"Not a Robot, But a Ghost" as written by and Andrew Wegman Bird Martin Dosh....
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Not a Robot, But a Ghost song meanings
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  • +2
    General CommentJust a starting point, this was initially a song by Martin Dosh. It appears on his album Wolves and Wishes as "First Impossible." (Same kind of deal with Simple X on Armchair Apocrypha)

    As for the meaning of this song, I had no clue until I read the (amazing) article about Andrew Bird in The New York Times Magazine. It says that this song is a break-up song. Andrew had recently broken up with a significant other when he wrote it. I suppose we can assume the "war" is the mess that was the end of the relationship. The rest of the lines fall into place fairly easily given the break-up context.

    The article also mentions the source of the title: After the relationship was over, Andrew was unhappy and in a "robot" like state. However, when he heard a beautiful song, he no longer felt like a robot, but a ghost. The article doesn't mention Dosh's infuence on the song, but it fits perfectly - Andrew was in a "robot-like" state, and heard Dosh's song "First Impossible" and it eradicated him of that feeling, leaving him to feel like a ghost.

    patm718on January 04, 2009   Link
  • +2
    General Comment"I hear the clockwork in your core
    time strips the gears till you forget what they were for"

    In the context of this being a break up song, the above lines kind of feel like a
    reference to a biological imperative to reproduce. Maybe Bird wanted kids and his partner didn't, or vice versa. Clockwork in your core = biological clock...

    just a thought
    allmymutedmorningson February 16, 2009   Link
  • +2
    General CommentI find it hard to believe this song isn't at least partly an allusion to Alan Turing who cracked German codes in WWII to end the war. He was later convicted by the British govt. for being a homosexual and then killed himself with a poisoned apple. (Sleeping Beauty was apparently his favorite fairy tale.)

    aminuson July 27, 2009   Link
  • +2
    My InterpretationThis is one of those songs who meaning shan't be extrapolated via line-by-line analysis, but by the overall landscape being sculpted. To me, this song paints the picture of a complex machine which computes information. This machine is personified as the robot, a person who lives mechanically by 1's and 0's, never showing behavior that extends beyond its simple programming (the mental-emotional loops established from growing up).

    The ghost is the antithesis to this, it is the speaker of a song who has cracked the code, who has eradicated your previous logical format for existence, thus ended the war of internal suffering, and melted the such a restricted way of looking at things.
    bistro7on September 11, 2012   Link
  • +1
    General Comment“Not a Robot, But a Ghost,” on “Noble Beast.” It’s a breakup song, anchored in the disconnected feeling Bird experienced after the end of his most recent relationship — or more specifically, how he felt when he heard a powerful piece of music while in the throes of that post-breakup funk: having been moved by the music, he no longer felt like a robot, but he still felt like a ghost." NYT Mag 1/4/09.

    Just to elborate on the above note. Thanks for the mention of the article.
    :(

    Ah-- that fugue state that exists when you are so tired and broken by a breakup, and how music can help you connect the dots back to some newer, different version of yourself. Not to ever be the same specifically, you have to create some newer form of self from the experience. For me, the song was the Bends by Radiohead. I have to say, the whole article just made my heart break for him.
    Bug2on January 04, 2009   Link
  • +1
    General CommentAS PER THE LYRICS BOOKLET:
    it is "how's my LIVING, you can call"

    and when he sings all high-pitched, he's singing "the hour"
    peopledontdanceon January 15, 2009   Link
  • +1
    General CommentRight. As far as the "encrypted numbers on bathroom stalls," I suppose that would be people leaving comments on his life, just like in the Measure for Measure blog.
    patm718on January 16, 2009   Link
  • +1
    General CommentI think school must have ruined my brain, because when I hear this song, I only think about computers during WWII. The Colossus was a code breaker used by the British to defeat Germany's Enigma...it fits in my head, at least :)
    freddy2fanon January 25, 2009   Link
  • 0
    General Commenttoo good
    shane5421on December 19, 2008   Link
  • 0
    General CommentAnybody got a clue as to the actual line preceding "you can call / encrypted numbers / on bathroom stalls"? All I could hear was "How's my view and" and I'm almost certain that's not what's he saying.
    thriggleon January 15, 2009   Link

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