"Ambling Alp" as written by Christopher E Keating, Anand Mathew Wilder and Ira Wolf Tuton....
Now kid I know I haven't been a perfect man
And I've avoided doing things I know I can
But if I've learned one thing to tattoo on my arm
Or burn into my thumb it would be that

You must stick up for yourself son
Never mind what anybody else done
Stick up for yourself son
Never mind what anybody else done

Oh Max Schmeling was a formidable foe
The Ambling Alp was too at least that's what I'm told
But if you learn one thing you've learned it well
In June you must give fascists hell
They'll run but they can't hide

You must stick up for yourself son
Never mind what anybody else done
Stick up for yourself son
Never mind what anybody else done
Stick up for yourself son
Never mind what anybody else done
Stick up for yourself son
Never mind what anybody else done

And when those thunder clouds are cryin'
(In the skies, in the skies)
And when those fireflies keep shining,
(In your eyes, in your eyes)
Keep your mind on the time,
With your ass on the line,
Keep your fleet feet sliding
(Side, to the side)

Now the world can be an unfair place at times
But your lows will have their compliment of highs
And if anyone should cheat you
Take advantage of or beat you raise your head
And wear your wounds with pride

You must stick up for yourself son
Never mind what anybody else done
Stick up for yourself son
Never mind what anybody else done
Stick up for yourself son
Never mind what anybody else done
Stick up for yourself son
Never mind what anybody else done


Lyrics submitted by stickupfoyoselfson

"Ambling Alp" as written by Christopher E Keating, Anand Mathew Wilder, Ira Wolf Tuton

Lyrics © Kobalt Music Publishing Ltd.

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Ambling Alp song meanings
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16 Comments

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  • +3
    General CommentIMO this fantastic song is about sticking up for justice in an unjust world. It is full of metaphor but extends beyond just that. This is inspired poetry.

    First off, these lyrics are not quite right. The line:
    Until you must get past yourself
    should be:
    In June you must give fascists Hell

    Of course the major metaphor here is Joe Louis going up against Max Schmeling and the Ambling Alp. It is true that both times Louis fought Schmelling were in the month of June, and so was Louis's fight against the Ambling Alp.

    However, no one has mentioned what I think is a clear political and symbolic dimension to this metaphor. From absoluteastronomy.com/topics/…:

    Louis' defeat of Carnera, who symbolized Benito Mussolini's regime in the popular eye, was seen as a victory for the international community, particularly among African Americans, who were sympathetic to Ethiopia during its occupation by Italy.

    Similarly, Louis's rivalry with Schmeling had additional dimensions. Schmeling's victory over Louis in their first match was hailed by Nazi propagandists as evidence of the superiority of the Arayan race over blacks and other races. When Louis came back and defeated Schmeling in their second match, it was a crushing blow to the Nazi machine.

    Joe Louis joined the US Army and was assigned to the Special Services Division, where he took part in boxing matches to elevate "espirit des corps". He also participated in a campaign calling African-Americans to enlist in the US armed forces despite racial segregation. Quote, "Lots of things wrong with America, but Hitler ain't going to fix them." Despite being a black man in a time of prolific racism, Louis was a major figure of inspiration for Americans and an esteemed ambassador to the world. Louis became immensely popular when he told the media, "We'll win, because we're on God's side."

    So with this context laid out, let's go another layer deep, like in Inception. I think the metaphor of Louis fighting Schmeling and Carnera (the Ambling Alp) can be extrapolated to a secondary metaphor of the United States fighting Germany and Italy in World War II. In this light, the Ambling Alp represents Mussolini/Italy and Schmeling represents Hitler/Germany (with Louis of course standing in for the US). Also in this light, "In June you must give fascists Hell" could be an allusion to D-Day, 6 June 1944. Further proof is in the fact that Schmeling and Carnera weren't necessarily facists themselves. The Ambling Alp eventually moved to LA and pursued the American dream, opening a restaurant and liquor store. Schmeling, while he may have let himself be exploited by the Nazi regime, did risk his life to save two Jewish children.

