Interpretations:Where Your Eyes Don't Go

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not that this is deep or anything, but this song kind of reminds me of the Scarecrow from the Batman series. The scrawcrow and the references to dreams... just thought i'd throw that out there

This song always reminds me of the poem The Hollow Men by T.S. Elliot possibly just because of the scarecrow stuff, which is what The Hollow Men always reminded me of. Perhaps there's a deeper connection that I'll have to dig for...

"You're free to come and go, or talk like Kurtis Blow" also (somewhat) echoes "The women come and go, talking of Michaelangelo" from The Lovesong of J. Alfred Prufrock. I honestly misremembered the lyrics and thought the allusion was more direct at first, but oh well, here we go! -- 18:09, 1 March 2015 (EST)

I recently started looking at pictures of myself that various people had taken at various times and noticing that I was doing the same weird, unnatural thing with my mouth in every one without ever realizing it. Even when I make a conscious effort not to do it when I had my new driver's license picture taken recently, I still did it. I kept asking my wife, 'Are you sure I don't usually look like that?' It was driving me crazy. This made me immediately think about 'Where Your Eyes Don't Go' by TMBG. 'Where Your Eyes Don't Go' is a song that I think revolves around the idea that we see ourselves differently that others see us, and the narrator's suspicion that people are surreptitiously making fun of every minute thing that he does; things that he may not even know about. At the song's core, 'Where Your Eyes Don't Go' is about insecurity. Here's my take on it, piece by piece.

   Where your eyes don't go a filthy scarecrow waves its broomstick arms 
   And does a parody of each unconscious thing you do 
   When you turn around to look it's gone behind you 
   On its face it's wearing your confused expression 
   Where your eyes don't go 

I think that this section refers to paranoia regarding people talking about the narrator behind his back and making fun of all the little gestures and quirks that he's not even sure that he has. Every time the narrator tires to find out if this sort of thing is happening, he's never really able to find out with a any certainty. It's always near, but always out of sight, where he can never see it with is own eyes. The scarecrow is a personification of the narrator's negative self-image, his self-doubt and his insecurity, as well as the general idea that people are mocking him. The scarecrow is the true version of himself, as others see him. When others mock him, its an inevitable consequence of them seeing the 'scarecrow' version of the narrator, so it's as though the narrator mocks himself. The choice of a scarecrow, specifically, reminds me of the 'Critic Intro' when Linnell says 'The performers are not grinning scarecrows sent here to torture and manipulate you.' It's probably some personal impression that John has of scarecrows; what they symbolize to him. He even kind of physically resembles a scarecrow in my opinion. (You know, thin with messy hair.) This leads me to believe this song, and by extension, the whole scarecrow theme, might be somewhat autobiographical.

   Where your eyes don't go a part of you is hovering 
   It's a nightmare that you'll never be discovering 

Here, the narrator is explaining that your self-perception and the way that others perceive you are different things, and that if you were to see yourself through the eyes of others, it would be disturbing; a nightmare, if you will. The way that other people see you is the part of you that's hovering.

   You're free to come and go or talk like Kurtis Blow 
   But there's a pair of eyes in back of your head 

You can do whatever you like, superficially, such as come and go an talk like Kurtis Blow, but none of this can get rid of these little quirks that are forever burned onto your psyche. In other words, the things that we do to make ourselves 'cool' - the clothes that we wear, our hairstyles, etcetera - are transparent to others, the narrator fears. Sometimes you sense this, but you don't fully rely on this sense because you're not sure that the ability to sense things like this even exists in the first place. The pair of eyes that can perceive this are on the back of your head. They can see the scarecrow and the part of you that's hovering, but you, yourself are not sure that these eyes exist, in the same way that you're not sure that the scarecrow is really there or the thing that's hovering is really there, since they are also where your eyes (your actual, regular eyes, figuratively speaking) don't go. By the way, Kurtis Blow was a rapper from the '80s, if you don't know. Basically, this is just someone that Linnell picked so that this line would rhyme. It could be anyone that the narrator perceives as 'cool.' As with most TMBG pop culture references, the specifics are irrelevant to the point that They are making.

   Every jumbled pile of person has a thinking part that wonders 
   What the part that isn't thinking isn't thinking of 

'Every jumbled pile of person' is just colorful language describing a human being. I think these specific words were chosen to call attention to the fact that we're basically all train wrecks on the inside, futilely hiding behind shallow things like talking like Kurtis Blow. Every person's thinking part (the brain, of course) wonders what the part that isn't thinking (the subconscious part - the part that just does what it does without conscious consideration or realization) is doing. The words 'isn't thinking of' are used here in a really great way, reaffirming that the compulsory things that humans do isn't centered around conscious thought. The logic here is circular, but it makes sense in a nonsensical kind of way, right?

