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Okay, I'll take a stab at this one. I think that it's a song about a person who is in love with a female friend, and has sent her a note telling her so, and is now afraid of her reply. He fears she's been playing games with his emotions. This is not as much of a stretch as it looks:

The phrase "a little bird told me" is usually used when somebody wants to tell a secret, but doesn't want to reveal the source. It may come from the old belief that birds could carry messages and omens. Also, "a little bird," in a slangy usage, could refer to a girl. So the speaker presumably is disappointed that he's not being told anything by the woman in question, that she's been keeping things from him.

A "Bird" Is also a British slang term for a woman. Kind of like "chick" in the states.

We also hear that the speaker's best friend - or possibly the little bird, as the antecedent of the pronoun "she" is kept ambiguous - is a sparrow. The sparrow is often associated with fickleness, flirtation, or pettiness; in the Bible, the sparrow is used as an example of a trivial thing that God nonetheless has full control over. It's a reasonable guess, then, that the speaker's accusing his friend of toying with his emotions.

His statement that he'll "never know" what "you never want to know" is a way of expressing his fear that, yes, he really is just a friend, and he might not want to have his hopes crushed. She's already (unwittingly?) taken "a bite out of his spine" in the past with apparent thoughtlessness, so he's bound to be nervous.

Worse, the speaker wonders if it's even wise to "make noise about love," if he missed his chance earlier, or if she might not be ready yet. So, with a "hole in the brain," he remains in a state of nervous confusion, awaiting a reply.

Assuming he's actually sent the note already. Perhaps he hasn't.

If you look at the lyrics with your interpretation in mind, he gave the note to the friend but isn't sure whether or not she delivered it. Bacon warrior 23:59, 27 Feb 2006 (CST)

This could be another break-up song; "Too late or soon to make noise about love" fits with that interpretation. Somebody who's moving out of a shared home or apartment wouldn't know what would be in the letterbox there the next day... and the second verse seems pretty bitter, indirectly suggesting that, looking back, the speaker considers the subject of the song a backbiter.

It could also have to do with letterboxing.

I think it's just meant to be one big tonguetwister.


If I had a pair of eyes on the back of my head for each time You forgot to take out all the things you forgot to talk about When you took a bite out of my spine I would have a lot of eyes on me by this time, wouldn't I? Wouldn't that just be fine?

Look at that. Now tell me how that makes sense. Now that's 1 out of 3 verses, so at least 1 third of this song doesn't make sense. None of it does, actually. -Salioshy

I think it's about some crazy guy talking about all the scornful comments made about him and talking to the guy who has divvied up all the scornful over the long time the mad guy has knew him. The "bite out of my spine" line makes it clear that the mad guy doesn't get a lot of mail so he thinks that if he got mail for every time he got scorned by his neighbor he would have a lot of mail. The "Little Bird" line Makes it clear that he has a timid little friend who doesn't tell him anything. the "Sparrow" line makes it clear that the timid little friend is black. -- Economiclyracist 10:28, 9 January 2010 (UTC)

"Letterbox" is a love song...of sorts[edit]

The first stanza makes complete sense: "I'll never know what you'll find when you open up your letter box tomorrow" The character sent a girl a letter, and he doesn't know if she will find it a 'good' or 'bad' sign. "'Cause a little bird never tells me anything I want to know She's my best friend, she's a sparrow" The girl in question never told him whether or not she had feelings for him as he did for her. However, she does have a habit of spreading rumors about other such 'romantic' situations (a reference to the phrase 'A little bird told me'). "And I'll never never know what you never never never want to know When you know what you are, O" He will supposedly never find out if the girl likes him (a fact that, if true, she doesn't want to admit).

The second stanza could simply be saying that whenever the girl talks about rumors and relationships, she never makes any such mention of this boy, meaning she is either oblivious or apathetic.

The third stanza: "Too late or soon to make noise about love and there's no time for sorrow" If it's too late, that means his attempt was in vain. If it's too soon, that means she hasn't decided her feelings one way or the other yet. No time for sorrow means that there is no point in being sad if she hasn't said definitively whether or not she loves him. "Run around in the rain with a hole in the brain till tomorrow" Running around in the rain with a hole in his brain means that he is simply totally unaware what her response to his letter will be, with 'tomorrow' meaning he will know the next day whether to be happy or sad about it.

All in all, this song is less about a 'romantic feeling' and more about a simple truth that we all experience: when you love someone, and you don't know if they love you, you don't feel extremely happy or extremely sad, but rather, a totally human emotion of 'in-between-ness.'

Another great song for TMBG's trove of "upbeat music/depressing lyrics"[edit]

Serious bummer of a song. Narrator has romantic feelings for a friend and they're just left stirring in his head, unanswered, because he can't tell what she's thinking; everything's left unsaid, and he'll never know if it's too soon or late to even try. He's left desperate and suspended, feeling like he's running around madly in the rain while the 'part of the brain' that knows the answer about the two of them is empty and he lacks closure.

