"Two-Headed Boy Pt. 2" as written by and Jeff Mangum....
Daddy please hear this song that I sing
In your heart there's a spark that just screams
For a lover to bring a child to your chest that could lay as you sleep
And love all you have left like your boy used to be
Long ago wrapped in sheets warm and wet

Blister please with those wings in your spine
Love to be with a brother of mine
How he'd love to find your tongue in his teeth
In a struggle to find secret songs that you keep wrapped in boxes so tight
Sounding only at night as you sleep

And in my dreams you're alive and you're crying,
As your mouth moves in mine, soft and sweet,
Rings of flowers 'round your eyes
And Ill love you for the rest of your life when you're ready

Brother see we are one in the same
And you left with your head filled with flames
And you watched as your brains fell out through your teeth
Push the pieces in place
Make your smile sweet to see
Don't you take this away
I'm still wanting my face on your cheek

And when we break we'll wait for our miracle
God is a place where some holy spectacle lies
When we break we'll wait for our miracle
God is a place you will wait for the rest of your life

Two headed boy she is all you could need
She will feed you tomatoes and radio wires
And retire to sheets safe and clean
But don't hate her when she gets up to leave


Lyrics submitted by PLANES, edited by Mellow_Harsher, coopigat

"Two-Headed Boy, Pt. 2" as written by Jeff Mangum

Lyrics © Universal Music Publishing Group

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Two-Headed Boy Pt. 2 song meanings
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  • +12
    General CommentFirst, a disclaimer: I cannot say with authority that I have any idea what this song is really about. All I know with certainty is that on the "Live at Jittery Joe's" album, Jeff Mangum introduces this song by explaining that it's about a family in Europe in the 1940s that he obsesses over, particularly one individual in the family who he frequently dreams about. He doesn't say anything else about the family or which individual he dreams about, but we can probably assume that he's talking about the same girl that most of the other songs on The Aeroplane Over the Sea album are about. There are also some minor lyrical changes in the original version of this song, such as "sister" instead of "blister" and a reference to the year being 1945, but nothing too major.

    Anyway, I must say that I don't agree with blurppi's comments at all. That's not to say that he's wrong (remember my disclaimer... I have no idea what the song's really about... I think only Jeff Mangum really knows what the song is about and I agree with subverted0's comments that NMH's songs mean whatever the listener wants them to mean...), but I can't see many of the connections that he's listed in his explication. Like, how does "tongue in his teeth" refer to a boy wishing that he could fight with his father? And what does being fed tomatoes have to do with being raised by a mother? I think the line "The title implies that there are two boys raised the same way and very alike are treating the same situation differently, giving them one body but two heads, metaphorically" would be wonderful, but I don't see how he's really made any clear points that justify this explanation.

    Also, I don't think this song is about incest.

    Here's what I think it's about (take this with a grain of salt, mind you):

    The "Daddy" in the first stanza isn't a literal daddy. Instead, it is God. The "boy ... long ago wrapped in sheets warm and wet" is Jesus, who "loved all [God has] left" The speaker, a girl, pleads with God to bring another individual to earth who will be nearly as wonderful a person as Jesus was. This new person won't be a second coming of Jesus or a messiah or even a completely perfect person, but in the eyes of the speaker, this person will be "perfect."

    Throughout the rest of the song, I think the speaker changes at random (because of NMH's tendency towards surrealism and stream-of-consciousness). The second stanza is spoken by an objective outsider, completely different from the speaker in the first stanza. This outsider explains how the original speaker will yearn to make love to this perfect individual, who is like a "brother," but not literally. That explains the "tongue in his teeth" line... they're making out, basically. And, as usually happens when one gives herself sexually to another, the other person learns (or at least tries to learn) of the "secret songs that [the original speaker keeps] wrapped in boxes so tight, sounding only at night as [the original speaker sleeps]." The girl gives herself both sexually and emotionally to the lover.

    But then, after having met this person, he is taken away from her. The next three stanzas are from the perspective of the original speaker, who (in the third stanza) still dreams about the boy that was taken away from her.

