Beatles: The Continuing Story Of Bungalow Bill Meaning
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The Continuing Story Of Bungalow Bill Lyrics
What did you kill
Bungalow Bill? (2x)
HE WENT out tiger hunting with his elephant and gun
In case of accidents he always took him mum
He's the all American bullet-headed saxon mother's son.
All the children sing
anonymous May 20th, 5:31pm report
The 9/14/09 interpretation is spot-on. I would add that it satirizes the American machismo that Theodore Roosevelt - himself an avid hunter - demonstrated.
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anonymous Jan 7th, 2011 1:59pm report
Winnipegger's interperetation is great, but this song is apparently a satire of an actual event in John's life (John not being Bill, but being there and involved).
A least that's what Wikipedia told me.
anonymous Sep 14th, 2009 9:24pm report
This song was written in India, when the Beatles were in their Maharishi phase. Lennon himself stated that it was inspired by a white American hunter he met there, and in typical Lennon fashion, the idea was embellished to include the "Great White Hunter" cliche as seen in various movies, and, in fact, the full title of the song, "The Continuing Story of Bungalow Bill" reminds one of the serials seen at kiddie matinées of the 40s and early 50s.
"He went out tiger hunting with his elephant and gun..." - typical safari manner, using the elephant for transportation, still seen in movies such as "Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom".
"In case of accidents, he always took his mom..." - He's kind of a mama's boy on one hand, kind of wholesome on the other (the idea of "mom and apple pie"), but also maybe slightly child-like and naive.
"He's the all-American bullet-headed Saxon mother's son..." - all-American suggests that he is the conceptual idea of what an American is; bullet-headed means that he is unyelding and stubborn, even in the face of opposition to the contrary, that is, he "digs in his heels" thinking he's always right; Saxon mother's son shows his white racial background.
"All the children sing" is merely a lead-in to the chorus:
"Hey Bungalow Bill
What did you kill
The chorus suggests that other people think that Bill is only occupied with is the idea of killing, not with the true concept of "hunting" in a sporting sense. It also suggests that the "children" hold him in contempt because of this.
Interestingly enough, at the time, anti-Vietnam war protesters in the US had a chant they would use that went "Hey hey LBJ/how many boys did you kill today", which was aimed at then-President Lyndon Baines Johnson. Note that the US President is also the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, and is actually the one that gives the orders after considering what he is told by his Generals, etc.
There is some similarity between the chorus and this chant: "what did you kill" vs "how many boys did you kill", which leads one to believe that Bungalow Bill may actually be LBJ, or generally speaking, the war machine he was then leading.
"Deep in the jungle where the mighty tiger lies..." Note that a lot of Vietnam was "jungle" and was inhabited by tigers (see "Apocalypse Now"), although there are indeed tigers in India (if one is still seeing Bill as the cliched Great White Hunter).
"Bill and his elephants were taken by surprise...", ie, something happened that wasn't forseen. In 1965, in the Gulf of Tonkin, US naval ships apparently were attacked by the North Vietnamese; this led to the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution which basically escalated the war and allowed Johnson to expand the number of troops there.
"So Captain Marvel zapped him right between the eyes..." Captain Marvel was an All-American superhero, and the alter ego of Billy Batson, who would trigger his superhero persona by uttering the word "Shazam!"; note the similarity of "Shazam!" and "zapped", which may be intentional. In any event, another American had to come to Bill's aid to deal with the threat, but note what also occurred after the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, which is similar.
"The children asked him if to kill was not a sin..." - isn't this basically what youthful American anti-war protesters were asking?
"But when he looked so fierce..." It is known that Johnson was personally stung by the criticism of how he was handling the war, and had a hard time dealing with it to the extent that he refused to stand for election in 1968. America, as a country, was well on the way to being divided over the war, but was somewhat still officially committed to the war, and to the idea of winning it, despite the realities of what was going on in the battlefield.
"...his mummy butted in
If looks could kill it would have been us instead of him...", ie, Johnson wanted to be rid of the enemy within his own country, the protesters, the now hostile youth. There was no love lost between either group for the other.
Bungalow Bill, the Great White (American) Hunter is by extension a metaphor for the US Armed Forces, then engaged in the war in Vietnam. The "colonization" concept is not for land to be added to the "American Empire" as land was added to the Victorian Empire, but has been updated to the idea of spreading American influence in other parts of the world in order to gain allies and stop the spread of communism, which, as the "Domino Principle" promised, would occur throughout Indo-China if it was not defeated.
anonymous May 2nd, 2009 5:41am report
BBMH Another one of the Beatles' British Music Hall adventures in music. Just as in an old British music hall, it describes a turn of the century, (live) theatrical skit. One can imagine the wooden stage props of jungle foliage, ferocious tigers and lumbering elephants. Mock actions and huge oversized rifles, shaped like sexual organs, (excuse me. I digress. Strike that!), shooting, firing & smoking. And especially the lumbering half-time music with a marching, quasi-military feel. Borrowing from Frank Buck's Bring Him Back Alive and Teddy Roosevelt with the grandfather spectacles that John liked so much. One can feel the dust in India or the humidity of Africa (or the plains of the American West); both a taste of Imperial England and Queen Victoria - the widow Queen - all dressed in black forever. The Victorian Era. The Sun never sets on our (saxon?) Commonwealth! There'll always be an Engaland, an Engaland that is Free(mason)..... God Save the Queen, and the Queen Mum! a Punch exposition of the urban hunter, eating to kill, not killing to eat. like Buffalo Bill exterminating the buffalo to exterminate the Native People of North America. and the psychological echoes of Freud captured in the hunter's mother's face when Bill becomes a boy and his mum defends him. He does it all for her, really. For the Queen! - and country. meaningless slaughter to show loyalty! fanatic romanticism. "We kill then all for you!" - And a prophetic song for John, foretelling a tragic loss, especially for popular music.
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