   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? 

Universally, the skull symbolizes death. This is especially true in TMBG songs. Here the focus of the song switches to fear of death as the narrator ponders whether or not it's better to know when or how he'll die. I suspect this also relates to pondering whether or not it's better to know what people really think of you, or is it just better to do what you do and accept the fact that you never will really know? This is the central issue that the narrator is wrestling with. It's the only time in the song that he asks a question instead of making a statement. This section also puts the narrator's insecurity into a broader context - that of life itself, not just the social aspects of it. So, for the next several years, every time I see my driver's license I'm going to think of that scarecrow, and what people are saying about me, wearing my confused expression, where my eyes don't go. My wife assures me that my face doesn't always look like that, but how can I know what she's saying about me when I'm not around? How can I know that they're not all laughing at me right now? -Chris Fabulous

To me, this song is a meditation on the idea that our self-image-- our body, mind, thoughts, what-have-you, are actually abstractions composed of biological and psychological processes that we don't, and indeed cannot, know anything about through direct experience-- this is where our eyes don't go. We fear that at the deepest level, we really are nothing at all but a collection of molecules running a deterministic program, and we can't reconcile that idea with our moment-to-moment experience of being living, feeling human beings. If we could peer directly into our own skull-head as easily as we peer into a mirror, would we recoil at finding horrors submerged in our subconscious, or is the ultimate horror finding out that there's nothing really there at all? -- Ironwolf

I think this is a story about a nightmare, and it's effects on the man who has it. This explanation makes the most sense to me, and it hits the closest to home.

"Where your eyes don't go" is just a reference to the man's subconscious. He's living in this fake world, but his body, his eyes, aren't really there.

The filthy scarecrow is the bad guy in the nightmare. He's the one who gives you the chills. He constantly mocks you, but he manages to evade you when you try to catch him. You can't even look straight at him; he keeps disappearing. Even though you can't see him, you still know what he's doing, because you're the one having the dream.

"Where your eyes don't go, a part of you is hovering" means that no matter what you do, the dream will "haunt" you. Throughout the day, even when you're awake, you won't be able to get away from the nightmare. The "nightmare that you'll never be discovering" is just another reference to the scarecrow you can never see. "You're free to come and go" means you can always fall asleep or wake yourself up; no one's stopping you. The "pair of eyes in back of your head" could mean one of two things: You know what happens in your dream because you're the one having it, or the scarecrow is always staring at you from behind.

"Every jumbled pile of person has a thinking part that wonders what the part that isn't thinking isn't thinking of." This is my favorite line of the song. The thinking part is your mind, and the part that isn't thinking is your subconscious. When you're dreaming, the part of you that realizes that you're dreaming wonders where your mind is wandering, and you wonder what will happen next in the dream, even though you really know, deep down. Phew.

"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?" The skullhead is obviously a symbol of danger, maybe even a reference to the scarecrow. The question here is really "Which is worse, seeing the skullhead, or knowing that you'll see it as soon as you fall asleep?"

In general, the song seems to be showing how little control you have over your dreams, even though you technically create them yourself. This can probably be applied to other things, such as your self-esteem, as Mr. Fabulous mentioned. Well, that's my two cents. -El Zilcho

I can relate to this song. When I was a child, I used to be freaked out about, really, where my eyes don't go. I was always scared about what was behind me, especially in the dark. Did I concieve a giant skullhead following me at times? You betcha.

I was thinking of what Linnell's nightmare that inspired the song could have been.

Now, I did throw in things of what I have experienced in bizarre or scary dreams that I had. Sometimes, I have a 360-degree sight panel, meaning I can see everywhere at once. So if I'm looking ahead, I can still see behind me. Maybe he caught hindsight of the scarecrow mocking him and turned around to see a scarecrow on the ground, mimicking his facial expression. - Overjoy

I completely agree with the first explaination. Except I would like to point out that et cetera contains 2 words - Josh Hickman of

And I would like to point out that the word "explanation" only has one "i" in it. Larry Dunn 01:44, 31 August 2006 (UTC)

Anyone out there know what old TV show the instrumental at the end of the song comes from? It's been driving me crazy for years, trying to remember. Harry O? Streets of San Francisco? Mannix?

The meaning of the song itself seems pretty obvious to me. It's about the scary duality between our thinking brain and the pile of flesh that is our body, creepy looking internal organs, etc. The "jumbled pile of person thinking about what the parts that aren't thinking, aren't thinking of" underlines that. We think of ourselves as these intellectual beings, but under the skin -- "where your eyes don't go" -- there is a lot of creepy stuff going on.

