RFI: Lyrical Analysis of "Surrender" by Cheap Trick

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Mother told me yes she told me I'd meet girls like you
She also told me stay away, you'll never know what you'll catch
Just the other day I heard a soldier falling off
Some Indonesian junk that's going round.

Mommy's alright, Daddy's alright, they just seem a little weird
Surrender, surrender, but don't give yourself away

Father says your mother's right, she's really up on things
Before we married, Mommy served in the WACs in the Philippines
Now, I had heard the WACs recruited old maids for the war*
But mommy isn't one of those I've known her all these years

Mommy's alright, Daddy's alright, they just seem a little weird
Surrender, surrender, but don't give yourself away

Whatever happened to all this season's losers of the year?**
Everytime I got to thinking where'd they disappear?
When I woke up, Mom and Dad are rolling on the couch
Rolling numbers, rock and rolling, got my Kiss records out

Mommy's alright, Daddy's alright, they just seem a little weird
Surrender, surrender, but don't give yourself away...

Demo version lines:
*"Now I had heard the WACS recruited old maids, dykes and whores."
**"Whatever happened to all this season's murderers and queers?"

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Rick Nielsen claims the first 2 lines of the chorus came to him first and then he wrote the rest of the song/lyrics from the perspective of a 14-year old.

So a boy is telling a girl (or himself) that his mother warned him about the dangers of either heroin or sex or southeast asian seacraft and then he recalls that his father supports her position, adding that she seen experience as a servicewoman in WWII (or Korea?). But then either the father or the son doubts that claim because she doesn't conform to the stereotype of the typical WAC.

then comes the epic modulation and here we get someone asking kind of this odd question that is seemingly answered by the kid walking in on his stoned folks getting physical on the couch high on the couch with his records on the turntable to make these even more revolting.

and then the chorus' sentiment: make mild concessions to your parents but hey, every one wants to have a good time so wtf...

...so why is Rick Neilsen having this kid telling this story and to whom?

i am basically looking for like nabisco or j0hn d. (hell, i'd even settle for Amateurist) to come in and parse and analyze this puppy because songfacts and wikipedia and AMG aren't really spelling it out for my dense brane. also: who wants to take a shot at correctly placing the quotation marks?

Steve Shasta, Monday, 11 February 2008 20:31 (6 years ago) Permalink

(but please don't try to parse out that one sentence of mine that doesn't make sense, kthxbye)

Steve Shasta, Monday, 11 February 2008 20:36 (6 years ago) Permalink

"(hell, i'd even settle for Amateurist)"

ha!

scott seward, Monday, 11 February 2008 20:39 (6 years ago) Permalink

But really, just something along the lines or in the spirit of the $1000 Wedding thread would be nice. Like eddhurt coming in with the ultimate kernel of gleaning at the 11th hour or the equivalent.

Steve Shasta, Monday, 11 February 2008 20:39 (6 years ago) Permalink

And no, I'm not looking for "The last verse is the only one that AABB rhymes", please more content analysis please.

Steve Shasta, Monday, 11 February 2008 20:40 (6 years ago) Permalink

This is a really important question.

I think the song ultimately is about growing up, that perennial topic of the pop song. In this case, the 14 year old begins by talking (maybe not literally) to someone in his life who his parents would have considered a bad influence--an older girl, maybe she's got a tattoo or dyed hair. Maybe she smokes pot, has a fake ID or Grateful Dead stickers on her car. The kid is really into this chick, but he's worried about keeping up appearances around the family. One night he's up late and he notices his parents gettin' wild, radically altering the way he thinks about them, making him realize that he doesn't have to impress his parents, that he can "surrender" to his (ridiculous, teenage) emotions and desires.

ian, Monday, 11 February 2008 20:47 (6 years ago) Permalink

"Whatever happened to all this season's losers of the year?**
Everytime I got to thinking where'd they disappear? "

This reminds me: I saw a burn-out kid I had 10th grade gym class with in the supermarket over Christmas; he had a toddler and a pick up truck.

