the world or God or whatever. Ok back to the song. Mabey Rabbi Vole is his friend he invited over to jam with him, and I agree with the whole bassist thing. "Someday somebody else will call me by my stage name" He's not a star...yet.They don't have a full band. I guess he and Rabbi Vole need Lieutenant Governor Trout to pick up the guitar. --Tto 13:09, February 23, 2006

Interpretation 25[edit]

idunno, maybe when they came up ith the song "doctor worm", they were making fun of one of the drummers they had. --jdc 08:22, February 27, 2006

Interpretation 26[edit]

Never mind ears, worms have no arms - how does Dr. Worm play the drums? A sad song about delusional hopes. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talkcontribs) 08:59, March 27, 2006

I think you’re on to something! I find it to be a sad song as well.

Interpretation 27[edit]

To me, it's about wanting to be famous but being not that great, not experienced, too shy or something. Maybe the story of Dr. Worm is a bit of a story about the Johns starting out... --Lemita 11:23, 16 Apr 2006 (CDT)

Interpretation 28[edit]

I really think you guys all WAY over analyze things... Look what you did to Fingertips!

I think Doctor Worm is about a guy with low self esteem, who can't hear the doorbell because he is playing the drums! I play the drums, and I can't hear a phone, I have even played through a smoke detector. Seriously, I have played loud enough to not hear a smoke detector... (It was a false alarm to those who care) So that's it really. No big deal. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talkcontribs) 20:29, April 20, 2006

Interpretation 29[edit]

Who thinks that "I'm not a real doctor line" qualifies as malpractice or unlicensed medicine for use in Criminal Activities? --VolatileChemical 19:53, April 26, 2006

There's nothing wrong with having the word doctor in your nickname...He says he's not a real doctor, and he never said he did anything doctor-related. -CapitalQtalk ♪ 18:55, 26 Apr 2006 (CDT)
I'll second that - there are Doctorates in things other than medicine.--Pittsburghmuggle 16:58, 30 August 2009 (UTC)

Interpretation 30[edit]

Obviously, this worm is just some loser worm who really has no point to his existence, so he just practices the drums and has an inferiority complex. Is it really an inferiority "complex" though? Because he's right about being inferior.... so would that make it a "complex" or is he just "right"? Anyway, he spends his time playing the drums and setting up some stupid band in the unlikely hopes that it'll ever become popular. And nobody else ever calls him Dr. Worm. Ever. What a jerk, huh? —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talkcontribs) 19:17, June 5, 2006

Interpretation 31[edit]

It's just about a guy who want's to be a famous drummer and he's got a weird stage name. When he says "I'm not a real doctor but I am a real worm" it's just more of the classic TMBG wordplay. John Linnell has said on a number of times that they write the songs at face value and because the lyrics are so weird (some would say clever) people lay their own meaning over it. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talkcontribs) 07:59, June 11, 2006

Interpretation 32[edit]

I don't think that he is a worm in the literal sense. He is a person who feels downtrodden and has low self esteem, and because of this lives and feels like a worm. The "I am an actual worm" part is a metaphor, a "worm" can mean someone who is inferior. He isn't the actual animal. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talkcontribs) 18:44, June 20, 2006

Interpretation 33[edit]

I think Dr. Worm is honestly a really beautiful song. It's a guy who plays drums as a hobby, and desperately wants someone to notice. He says "I can handle criticism" like he's learned to handle it the hard way. He 's never actually found an audience to listen to him, and he's desperate. He's more than a little depressed. I empathize far too much with this guy. --bobdavis 15:29, June 24, 2006

Interpretation 34[edit]

I think he means his name is literally Doctor Worm, his first name is Doctor. He says he isn't a real doctor, as in he can't practice medicine, but he is a real Worm, because he is proud to be a member of his family. He became friends with Rabbi Vole, because he has the same problem. Since he has not played the drums at a public event yet, he is nervous that he isn't going to be good. I imagine he is afraid to play for people. I used to have the same problem. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talkcontribs) 10:13, June 28, 2006