    The fourth stanza explains how he left. He died, presumably in the war (or possibly as part of the Holocaust?). If he died in the war, we can assume that it was WWII, because of the references on the album and by Mangum to the year 1945. I'm pretty sure he was shot in the head, which would explain "you left with your head full of flames" (I imagine getting shot in the head would burn tremendously... which would be equivalent to having your head on fire) and "you watched as your brains fell out through your teeth, push the pieces in place" (imagine the bullet would being severe that blood and perhaps brain matter are just spilling out of the head). But even though he dies violently, he tries to die with a smile, perhaps because, like Jesus, he is so perfect that, even during an horrific death, he tries to see the beauty in the world. And she still longs to be physically close to him... to have her face on his cheek, even though his cheek may not necessarily exist anymore ("don't you take this away" ... don't take away the memories...).

    The fifth stanza is just a general statement about death and God. It may be spoken by the girl, or it may be spoken by the objective outsider. Basically, death is the equivalent of breaking (like how the boy was broken into pieces that needed to be pushed back into place), God and Heaven are one entity, and death isn't exactly death since we wait in God (read: Heaven) for "the rest of our lives." Life and death, therefore, are all part of one "life," just on different levels.

    Now, the last stanza definitely returns to the voice of the objective outsider. I don't think the other stanzas really have anything to do with the "two-headed boy" or with the events in the first "Two-Headed Boy" song. I think of it like this: maybe the outsider is narrating the story of the girl and her lover to the two-headed boy, and the point that the narrator is trying to get across to the two-headed boy is "You'll find people who you think will be perfect for you, and you will love them immensely, but eventually they will leave, either because of death or because of other reasons, but even after the person has left, you should remember the good memories and not dwell on the bad ones (like memories of a violent death or an aggressive break-up)."

    So that's my interpretation. It's not a perfect one, I know. There are some things I still don't fully understand. I'm not quite sure who or what the two-headed boy is exactly, yet. But, in any case, that's what the song has always meant to me.

    I absolutely love this song. It's the one song that consistently evokes a very emotional response from me. It's probably my favorite song of all time, even if I don't fully understand it.

    Anyone who would like to elaborate on or challenge my thoughts, feel free to do so... I encourage it.
    LuckyMonkeyon May 01, 2004   Link
  • +8
    General CommentAs someone mentioned before, mangum introduces this song as being about a family who lived in the 1940's in europe, and he has dreams about one particular member. This family is obviously the franks. After reading anne franks diary I always see this song as being written from the point of view of Peter Wessel, a former lover of anne's before they went into hiding. The two-headed boy I believe is Peter Wessel, and Peter van Dann. "Peter Wessel and Petter Van Dann have grown into one Peter, who is beloved and good, and for whom I long desperately" - Anne Frank.

    Since Anne regarded Peter Van Dann as a brother at times, and peter V D And Peter W are the same person, Then I believe the first verse is Peter W talking about Anne's Father. (The only one of the family to survive, and was left with nothing).

    The second verse orginally starting with "sister please" (see two-headed boy pt.2 [live at jittery joes]) I believe is peter w singing to Anne. He is speaking on behalf of his two headed companion (peter V D). Explaining That Peter V D did love Anne, although she was sometimes confused about it "how he'd love to find your tounge in his teeth, In a strugle to find secret songs, that you keep wrapped in Boxes so tight sounding only at night as you sleep" Basicly Anne in her diary explains that her inner self is only reveled when she is alone or in her dreams ("sounding only at night as you sleep"), so this is just peter W explaining to anne that peter V D did want to unlock her inner character so he could really love her. (Anne explains in her diary that for peter V D to show any signs of love to her, he must of senced what anne calls her "good side" because nobody could of loved her other side).

