Mmm Mmm Mmm Mmm

Album: God Shuffled His Feet (1993)
Charted: 2 4
Play Video


  • This song tells the story of three children whose strange experiences seem normal to them. Each verse is centered around one of these children, each of whom was based on someone lead singer Brad Roberts knew, or on his own personal experience. Roberts, who wrote the song, broke it down in a Songfacts interview. We'll start with the first verse, about a kid whose hair turned white after getting in an accident. Said Roberts:

    "The child in the first verse, that story came from a combination of events. I was in a couple of bad car accidents when I was a little kid, so I was fascinated by them in kind of a distanced way by the time I wrote the song. But they made an impression on me.

    And I had heard a story about a guy who was also in an accident, only in this case, on a boat that was in Niagara Falls. The boat was going towards the Falls, so the people could see it as closely as they could, and then it turns away. Now, you have to turn away before you get carried off over the Falls! This guy made a miscalculation, and it looked like they were going to not make it back, and he realized, 'F--k... I'm going to die!'

    It turned out that the boat did not go over the edge, and he was able to get back. But his hair turned from black into bright white. His whole head. And since then - although this didn't inspire the song - I heard other cases of that happening, including my great uncle, who was dug in on an island near Japan during World War II and spent a night entrenched, listening to the Japanese crying out in their broken English what they would do to him when they caught him. And he was terrified. In his case, just a portion of his hair turned white. So anyway, that's where that came from, in the first verse.

    But the idea was this kid had something that made him stand out. And of course, when you're a little kid, if you're different, it's a problem. I don't know what it's like now, but when I was a little kid, anything that made you different made you a target: a target for abuse, a target for bullying, a target for humiliation. And that's the case with the kid whose hair turned bright white."
  • The second verse is about a girl with "birthmarks all over her body." Said Roberts: "I actually have a birthmark at the base of my spine, which I was teased about a great deal when I was a little kid. It was a physical marking that made me different, and that made me the target of verbal abuse and teasing and bullying. So, that was really grown from an autobiographical part of my life."
  • The third verse is about a boy who is not physically different, but goes through an unusual religious ritual. The real inspiration was a girl, but Brad Roberts made her a boy for the lyric. He explained: "This girl that I knew, her parents were Pentecostal Christians, and they used to take her to church every week and do what they call 'speaking in tongues.' When Pentecostal Christians get together every Sunday, some of them are moved to speak spontaneously. They claim that the spirit has entered their body and what they are saying is simply a transmission of that spirit. It's not themselves speaking anymore, it is the holy word of God speaking through them. And the language that comes out, sometimes it's an ordinary language, but quite often it sounds like gibberish. For my friend, as a little child going to school, she found this terrifying, needless to say, because her parents were the people that ran her life. Every kid has those parental figures, and they seemed to lose their minds. They seemed to just become different people, and it really terrified her. It made a big mark on her, emotionally. It was a scarring experience, I would say."
  • The Crash Test Dummies are Canadian. Formed in Winnipeg, they started as a cover group while lead singer Brad Roberts studied to be a professor of English literature. Roberts played guitar in the group but did not sing because he thought his voice was terrible. When he started writing songs, he realized that he was the only one who could sing them with the delivery he was after, so he decided to give it a try. A vocal coach convinced him that he had a good, distinctive voice, and his deep baritone became the group's hallmark. It's especially pronounced on this track, with a guttural humming sound suited to his voice.
  • In 2000, Roberts was nearly killed in a car accident, but escaped with a broken arm before his car exploded. The band is named after the devices used to test the effects of car accidents on humans. They once toured with Alanis Morissette, who might consider this ironic.
  • This was a success on the Adult Album Alternative (AAA) format that was gaining momentum at the time. Other artists who found success there are the Cranberries and Counting Crows.
  • This was the group's breakthrough hit in America, but they were already well known in their native Canada thanks to their 1991 debut album, which took off there thanks to the track "Superman's Song," which reached #4 there but only made #56 in America. That album, The Ghosts That Haunt Me, sold 400,000 copies in Canada, but when their next album, God Shuffled His Feet, was released in 1993, it got an icy reception up north even though hit contained "Mmm Mmm Mmm Mmm."