Interpretation 35[edit]

"I'm not a real doctor, but I am a real worm" is, I believe, a reference to the pain reliever commercials in the 80s that began with some actor from the TV Soap Opera "General Hospital" saying, "I'm not a real doctor, but I play one on TV". I believe this commercial came out just after a law passed that you couldn't present yourself as a doctor on a TV commercial if you were not an actual doctor. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talkcontribs) 11:25, July 21, 2006

Interpretation 36[edit]

In the end, can we not all agree that it's just a good song? I mean...everything is going to mean something different to everyone. It's nearly impossible to change that. Since hearing this song as a kid (One of my few childhood memories, and thus very dear to me) I've liked it. Sure, then, I didn't know a thing about bands or specifically TMBG, but it was always a silly little song about a worm who played the drums. His stage name was Doctor Worm, but he makes sure you know that that's what it is...a stage name. He IS a real worm, but not a real Doctor. (And thus leading to his do-everything-else guy Rabbi Vole. Who, if he recieved a singing solo, might very well sing that he was not a real rabbi, but he was -infact-a real vole.) He's probably shy, sure. He also might not like to brag...and simply wishes to play the drums well. Constructive criticism is how we improve. He sounds pretty good to me. And I call him Doctor Worm. And kudos to you for beating the 'norm'. This is a wonderful song, and I think we can all agree to that.... Desmond 03:03, August 26, 2006

Interpretation 37[edit]

As far as details go, I think the essay by Sarah Vowell in the "Dial-a-Song Anthology" booklet may have mentioned a "legendary third giant", (sic) describing him as a "drum machine", but not mentioning his name. Later in the same booklet, in an essay about the Dial-a-Song system by TMBG, there is a reference to "the earliest kind of drum machine". Note the careful avoidance of the word "primitive", which would sound degrading applied to a human being. It is also important to note that there is a quote from this "drum machine", complaining in an actual interview about the Johns' conversations about their "puritan ancestry and opposable thumbs".

Even if you take the song at face value, you really need to be in touch with your inner child to understand this song. That Dr. Worm is an actual worm is supposed to be incredible both in that it is fascinating and that it is difficult to believe; the latter quality is not due to technical problems, (such as a worm having no arms) but because it is too good to be true. Lines such as "Someday, somebody else besides me will call me by my stage name..." are not intended to be pathetic so much as filled with a youthful hope which may or may not be in vain. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talkcontribs) 00:52, November 1, 2006

Interpretation 38[edit]

It could be about Linnell's dad. But I think it is just about a worm. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talkcontribs) 14:07, March 28, 2007

Interpretation 39[edit]

I think he's a real, actual worm. Like Richard Scarry's Lowly Worm. And he can do anything he likes, including playing the drums. And when he says he's interested in things, that means that unlike lots of people he is actually interested in things - lots of things - he's a polymath Renaissance worm. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talkcontribs) 12:41, May 30, 2007

Interpretation 40[edit]

Obviously this song deals with the symbolism of World War II, and the potential of a nuclear war composing World War III. 'Dr. Worm' is a totalitarian dictator's lead General-Scientist for Research and Development on Arms and Warfare. He conducts maniacal experiments, and feels empathetic towards his patients, apologizing that he is not a real doctor, but still interested to know whatever this particular experiment may pertain to. The drums then logically represent his warfare ideas, which he likes to use quite often. He comments on how he'll show you what he can do, but can take criticism. This is contradicted by the next statement, 'i can't hear the doorbell', with heavy metaphorical values pertaining and relating to the simple fact that he won't listen to the obvious answer, being at the door. The answer is obviously in religion, as he hands the stage over to his rabbi friend, allowing him a solo. His true dreams, however, come from his desire to be the real ruler of the world, the true totalitarian dictator, as is evident in the case, 'Some day somebody else besides me will call me Dr. Worm'. This may actually simply be his desire to become a real doctor, giving reason for others to name him 'doctor.' His use of 'some day' denotes his predictions for World War III's occurrence, and perhaps hopes then will be the time for his becoming a supreme dictator doctor. This is a prime representation of American Literature, rivaling that of even the great Emily Dickinson. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talkcontribs) 18:13, June 14, 2007