    Finally, I see a lot of parallels between these lyrics and themes in "Catch-22" by Joseph Heller, which is an excellent and important book that you should all read. It is also about combating injustice from within a world where injustice is the norm. It's even possible that Ampling Alp was in part inspired by "Catch-22" ("(fireflies) in your eyes, anyone?), but I'm probably reading too far in.

    In any case this is a fantastic song with several levels of poetic depth. Thank you, Yeasayer. And thank you KEXP for introducing me to this and other great music (best radio station in the world people, check it out, kexp.org).

    Stick up for yourself, son. Yossarian lives!
    puhfynon October 07, 2010   Link
  • +2
    General CommentAnd when those thunder clouds are crying
    in the skies, in the skies
    And when those fireflies keep shining
    In your eyes, in your eyes
    Keep your minds on the time
    With the (...) on the line
    Keep your feet slide into the sky, into the sky

    And one more verse in the single version.

    Also, isn't it "Speak up for yourself" after the 2nd verse?
    Slvrsprngon October 30, 2009   Link
  • +2
    Song MeaningHi guys, just thought you should know most of the lyrics on here are incorrect.

    As quoted from: slate.com/blogs/blogs/browbeat/archive/2009/11/05/…

    "Jody Rosen: Jonah, forget Rusted Root. Try Baha Men. One of the things I love about “Ambling Alp”–and there’s lots I love about this clattery art-pop freakout–is the fact that it’s a stealth jock jam. As best I can make out, the second verse goes like this: “Oh, Max Schmeling was a formidable foe/ The Ambling Alp was too, at least that’s what I’m told/ But if you learn one thing, you’ve learned it well/ It’s true, you must give fascists hell.” The user-generated lyrics sites that I checked have a totally mangled version of the words. (“Old Man Schlemming” etc.) Evidently there’s a history-literacy problem in the hipster community. Worse: there’s a boxing-literacy problem. See, the song’s about Joe Louis and two of his famous opponents: Primo Carnera, the pugilist-hero of Mussolini’s regime, and, of course, Hitler’s beloved Schmeling, Louis’ foe in two legendary 1930s bouts. “Ambling Alp” sounds like some “poetic” indie-rock nonsense; it was actually Carnera’s nickname. (The dude was a man-mountain.)"

    I mean, seriously, read up on some history and clean the wax out of your ears before you type up lyrics. Sheesh!
    dizzymisslizzyon November 05, 2009   Link
  • +1
    General CommentI love love love the music in this song, it makes me want to dance XD!
    60_miles_an_houron February 06, 2011   Link
  • 0
    General Commenti know not all of the words are right, but i guessed the best i could when i wasn't sure. if anyone has any ideas please share
    stickupfoyoselfsonon September 17, 2008   Link
  • 0
    General CommentThe next verse is

    Now the world can be an unfair place at times
    But your lows will have their compliment of highs
    And if anyone should cheat you, take advantage of or beat you
    raise your hand and wear your wounds with pride
    vidon October 30, 2009   Link
  • 0
    General CommentAlso, the end of the second verse sounds like:

    In June you must give fascists hell,
    They'll run but they can't hide
    dalmson November 03, 2009   Link
  • 0
    General CommentTo be fair to the late Schmeling, he was not a Nazi, but a prop used by the regime to promote their ideology. Apparently, he did help a few Jews escape from Germany, or something to that extent! He also became friends with Joe Louis later in his life.

    Great song! :)
    EH080on November 28, 2009   Link
  • 0
    General CommentI think it's "keep your fleet feet sliding". I keep distinctly hearing an "L" making it fleet as opposed to feet. anyone agree?
    pinnballwizzarddon December 17, 2009   Link
  • 0
    General CommentThere's a good discussion of the lyrics going on over on the vimeo version of their video.

    vimeo.com/…

    Join in the fun!
    jblson January 21, 2010   Link

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