    According to Roberts, the Winnipeg Free Press published a scathing review that pretty much tanked the album. "Canada - being the country that loves to eat its own - decided we weren't going to have any success at all," he told Songfacts.

    But in America, a radio station in Atlanta, Georgia played "Mmm Mmm Mmm Mmm" and it got a huge response. Other stations added it to their playlists, and it started selling in stores. Their record company, Arista, sprung into action, sending them on tour in that country and setting up scads of promotional appearances to promote the song. Eventually, it climbed to #4 and went Gold for sales of 500,000 copies.

    By this time, "Mmm Mmm Mmm Mmm" had run its course in Canada, peaking at a meager #14. So another song from the album, "Swimming In Your Ocean," was issued there, reaching #6.
  • Talking Heads guitarist Jerry Harrison produced this. He has also produced other modern rock artists like Stroke 9, Live and No Doubt.
  • Between the title and the unconventional vocals, disc jockeys made lots of jokes about this when they played it. Some said it sounded like "Sylvester Stallone on Quaaludes."
  • As a result of this song, The Crash Test Dummies were nominated for a Best New Artist Grammy in 1994, even though they formed in the late '80s and released their first album in 1991. They lost to Sheryl Crow.
  • This has the longest title of any popular song made up of one letter repeated. >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Adam - Wrexham, Wales
  • The video, directed by Dale Heslip, shows children acting out the stories in the song in a rather surreal play as parents look on uncomfortably.
  • Like black licorice or the Grateful Dead, people tend to either love this or hate it. Despite its popularity, VH1 named it one of the "Top 50 worst songs of the '90s," outraging fans of the song. >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Ricky - Cabot, AR
  • The Crash Test Dummies once played at the MuchMusic awards singing "Weird Al" Yankovic's parody, "Headline News" with Yankovic. They both played the music and Brad Roberts sang in his low low voice. The Weird Al version calls for the sound of kazoos right at the end. Al wasn't expecting to have this feature live on stage when singing with Roberts, but was pleasantly surprised when all the Crash Test Dummies suddenly whipped out kazoos and started "quacking" through the end of the song. >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Jason - Wairoa, New Zealand

Comments: 47

  • Rohe from Erin Tennessee Prodigy Children. This verse is rapt with great metaphor and timbre, especially myself experiencing very similar instantes when i was young. the church scene, the boy who hit his head.
  • Annoyingkatiefromuk from United Kingdom Is the dad of the boy in the third verse the actor C THOMAS HOWELL from the Hitcher and the Outsiders?! Sure resembles him but much older!
  • John from UsaMore than anything else, this song is about tolerance. It sets up 3 three young people for ridicule because of their unique and awkward experiences. It then goes on to explain that nobody in particular is to blame for any of these circumstances, they just turned out that way. And that is as far as the lyrics go in trying to explain how or why things are the way they are. In fact, the only thing that can be said is "Mmmm,Mmmm,Mmmm," which I interpret as "Just let it go, you don't have to cast judgement on everything. Nor should you." Not bad advice in my opinion. If you disagree, just respond "Mmmm, mmmmm. mmmm." and we'll both know what you mean without any offense being taken. Tolerance. It works like a charm.
  • Tanya Stainbrook from IndianaThe third boy in the video...he looks like a famous actor from today. Who is it?
  • Annabelle from Eugene, OrOn VH1's 100 Greatest One-Hit Wonders, some silly guy thought that The Crash Test Dummies would get in trouble by the Campbell's Soup Company. Everytime I hear that part, I always say, "There's one little problem with your comment, Honeyboy. The Crash Test Dummies didn't infringe on Campbell's Soup, since they didn't say, 'Mmm mmm good.'.". Even worse, the narrator of the show says the band "stuttered" through the chorus. They didn't stutter, they were just humming! There's a difference. Then there's the British brat on the "50 Most Awesomely Bad Songs Ever" who makes fun of Brad Roberts when he says to him, "Sing properly!". I just hate it when people try to do that to someone who is just showing off their voice's natural character. I'd like to give that Brit brat a kick in the pants!
  • Christina from Fort WorthThe song is about abuse. Period. The first boy had an accident and couldn’t go to school because he was beaten and the parent moved and changed his hair color so the other abusive parent couldn’t find them. The crash was a cover up. The 2 nd verse of the birthmarks being all over her body is bruises. And the 3rd being a boy who was being abused in church. Shaking meaning sex and lurching meaning (mmmm mmmm) the mmmm mmm part is think about what’s being said.
  • Inachu from East CoastThe singer sourced this song from the internet and asked people if they could share a short story that would make people wonder why about such things happen.
    The first thread in the reply was about the girl who refused to change for gym class.
    The other 2 stories were from me and the boy who got hit in the car/school bus accident happened in the Hurst Euless Bedford Texas area and I was standing with my friend who saw him first standing up waiting to leave the bus and I mention - Who's the guy with the wig?
    He punched my shoulder and started crying that it was his best friend who just recently left the hospital and that it was not a wig but his real hair color and not only was he not looking but also the car driver was not looking either and so he got hit pretty hard.

