Once upon a time at the foot of a great mountain
There was a town where the people known as happy folk lived
Their very existence a mystery to the rest of the world
Obscured, as it was, by great clouds
Here they played out their peaceful lives
Innocent of the litany of excessive violence that was growing in the world below
To live in harmony with the spirit of the mountain called Monkey was enough
Then one day, strange folk arrived in the town
They came in camouflage, hidden behind dark glasses, but no one noticed them
They only saw shadows you see, without the truth to the eyes
The happy folk were blind

Falling out of aeroplanes and hiding out in holes
Waiting for the sunset to come, people going home
Jump out from behind them and shoot them in the head
Now everybody dancing, the dance of the dead
The dance of the dead, the dance of the dead

In time, the strange folk found their way into the higher reaches of the mountain
And it was there that they found the caves of unimaginable sincerity and beauty
By chance, they stumbled upon the place where all good souls come to rest
The strange folk, they coveted the jewels in these caves above all things
And soon they began to mine the mountain
It's rich seam fueling the chaos of their own world

Meanwhile, down in the town, the happy folk slept restlessly
Their dreams invaded by shadowy figures digging away at their souls
Every day, people would wake and stare at the mountain
Why was it bringing darkness into their lives?

And as the strange folk mined deeper and deeper into the mountain
Holes began to appear
Bringing with them a cold and bitter wind that chilled the very soul of the Monkey
For the first time, the happy folk felt fearful
For they knew that soon the monkey would stir from it's deep sleep
Then there came a sound, distant first, that grew into castrophany so immense
That it could be heard far away in space
There were no screams, there was no time
The mountain called Monkey had spoken
There was only fire, and then

Oh little town in USA, the time has come to see
There's nothing you believe you want
But where were you when it all came down on me?
Did you call me out?

Lyrics submitted by adamr, edited by Spacebutters

Fire Coming Out Of The Monkey's Head Lyrics as written by Jamie Hewlett Damon Albarn

Lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC

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Fire Coming Out of the Monkey's Head song meanings
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  • +17
    General CommentI think what the story is trying to show is how the average Americans (and I only say American because of the little town USA line, it can also hold true for most of the world) just goes about there lives thinking everything is ok, but they don't realize that very bad things are happening in the world. The Strangefolk, I believe, are the powerful minortity (government officials, corporations) that aim to become richer and more powerful at the expense of the rest of us. As Happyfolk, we don't always see what the elite are doing, but eventually things will blow up, either environmentally or through a revolution, and its going to destroy us all.

    And by the way, Dennis Hopper was perfect for this song.
    aebassiston June 19, 2005   Link
  • +6
    General CommentThis is an EXTREMELY well put together narrative. Here is my take on it:

    To me this song seems like the idealistic fantasies that we all have. In essence we either all want to be Happyfolk or we feel like we already are. The Strangefolk represent reality, in that, there's always going to be someone or something that comes along to ruin happiness for everyone else.

    The Happyfolk were innocent and completely blind to the evil the Strangefolk brought b/c they couldn't see their eyes. This is a lot like life itself in that we often can't see when bad things are going to happen even if we have multiple signs (shadows, nightmares, etc.). Its that whole “ignorance is bliss” concept, only amplified.

    Ultimately greed leads to the downfall of mankind, and that’s why in digging for the precious jewels, the Strangefolk woke the spirit of the mountain.

    There are two ways to interpret the mountain (IMO). You could say that it has always been just a volcano that became active once disturbed, or that there is some true spiritual meaning behind it, in that God punishes those who are evil. But unfortunately, the Happyfolk were caught up in all this, just b/c they couldn't see the eyes of the Strangefolk...

    As depressing as it is, I think this song may just be saying, there never can nor will be a land of Happyfolk b/c Strangefolk will always come to inevitably destroy it.

    “Oh little town in USA, the time has come to see
    There's nothing you believe you want
    But where were you when it all came down on me?
    Did you come it down on..."

    I can’t be sure about this last line, but I think it’s a statement about the U.S. and how we as Americans may feel we have it all over here, but then again we do so little to help foreign nations (Although I don’t really agree with that). Or maybe, just maybe, 2-D is saying that Americans are the Strangefolk and somehow this song ties back to our going to war b/c of 9/11, and the “mining for gems” being one big metaphor for us “digging for oil”.

