Dance Of The Manatee

Album: Fables From a Mayfly... (2007)
  • songfacts ®
  • Lyrics
  • This song deals with prostitutes (or "Marys") who are being persecuted. When vocalist Darroh Sudderth sings in a higher pitch it is the voice of the Marys, and when he goes lower it is the voice of the angered man telling the story.
  • In the lyrics, "Hang us! Those limbs hold no virtue, those told to hold project on my cue," The marys begin a sentence then the man makes a separate statement that also finishes the Marys' sentence, which creates a double meaning.
  • This song bears strong similarities in meaning with the song "The Pot" by Tool, which also deals with hypocrisy. In "The Pot," the subject matter is drugs rather than sex. >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Angela - Sacramento, CA, for all above
  • The song regularly changes pitch between alto, tenor, and bass - all of which is sung by band member Darroh Sudderth.
  • The album Fables From a Mayfly: What I Tell You 3X is True was Fair To Midland's first released on the Serjical Strike label founded by System Of A Down's Serj Tankian. >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Angela - Sacramento, CA, for above 2
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Comments: 19

  • Lantana Irene from ScSeein' as I am 10 years late to the party, I pretty sure no will ever see this, regardless here goes my 2 cent-take.

    After studying lyrics from their other albums (before the "Mayfly...album , and after the fact) Each song or lyric for that matter, tells a weaving, in and out, multi-peceptional story of 2 brothers. Drugs, the military, and rough upbringings are a common theme throughout. "Dance of the Manatee" is no different. (There is much more to the lyrics than just this one tale, but for right now I'll keep it...'between' the brothers.)

    "Dance of the Manatee"
    "Take a little dive into the shallow and spy, what do you see? I see a tortoise and a hare in a rat-race and it fits like a glove under my sleeve. Just wait till then."
    (The brothers are the tortoise and hare. One likes to take life easy, the other lives a bit more balls to the wall. Also, later on it can be reasoned that one likes down-ers. The other prefers up-ers. "Rat-race" here means that they are doing what they can to get by. Life's hard. Money (and drugs) are scarce. The "fits like a glove..." line has a drug and military meaning. The place they are at looks a bit seedy or the cops got envolved and the younger brother is worried. The older brother reassures him. ‘I got (the drugs) hidden under my sleeve.' Or a trick. And gloves often fit well under the sleeves of some one in the millitary, right? But thats for another time. He finishes. 'Don't worry, just wait. I got this.')

    For the sake of time lets fast foward some.
    "We Mary's had our selves a ball. Oh yes, we did. We Marys had our selves a ball. I must admit.' ("Mary's" in this context refers to virgins. The Virgin Mary being the go to here. They had a ball? Seems like they had fun or maybe a 'ball' of drugs -- ball can refer to a certain amount of a particular drug--up that sleeve.)
    "Hang us, those limbs. Hold no virtue. Those told to hold, project on my cue. Till we fall." (The higher pitch singing and the lower, dry throat growls do indeed have meaning. The higher pitch is the younger brother, with a glass half empty attitude, fears getting caught. The older brother protests. 'They are no better than we are. Don't say anything unless I tell you to.' This line can also be seen as a heroine reference. Hold, project, etc. ,as well as a police reference)

    Fast foward again
    "...take a gander, the bigger they are the harder they fall." The big brother tells the younger one. 'It's me they want. Stay here. I'll take the blame.'
    "Not needy ya see. Not needy as I come up in arms/with open arms over trees." Trees is a nickname for marijanna. 'I will surrender but all they will find is the weed.')
    "Listen to proven guarantees. While you're/they're rolling up you're sleeves; beating on your chest. But we can keep in a jar when it's coming cats and dogs for days. We Marys had ourselves a ball and I guarantee that what they done for you, they done for me."
    (Among one of the most elegantly written descriptions in any of Darrow's lyrics; we hear about a betrayal. The cops seem to be giving the youngest one a deal. While the oldest can hear Miranda rights and all they guarantee. At rhe same time feeling the cops pat him down, around the chest and eventually his sleeves.)

    There is so much more to these lyrics, there really is. Darrow Sudderth is a true, lyrical master.
    Lets see how my take on these lyrics go over...if anyone ever sees 'em.
  • Nick from IowaI personally do not believe this song is about hookers or stripers. I think it compares the life of a mainstream artist to a prostitute. Here's my analysis.