    People on the message board back then cried BS that never happened. No matter how truthful a person is there will always be a person who will never believe.

    My second story was from a boy in Hot springs Arkansas in Jr. High we were good friends but for the years we went to the same school he never do anything after school but his family would always try to get me to go along with them and one day I did and well I felt so alienated going there seeing people flop around like fish on the floor. I never went back.

    The above I freely gave as that was how it was in the early internet days. People stopped calling them BBS's and started calling them messageboards. This was when infoseek was still ranked as the best search engine and nobody heard of google until 1997 or so.
  • Chief from Knothole, KyI remember hearing this song on the radio when it was new, as an adult. I've often wondered about the meaning, and thought I would offer my observations. I think it deals with abuse, and here's why: Others on this thread have speculated that the first two children made up excuses for the possible abuse. I agree, because in the video, the parents smiled and cheered their children's performances while the third child's parents seethed as he simply stated that a religion was foisted upon him, which some would consider a form of abuse. He would not pretend otherwise. The parents were obviously furious as they left the theater. Three stories of abuse, three different ways of reacting to it. I won't speculate on the notion that this song is ant-religion simply because religion was called out. I am a religious person, but I believe in total freedom of religion. It could simply be an expedient way to show that the signs of abuse dont always manifest themselves visually.
  • Layton from Paris, TxGod Shuffled His Feet is one of the greatest albums of the 90s!
  • Brian from Boston, MaI can't remember the name of it but Midnight oil has a song from their deisel and dust album that sounds simmilar.I'm not saying it is a rip off by I can definatly hear influences.I always liked this song
  • Karl from Ingatestone, United Kingdomi have to say that i love this song, but at the end there is a animal noise at thend.
  • Jessica from Tulsa, OkThis song is kind of weird, but in an ok way I guess. When I first heard it, I was thinking, did Sylvester Stallone start a music career?
  • Stacy from Dallas, TxI agree about the song being about abuse, and I agree that it IS an awesome song. I absolutely Love the vocals.
  • Travis from Grandisland, FlMy big Brother turned me on to this song when we were growing up. I love it's unqiueness till this day. Thanks Bro!
  • Landon from Winchester, OhDid anyone here the story of the thirteen year old who had a nightmare about this song? His story was on Really funny. But nonetheless, I like this song. It has a unique chorus, interesting story line, and a lot of melody. More people need to listen to the Crash Test Dummies.
  • Daniel from Winchester, OhI really need to download this song its awesome!!
  • Jessa from Aus, AustraliaThis is a fantastic song(Y)
    Im actually writting a speech on it now , hence stumbling across this page.