    Also I agree with JeffKaos71 in that castrophony is just catastrophe and cacophony mixed together. While it is indeed a made up word, I think it really works well with the song and gives a more powerful description of the noise and the chaos. For those of you who don’t know, a cacophony is a “harsh discordant sound, or a very loud noise, or group of noises.”
    RTBRAND1on May 24, 2005   Link
  • +4
    General CommentIt's interesting, most people (I'm loosely summing up) characterized the Happyfolk as "us" and the Strangefolk as "them." My initial gut instinct was the exact opposite.

    I mean, people obscuring their reality and hiding their true intentions, motivated by greed, sounds like Americans to me. And the notion that the average american is living in harmony with nature is absurd, not to metion, the Happyfolk were obscured from the rest of the world.

    I read it more as a more "primitive" culture. For example, say, Tibet. Buddhism leapt immediately to my mind because of the Three Jewels of Buddhism (the buddha, dharma, sangha) & the jewels in the song. Tibet would be obscured from the rest of the world for centuries, but then when "discovered" by us Westerners, suddenly "zen" is a marketing tool. Just look at the gluttony of products that promise to be spiritual or zen - zen teas, soap, green tea everything. As though simplicity and right living can be purchased to somehow fix the unhappiness and restless we all hide behind our dark glasses.

    And in our course of "mining" other cultures for what we want to fix ourselves, we invariably screw up things for the natives. Africa immediately pops into my head, a rich & varied, amazing continent pillaged & virtually destroyed for its diamonds. Look into the history of diamond mining in Africa and you'll know why I refused a diamond ring from my fiancee. I looked at it and saw blood.

    Okay, I'm getting a little riled up. Sorry. The basic premise could be applied to a lot of things - one particular line actually made me think of Vietnam for some reason. The point is, that disrupting a natural culture living in harmony to satisfy the needs of some external imperial society always results in disruption.

    Which, now that I think about it, could very well be applied to the middle east. I'm glad that people brought it up here, I didn't think of it. Of course, we're still not the Happyfolk.

    I think the last line is pleading with the average "small town" americans that what they think they want - false desires brought on by advertising - will not really bring happiness. And why are we oblivious to the bad things happening in the world? Our country has been committing all sorts of atrocities for decades, and the average citizen never even knows about it. "Where were you when it all came down on me?"
    lostloon July 24, 2005   Link
  • +3
    General CommentI almost not dare put this but its been in my head... I'm going to take this as a "literal" translation. In literature we notice that when stories are to be thought of in a far distant pass they begin with "Once upon a time.." The fact that the song mentions twice that, "their very existence a mystery to the rest of the world." and "innocent of the litany of excess and violence that was growing in the world below". This describes perhaps an unknown or underworld perhaps similar to those spoken of in hollow earth type theory. These indigenous type people who were very connected to simply living in harmony with an entity that held all "jewels" of sincerity, beauty and "where good souls come to rest". A place where good souls would come to rest would be a type of heaven. In similar ancient beliefs with these type of "crystals" exist so do different heavenly realms of existence. Then one day strangefolk arrived in Camouflage. This would seem like an obvious parallel to some type of army and the aero planes re date the story. "Now everybody's dancing the dance of the dead" signifies a process that the dead goes through once they die. The caves of unimaginable sincerity and beauty could be the caves that are being protected by our ancient ancestors. The song points out, "they coveted the Jewels in these caves above all things" It is believed in ancient scripts that there have been precious rocks or "jewels" scattered across the earth that hold unimaginable power to those who have access to it. "Meanwhile the happyfolk slept restlessly." The deeper the strangefolk dug into the mountain the worse things got until the Monkey woke up and basically this world was destroyed. I also agree with many people about the idea of "the man" eating away at our naturalism which could also be our ultimate divinity. When "the man" eats away at this divinity and searches for more than is needed and denies this "divinity" or "holiness" or "godliness" or whatever it might be, then this "natures/divination/gods" in turn might punish the people. "And then came a sound. Distant first, it grew into castrophany so immense it could be heard far away in space." Any "castrophany" able to be heard from space would ultimately be a type of distraction that would obliterate the earth it happened on. "There were no screams. There was no time. The mountain called Monkey had spoken. There was only fire. And then, nothing." The part addressed to the little town in the USA is literally talking to the people of now, and that "The time has come to see", "there's nothing you believe you want."- again addressing our hopeless searching in the things we might want, but what are we looking for? What do we want? "But where were you when it all came down on me?
    Did you call me now?" I believe this is the singers way of personifying a "savior", the monkey head or this earthly-"divinity" that in turn helps or punishes the people and he's asking us where we were and what we were doing when this was all happening and when it "came down on me". and it concludes by asking "Did you call me now?" Are we calling on the power of monkey head now? This savior" This divinity or this ultimate decision perhaps on the day of judgement day to dance the dance of the dead?
    Also, someone earlier mentioned something about a parallel to slavery in the way the humming was done. This is also something very good to look at when we look at the purpose of humans and how we function in our society and some purposes we might serve to others.
    sarahmonsteron April 08, 2010   Link
  • +2
    General Commentok, its really early in the morn, i havn't slept in over 24 hours, but i have to say i know what the song is about. in a recent interview w/ the producer of the band on a radio station, he gave the hole demon days felocify (fuck spelling)