The scarecrow mimicking everything you do is your skeleton, for instance -- like those scary x-ray images of a person moving, when you see the skeleton moving inside, almost like a mimicking of the person's "real" movements. Listen to the song with this in mind and I think you'll see it.

Larry Dunn 01:35, 31 August 2006 (UTC)

The real question is, who is Kurtis Blow?-- 23:51, 19 November 2006 (UTC)

Kurtis BLow is a rapper. -- 04:54, 14 January 2007 (UTC)

Interpretation of symbols: The detail that the scarecrow is 'filthy' is one of those reflexive self-deprecations that appear often in these early Linnell songs (e.g., person-man is degraded and lives in a garbage can). And the skull head indicates that the part that isn't thinking is trying to avoid thinking about the big D -- a natural human tendency also spotlighted by the song Turn Around. --Nehushtan 22:57, 18 June 2008 (UTC)

Since this is about bad dreams, has anyone ever thought "a part of you is hovering" is about a lucid dream? You know the kind where you know you're dreaming, but it seems real...except for that floating over the bed part.

I can perfectly relate to this song. Sometimes, I feel like I'm being watched. There's something behind me, but as soon as I turn around, it's on the other side. It's a kind of paranoia which can't be proved wrong...

Hmm ... this is definitely one of my favourite tmbg songs, surprised by some interpretations here. I think it's simply about the subconscious mind and other eerie aspects of psychology (and determinism in my view).

- Your eyes can go everywhere, if you simply turn your head, but the one place they "don't go" is backwards, towards your brain.

- The "scarecrow" is a metaphor for your subconscious. It is not a real person but loosely resembles one, evoking an uncanny feeling (as does the 'skull-head'). This queasy feeling is enhanced by the idea that behind the complex facade of humanity, all we are is a scarecrow waving "broomstick arms", this underlying, difficult-to-see truth being a filthy "parody" of the 'real world'.

- When you "turn around to look" backwards into your brain, ie rotate your head 180 degrees, your brain has "gone behind you" again. Your face is now "on its face" - ie your scalp - since you have turned around. "Your confused expression" is a result of your thwarted attempt to look into your own mind.

- "A nightmare that you'll never be discovering" - the first couplet of the second verse also emphasises the shroud of mystery around this ultimately unknowable "part of you" - your subconscious. There's a neat play on the fact that dreams are produced by your subconscious, as he says that the whole thing is, synecdochally, a "nightmare".

- "There's a pair of eyes in the back of your head." - For me, there is only one possible meaning here. We think of our faces as the front of our heads, because our eyes face that direction. But because it is our brain that controls us, and that is the more important thing, it is actually the brain-side that is the front of our heads. Therefore, our eyes are in the back of our head. It's sort of a depersonalised view of our heads. This is a play on the common meaning of the phrase which means somebody sees as though they had a second pair of eyes.

I never really considered the preceding lines much ("free to come and go"), but I suppose they are saying that you can do whatever you like, but it is your subconscious that is in charge of the rest of your body (including the conscious mind). That might just be my deterministic bias, though.

- "A thinking part that wonders what the part that isn't thinking isn't thinking of" - This is a really witty line that makes me smile every time. As others have said, it means your conscious mind wondering what's going on in your subconscious. Obviously if it "isn't thinking", it "isn't thinking of" anything - yet we know there's something going on back there. I'd say this continues the theme of the incomprehensibility of the subconscious.

"Jumbled pile of person" is a poetic image that suggests people are somewhat chaotic, flailing just like the "scarecrow".

- When "the skull-head is in front of you", you are being confronted by danger, and the threat of mortality. But that physical threat is nothing on the one that waits "where your eyes don't go". That "skull-head" is of course the fear of death that continually lurks in your subconscious, waiting to spring up at you. The fearful things that happen in front of us - where our eyes go - aren't inherently fearful. It is our mind that induces the fear, not them.

I'd also say that there is another "skull-head" waiting behind our eyes - our actual skull. A kind of living and ever-present memento mori that is just waiting for our skin and flesh to fall off so it can reveal itself. Waiting imperceptibly just beneath the surface, like an iceberg, like our subconscious.

Cf. Nothing's Gonna Change My Clothes - "the mirror reflects a tiny dancing skeleton, surrounded by a fleshy overcoat." - Another uncanny vision of self-death that lurks beneath the surface reality, a depersonalised view of the body, and the "dancing skeleton" strongly reminds me of the "filthy scarecrow [that] waves its broomstick arms".