Interpretation 41[edit]

Many TMBG songs are full of metaphors that carry profound meanings beneath a facade of zaniness, but in my humble opinion this isn't one of those songs. I think it's simply about an ordinary guy with dreams of being a rock star. He doesn't even have a full band yet, but he's picked out his stage name, and he's already started using it when he introduces himself to people (although "They call me Doctor Worm" seems like wishful thinking unless "they" means himself and "Rabbi Vole"). The only part I don't think is literal is, "I am a real worm, I am an actual worm." The line immediately following it, "I live like a worm", is a clue to the real meaning here. He feels like he has more in common with a worm than he has with a doctor because he spends most of his time underground, i.e. in the basement playing his drums. "Rabbi Vole" is probably the only other musician he's been able to recruit for his as-yet-incomplete band, but he's hoping that if they keep practicing they'll eventually have a real band and play in public and other people will finally call him by his stage name. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talkcontribs) 16:17, July 23, 2007

Interpretation 42[edit]

I think this song takes place during a conversation where you only hear one side talking. Dr. Worm is an inept person and wants to appear to be someone greater than he actually is. When asked what he's interested in, he replies things, and when pressured, he tells us that he isn't a real doctor. He then tells us he is a real worm, but, as you can tell from the pace of the song speeding up, he quickly just says that he "lives" like a worm. Then, he tells the other person his true passion, the drums. Due to his low self-esteem, he's willing to listen to critical people, as long as someone is paying him attention. He is apologetic when the other person asks him to play for him "I'll show you what I know" is a way to say he isn't very good. His only joy is playing the drums, so he forgets his enviroment while playing them, thus why he can't "hear" the doorbell and also drops his socially awkward, perhaps shy exterior, so he doesn't care if you watch him. As others have said, "Rabbi Vole" is most likely another person like him. It then switches to internal monologe, he's remorseful that the person he was speaking to left, and wishes to be famous and feel important one day, with others actually calling him doctor worm, because they would "accept" that he's a Doctor as well as a Worm when it comes to his "stage" name, he's trying to act through this entire song in order to boost his self esteem. At the end, he's repeating his "mantra" in order to help him overcome. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talkcontribs) 10:35, June 24, 2008

Interpretation 43[edit]

I play the drums, and for the record: It's hard to hear the doorbell when your playing drums. I doubt the doorbell in the song has any significance. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talkcontribs) 13:02, July 16, 2008

Interpretation 44[edit]

I just think it's nothing complicated. I think those who think it had a deep meaning is kinda a loser even though I am a nerd and I like to search for signifigance in a jar of pickles. But there really isn't that deep of a meaning. It just a simple song about a worm with a supernatural power (probably got blessed by Mr. Wizard. or he watched Elmo's world and Oprah for 40 days straight till he acted human. Or maybe he was a former worm in a science teachers apple who found a fascination in the band room.) So Dr. Worm is an uber intelligent worm who has a fascination in drums and beat. And he brainashed his buddy who is a vole into being superhuman. Thus this vole (rabbi vole) learned about google and took lessons on how to play bass on youtube and became as great as Eddy Van Halen in just two weeks. (but not as good as the amazing Flansie :D) And so the two friends formed a band. It doesn't have a name but they simply went by stage names. See, for career day at the school Dr. Worm used to be at when he lived in an apple, he was a doctor and an other worm was a rabbi. This worm gave Dr. Worm an inspiration for his friend to be called Rabbi Vole. So Thus the two became known as Dr. Worm and Rabbi Vole. And now they play underground and try to find openings at local theatres and some day dream of being the opening act at a They Might Be Giants concert at Madison Square Garden. Maybe some day in the future, they will have a band called "They Might Be Miniature". But now they can only dream...[1] Nerdy4ever95