    Take a little dive into the shallow or spy what do you see?
    I see the tortoise and the hare in a rat-race,
    And it fits like a glove under my sleeve,
    Just wait till then.

    (Keep in mind the singer is speaking directly to you about a situation that he lives through every day. Sometimes he places himself in the story, other times he narrates. The shallow represents a generalized relationship between a dedicated musician and the mainstream music industry.
    The Tortoise, focusing more on meaning and authenticity wars against the Hares drive for money.
    To dive into the shallow or spy means to jump head first into such a poorly motivated situation, or try and see things from the singers perspective.
    The singer admits to wearing this situation like a glove so to speak but keeps his views up his sleeve. Wait till they become apparent.)

    Their heads are the heaviest of operation,
    He has still not lost imagination,
    I can hear him mouth the whole ending,
    Just wait till then.

    (The rabbits are always trying to come up with ridiculous new ways to make money. The tortoise has retained his own creativity and he knows this situation can't go on unchecked forever.)

    We marys had ourselves a ball,
    Oh, yes we did,
    We marys had ourselves a ball,
    I must admit,

    (The singer directly associates himself and other mainstream artists as prostitutes, but they had a good time nonetheless.)

    Hang us those limbs, hold no virtue,
    Those told to hold: Project on my cue,
    Until we fall.

    (Read hang us those limbs hold no virtue and think of the hare propositioning the tortoise to be his puppet. The tortoise can't hold his convictions if he wants to be successful, he has to sell himself. "Those told to hold, project on my cue, until we fall" To project is to give a false sense of identity. The hare says follow my lead and we'll make a ton of money until you're no longer relevant.)

    Whether a he or a she, put your mouth where your money is,
    (To put your money where your mouth is means to bet on yourself essentially. The singer flips it around and changes the meaning entirely. To put your mouth where your money is means to say whatever you have to, to be successful. At this point the singer is not inviting you to do such a thing, rather he takes a cynical position on the situation he's in.)

    Are the birds of a feather that clever?
    If I knew I'd keep locks; that's a given,
    Just wait till then,
    Their heads cast shadows like skyscrapers,
    Still small enough to fit up their asses,
    To put it all into perspective with definition,

    (Are the corporate rabbits and those who conform to that lifestyle that clever? If the singer knew he'd have them locked in cages because their way of life is a danger to us all. Just wait till then.
    The rabbits heads are full of nonsense; misguided ideas of what we as a population want to see. They are so full of themselves, concerned only with themselves, the artist has no creative control. "To put it all into perspective with definition" the singer really can't get any more straight forward.)

    We marys had ourselves a ball,
    Oh, yes we did,
    We marys had ourselves a ball,
    I must admit

    (Mainstream artists are all prostitutes.)

    Hang us those limbs, hold no virtue,
    Those told to hold: Project on my cue,

    (Again the hare says be my puppet, hold no virtue, follow my lead, focus on money.)

    Oh, take a gander the bigger they are the harder they fall,

    (The singer is again speaking directly to you. Tmake a good hard look, the bigger the corporate slob...the more relevant he is in today's society, the harder he'll fall)

    Not needy you'll see, not needy,
    And I come with open arms over trees,
    Not needy you'll see

    (The singer doesn't need whatever help the industry thinks it's giving him, he still has his own creativity and it's what got him to this point in the first place. The music industry needs him to stay relevant.)

    Listen to proven guarantees while you're rollin' up the sleeves,
    Beatin' on your chest,
    But we can keep it in a jar when it's comin' cats and dogs for days,
    We marys had ourselves a ball and I guarantee,
    And what they've done for you, they've done for me.

    (The singer invites you to join him in a life so lusted after and nothing like what it seems. Listen to the rabbit whisper guarantees of success while you follow blindly. But when times get rough it's easy to bottle up your viewpoint because after all, money means survival anymore. We prostitutes had a great time, and what the corporate hare has done for you, which is to say nothing, he has done for the singer.)

