"What Goes On" as written by and Lou Reed....
What goes on in your mind?
I think that I am falling down
What goes on in your mind?
I think that I am upside down
Baby, be good, do what you should
You know it will work alright
Baby, be good, do what you should
You know it will be alright

I'm going up, and I'm going down
I'm going to fly from side to side
See the bells up in the sky
Somebody's cut their string in two
Baby, be good, do what you should
You know it will work alright
Baby, be good, do what you should
You know it will be alright

One minute born, one minute doomed
One minute up and one minute down
What goes on in your mind?
I think that I am falling down
Baby, be good, do what you should
You know it will work alright
Baby, be good, do what you should
You know it will be alright


Lyrics submitted by capitol76, edited by zhizhumao

"What Goes On" as written by Lou Reed

Lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC

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What Goes On song meanings
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  • +1
    General CommentIt was perfect in Control
    othatzsokewlon June 22, 2010   Link
  • +1
    General Commentknowing VU this probably is about LSD or a gal that dumped Lou but I like to imagine it's about the listener. cause everyone's gone through something that's caused them to suffer, long-term I mean. most people suffer depression at one point in their life. so I just kind of imagine it to be Lou (and the guys + Maureen) trying to make us laugh but at the same time not treating it frivolously: "what goes onnnnn in your mind?" - like, what's happening!

    i used to be an avid VU listener but i recently went through (and am still going through) a phase in which i just don't have the patience for rock and proto-punk and all that; i've turned almost completely towards instrumental and folk. but today, I randomly had a craving for this! i was beginning to really dislike VU actually because of its morbidity in the first album and then its immaturity in their second (also present in 'heroin' on the first album though)- and these are the ones, like most other fans, that i adored most when i was in love with VU. they're the ones i bought... but now, if i were ever to go back to VU (and it's still possible) i would definitely choose their self-titled because I think they finally grew up ('jesus' is a perfect example! how simple and beautiful!) in it. it's also less cliched. some people would probably gawk at me for calling them cliched though for their first two albums though, lol. i think they're known for being ahead of their time for those. i guess they kind of were...
    othatzsokewlon March 05, 2011   Link
  • +1
    General Commentsounds a lot like "lady" instead of baby
    othatzsokewlon August 15, 2012   Link
  • +1
    Song Meaning[It is indeed “lady”–and more crucially, it’s “see the BELLS up in the sky,” not “bills”!–hopefully the curators of this great site will fix this!]
    As to the song’s theme, I frankly see nothing here about getting dumped, or about drugs. (Either might of course have been involved, but neither finds any clear reflection in the text itself. )
    This, it seems to me, is quite simply a song about loving someone who is going through turmoil, who is beset by their own inner “demons” and knows it, but is at the same time unwilling to just open up and reveal “what goes on” inside of them. The authorial persona (the “I” narrating the song) is not only distressed over this, but is in fact on an emotional roller coaster (“one minute up, one minute down…), excitedly agitated (“…fly from side to side…”), probably even vacillating between ecstasy and depression (“see the bells up in the sky / somebody’s cut the string in two…”). They passionately wish to know the beloved’s mind, to know more intimately what the trouble is. They want to offer support, consolation, solidarity in any way possible but, finding they are shut out, the best they can do is to continue to suffer all these emotions in silence, while trying to offer some kind of consolation in the vaguest of generalities–after all, that is really all they have to work with (“lady, be good, do what you should, you know it will work alright…).
    Note that this hope (even confidence?) that some kind of divine grace may intervene, in the midst of one’s apparently hopeless struggles to “find [one’s] proper place” and “do what [one] should” is the central theme of “Jesus” (on the same early VU album). That song is explicitly formulated as a prayer. The “lady be good…” consolation offered in “What Goes On” may be imagined as something actually said to the beloved, but it might also be understood as a prayer on her/his behalf. Having little way of knowing what internal “demons” are involved, the authorial persona (on this reading) simply “gives it over” to divine grace, hoping and praying for the best. (Ordinarily, I would hesitate to freight this song with such interpretive baggage. But sorrow over sin and separation and a fervent desire for redemption are indeed themes that recur throughout Lou Reed’s work….)
    zhizhumaoon February 23, 2013   Link
  • 0
    General CommentI fucking love this song! The lyrics are great and the organs in the song are beautiful. My absolute favorite Velvet Underground song.
    spazticfreakon June 03, 2004   Link
  • 0
    General Commentthis narrator's girlfreind (or wife) just dumped him. he's cluelessly wondering why she just doesn't simply quit all this nonsense and just do what she should, then everything will "work alright." we've all been in his situation- i know i have! but everybody listening to the song knows, better than the narrator, that she isn't EVER coming back. irony. great song to deceive yourself with your being dumped - not to mention outstanding rhythm guitar work by the late great sterling morisson. i've always liked his playing amd this song is the best example of his excellence.
    moikon September 23, 2005   Link
  • 0
    General Commentthis narrator's girlfreind (or wife) just dumped him. he's cluelessly wondering why she just doesn't simply quit all this nonsense and just do what she should, then everything will "work alright." we've all been in his situation- i know i have! but everybody listening to the song knows, better than the narrator, that she isn't EVER coming back. irony. great song to deceive yourself with your being dumped - not to mention outstanding rhythm guitar work by the late great sterling morisson. i've always liked his playing amd this song is the best example of his excellence.
    moikon September 23, 2005   Link
  • 0
    General Commentfucking awsum song just had to say. dont think its about a breckup sounds more drug related after all it is the VU
    roomonfire07on March 15, 2007   Link
  • 0
    General CommentI agree with roomonfire07. This song seems like it's about drugs(mostly LSD). It was written around 1968-1969 which was the peak of psychedelic drug experimentation. Plus this song is very mentally stimulating when in a psychedelic state of mind :-) . Just my $0.02.
    riot4201on March 17, 2007   Link
  • 0
    General Commentits about what goes on ............
    jesuspriceon June 29, 2011   Link

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