MY friend.[edit]

I don't know what the rest of you are talking about. I have a very good, dear and close friend Stefan who was learning guitar and drums when we were in college - he wanted me to listen to him play and it was awful. He's improved considerably since then, but the song must be about him, sorry! :D

--Pittsburghmuggle 16:57, 30 August 2009 (UTC)

Interpretation 46[edit]

I think the song is sort of about Doctor Worm as separately an individual and a social creature. "They call me Doctor Worm" is pretty obviously a self-centered statement. So the song is about the Doctor's identity, his character. It's titled "Doctor Worm," after all. Yet the second line is "Good morning how are you." The "you" involved is never described really, but he's a very important character, because the song isn't actually about the good Doctor but how he presents himself. And there is definitely a disconnect between the two. Doctor Worm, alone in his room, is a doctor and a rock star. To other people he is a worm, but he wants desperately to be Doctor Worm always. That's why he leaves the door unlocked: you can't hear the doorbell when you're drumming, you can't even hear other people talking, so it's inherently a solitary activity, yet he wants you to come over and watch him.

"I think I'm getting good but I can handle criticism." I think this is the Doctor going out of his way to appear modest because in his head he isn't just "getting good." When he's alone I'm sure he's going to be famous, he was born to drum. But he's tempering his ego to avoid embarrassing himself. He's "pretty good," he "can handle criticism."

So the song is about this solitary person with his solitary activity trying to bring a friend into his life. He's trying to break out of his own head, and see "what do you think of my drumming?"

This theory is slightly complicated by the existence of Rabbi Vole, who always seemed to contrast with the rest of the song to me. He never seems to think of the Rabbi and himself as a unit, as a "we." He claims no one but himself has ever called him "Doctor Worm." What about Rabbi Vole? He calls the Vole a Rabbi. Also, in his only mention Rabbi Vole plays a solo, so the lyrics never really reference them playing "together" (though logistically this is implied, the Vole can't just be standing there waiting for his solo and then leave). If anyone has any theories on how Doctor Worm's relationship with Rabbi Vole relates to his relationship with the "you" character I'd love to hear it. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talkcontribs) 20:46, May 24, 2012

Social Interpretation[edit]

The song is about how we see ourselves, how we appear in society, and how we really are. He calls himself Dr. Worm, he wants to see himself as a doctor and a good drummer. The rest of the world doesn't really see that. He isn't a real doctor, he's just a normal worm. Nothing too special. (and also apparently a mediocre drummer)

Similar to how we like to see ourselves as important and new and different, when 7 billion other people are thinking the same thing, we just appear as another little thing in the grand scope of the earth (a worm). 12:40, 16 February 2013 (EST)

Doctor Kenneth Nolan[edit]

This song is about Kenneth Nolan, a drummer who called himself Doctor --jimmyZenShinsThreeHundred11 (talk)

doctor worm[edit]

doctor worm is an actual worm who miraculously ended up in control of a human body with his friend rabbi vole. he's excited to play the drums and rabbi vole likes to play the guitar. nobody will ever listen to their music or call them by their stage names because they're weird. doctor worm really wants people to hear him and takes steps like leaving the door unlocked, and tries to be optimistic about people's disinterest ("when i get into it, i can't tell if you're watching me twirling the sticks"). doctor worm is secretly depressed and nobody will tell him if he's getting better on the drums. --Ncrecc (talk) 08:01, 20 August 2022 (EDT)

Trying to impress a girl[edit]

I believe Doctor Worm is about trying to impress a girl. Doctor Worm brands himself with a high ego and with lots of influence, a tactic that many people (or worms) use when trying to impress someone they like, when in reality it is not really the case. This can be shown by the horn ensemble at the beginning, which could show power, the line “They call me Doctor Worm” shows that he’s a notable person (or worm in this context) that people (or other creatures) look up to and feel like they are friends with him, and “Good morning how are you I’m Doctor Worm” which feels like he is showing that he is intelligent.