    I think I'm pretty close here, I might be off in a couple spots but it's difficult to gain perspective on a subject you know very little about. Either way, hope people enjoy my viewpoint! :)
  • Joseph from San Diego, CaI actually believe all of you are wrong about the song, but headed in the right direction. Most notably i believe "Hang us! Those limbs hold no virtue" Should be written like such: "Hang us those limbs! Hold no virtue!" I honestly believe the song is about a stripper. Or an addiction to them. Remember the title of the song is the DANCE. Let me seperate it by stanza bc im not particularly into going into line by line

    Take a little dive into the shallow or spy what do you see,
    I see the tortoise and the hare in a rat-race,
    And it fits like a glove under my sleeve,
    Just wait till then,
    ( [man] Looking from the outside in what do you see? A hopeless situation for someone who is extremely easily persuaded. wait until youre here)

    Their heads are the heaviest of operation,
    He has still not lost imagination,
    I can hear him mouth the whole ending,
    Just wait till then
    ( [dancer] Look at the men sulking about, yet they continue to believe they will get something more. i can hear him tell me the entire thing again. just wait until you see it yourself)

    We marys had ourselves a ball,
    Oh, yes we did,
    We marys had ourselves a ball,
    I must admit
    ( [dancer] we have so much fun doing this i must admit)

    Hang us those limbs, hold no virtue,
    Those told to hold: Project on my cue,
    Until we fall.
    ([man] the dancers hang from the pole and it doesnt matter if they were good once. The girls i want ill get whenever i want them until i run out of money)

    Whether a he or a she, put your mouth where your money is,
    Are the birds of a feather that clever,
    If I knew I'd keep locks; that's a given,
    Just wait till then,
    ([dancer] i know you want to talk about how this night will end it doesnt matter if you do not pay. All the men here are the same and do they still think they could outsmart me into going with them)

    Their heads cast shadows like skyscrapers,
    Still small enough to feed off the lesses,
    To put it all into perspective with definition,
    ([man] the most confident people in the club [dancers] still feed off of us and give us good excuse to spend the money)

    [repeat of chorus]

    Oh, take a gander the bigger they are the harder they fall,
    Not needy you'll see, not needy,
    And I come with open arms over trees,
    Not needy you'll see,
    ([dancer] look! the more they have the more they spend. we dont need your money but we definitely come and greet you with open arms over money [trees])

    Listen to proven guarantees while you're rollin' up the sleeves,
    Beatin' on your chest,
    ([dancer] Listen to how much better my dances are as you get pumped and excited for your turn)

    But we can keep it in a jar when it's comin' cats and dogs for days,
    ([man we can keep our problem bottled inside no matter what)

    We marys had ourselves a ball. And I guarantee
    That what they've done for you, they've done for me
    (this is the point where everything is over. the dance is done and the final statement is said. "I have been though it too." )

    interpret this how you like but this is what hit home to me. it just seemed to make more sense when i used stripper instead of prostitute and addiction as the main focal point. not to mention the title made a little more sense

    Thanks!


  • Derek from Mitchell, Sd"He sings the chorus in falseto and it sounds vey good. It's amazing the way he can shift voices so quickly."

