“Road to Nowhere” – an interpretation

A few weeks ago, I had a really, really bad day at work. On my lunch break, I fled the place and went for a short drive around West Covina, and to make myself feel better, I turned to one of my favorite driving songs, “Road to Nowhere” by Talking Heads.

Something about that day, and the fact that I had the song on top volume in my car (with the windows down; sorry if you happened to hear that, but I needed it), and I heard the song in a whole new way than I ever had before. And then I decided to write it down, and here we are.

But don’t worry, this is probably a one-time thing. Enjoy.

You’re driving along a steep mountain road, the music blaring, your best buds in the car with you. You’re young and wild and free of everything designed to hold you back in life. “…we’re not little children, and we know what we want.”

But you hit one curve and… disaster; the car starts on fire, you blow a tire, an animal that shouldn’t be there appears. You swerve, you overcorrect, but you reach a point where you have to make a choice: drive the car over the cliff, into the unknown, or drive in to the mountain, a certain death for everyone.

“Road to Nowhere” by The Talking Heads is a song all about that choice. It starts out bright and loud and happy, but somewhere in the middle, things start getting desperate.

Sure, the narrator keeps singing about the beauty and wonder of this “city in my mind,” and how it will be so much fun when they all get there but…that’s just it. They never get there, and all that hype and planning is only leaving stuck in this one place: cliff or mountain?

Sure, you could pick the mountain. It would be quick and certain and nothing scary there.

But cliff, that’s all scary. There could be earth beneath your feet, waiting to catch you and leave you with just a few bruises. There could be nothing, and you could fall forever, hitting the ground only when you’re too exhausted to feel anything anymore.

“It’s growing day by day, and it’s all right baby, it’s all right.” He’s been waiting so long even the narrator is worried that it won’t be awesome, but really, we all know mountain is not going to be awesome.

“Would you like to come along, you could help me sing this song” screams the narrator, begging us to believe him that the jump will be worth it, even if it leaves scars. “…baby, it’s all right.”

Take the leap.  “We’re on a road to nowhere.” And the road only leads off the cliff.