Interpretations:Turn Around

From This Might Be A Wiki

I beleive this song is a nightmare caused by guilt. he dozed off in his office and had a nightmare where a man he either really killed, or killed earlier in a nightmare(boss I'd guess) calls him. He freaks out when he realizes it's really him by his "same obsequious manner" that irritates the dreamer.

I'll take a guess at the chorus that the ghost doesn't realize he's dead. He calls the dreamer perhaps thinking he surrvived the (big assumption) fall out the window. The call was probably not litterally the phone, but him yelling. The dreamer then tells the ghost to turn around and view the dead body forcing the ghost to realize he is dead.

The graveyard was him at the funeral. the interpretive dance is him pretending to be sad when he is in fact the killer. He felt something heavy and pointed, (possibly a gunshot) in the back of the neck. His dance instructor could have been his dead mother who taught him how to dance. She pushes the dreamer into a grave where she tells him to turn around and see his body and understand that he is dead.

The fast moving passenger train is taking him and other's, possibly everyone in the dream so far, to hell for murder. Waving their arms is either them trying to escape the train, or them all not realizing their dead. The paper white mask of evil is a skull head of death. Or I could just be way off. -chapmanbobby

When I hear the first verse of this song I can't help but think of "The Telltale Heart." The "obsequious manner" (the reason the narrater had him killed) shows obvious correlation to that one eye that freaked out the narrater in the story by Mr. Edgar Allen Poe. Just thought a lit freak should stick their nose in here. Aurora Hawthorne

Is it just me, or does 'Turn Around' seem to have a connection with 'Where Your Eyes Don't Go?' For example..

"Should you worry when the skullhead is in front of you, Or is it worse because it's always waiting Where your eyes don't go?"


"Turn around, turn around There's a thing there that can be found Turn around, turn around It's a human skull on the ground Human skull on the ground Turn around"

Maybe that's too general, but it seemed too similar to be coincidence. Believable or am I reaching?


Very believable, since the John Henry CD also uses skull imagery. I'm not sure it's a *direct* connection, though (TMBG has said they prefer not to define things like that).

I'm not sure why everyone is wondering what the "heavy and pointed" thing is. I don't think it matters; the point is that the narrator was knocked into the grave. --Mark

"Turn Around" and "Where Your Eyes Don't Go" both use the memento mori -- a reminder of death. I think TMBG are a little ambivalent about the skull, and this might be why:

Contemplation of death is not supposed to make us somber and morbid, but energetic and virtuous. That is to say, you are not supposed to conclude that nothing matters, but escape materialism and remember what matters most.

Verse 1 is told by a guy in an office -- rarely a role model in TMBG songs. Also he has had someone killed. Not a nice guy. I picture a kinda ruthless captain of industry. Such a one needs to be reminded that heshe can't take it with himher, so to speak.

Verse 2 reminds me of the most famous memento mori scene ever: from Hamlet. Can't make much of it, though. The only crime/sin this character seems to be guilty of is bad dancing, if that. This would explain why it's hisher former instructor that buries him. Why a ghost, though? Has the instructor been murdered too? And what's the heavy pointed thing?

The "We" in verse 3 seems to me to be doing nothing terribly wrong either: they call themselves "irresponsible" but I picture this joyful funloving scene... plus the engineer is explicitly called evil.

So, as they ask in WYEDG, which is worse: remembering your mortality too much or too little?

I thought that the line wasn't "heavy and pointed," but "happy and pointed." So I thought that the line went like this:

I was out by myself in the graveyard / I was doing an interpretive dance / When I felt something happy and pointed / Struck me in the back of my -- neck!

As in, he was about to refer to something hitting the back of his pants, which rhymes with dance, as if he changed at the last second.

From my mishearing of the lyrics, I just concluded that they were referring to the only "happy and pointed" thing that would strike you in the vicinity of the back of your pants -- a penis. I figured TMBG had decided to be teenagers again.

In any case, I think that most people are reading too much into it, because I think that TMBG was just playing a game of non-sequitur with their audience. I think that the chorus was meant to drone on and on about nothing, while the lyrics brought on innovative new rehashed dronings of nothing. Which makes this song very likeable.

I think that there's something slight to this song of Poe or Hamlet, but I don't think it's more than the murder & death themes get at. I think that TMBG is extra-descriptive in this song because they're hinting how much things change when a little detail changes... supposing that the engineer didn't have a paperwhite mask of EVIL? ... supposing that he hadn't killed the guy with the obsequious manner? ...supposing he hadn't been doing an interpretive dance next to an open grave in a graveyard? (ok, there, he was just asking for it. I mean, if you're dancing on the grave of your dance instructor when you were a bad dancer, next to an open grave, you're just ASKING to get pushed in.)

--Some anonymous person

About your comment that he was probably going to say "pants": Hardly any of the lyrics in the song rhyme, so I doubt that the word "neck" was substituted for the word "pants". --Second Anonymite

Maybe you're being too literal. I think chapmanbobby had it right when he said it was about guilt, not necessarily about death.

For example, in the first verse, the narrator does say "killed", but "killed" and "terminated" are often synonyms, as are "terminated" and "fired". The narrator may be using "killed" to say "I got this guy fired", and now either the man himself or the narrator's conscience are nagging at him. So he tells himself to "Turn around", to look the other way, to think about something else. More whistling in the dark.

Second verse? Dance instructors don't often teach interpretive dance. The narrator may be feeling guilty that he left his dance instructor's lessons behind, so her "ghost" haunts him in his mind. Turn around. Don't think about how you're butchering your dance instructor's teachings, just turn around, leave it behind.

In the third verse, the narrators may have been cowed by an angry conductor ("paper white mask" describes someone in a rage pretty well) telling them to stop trying to get themselves killed. Turn around. Don't think about how you nearly killed yourself and how stupid you were being, think about something else.