    In basic words the whole album has an essitial concept created by the band about where the main powers of our world are headed. This song is their concept on whats gonna happen too the US, overall its stating that the USA is marching twords WWIII and this is our inpenatrable doom. As citizens, we are the happy folk, the goverment is the strangers. The last little segmant sung by 2D is full of small unamic metaphores, "where were you" is a line from a popular song about 9/11 and all that jazz by some conservative moungral fuck-up redneck homophobic christian country singer. Anywho! the song states the worlds allmost over, were gonna kill ourselves under a mushroom cloud. I'd have to agree. I don't recollect this account word for word but its pritty damn close. these are the acctual statments that the producer of the band gave on radio about 2 months ago. THIS IS WHAT THE SONG IS ESSINTIALLY ABOUT!!! Which would also explain why the fallowing song resides in the setting of heaven, worlds over, were all gonna be in heaven supposidly, and theres gonna be a lot or a few of us eithor way-its gonna be easy to get lost. Hence the title DONT GET LOST IN HEAVEN. end of story.
    GreenAndyon August 06, 2005   Link
  • +2
    My Interpretationthe strangefolk are what has become the majority of humanity, twisted and darkened by their world of the "litany of excess and violence". the story is about the corruption of what may possibly be the last pure-hearted society left, who have become one with nature but lost their sight in the process.
    the happyfolk are an innocent and kind society, cut off from the world in their town covered by clouds. but eventually, the strangefolk discover this paradise and the treasure that lay in it.the happyfolk's souls, being attached to the mountain, took physical roots in the gems, but the strangefolk, caring nothing for the happyfolk, began to mine these from the mountain- carving tunnels and holes into it. the happyfolk began to feel the pain of their souls being ripped apart, their connection to the spirits laying in the mountain causing them pain- they grew fearful- they sensed something was very wrong- they knew the mountain would at last show it's wrath. finally, nature retaliates and destroys both good and evil alike.
    max20020012002on March 25, 2012   Link
  • +1
    General CommentI had a chance to hear this at a record store who had gotten a few vinyls from the band when they came into town, Dennis Hopper does a great job at narration. The track is nothing more than a pretty interesting story about a people living in a mountain.
    ClickForthon April 16, 2005   Link
  • +1
    General Commentsounds to me like a combo of catastrophe + cacophony
    JeffKaos71on May 21, 2005   Link
  • +1
    General CommentI just want to take a note on the actual construct of the song, rather than the lyrics. The lyrics themselves speak very well, and you can construct your own thoughts on it with ease if you read them (as opposed to listening). Whether you chooes to tie the lyrics to certain political events or not is your own choice.

    Anyway, as I was going to say, notice the hymnic humming in the backround of the narrative. The artists could have just as easily used a instrument (cello) for this, but instead they choose to hum. This parallels with hymns--such as amazing grace-- which were written by slaves. This tought is incomplete but I wanted to pose the idea of tieing a sort of enslavement into this song, whether it be the happy people enslaved to their perceptions of the strange people to their greed, I don't exactly know... But there sure as hell is some bit of slavery in this
    Tamuzon June 05, 2005   Link
  • +1
    General CommentI think this song is about war. It has so many possibilities though.. The lines about little town USA and "where were you when it all came down on me?" kinda makes me think about typical small town minds and how far removed they are from where the US wages its wars.

    Of course, the strangefolk stealing our souls while we are blind to what they are doing could be almost anything.. from cable TV to McDonalds..

    you can take the message in this song anyway you want.. Either way.. Wake up to the reality around you or the Monkey will destroy all..
    SavageMadroxon July 06, 2005   Link

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