RFI: Lyrical Analysis of "Surrender" by Cheap Trick

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

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

damnit bbcode.

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

i actually hear the song that way.

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

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

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

This thread seems a little weird.

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

Kids say the darndest things.

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

sir, render this thread normal

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

Can't. Hurts.

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

That should be the ILM motto....

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

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

xpost

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

Steve Shasta never came back and did a recap.

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

Like in that Delmore Schwartz short story?

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

Maybe I meant Robert Heinlein story?

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

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

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

I probably need to hear the 1st album.

Um, YES. Immediately.

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

Downloading as we speak.

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

Good.

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

(I have In Color already.)

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

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

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

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

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

three 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 (nine 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 (nine years ago) Permalink

eight years pass...

OK, here we go. I used to be in the military in 1979, I also played guitar and did drugs back then and I went overseas to the Philippines. My father served in WWII like most people my age so I can
somewhat relate to this song and I heard it quite a lot back then. So while I'm not Rick Neilson (The guitarist for Cheap Trick) I do think I get the meaning of this song and I did a little checking
on a couple of things.

"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"

This was a very common thing that parents would tell their boys (my parents told it to me) "Stay away from loose women or you'll catch the clap". I'm surprised some don't know this, it seemed quite obvious to me.
It was also echoed many times, much stronger, and even with old black & white movie projector films when I was in the military. "Why Does It Hurt When I Pee?" was the name of one of them I think. STDs were quite rampant.

"Just the other day I heard a soldier falling off
Some Indonesian junk that's going round."

That first line is wrong, it is actually "Just the other day I heard of soldiers falling out". To fall out is to fall out of muster. Muster is like roll call when all the soldiers form up in lines and rows and are counted.
This happens on base every morning and when your company is reporting somewhere for duty. To fall out the way the song refers to means these soldiers were missing because they were sick. Why? because "Some Indonesian Junk was going round" Junk was a term used to describe heroin back then. So these soldiers were either high or suffering withdrawal symptoms from heroin. Indonesia was a big producer of cheap heroin back then. When you need a fix of heroin it makes you so physically sick you throw up so either way these guys were in no shape for duty and let me tell you, back then this was a big problem and in 1981 the military started a campaign to crack down on drug abuse. Many in the military were either sentenced to long prison terms and given dishonorable discharges if they were caught trafficking, or for lesser offenses they were given other than honorable discharges and lost all benefits.

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

Here is the chorus. The first line he is telling himself that mommy and daddy are all right because he's never seen therm like this before. They are acting weird and he's not used to seeing them this way. (because they are high)
The second line is 2 parts - Surrender, Surrender, means give into the fact that they are not the perfect examples of parents and although they tell you not to use drugs, they are hypocrites and use them themselves. The second part "but don't give yourself away" means don't let on that you know this and don't let them know that you do drugs yourself because you know that it won't go good for you anyways.

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

Thev WACs were the Womens Army Corp and the military would readily recruit people from the Philippines because they were a big help to the U.S. during WWII. The Philippine government allowed the U.S. to build a major naval base
allowing the U.S. to be within striking range of Japan. In the 70s when I was there in the Philippines there were hookers by the thousands because that was easy money and at the time 1 U.S. dollar was worth 8 pesos. That means our dollars were worth 8 of theirs. So getting a job in the military would mean striking it rich to their families without having to degrade yourself. The 3rd line was originally *"Now I had heard the WACS recruited old maids, dykes and whores." But it was censored and they took out dykes, and whores. Yes back then that was a big no no on the radio. So all you heard was "old maids" which really didn't make much sense because why would some guy want to start a family with an old maid or even a dyke for that matter? That leaves only a whore which again supports the first part of the song where "she also told me stay away you'll never know what you'll catch".

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

The first line was again censored. The original was "Whatever happened to all this season's murderers and queers?". As you can see these lyrics were not LGBT friendly and it was really a good thing these lines were censored or
this entire song would have been pulled and Cheap Trick would have suffered some backlash for sure. Here I think the kid is looking for some kind of distraction from all of the stuff going on at home. Something in the news he can
focus on and point to and say how messed up that is so he doesn't have to face his own parents. The second line is all too familiar. I myself used the phrase "Let's roll some numbers and figure it out" as a way to let my buddies know I had some weed and we could go roll a joint to get stoned while in the presence of strait people so they wouldn't catch on. Rolling numbers is rolling a joint, a number is another word for joint or if you are that out of it, yes a marijuana cigarette. Coincidentally, my generation was far from the first to use this kind of nomenclature. The next part "Rocking and rolling" was from the preceding generation that referred to sex as Rocking and Rolling, HA! Yes that's right, old blues songs that had lines like "rocking all nite long" were not talking about just listening to music. Rocking and Rolling was dubbed from a ship's movement on the ocean, get the picture? Then we come to the part where his parents "got my kiss records out". Now most of you might think "So what"? Well let me tell you something, back then a record collection was quite personal and for your parents to pull out YOUR records and start playing them, well that was sacrilege. To wake up and find your parents stoned and playing your records (which were your symbol of teenage rebellion) it would have just blown your mind. So the chorus "Surrender..." he's basically trying not to freak out. Just give it up already because you can't rebel against these people, you can't do anything to come close to freaking them out. They are just too hardcore.

And that is my take on this song. Hope you enjoyed it and learned something along the way.

Zagan, Monday, 1 August 2016 15:11 (one year ago) Permalink


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