    The Third verse I believe is Peter W singing to Anne as well. When Anne and Peter W were lovers Anne admits in her diary that she was childish, and after they spent a summer in love Anne explains how peter W had changed, in my view he had grown up and begun to hate Anne's Childish side. Maybe after hearing anne's story he's grown to love her again, this is why this particular verse is the saddest in my eyes. "... and I'll love you for the rest of you're life" abviously Anne is already dead so this is particlary sad. It's almost like a desperate promise, a sudden realisation of love, but it's all far too late.

    The fourth verse is interesting. I believe it is Peter W singing to Peter V D "Brother see we are one and the same" this perfectly mirrors a quote from Anne Frank; "Peter Wessel and Peter Van Dann you are one, and the same!". The rest of this verse however is about a friend of jeff mangums, who's brother commited suicied. Like on Holland, 1945. He sings about this person after singing about the franks. However the rest of this verse would also perfectly describe Peter V D demise. according to Anne Franks diary "When the SS abandoned Auschwitz, in Febuary 1945, to escape the advancing russians, they took Peter Vann Dann with them on the winter march to the west; he was never heard from again". these were known as the death marches, and people were forced to march constantly with little supplies, once people became week they were shot, this is likely what happened to peter V D. "And you left with your head filled with flames And you watched as your brains Fell out through your teeth" this explains the sadistic nature of the killing. Again the last part of this verse is desperate because there is no way the two peters could ever meet or get to know each other.

    This desperation and hoplessness is stopped by the 5th verse. here Peter W suggest that he (in the form of the two-headed boy) will be reunited with Anne in the afterlife, and death will not get in the way of there love. "and when we break, we'll wait for our miricle God is a place where some holy spectacle lies And when we break, we'll wait for our miracle God is a place you will wait for the rest of your life". The two-headed boy still has a bond because Peter W is still alive and Peter V D is in his thoughts, but when he dies the physical bond will break; "and when we break". However they will become the same again as they will both be in the afterlife (this is the "miricle" that is mentioned), and Anne will be reuinted with both parts of her love. Her love that satisfies her childish side with Peter W, and the love she felt with Peter V D when she was growing more mature and reveling her inner self. This I believe is the "holy spectacle", and the only thing that will make Anne Whole, as she died a very confused character.(remember I believe this is Peter W thoughts shortly after the events of 1945)

    The last Verse I believe is Mangum telling the two-headed boy that although Anne was confused "she is all you could need", and the two loves felt between Peter W, and peter V D were both very genuine. The last line really sticks in my mind. "Don't hate her when she gets up to leave" Mangum has stated that he is confused about relgion (when he sings the king of carrot flowers part two live at jittery Joes, for example), so if it all just ends after death, and the two-headed boy is not reunited with Anne, Mangum is telling the two Peters not to hate Anne for this. the word "when" in this last line, makes me think that deep down he believes everything does end, and it gives this remarkable album a terribly sad ending.

    I love the way The last two verses contradict each other, summs up mangums confusion about religion, as well as how confused Anne is about life at the time of her death ("can't believe how strange it is to be anything at all")

    P.S. This song is very confusing, but this is what I imagine when I listen to it. I'm probably way off.
    Peanuts27on August 17, 2011   Link
  • +7
    General Commentone of the most beautiful songs ever written. sigh.
    gleebson December 05, 2001   Link
  • +4
    General CommentThis isn't a song to analyze... it's one to let wash over you
    jadyon August 03, 2008   Link
  • +2
    General CommentI honestly don't have a coherent explanation for this song, but I have to say I think this is the saddest song I've ever heard. Just the way he sings it, with so much emotion...it kills me every time, even if I can't entirely understand it.
    IsoldeGSon May 17, 2013   Link
  • +1
    General Commentsong MEANINGS... well... firstly, i don't know what i'm talking about. magnum is very poetic, and very figurative, and i think that songs mean what they mean to the listener. most of the lines i feel are just stream-of-conciousness rants, but the comparison to God being a place, rather than a spiritual being, is signficant. very beautifully put. the last lines of a two headed boy (although it does refer to part 1) could be speaking of a person who has contradictory feelings about a lover. "she is all you could need." tomatos and radio wires... tomatos could mean healthy, good parts of a relationship, whereas radio wires (i would imagine they don't have a good taste) could be the negative aspects, or they could just be figurative for more healthy aspects. "but don't hate her when she gets up to leave" may be a message to not forget everything this person has done for you, regardless of how things end. love never dies.
    subverted0on May 27, 2002   Link
  • +1
    General CommentI have to agree with TwoHeadedBoy. The lyrics between 2:00 and 2:30 are simply amazing.

