"The Bells Are Ringing" as written by John Linnell and John Flansburgh....
The bells are ringing
The song they're singing
The sound is bringing the people 'round
They hear the instructions
They follow directions
They travel great distances to the sound

The bells are ringing
The song they're singing
The sound is bringing the people 'round
(the bells are ringing the song they're singing the sound is)
They hear the instructions (bringing the people 'round)
They follow directions
They travel great distances to the sound (they travel great distances to the sound)

They are persuaded by the music of the bells
They're not responsible for anything they do
(No) The people know
(No) The way to go
The bells are ringing, they hear the sound

They hear the sound (they hear the sound)
They hear the sound (they hear the sound)
They hear the sound (they hear the sound)
They hear the sound

The bells are ringing
And everyone's walking
With arms extended in a trance
Forgetting their washing
Neglecting the children
They're dropping all businesses at hand

A voice is telling them to act a different way
They tilt their heads so they won't miss what it will say
(No) And when it's so
(No) There's this to know
The bells are ringing, they hear the sound

The bells are ringing
The song they're singing
The sound is bringing the people 'round
They hear the instructions
They follow directions
They travel great distances to the sound

They are persuaded by the music of the bells
They're not responsible for anything they do
(No) The people know
(No) The way to go
The bells are ringing, they hear the sound

A girl with cotton in her ears
Is shielded from the bells' effect
As if by hidden signal
The people turn to face her
One thousand eyes are staring
They pull away her earplugs

The bells are pealing
And they're revealing
The simple key to happiness
It isn't evil
It isn't good
It's only what the people miss

The bells explain what they've been lacking all along
They were disorganized and that was what was wrong
(No) And now they know
(No) The way to go
The bells are ringing, they hear the sound

The bells are ringing
The song they're singing
The sound is bringing the people 'round
(the bells are ringing the song they're singing the sound is)
They hear the instructions (bringing the people 'round)

They follow directions
They travel great distances to the sound
(the bells are ringing the song they're singing the sound is)
The bells are ringing (bringing the people 'round)

The song they're singing
The sound is bringing the people 'round
(the bells are ringing the song they're singing the sound is)
They hear the instructions (bringing the people 'round)

They follow directions
They travel great distances to the sound
(the bells are ringing the song they're singing the sound is)
The bells are ringing (bringing the people 'round)

The song they're singing
The sound is bringing the people 'round
(the bells are ringing the song they're singing the sound is)
They hear the instructions (bringing the people 'round)

They follow directions
They travel great distances to the sound (they travel great distances to the sound)


Lyrics submitted by Spacecow

"The Bells Are Ringing" as written by John Linnell John Flansburgh

Lyrics © Warner/Chappell Music, Inc.

Lyrics powered by LyricFind

The Bells Are Ringing song meanings
Add your thoughts

9 Comments

sort form View by:
  • +2
    General CommentI think you all have a great interpretation of the song...Im sayin that its all of these things. Nothing specific, just an exaggeration of the toxic and strong poison that is "groupthink" as well as the dangers of complete trust in the government (esp in despotism). These ppl are brainwashed, to the point that the one individual who wishes to keep out of it is robbed of her intellectual freedom by the masses/the gov't/the society's pressure.
    DamnGoodTimeson September 14, 2008   Link
  • +1
    General CommentA brilliant bit of sci-fi in the tradition of "Invasion of the Body Snatchers". The drones try to explain to the last few hold-outs that their way (mindless, hypnotic conformity) is best, but it matters little whether they are convinced, because the bells will take over in the end.

    "Invasion of the Body Snatchers" was really about the Red Scare (communism or McCarthy-ism... take your pick), but "The Bells Are Ringing" seems like it could be about pop music, and the conformity found among fans of any given genre. Britney Spears is compelling you to drink Pepsi. They Might Be Giants are turning you into a cynical, campy, indie-rock geek. The very song warning you of this phenomenon could also be part of it. Spooky.
    DavidGrimmeron July 27, 2002   Link
  • +1
    General CommentIf it is about Nazism, it the cheeriest song about Nazism I've ever heard.
    Smokleron September 12, 2006   Link
  • +1
    General CommentPersonally I think it's about religion as a narcotic.
    Smokleron September 12, 2006   Link
  • +1
    General CommentI agree more or less with Smokler, Its about religion. But I think "narcotic" is the wrong word.
    You notice how most people mistake this for a x-mas song, but its actually about mind controll? I LOVE that.
    It was even used on malcom in the middle as a x-mas song. awsome.

    the movie "a clockwork orange" goes well with this.
    carseron April 08, 2007   Link
  • +1
    General Commentmy interpretation in six words:

    zombies.
    KSOfmon December 07, 2010   Link
  • 0
    General CommentThis song is so obviously about the Nazi rise to power and how ordinary Germans were brainwashed by Nazi propaganda. I think it is one in a series of TMBG songs about World War Two.
    Tuckeron November 19, 2004   Link
  • 0
    General Comment....
    Tucker....
    Where do you see nazi-ism in this?
    Disorganized = not killing jews?
    Who's the girl with cotton in her ears, Anne Frank?

    Yes, I realize you are entitled to your opinion, but I also wholeheartedly agree with Smokler.

    Random fact: Soviet (WWII) communism overruled genocide. They didn't kill people of a particular race, creed, or religion. They killed everyone.
    Malkavianon September 29, 2006   Link
  • 0
    General CommentMalkavian, I see no reason why the song wouldn't be about Nazi Germany. The Holocaust wasn't the only element of Nazi rule, or even the most important, especially in the party's initial rise to power. Actually, their big obsession was organization and discipline, and the line "They were disorganized and that was what was wrong" perfectly describes the Nazi attitude towards past German rule. "The girl with cotton in her ears" could be anyone who dissented - Sophie Scholl of the infamous White Rose, for example.

    That said, I don't think the song is specifically about Nazi Germany. It's vague enough to fit anything from a fascist dictatorship to religion to trend-worshiping. For me, the Christmas-y tone predisposes it towards being about consumerism, specifically advertisements. Everyone being told to buy, buy, buy and obeying without question.

    Although to be perfectly honest, I remember listening to this song the Christmas after 9/11 and thinking, "This is eerily appropriate."
    Archaia Sophiaon November 12, 2007   Link

Add your thoughts

Log in now to tell us what you think this song means.

Don’t have an account? Create an account with SongMeanings to post comments, submit lyrics, and more. It’s super easy, we promise!

Back to top
explain