It all ties into guilt better than death, I think.

-Another anonymous person-

I think this one's a gleeful spoof of the cheerful, upbeat, inspirational sort of "Don't worry, be happy" school. A few of these got Academy Awards: "High Hopes," "Que Sera, Sera", and in particular, "Enjoy Yourself." Lines like "To calm my nerves, I sang this song to him," and the brightly inane "There's a thing there that can be found!" all contribute to this resonance.

(The resonance with "Enjoy Yourself" is strong enough that a link to a page with lyrics and midi is in order: )

"Turn Around" is like "Enjoy Yourself," but tinged with wicked irony. The moral of "Enjoy Yourself" is "You're going to die, so be happy now," and the moral of "Que Sera, Sera" is "What happens, happens - so be content now." In contrast, "Turn Around" seems to say, "You're going to die. There ISN'T a bright side. The more you try to force cheerfulness into the picture, the more macabre it gets."

In the first verse, a murderer (hardly the squeaky-clean Doris Day-style speaker) faces his victim, and attempts to remind him that he's dead. We get a double meaning in the chorus; the line "Human skull on the ground, turn around" could either mean, "Look at the human skull. Memento mori," or "You're a human skull on the ground! Back, back!" We never learn if the exorcism succeeds.

But in the next verse, the tables are turned, and suddenly the speaker himself is being buried, and given the same advice, accompanied by incongruously silly xylophone music. And, appropriately, he is stabbed from behind - as befits an office murderer. Finally, the speaker finds himself en route to destinations unknown. The other dead attempt to clown around a bit on the way, perhaps to relieve the tension, and are immediately silenced by Death.

Summary: You try to ignore death when you are alive, but the reminders are always there. Then you die, and you find out that this is, indeed, an unpleasant thing. Death does not have a sense of humor.

- Anonymous

I think the message of the song may be that this person is getting hung up on these little guilts and hyperbolising them in his mind (ie getting someone fired could equate to getting someone killed) but then he reminds himself to stop looking towards all these things in the past and 'turn around' and look to the future, where the skull on the ground reminds him of his mortality and the owing to the temporary nature of this existance, that things must move on, putting the guilts into perspective. The Train could represent how people go through life having a ball, acting irresponsible thinking it's just going to go on like that, but then the realising too late that the train driver is death.

--Yet another anonymous person-

My enterpretation of the second verse is that, since the narrator is dancing at the graveyard, he could easily have begun to dance on someone's grave, in this case the dance instructor's, so the dance instructor's ghost would want revenge. So she appears behind him and hits him with a spear, then pushes him into an open grave where he is promptly buried. Overall, I think the song ventures into the realm of the absurd and is not meant to be interpreted too seriously. --An Anonymite

I've always assumed that the "something heavy and pointed" was the shovel with which the dance instructor's ghost dug that open grave. It seems the simplest explanation to me.

~ Salt-Man Z

Just a little thing.....I've always thought the engineer with the "paper white mask of evil" was a Klansman. You know, from the Ku Klux Klan.

The Walrus

I've always thought that this song was about those times when you are acting all normal and not even thinking that something bad could happen, then somethings bad happens and you get paranoid. And then don't know what to do. --An Omynite

This, to me, sounds like a song version of an experimental film, such as Un Chein Andeleu. It's a bunch of disjointed surreal scenes hooked together by a skull motif.

--Alex H.

Not an interpretation really but you may notice the background vocals in the last chorus are saying "There's a thing there that can't be found..."

Don't know if that makes it deeper or sillier or both.

Or maybe, juuust maybe, seeing a human skull on the ground is a pretty good indicator of danger.

Surreal, Images of vengance and death....or just Mr Linnell having a jolly fun time.[edit]

To me it is an almost light-hearted look at death and how you sometimes may take a dislike to someone for a reason and maybe fantasise about them being dead. The obsequious man was killed as the narrator does not suffer fools gladly, and his obsequious behaviour annoyed him. The dancing in the graveyard would to some be seen as disrespectful particularly if on a grave, however, the narrator does not seem like the kinda guy who would care :) It's likely he killed the dance instructor as she didn't like his dodgy interpretive dancing :) The heavy and pointed thing I took to be a stick as a lot of old fashioned dance instructors use sticks for timing, the stereotypical idea of the 'mamoiselle ballet teacher' banging it on the floor etc. The Train Conductor, is perhaps Death himself coming to collect the irresponsible, young and carefree possibly sociopathic narrator :D or he just represents old age...getting older, being boring and sensible. However, all these ideas are just ideas and I agree with the person who mentioned the surrealist movie idea. It is like an experimental film where the image of a skull and death just ties the images together with a happy go lucky melody in contrast to the darkness of the lyrics. I think people may look too much into the true meanings of TMBG's songs. I think because essentially they play because they love experimenting with music and art that this piece is just what that is. - Me, Bristol, UK

Here is our video for the song.. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talkcontribs) 10:26, 26 August 2012


Not a serious suggestion, but it strikes me that some lines of this song fit well with the "Predator" films. The Predator wears a pale mask, collects human skulls, and one of the few English phrases it knows is "turn around". It's also "a thing there that can't be found" when using its camouflage.

Holly Bobo[edit]

A hunter found a skull and "something told him to turn around" and he saw the skull on the ground

Staring Death In The Eye[edit]

I think this is a song about a guy trying to accept the fact that he will die someday. All the people other than the narrator are personifications of death ( the guy on the other end of the office phone, the dance instructor, the guy with the paper white mask of evil) and the 3rd verse is him finally dying in a train wreck. Man, this is a pretty dark interpretation.TMBGLOVER (talk) 19:09, 12 August 2022 (EDT)