    In my dreams you're alive and you're crying, as your mouth moves in mine soft and sweet, rings of flowers around your eyes and I'll love you for the rest of your life...

    Neutral Milk Hotel is awesome and I think that more people should listen to them.
    Hammer Timeon June 13, 2003   Link
  • +1
    General CommentI've always thought of this song as a story about a family that lost the father figure. All that is left are two young boys and a mother. The boys handle it in different ways [One becoming emotionally detached and angry at his late father, the other sentimental and unable to cope with both the loss of his dad, and now the abstract loss of his brother]. The song is in the view of the sentimental boy.

    My favorite line is 'How he'd love to find your tongue in his teeth', referring to the fact that the angrier child wants the arguments with his father that other boys his age spend so much time complaining about.

    The wings line [Blister please with those wings in your spine] refers to the fact that the boy wants his dad to feel the pain in Heaven that the boy is feeling still trapped in this tragedy. I think spines are just a pretty poetic thing, the central part of every person, connecting the body to the brain, and that's why NMH concentrates on 'em so much.

    And the last part is talking about the boys' mom. It states that she'll take care of them, bringing them up to be both loved and strong men ["She will feed you tomatoes and radio wires" referring to both a motherly and fatherly upbringing.] The part that hit me the strongest was 'But don't hate her when she gets up to leave' which is referring to when she dies, the boys shouldn't react the same way as they did to their father's death [With a hatred of sorts] but rather accepting and caring.

    The title implies that there are two boys raised the same way and very alike are treating the same situation differently, giving them one body but two heads, metaphorically.

    Wow, that was a long post.
    blurppion June 14, 2003   Link
  • +1
    General Commentblurppi, thank you for your comments, I completely agree, this song is not about incest rather a story from two sides, one of anger and another of extreme loss.

    "In a struggle to find secret songs that you keep wrapped in boxes so tight
    Sounding only at night as you sleep "

    maybe the best few lines ever written, everyone has these secrets that sound at night, people rarely allow others into their real world, their real thoughts, their dreams....I just love how he explains that

    i think it reminds us never to think you know how other people feel, never take anything for granted, I think we all have a lot to discover bout each other, even those that we think we have figured out. I think that this song is bout trying to understand where this pain comes from, and in some ways how to cope with the loss.
    archit84on April 27, 2004   Link
  • +1
    General Commentwithout commenting on the literal aspect of the story of this song, i think the message behind is about gods existence (liek the rest of the album)

    i think the two headed boy is an agnostic: two ideas in the one person, fighting against each other.
    Brother see we are one in the same
    And you left with your head filled with flames

    Two headed boy she is all you could need
    She will feed you tomatoes and radio wires
    And retire to sheets safe and clean
    But don't hate her when she gets up to leave

    she here is god, a matriarchal mother figure whose connection to us is closer than the formalized patrichal religions that just turn agnostics off religion completely
    i feel like jeff mangums trying to persuade us, to tell us that god can just be this mother child connection
    and also that we shouldnt reject the idea of god just because goodness isnt always there: 'dont hate her when she gets up to leave'

    i dont know if this is what jeff magnum thought when he write thos, but i wouldnt say its wrong, becuase the beauty of NMH lyrics is that without thought they seem like nothing: just beutiful words put together incoherently, but they can actually mean a million different things to different people, or a million differnt things to the one person at the same time.
    its songs like this that convince me to never declare a god as nonexistent, only unknowable
    mala4056on August 04, 2006   Link

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