Schrodinger's cat[edit]

"Can't be proved wrong": precisely. Does the refrigerator light go off when you close the door? It's impossible to tell. Because if you open the door to check, the light will come on. You could design an experiment: but that would only add to the complexity, hence the uncertainty as well.


To add to what others have said about the unknown, this song also struck a chord with my- often very anxious -self, particularly the line about the part of one's brain "that wonders what the part that isn't thinking isn't thinking of".

Fear Of Unknown[edit]

The scarecrow is the anxiety that something is always watching you or looking at you. This anxiety makes it to where you don't want to know things that you might fear, and this leads into the chorus. "It's a nightmare that you'll never be discovering". You don't want to know this nightmare so you don't look at it. "Your free to come and go or talk like Kurtis Blow/But there's a pair of eyes in the back of your head" meaning you can do whatever you want, but eventually you'll be enlgithened. "Every jumbled pile of person has a thinking part that wonders/What the part that isn't thinking isn't thinking of" refers to the curiosity that will always still linger. "Should you worry when the skull head is in front of you/Or is it worse because it's always waiting where your eyes don't go?" is questioning the purpose of this fear of the unknown.

The Subconscious Mind[edit]

We already know Linell based this song on a dream he had. The line "There's a thinking part that wonders what the part that isn't thinking isn't thinking of", for example, describes the disconnect between the conscious and subconscious. My conscious can think about my dreams, or wonder what's occurring in my subconscious, but I can't know. So the scarecrow in the nightmare lives inside the unthinking mind--the subconscious. And though the waking mind cannot see it or understand it, our subconscious is always churning, processing our experiences and doing some abstraction of its own.

The Johari Window[edit]

This song refers to the right side of the Johari Window: things the narrator doesn’t know about himself. Things he hasn’t been able to observe and process about his self. user:robotheart 1/8/2020


Nostalgia and Unease[edit]

To me, this song is about the fear of the subconscious mind, and about what our minds and bodies are doing without us realizing. This may seem rather uninteresting when you remember that this song was specifically based off a childhood nightmare of Linnell’s, but I feel that the specific choices regarding word choice and musical tone throughout demonstrate this central idea in a very fascinating way, through the mixture of nostalgia and unease that it evokes in the listeners. To start off, let’s look at the very first section of the lyrics:

“Where your eyes don't go a filthy scarecrow waves its broomstick arms / And does a parody of each unconscious thing you do / When you turn around to look it's gone behind you / On its face it's wearing your confused expression / Where your eyes don't go.”

As others have brought up here before, we can immediately see the references to the subconscious mind, the scarecrow serving as an unnerving parallel to ourselves, something that understands every single “unconscious” thing we do, even better than we ourselves do. The description of the scarecrow as “filthy” with “broomstick arms” emphasizes the freaky, inhuman nature of the thing, leading the listener to see it as a terrifying “other” entity. To me, this scarecrow represents that subconscious part of ourselves, which controls our smaller, split-second movements and decisions without us even realizing it. This is also the part of the mind that we use to dream, and that we sometimes fear due to how much we don’t understand the inner workings of our own minds. The use of the word “parody” also emphasizes our perspective that it’s mocking us, even though it’s just another aspect of ourselves. Another section of the song that reflects this idea is the mention of the skull head:

“Should you worry when the skull head is in front of you / Or is it worse because it's always waiting where your eyes don't go?”

Taken literally, this makes a lot of sense as a reference to the subconscious mind: we all have skulls, and they’re all behind our eyes where we can’t see them, and they contain our brains, something we also can’t see or fully understand. It’s simultaneously something scary and something familiar, as we feel unease looking at skeletons but we have one inside our bodies at all times. One of my favorite things about this song is how the music itself mirrors that same idea, the balance between the unknown and the familiar to make a strange, dreamlike combination of fear and nostalgia. We see this in the lyrics, through the creepy word choices and familiar ideas, like the reference to Kurtis Blow, but this is also present in the music throughout. Though the vocals are (I think) in a standard, major key throughout, there’s a lot of dissonance present in the instrumental segment at the end, along with harsh notes that stand out in interesting, noticeable ways. This contrast helps to create that feeling of unease in the listener, but what’s most notable to me is the earlier segment that parallels I’ve Been Working on the Railroad, which brings us back to that nostalgic childhood song even while the end remains dissonant and strange. This does a splendid job at mirroring the ways that nostalgic places and people will show up in dreams or in our regular thoughts, and the strange feelings that accompany those instances. Altogether, this is one of my very favorite TMBG songs, and I love the ways that it reminds me of all the things we still don’t understand about the human brain, particularly “what the part that isn’t thinking isn’t thinking of.” That will always be my favorite line in any song. -Charlie