"Jerkin' Back 'n' Forth" as written by Gerald V Casale and Mark Allen Mothersbaugh....
I know I let you tell me what to do
You were confident you know best
Now things aren't working like you want them to
Your confidence is what I detest
You got me lookin' up high
You got me searchin' down low
You got me I know you know
You got me jerkin' back 'n' forth
You told me people like to suffer
You told me that's the way it is
You said that things were getting better
You said I should expect all this
You think it's funny
But what I say is true
The reason that I live like this
Is all because of you
There is a thought that keeps me thinking
Like a stone inside my shoe
It is a vision reoccurring
A dirty window I can see you through


Lyrics submitted by bouncing soles, edited by myprettyart

"Jerkin' Back 'N' Forth" as written by Mark Mothersbaugh Gerald V. Casale

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Jerkin' Back 'n' Forth song meanings
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  • 0
    General CommentAfter learning of Devo's intentions on New Traditionalists to mess with the mainstream crowd that they picked up from Whip It's success, I take this song to be the answer to those speculations about "Whip It"'s theme being sexual in nature. Because this one obviously is! Devo wins.
    souljamikeon May 19, 2007   Link
  • 0
    General CommentI agree...Devo's use of the title, "Jerkin' Back 'n' Forth" was almost certainly to screw with their new fans. But if you put the sexual connotation aside and pay attention to the lyrics, it is clearly a song criticizing their common misinterpretation as a sort of silly band. This song is Devo's assertion that they are a serious band...not some joke band wearing flowerpots for hats
    SpudEdwardon February 03, 2008   Link
  • 0
    My OpinionWhile I do think the WORD choice of the song is definitely and intentionally provocative, begging the idiots who misinterpreted "Whip It" to think that of this too, because, who cares? "We're Through With Being Cool".

    HOWEVER, just like Whip It, the song does also have an actual, deeper, more serious meaning. New Traditionalists is well known for being much darker, more serious than their two previous albums.

    I think, and can present reasonable evidence, that this song is about the election of Reagan and how his election was the culmination of conservative efforts to transform the political landscape of America. It made for a sort of "coup" for them. The 80s were the worst, and it was because of Reagan. He cut taxes for the wealthy and raised them for the middle and lower classes. He began outsourcing jobs as well, and doubled the country's unemployment rate. And because he cut those taxes, he started up a debt that was to become the largest debt America had ever had. And the climax of this monstrosity (that was apparent at the time of this album's release) was his deinstitutionalization of America's mental hospitals, starting with California when he was governor. - putting millions of mentally ill patients out on the street, creating the country's enormous homeless problem, and lead to much more frequent and widespread violence all around. Basically everything he did domestically, to the American People, went terribly wrong. And the lead up to this would have been brewing in the culture, and he was elected by an overwhelming majority.

    So I think this song is about the state of mind of the people who held the burden of these awful policies. Devo sings, "you told me people like to suffer, you told me that's the way it is" and "you said that things were getting better, you said I should ACCEPT all this" [the lyric above is incorrect] which is true, but the opposite of what they were being told was actually happening. Hence the "you got me jerkin' back 'n' forth".

    Just like the silly-sounding words of the chorus, the lyrics "You think it's funny, but what I say is true: the reason that I live like this is all because of you." say it all.

    You can see this sort of political commentary in a large amount of Devo's work. And their newer, 2010 album, Something For Everybody has a few songs about George W. Bush's failings and ineptitude.
    myprettyarton December 20, 2014   Link

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