ian, Monday, 11 February 2008 20:51 (6 years ago) Permalink

Maybe that line questions whether his parents were "losers" when they were his age, doing things THEIR parents disapproves of. Where'd they disappear? They turned into suburban moms & dads, raising their kids to not be like them?

ian, Monday, 11 February 2008 20:52 (6 years ago) Permalink

I'd be happy to know what a "rolling number" is...

henry s, Monday, 11 February 2008 20:59 (6 years ago) Permalink

"Rolling numbers" is slang for rolling marijuana cigarettes.

ian, Monday, 11 February 2008 21:02 (6 years ago) Permalink

(see also: neil young, "roll another number," for example.)

fact checking cuz, Monday, 11 February 2008 21:04 (6 years ago) Permalink

The first two verses are defining the relationship of the parents to the child, first with the parents laying down the law (i believe the quotes in the first verse go "Stay away ... going 'round."), and then showing the doubts the kid has about his parents legitimacy, in a sense. like," who are they to be giving advice? they probably been lyin' to be all these years..."

ian, Monday, 11 February 2008 21:06 (6 years ago) Permalink

(also neil yoing's "albuquerque" from the same LP)

ian, Monday, 11 February 2008 21:06 (6 years ago) Permalink

Some Indonesian junk that's going round.

Rob Sheffield said once that, while he was growing up, he thought this line was about a boat.

xhuxk, Monday, 11 February 2008 21:09 (6 years ago) Permalink

I always thought about this as a drunken conversation in a bar, the kind of loosely constructed conversation that flits around an approximate center. It's told from the POV of someone young (18 was drinking age back then, right) who hasn't moved out of the house or really matured enough world-experience wise, but he tries to sound a bit worldly and betrays his limitations by relating this back to the experiences of his parents. The next day he wakes up (perhaps hungover) to the scene with his parents enjoying themselves.

Meaning-wise I thought it was a contrast between his attempt at relating to the adult world though the experiences of his parents & his parents (more successful) attempt to recapture their youth through his music/culture.

zaxxon25, Monday, 11 February 2008 21:12 (6 years ago) Permalink

I was always confused about the kid's "not an old maid" defense of his mother...I mean, she's married...she had HIM...doesn't that automatically disqualify her from old maid contention?

henry s, Monday, 11 February 2008 21:15 (6 years ago) Permalink

First stanza = some weird bullshit this kid has heard, from his parents and from TV. He doesn't really understand any of it, but he's repeating it, seemingly to a girl, though that isn't maintained throughout the song. Surrender isn't consistently directed to a specific "you".

Second stanza = more confusion, difference between what he thinks he knows about his parents and what they reveal about themselves - who they think they are.

Third stanza = kicker: not only do we eventually turn into our parents ("whatever happened to..." - teenage rebels growing up and disappearing into the respectable adult community), they're still us ("rolling numbers, rock and rolling").

Chorus has this massively triumphant vibe, which contrasts nicely with the somewhat wistful sentiment. And rolling numbers = weed.

I love this song, but I don't know that it's got as much to give as "$1,000 Wedding".

contenderizer, Monday, 11 February 2008 21:15 (6 years ago) Permalink

(xhuxk, it kinda makes sense with the soldier falling off of it... i didn't dismiss that reading entirely!)

Steve Shasta, Monday, 11 February 2008 21:16 (6 years ago) Permalink

Thought the junk was boat too.

James Redd and the Blecchs, Monday, 11 February 2008 21:17 (6 years ago) Permalink

Thought the whole thing was dream/DIY-MTV video logic: band imagining kid imagining parents telling about their illustrious past seen with 50-50 hindsight through rose-colored classes than all of sudden these old fogies start acting like the kidz!

