"Wishful Thinking" as written by and Jeff Tweedy Glenn Kotche....
Fill up your mind with all it can know
Don't forget that your body will let it all go
Fill up your mind with all it can know
What would we be without wishful thinking

Chambers of chains
With red plastic mouths
The inside of outside
No one has found
How to unring the bell
It's just as well

The turntable sizzles
Casting the spells
The pressure devices
Hell in a nutshell
Is any song worth singing
If it doesn't help

Fill up your mind with all it can know
Don't forget that your body can let it all go
Fill up your mind with all it can know
'Cause what would love be without wishful thinking

Open your arms as far as they will go
We take off your dress
An embarrassing poem
Was written when I was alone
In love with you

I shook down those lines
To shine up the streets
I got up off my hands and knees
To thank my lucky stars that you're not me

What would we be without wishful thinking
What would we be without wishful thinking
What would we be without wishful thinking


Lyrics submitted by eastcidskl

"Wishful thinking" as written by Jeffrey Scot Tweedy Glenn Kotche

Lyrics © BMG RIGHTS MANAGEMENT US, LLC

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Wishful Thinking song meanings
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27 Comments

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  • +3
    General Commentto me it means: wilco is forever awsome
    bjmjron May 16, 2004   Link
  • +1
    General CommentFill up your mind with all it can know
    Don't forget that your body will let it all go
    Fill up your mind with all it can know
    What would we be without wishful thinking

    I get the feeling that verse means that you should wish all you want. Fill up your mind with wishes, because for most of us, we won't do anything about those wishes anyway. We just let those thoughts go.

    Chambers of chains
    With red plastic mouths
    The inside of outside
    No one has found
    How to unring the bell
    It's just as well

    How to unring the bell we just rung? When we say something kinky, oops. When we say something stupid, oops! Maybe we shouldn't have said that. How embarassing. It's out there - you can't take it back. Oh Jeff you kinky dude!

    I think the rest of you got those other verses.
    fina79on July 08, 2008   Link
  • +1
    My InterpretationIn the verses we see imagery from low points in life - regret ("How to unring the bell/it's just as well"), pain ("Hell in a nutshell"), hopelessness ("Is any song worth singing/if it doesn't help"), embarrassment ("an embarrassing poem/was written when I was alone/in love with you"). The line "Fill up your mind with all it can know/Don't forget that your body will let it all go" is a dismal one. We spend our lives learning, experiencing, feeling, studying, memorizing, etc. until death, when it all nearly becomes useless. And yet!... after all this melancholy recollections and revelations, Tweedy poses the question "What would we/love be without wishful thinking?"

    I think in the end, Tweedy has seen all the bad in our world/his life and has come to question life and existence. He knows that if humanity viewed life in this very, very dark light, well... we probably wouldn't be here. Wishful thinking keeps humanity going. Ignoring and avoiding the bad and hoping for better days has kept our morales up and our lives worth living. We keep experiencing, learning, memorizing, etc. because wishful thinking encourages us to.

    And at the end of the song, Tweedy finds his own wishful thinking - "I got up off my hands and knees/to thank my lucky stars that you're not me." He is thankful that a special someone/humanity does not see life and question our existence in the way he does, and that wishful thinking has blinded them/us from this revelation. He finds a little bit of positivity (read: wishful thinking) among the bad - which is that wishful thinking exits.
    Ironic.
    Brilliant.
    Roxy24on August 22, 2014   Link
  • 0
    General Commentthis song is truly immensely beautiful to me. just recently i found how truly inneed of a mother (who loves me) i was. and i found someone i love dearly.. and this song reminds me of her in everyway (except for the wanting to take off her dress) and it's funny...because my art teacher was the one who took this wilco cd with this song as the first one on it, from HER to play in our class...

    what would love be without wishful thinking? i love her dearly. and wishful thinking...i wish i could tell her how much i love her. and i thank my lucky stars that she's not me
    emreeon September 27, 2004   Link
  • 0
    General CommentIt utterly shocks me that there are not more comments about this song. I feel that it's one of their strongest songs. It speaks the truth. In my life right now I realize that I completely rely on wishful thinking to get me through. Especially about the person I love. It's a very honest song. I feel it..
    jazzy09on December 17, 2004   Link
  • 0
    General CommentWell, there aren't more comments because the song is devastatingly honest. And this is the most devastating song of 2004, without a doubt.

    I'd prefer to interpret this song as originally inferred in the lyrics. For one, we could all relate to wondering about actualities and the possibilities of today and tomorrow.

    What would love be without 'Wishful Thinking'?
    auguruson January 15, 2005   Link
  • 0
    General CommentOne of their best songs, IMO.
    Passengeron February 25, 2005   Link
  • 0
    General CommentI think I understand a little of this song, but I have some questions.

    "Fill up your mind with all it can know
    Don't forget that your body will let it all go
    Fill up your mind with all it can know
    What would we be without wishful thinking"

    This part is about dreaming/wishful thinking about this person. He fills up his mind with ideas of how they could be together, situations if you will. It could be something as simple as sitting at a picnic or having sex. He doesn't specify.

    The he says

    "Chambers of chains
    With red plastic mouths
    The inside of outside
    No one has found
    How to unring the bell
    It's just as well"

    This must be something to do with how he cannot follow through on what he wishfully thinking about. I wish someone would explain the exact meaning of these lyrics so I can understand this part.

    Then,

    "The turntable sizzles
    Casting the spells
    The pressure devices
    Hell in a nutshell
    Is any song worth singing
    If it doesn't help"

    This is about how he wants to get rid of his troubled head's thoughts. So he plays music on "pressure devices" (guitar, piano) but it only makes it worse as his line "hell in a nutshell". He only thinks about it more now. He says no song is worth singing because he is unreasonably miserable about the whole thing.

    "Open your arms as far as they will go
    We take off your dress
    An embarrassing poem
    Was written when I was alone
    In love with you"

    This I have actually done. So it hits home pretty hard. Writing poems when lonely is one of my releases. However, I am not quite so sure this is literally a poem. He might still be thinking. He might be daydreaming of undressing her, literally or figuratively (getting to know her).

    "I shook down those lines
    To shine up the streets
    I got up off my hands and knees
    To thank my lucky stars that you're not me"

    I think he is re-reading his poem, or recounting his head memory. He finally thanks the stars that the person he is dreaming of doesn't have to deal with what he has to deal with. He knows the world would be nothing without wishful thinking because it is what drives everything we do. Even if it is as small as talking to someone in real life or as meaningful as being with someone in a day dream they don't know about.

    I don't claim to know if this is all right, I just thought I would put in my two cents. Feel free to correct me if you think I am mistaken.
    falling_piecelesson December 26, 2005   Link
  • 0
    General Commentwow. truly awesome song, one of my favorite songs ever, the best on the album i think. Wilco is awesome! Truth is hard to say and Wilco does it beautifully
    Sandman3987on December 29, 2005   Link
  • 0
    General Commentfalling pieceless, just some thoughts on what this passage means:
    "Chambers of chains
    With red plastic mouths
    The inside of outside
    No one has found
    How to unring the bell
    It's just as well"

    The first part I think is the description of a crowded place where the narrator has met someone he really likes (rang his bell). There is nothing he can do about it for whatever reason but he can't get over it. He then resigns himself to the fact that his desire to be with this person will go unfulfilled and tries to convince himself it's better that way.
    Grendelbombon January 05, 2006   Link

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