Wishing for "eyes in the back of one's head" refers to knowing what others are saying about oneself when one isn't around, a bit like the "fly on the wall" expression; more delving into the narrator's desperation to just know what the hell she's thinking. "You forgot to take out all the things you forgot to talk about when you took a bite out of my spine"; similar use of the "spine" as in second track on The Spine: lack of self-confidence or emotional fortitude (ie the expression "to have a spine/backbone"). The narrator feels completely spineless when it comes to her (as though she's practically taken a bite right out of it), due to all of the withheld questions inside about the two of them that she never talked about. The narrator will never know just what, from the friend's perspective, she'll be finding when she discovers the confession letter he's left for her, because she never tells him what he wants to know anyway.


I watched the Elizabeth Taylor version of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof last night and near the end, she says to another woman, "Not everyone makes as much noise about love as you do" and I was immediately reminded of the song. The context refers to vocalizations during sex, which made me suspect that part of the song referenced intimacy. I felt that this part of the song referred to wondering if one would ever be in that kind of relationship again, and to feel terrible as one does after a bad break-up, and getting over it again.

Perhaps a Connection To Birdhouse and The Spine?[edit]

Since this song mentions birds and spines, I thought this song could be connected to Birdhouse In Your Soul and The Spine.

This song is about a relationship between the blue canary nightlight in Birdhouse and the sparrow in Letterbox. The sparrow first tells the blue canary secrets, via her (the sparrow's) songs. Nobody except the sparrow and the blue canary can hear the secrets. The secrets transport to the room where the blue canary resides in his (the blue canary's) electrical well.

One day, the blue canary receives a heartbreaking love letter, via the sparrow's song. The blue canary was clueless, since he had no idea he (the blue canary) and the sparrow were in a relationship. The sparrow then passes away the day after she (the sparrow) sent the heartbreaking love letter to the blue canary. The blue canary's life then becomes grim and dark as the days pass by and his owner (a human, of course) grows older and later moves out of the house.

This is reminiscent of Museum Of Idiots, since it is also about heartbreak and perhaps death. The symbolism of a sparrow means good luck, which could mean the blue canary was receiving secrets of good luck from the sparrow, until she (the sparrow) died.

Mrs.Xcitement (talk) 10:39, 23 March 2023 (EDT)

Connection to "Dead"[edit]

The following is 100% headcanon:

To me, this is another perspective on the song "Dead". I feel that Dead is about a grocery worker who goes missing and becomes a Schrödinger's Cat figure, told from the perspective of the Missing Person advertisement on a milk carton - they went away and came back as the groceries they used to sort. The narrator, the photo on the box, doesn't know if they're dead or simply off living the inert life they always did. Either way, they're not getting anything done.

Letterbox would be told from the perspective of the corpse itself. Like the photo on the carton, the corpse doesn't know much of anything either. It's inanimate matter, and abides in the animals that come and go. It awaits the reassurance that its loved ones have learned of their fate, news it can never know.

"I'll never know what you'll find when you open up your letterbox tomorrow" - they hope their friends and family find out that they've died, but don't possess a living brain with which to be reassured of this.

"Cos a little bird never tells me anything I want to know, she's my best friend, she's a Sparrow" - the corpse's best friend is a bird who eats the worms infesting their body. But the bird can't tell them anything new.

"And I'll never never know what you never never never want to know when you know what you are" - if the protagonist had a working brain, they would be able to realize they were a dead body, and would immediately wish they didn't have that awareness. Two "nevers", and then three, underscore that the only greater torment than not knowing would be finding out.

"If I had a set of eyes in the back of my head for each time / You forgot to take out all the things you forgot to talk about when you took a bite out of my spine / I would have a lot of eyes on the other side wouldn't I wouldn't that just be fine" - the animals eat the protagonist, who lies face down on the ground, and impart no new information in return. They wish for eyes on the back of their head so they can at least see what's happening.

"Too late or soon to make noise about love and there's no time for sorrow" - too late to live, too soon to grieve.

"Run around in the rain with a hole in the brain 'til tomorrow" - another identical day goes past with a defunct brain and the animals scampering back and forth.

I imagine both songs to complain of the torment of unresolved death, via the perspective of the physical remnants of the lost life.

Ondes (talk) 05:04, 17 November 2023 (EST)


Squirrels notoriously forget where they hide nuts. Our hero squirrel has placed a nut into a letterbox. Only, tomorrow, he’s forgotten where he put it. Best friend sparrow is of no use; she doesn’t speak squirrel anyway.

Also, the rapid pace of vocals in the song mimics the behavior and speed of a squirrel.