  Two lines later, he kind of gives up on his false persona and shows his authentic self, stating “I’m not a real doctor but I am a real worm, I am an actual worm”, which feels like him saying ‘Yes, I may have lied to you about being popular (or a doctor) but there’s still stuff that sets me apart from others’. Next, the doctor sounds more down to earth and not hiding behind a false image but still hiding some stuff. “I like to play the drums” is showing his interests and being genuine, hoping she’ll be interested in the same things he is. “I think I’m getting good but I can handle criticism” he wants to know what she thinks about him, as does anyone when trying to find a mate. 
     After, he states “I’ll leave the front unlocked” which means he’s trying to be more open with her, letting her know she doesn’t have to be shy and can express herself when she’s around him. The next line “‘cause I can’t hear the doorbell” refers to her dropping hints. He isn’t able to pick up on the hints, so he’s telling her she can be upfront with him. There is another horn section after this, but this seems more mellow and even drops down a couple notes showing more of the dropping of the false persona. 
     The section after this seems he’s trying to say ‘I don’t care how you see me but I love you’ with lines like “when I get into it, I can’t tell if you are watching me twirling the sticks”, which is when he basically goes all out and fully breaks out of his shell and even enlists the help of his friend Rabbi Vole to help get her to like him. This can be shown by the guitar solo that sounds like he is trying to seduce her. The horn section after this is back up to its original key progression, showing he’s confident again and feels like she loves him. “Someday somebody else besides me, will call me by my stage name” feels like he’s saying ‘someday, somebody will love me and will call me by my nickname’ hoping for that day to be soon. The ending of the song feels like he’s looking back and restating what he said before, especially with the isolated vocals. I haven’t decided whether or not he got the girl, but I think that’s for each individual listener to decide

Can a worm drum?[edit]

This isn't really much of an interpretation but I would like to point out how funny it is to imagine a worm drumming. Just imagine a worm gripping a drumstick with its entire body holding on for dear life, hilarious. Maybe the worm has a special custom made tiny drumkit, who knows!

Kinda Trans?[edit]

Before anyone gets on my case about overanalyzing, I know this wasn't the original intention for the song, this is just what it evokes to me. As a trans dude, I relate to Dr. Worm. I think of playing the drums as passing/expressing your gender, and the name Dr. Worm as one's chosen name. Here are a few examples of what the lyrics translate to for me:

I'm not a real doctor, but I am a real worm, I am an actual worm! -> I may not have the same life experience as other guys, I wasn't raised as a boy, but I am a real boy, I am an actual boy!

I like to play the drums, I think I'm getting good but I can handle criticism -> I really enjoy expressing my gender. I think I pass as a dude pretty well, but I'm always open to pointers, tell me what I can do to look more manly, and I'll do it.

Someday somebody else besides me will call me by my stage name. They will call me Dr. Worm -> Someday the world will see me the way that I see myself, the way that I know I am.

I know this is kind of silly, and I might be the only one who sees this, but I still wanted to throw it out there :)

RabbiVole (talk)

High School Rock Band[edit]

This song is about two high schoolers who have an obsession with having their own rock band where their stage names would be Doctor Worm and Rabbi Vole. They are really deep into their obsession so much so that they can’t be bothered to pay attention to basic things. “I’ll leave the front unlocked ‘cuz I can’t hear the doorbell”

The part in the song where it’s just the vocals with no instruments shows how much of losers they are which is really sad. I also believe the song “We Live in a Dump” is a sequel song to this one, just a few years later.

This is a really good song by TMBG and I really like the hidden themes of the song.