James Redd and the Blecchs, Monday, 11 February 2008 21:22 (6 years ago) Permalink

thing is, if it were a boat, you'd think it woulda been a sailor falling off it...(of course, the fact that it was a soldier, who would not be as used to being on a boat, might further sell the "boat" theory)...

henry s, Monday, 11 February 2008 21:26 (6 years ago) Permalink

it's quite possible the song has several intended meanings, that line specifically.

ian, Monday, 11 February 2008 21:28 (6 years ago) Permalink

I think the junk line is about a boat! The kid is confusing what he's heard on the news (problems with soldiers on "junk") with what he thinks he knows: junk = Chinese boat.

contenderizer, Monday, 11 February 2008 21:28 (6 years ago) Permalink

keep in mind, in my reading of the first verse, the line about the junk is still in the mother's voice, lending credibility to the possibility that the MOTHER might be confusing the two types of junks.

ian, Monday, 11 February 2008 21:30 (6 years ago) Permalink

Mother told me yes she told me I'd meet girls like you.
She also told me "stay away, you'll never know what you'll catch.
Just the other day I heard a soldier falling off
Some Indonesian junk that's going round."

ian, Monday, 11 February 2008 21:31 (6 years ago) Permalink

Good point. I always heard a clear division there, like the kid's train of thought had shifted from what his mother told him to something he'd heard elsewhere. Not sure it's clear either way.

contenderizer, Monday, 11 February 2008 21:34 (6 years ago) Permalink

The 2nd verse is much more clearly defined as far as the voices go.

ian, Monday, 11 February 2008 21:40 (6 years ago) Permalink

but whose mother would use the word "junk"?..."dope" maybe..."goofballs", sure...but "junk"?!...mine sure wouldn't!

henry s, Monday, 11 February 2008 21:40 (6 years ago) Permalink

true, but isn't it weird that the dad (after describing her as "your mother") refers to his wife as "mommy"?

henry s, Monday, 11 February 2008 21:42 (6 years ago) Permalink

xpost: Yeah, but that's the joke. Whoever is talking, they doesn't understand the slang. That's why the story's half morphed into something about falling off a boat.

contenderizer, Monday, 11 February 2008 21:43 (6 years ago) Permalink

Exactly. The kid does not know. The person who understands the slang is the Kiss-listening-to teenage mama of the second part!

James Redd and the Blecchs, Monday, 11 February 2008 21:48 (6 years ago) Permalink

but wait, are we sure it's mommy and daddy who have the kiss records out?

you could easily parse that part this way:

When I woke up, Mom and Dad are rolling on the couch, rolling numbers, rock and rolling / (therefore i) got my Kiss records out

in other words, and this is in line with some earlier explanations of that verse, once the kid sees mom and bad going at it like kids, the kid suddenly feels free to surrender to his id and go rock and rolling himself, and step one is pulling out his copy of "destroyer."

fact checking cuz, Monday, 11 February 2008 21:55 (6 years ago) Permalink

Sounds good, but I think there is some kind of confusion by the kid or the lyricist between his parents and some older sibling plus a neighbor kid.

James Redd and the Blecchs, Monday, 11 February 2008 21:57 (6 years ago) Permalink

"Rick Nielsen often actually throws vinyl Kiss records to the audience in live performances at the moment Kiss is mentioned in the song."

Zeno, Monday, 11 February 2008 21:57 (6 years ago) Permalink

Are you just saying that for the sake of argument, FCCuz, or do you actually hear the song that way?

'Cuz it's a weird idea: kid walks in on his stoned parents going at it on the couch and thinks, "Fuck it. Might as well spin Destroyer."

Doesn't work for me. I figure kid goes, "Aaaah, my eyes!" and runs away to the strains of his folks space-invading choice of mood music.

Plus, the idea that parents might be listening to Kiss summarizes the whole point of the song.

contenderizer, Monday, 11 February 2008 22:01 (6 years ago) Permalink

<I>'Cuz it's a weird idea: kid walks in on his stoned parents going at it on the couch and thinks, "Fuck it. Might as well spin Destroyer."</I>

Makes a lot of sense, actually. Middle of the night, parents figure the kid's asleep, suddenly jarred out of their tryst by the wall shaking riffage, realizing they've been caught.

ian, Monday, 11 February 2008 22:14 (6 years ago) Permalink

damnit bbcode.

ian, Monday, 11 February 2008 22:14 (6 years ago) Permalink

Yeah, but I get the impression that he's actually, like, walking in on them. The visual details are all so crisp - the kid's actually in the room with them at that moment. And the song loses something if the parents aren't listening to Kiss while doing whatever it is they're doing. The whole songs is about meeting the enemy and finding out that they is us.

contenderizer, Monday, 11 February 2008 22:28 (6 years ago) Permalink

i actually hear the song that way.

fact checking cuz, Monday, 11 February 2008 22:33 (6 years ago) Permalink

in those days the idea of yr parents getting stoned was so far fetched those lines were screamingly funny. remember our parents were teenagers during world war 2 not vietnam like you guys.

m coleman, Monday, 11 February 2008 22:36 (6 years ago) Permalink

yeah, i think there's some revisionism going on ITT.