    There was an interveiw with Brad Roberts on the Radio about this song and he actually said that when he took the demo of the song when he went into the studio he hadnt made up a chorus yet he was just humming untill he thought of something to put there and the studio people actually like it with the "mmm-ing " and thats how that came about.
    Iv seen on some sights that its in the song because its what you do when kids are telling stories and they thought that the bruises and hair was all about kids telling stories.
    But you really never know %100 what the song means or why Brad wrote such amazing lyrics.
    any ways that is all
  • Landon from Winchester, OhGood song, but who's idea was the chorus?
  • Vickeybird from Pune, -I could not understand the bit about the snob parents looking really pissed.
  • Gavin from Belfast, United KingdomJust re-found the Wierd Al version and thought I should play the real one too. This band just goes to show why Canadians are always the funniest North Americans. They know what irony really is - apart from Alanis Morrisette.

    Love the kazoo story and the comment about calling out the name at a concert.

    Question: In the video why do I recognise the two parents who ".. made him come directly home right after school"

    The Dad looks like Tom Skeritt and the Mum (Mom) like an older Winona Ryder. Or am I just too sad?
  • Julia from Knoxville, TnOnly song I know of that has a whole chorus with nothing but "MMMMMMMs". Can you imagine shouting this as an encore at one of their concerts???? Makes me render CTD as not very creative.
  • Tearsofblood from Nowhere That Concerns YouThis is a great song. Grew up listening to the Crash Test Dummies. It'll always remind of the fun we used to have making up goofy dances in our tiny living room after dinner.
  • E from Danvas, MaI definitly think this song is about abuse. the white hair on the first kid is symbolic of him being afraid. The car crash was his story to cover up the abuse. The birthmarks are bruises. The girl said they were birthmarks to again, cover up the abuse. The last verse is the most confusing. The boy was made to come home after school and when they went to church they ALL lurched on the floor meaning the child was given a poison which his parents also took. The girl and boy were glad because they were only beaten whereas the last boy was killed.
  • Nicole from London, CanadaThe Crashtest dummies sang "Superman's song" Not "Superman's dead" that was another group entirely
  • Camille from Oz, WaThis is one fo my favorite albums.
  • Brandon from Peoria, IlHow does someone shout out this song title at a concert? It would sound like someone put tape over my mouth. Not very good marketing :)
  • Mike from Lethbridge, Canada"This was the group's only US Top 40 hit, although 3 years earlier they had a big song with 'Superman's Dead,' which reached US #56 and sold over 400,000 copies in Canada."