Steve Shasta, Monday, 11 February 2008 22:52 (6 years ago) Permalink

I always thought the song was about sexual desire and fear. Indonesian junk was slang for STD. A soldier falling off a euphemism for dying. The kid because of his lack of experience mishears it as a literal soldier falling off a boat.

leavethecapital, Monday, 11 February 2008 23:06 (6 years ago) Permalink

From what I've always heard it's not "a soldier falling off", it's "a soldier's (dick) falling off." From some Indonesian clap or something. You never know what you'll catch.

ellaguru, Monday, 11 February 2008 23:11 (6 years ago) Permalink

This thread seems a little weird.

Ned Raggett, Monday, 11 February 2008 23:13 (6 years ago) Permalink

Kids say the darndest things.

contenderizer, Monday, 11 February 2008 23:17 (6 years ago) Permalink

sir, render this thread normal

omar little, Monday, 11 February 2008 23:17 (6 years ago) Permalink

Can't. Hurts.

Ned Raggett, Monday, 11 February 2008 23:25 (6 years ago) Permalink

in those days the idea of yr parents getting stoned was so far fetched those lines were screamingly funny.

This is so far-fetched as to be screamingly funny wrt my parents. Although the idea of my Dad listening to Kiss is even funnier.

Sundar, Monday, 11 February 2008 23:49 (6 years ago) Permalink

Middle of the night, parents figure the kid's asleep, suddenly jarred out of their tryst by the wall shaking riffage, realizing they've been caught.

How does this makes sense? The line is "When I woke up, Mom and Dad were rolling on the couch." It seems pretty clear that they woke him up with their racket.

Sundar, Monday, 11 February 2008 23:56 (6 years ago) Permalink

Two thing that have always bothered me. First, why are they "a little weird"? I guess real mommy is weird because she was a "WAC in the Philippines" in a bygone era, and teenage momma is weird for "rolling numbers" and listening to KISS, from the point of view of the barely teenage kid.

The other thing is: why "Surrender"? Who's surrendering and why? On the subway I stitched together the following: the Japanese surrendered in the Pacific Theater, thus ushering in the consumer society in which people listen to KISS records in their finished basements and surrender to the rock and roll.

James Redd and the Blecchs, Tuesday, 12 February 2008 01:52 (6 years ago) Permalink

It's a thin line between coming up with a good theory and idiotically marching straight on into the killfiles.

James Redd and the Blecchs, Tuesday, 12 February 2008 01:54 (6 years ago) Permalink

That should be the ILM motto....

leavethecapital, Tuesday, 12 February 2008 02:37 (6 years ago) Permalink

(Oh, I guess your point is that he catches his parents and surprises them by blasting Kiss? I still think the parents were listening to his Kiss records. Eh.)

Sundar, Tuesday, 12 February 2008 02:46 (6 years ago) Permalink

Yeah, Sundar, that was the "point" (really more of a devil's advocate thing than a point. It wasn's until Steve mentioned Cheap Trick to me on chat today that I began thinking of their songs in detail.)

ian, Tuesday, 12 February 2008 04:50 (6 years ago) Permalink

semi-freudian plea for attention--his parents loving each other more than they love him, so he makes a point of rubbing their faces in his catching them.

ian, Tuesday, 12 February 2008 04:51 (6 years ago) Permalink

though in light of m coleman's point about crazy generation gaps, i think my whole reading might be bullshit.

ian, Tuesday, 12 February 2008 04:53 (6 years ago) Permalink

haha, OK, that's amusing enough to consider.

xpost

Sundar, Tuesday, 12 February 2008 04:58 (6 years ago) Permalink

I'm so glad this thread was started - for years, I've been too embarrassed to admit a similar lack of full comprehension wrt this song. "Don't give yourself away" = "Don't let your parents know how much you know"? (That they've been dipping into your stash, among other things.)

Myonga Vön Bontee, Tuesday, 12 February 2008 21:34 (6 years ago) Permalink

I always assumed "Don't give yourself away" was referring DIRECTLY to the notion of surrending, like, giving in but not letting yourself get taken advantage of.

ian, Tuesday, 12 February 2008 21:55 (6 years ago) Permalink

when i was like ten i thought junk was a boat too. love it.

Emily Bjurnhjam, Tuesday, 12 February 2008 22:03 (6 years ago) Permalink

also i sang this at karaoke last week. i've always been confused by this song, but also thought it was vaguely about growing up and drugs and sex and whatever. thanks for the interesting thread.

Emily Bjurnhjam, Tuesday, 12 February 2008 22:06 (6 years ago) Permalink

Steve Shasta never came back and did a recap.

James Redd and the Blecchs, Saturday, 16 February 2008 02:37 (6 years ago) Permalink

The part of this I love is the wondering what happens to young freaks and losers, and the horrified realization that some of them might have grown up to be your parents.

nabisco, Saturday, 16 February 2008 02:45 (6 years ago) Permalink

Like in that Delmore Schwartz short story?

James Redd and the Blecchs, Saturday, 16 February 2008 03:24 (6 years ago) Permalink

nabisco OTM!

(I never put that much thought into these lyrics before but this thread has made me realize that they're brilliant.)

Sundar, Saturday, 16 February 2008 03:37 (6 years ago) Permalink

Also it made me finally download Heaven Tonight, for which I'm thankful. (I still haven't quite shaken the suspicion that "Surrender" and "I Want You to Want Me" are the best Cheap Trick songs though. I probably need to hear the 1st album.)

Sundar, Saturday, 16 February 2008 03:40 (6 years ago) Permalink

Maybe I meant Robert Heinlein story?

James Redd and the Blecchs, Saturday, 16 February 2008 03:43 (6 years ago) Permalink

(No, that doesn't work quite right either)

James Redd and the Blecchs, Saturday, 16 February 2008 03:43 (6 years ago) Permalink

I probably need to hear the 1st album.

Um, YES. Immediately.

Ned Raggett, Saturday, 16 February 2008 03:46 (6 years ago) Permalink

Downloading as we speak.

Sundar, Saturday, 16 February 2008 03:59 (6 years ago) Permalink

Good.

Ned Raggett, Saturday, 16 February 2008 04:04 (6 years ago) Permalink

Get "In Color" too. A lot of Rick Nielsen's early lyrics are off the wall brilliant.

leavethecapital, Saturday, 16 February 2008 04:10 (6 years ago) Permalink

(I have In Color already.)

Sundar, Saturday, 16 February 2008 04:15 (6 years ago) Permalink

(I'm listening to it now in fact.)

Sundar, Saturday, 16 February 2008 04:15 (6 years ago) Permalink

Cheap Trick = best American band ever, underrated even by fanatics

Dimension 5ive, Saturday, 16 February 2008 04:18 (6 years ago) Permalink

(Because I don't consider P.Funk a band, more like a collective with more than 50 members led by one guy.)

Dimension 5ive, Saturday, 16 February 2008 04:40 (6 years ago) Permalink

3 months pass...

I too was inspired to finally download Heaven Tonight, and while Surrender is still one of the greatest songs ever, I'm really struck by 1. the similarity between this album and the 2nd Lee Harvey Oswald album (which also loves Brontosaurus) and 2. apparently I prefer Blastronaut, even if it doesn't have a single track as killer as Surrender.

dlp9001, Monday, 19 May 2008 21:19 (5 years ago) Permalink

Love the Lee Harvey Oswald Band (& Sims' songwriting in general), but it's hard for me to rate anything over Heaven Tonight.

contenderizer, Monday, 19 May 2008 21:31 (5 years ago) Permalink


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