    Actually it was "Superman's Song" that also made it onto the charts (a sweet song BTW). Being an OLP fan I know that "Superman's Dead" was a hit on the US charts and is a completely different song by another Canadian band.
  • Stink from Male'the first time i listened to this song, all i heard was someone humming... and then the guiter (oh how i love the guiter) and the music, then the lyrics... awesome song. loved this song from that day. roberts' vocals - just beautiful. i think the song is about living a normal life, like those things not quite make sense but they are there somehow???
  • Casey from Dalton, GaHow could this song possibly be about abuse and/or "destructive religions"? The boy's hair turning white, the girl's birthmarks (they'd've said bruises if they'd meant bruises) and the last kid's parents going crazy on the church floor (that's "normal" at charismatic churches) is all about weirdness. Only the birthmarks sound like bruises or something, but that would make it totally incongruent with the rest of the song.
  • Alan from Akron, OhI had first heard weird Al's parody, and I thought that the song sounded really cool. I thaen searched for the real song and heard it for the first time. The scratchy (in a good way), deep voice, the piano and guitar part mixes together so beautifully. I just love the musical part of this song As for the lyrics, I never knew exactly what the song was trying to say.
  • Chris from Edmonton, Canadathe whole album is fantastic.
  • Gerry from Downpatrick, IrelandAs a Bass muso,I can only add that the Bass sound on the album G.S.H.F is phenomenal.Dan Roberts' playing,esp fretless, is outstanding.
  • Kory from Atlanta, GaAs someone stated below this song is in my favorite movie of all-time, Dumb and Dumber. When Harry is hitch-hiking and you see Lloyd come over the horizon on that mini-bike this song is playing. Honestly, the movie is the only reason I know this song but I love it b/c of this guy's voice!
  • Marlow from Perth, Australiajust a great song!
  • Kirby from Yitc, TxWell I still think it's about abuse... and I am stickin' to that story. The "car crash" could be the boy's way of not letting the people at school know about his abuse. The girl's "birthmarks" could actually be bruises. The last i'm not real sure except maybe the parents made him come home right after school because they wanted to beat him or something and then they acted all "holy" at church?????
  • Nigel from Birmingham, EnglandI always thought this song was more about describing how destructive some religions and or parents can be. The first two verses describe children in situations that were caused by fate. (i.e. a car crash and birthmarks). The bridge acknowledges that these things are bad but the kid in the third verse had it much worse because his situation was caused purely by what his parents had imposed on him.
  • Jason from Wairoa, New ZealandCrash Test Dummies once played at the MuchMusic awards singing "Weird Al" Yankovic's version, 'Headline News' with the King or Parodies himself, both playing the music and Brad Roberts singing in his low low voice. The "Weird Al" version calls for the sound of kazoos right at the end. Al wasn't expecting to have this feature live on stage when singing with Brad Roberts, but was pleasantly surprised when all the CTDs suddenly whipped out kazoos and started "quacking" through the end of the song, Al's song fully finished minus the accordian bit just before the kazoo chant. CTDs... what a tribute!!!
  • Ilikemusic. from This Isn't A City, MdCould one say that this song is about different forms of abuse? I suppose one could make a case for it...
  • Jer from London, CanadaActualy ,Alex of new Orleans, BOTH "peter pumkin" head and "Mmm, Mmm, Mmm, Mmm" were included in Dumb and dumber.
  • Dat Le from Katy, TxActually, "MMM MMM MMM MMM" was played also, during the sad part when the two get mad at each other on the road
  • Alex from New Orleans, LaActually,Mark of London, "The Ballad of Peter Pumpkinhead" was included in Dumb and Dumber,not Mmm Mmm Mmm Mmm.
  • Charles from Charlotte, NcI love the beautiful irony of a totally DUMB song being included in "Dumb and Dumber".
  • Jessica from Saint Louis, MoTo add to what Erik about Weird Al covering it, the three stories in "Headline News" were those of Michael Fay (the young man who was caned in Singapore for spray painting on cars), Tonya Harding, and John Wayne Bobbitt, all of whom had their 15 minutes of infamy around that time.
  • Anonymousbeautiful, beautiful song. i love it so much. even if it seems kinda twisted i love it!
  • Mark from London, Ontario, CanadaThis song was in the movie "Dumb and Dumber".
  • Dylan from Abby, CanadaThis was NOT actually the band's only hit, they had a hit with "Superman's Song" on their previous album "The Ghosts That Haunt Me".
  • Erik from Davis, CaThis song was covered by Weird Al. It was called "Headline News."
see more comments

Editor's Picks

Dean Pitchford

Dean PitchfordSongwriter Interviews

Dean wrote the screenplay and lyrics to all the songs in Footloose. His other hits include "Fame" and "All The Man That I Need."

The End Of The Rock Era

The End Of The Rock EraSong Writing

There are no more rock stars - the last one died in 1994.

Jethro Tull

Jethro TullFact or Fiction

Stage urinals, flute devices, and the real Aqualung in this Fact or Fiction.

Grammar In Lyrics

Grammar In LyricsMusic Quiz

Lyrics don't always follow the rules of grammar. Can you spot the ones that don't?

Women Who Rock

Women Who RockSong Writing

Evelyn McDonnell, editor of the book Women Who Rock, on why the Supremes are just as important as Bob Dylan.

Black Sabbath

Black SabbathFact or Fiction

Dwarfs on stage with an oversize Stonehenge set? Dabbling in Satanism? Find out which Spinal Tap-moments were true for Black Sabbath.