    He's not singing the chorus in falsetto. That's considered "head voice" in the alto range. Male vocalists have an overlap of usually about one octave that they can produce in the head voice and the falsetto; Darroh's overlap, I would imagine, is a good deal larger. His falsetto, on the other hand, you can hear during the line "We marys had ourselves a ball" just before "and I guarantee" during the last pre-chorus.
  • Spencer from Bristol, CtOn the subject of "The Pot".. The title has a double meaning, marijuana and the Pot & Kettle reference. The song is NOT about George Bush, it's simply about government banning of marijuana and the hypocrisy and selfishness in doing so. In the song replace the word Kangaroo with government. It comes together
  • Heather from New Orleans, LaTo me, the song is about corrupt capitalism practices. The song starts off asking us to dive into the shallow, or into a superficial world with low morals (hence, "shallow"). The song goes on to describe the tortoise and the hair in the rat-race, which is a sort of cliqued social darwinism that "fits like a glove," referring to how these corporate bureaucrats are a good fit for the economic environment (again, that social Darwinism). Their heads hang heaviest tells us how these corrupt business men may feel ashamed and or guilty about what they're doing, but that does not damper their "imagination" on how to continue their actions.
    The second verse follows in the same grain. It points out that women are guilty as well as men, telling both to put their mouth where their money is, or to literally vocalize where all their money has come from. The song then asks whether these "birds of a feather" are smart enough to cover up and/or justify what they've done. "Heads cast shadows like skyscrapers" alludes to big egos and delusions of grandeur like the skyscrapers they preside in, but are still small enough to fit up their asses, which means there is always someone to answer to when it comes to operating a free market corporation, which could help keep these delusions in "perspective with definition." (feeding off the lesses also works in this theoretical interpretation, as the rich often prey upon the poor). "Take a gander, the bigger they are the harder they fall" I only have one word to say...Enron. "Not needy you'll see" = living in excess and "come with open arms over trees" = pretending to be a man of the people. The guarantees speak of empty promises while the beating of the chest alludes to the primitive nature of seeking power (Linking social Darwinism with evolution, very nice). But we can't "keep it in a jar" since everybody is trying to make a quick buck these days. I then asks the listener to look around and see with this situation has done for everyone...not a pretty sight. I know everybody wants to link this song to prostitution, what with the "Marys" strewn about, but to me that just means these figurehead are whores to the system, doing whatever they can to get by and paid at the same time. As far as the chorus, "hang us those limbs" talks yet about doing anything to get ahead, though it holds no virtue, but only vice for the power-mungers. I like another interpretation I read about "those told to Hold," alluding to the bible how "he who is without sin cast the first stone," goes to "project on my cue," which to me sounds like its talking about the hypocrisy throughout the business world and how they justify their actions. that's all what I think anyway...
  • Derek from Mitchell, Sd@Ichabod: If "The Pot" isn't about marijuana, why does Maynard say, "Ganja police," in the last repeat of the refrain? Yes, it is about politicians, but it's about politicians who attack marijuana users based on the negative impacts marijuana trafficking has due to the very laws -they- created to regulate it. Maynard's point is that the illegal status of marijuana causes more harm due to violence, extortion, etc. in trafficking than the marijuana itself causes, yet the government blames the end user, who has done nothing more than buy and smoke a largely harmless drug.
  • Dawson from Fort Worth, TxI pride myself on "decoding" song lyrics to find the hidden meaning, but this one, totaly stumped me. I registered just to tell Angela, Sacramento, CA, thank you, and great job. I was completly clueless till I stumbled upon this site.
  • Cory from Victor, Nytoo much convo on one damn song but its really good. this band has some serious talent
  • Justin from Pittsburgh, PaAngela, I have have no idea if your interpretation is right, but it's good enough for me. I like it. And no, Mary was never said to be a prositute, but that a viewpoint. Artists, especially ones as out-there as Fair to Midland, sometimes make distant interpretations for the sake of their work.

    I was introduced to their music by some friend early last summer and got to see them live not long ago. It was a different kind of show, and it was very cool to see Sudderth on stage, even if he did seem to end up singing, back to the crowd, on the ground at the end of every song. He also jumped from a balcony to the stage. On top of that Cliff just looks like the coolest guitarist out there.
  • Ichabod from Ny, NyI'm sorry but Tool's "The Pot" has nothing to do with marijuana. It's about Pres. Bush and hypocrisy. Bush is "The Pot" as in the old saying "Now thats the Pot calling the Kettle black". "You must of been high" and "pissed all over my black Kettle" are references to his idiotic invasion of Iraq against the better interests of the American people.

    As far as dance of the manatee... Angela has a great synopsis there. Although, what if Marys are not prostitutes? Homosexuals? ELECTED OFFICIALS?
  • Angela from Sacramento, CaManatees are the maidens of the sea; when first discovered they were mistaken for meremaids. They are simply misunderstood creatures, like the women in the song.
  • Angela from Sacramento, CaTrue, but a lot of people have made that mistaken assumption of Mary Magdalene. The band could have used that misconception to deliver their message, or even made the mistake themselves.
  • Doug from Washington, DcMary Magdalene was never considered to be a whore in the Bible. She was merely labeled as a, "woman of questionable reputation" in the Good Book. Many such references led to the belief that Mary was a prostitute. This was used to identify her as a repentant sinner, but there is nothing concrete to prove her occupation.
  • Jackie from Chicago, IlThat's all very interesting, but what the heck does it have to do with Manatees?
  • Angela from Sacramento, CaScrew it, I just post the interpretation here. This is also posted in my blog on myspace.

    LYRICAL INTERPRETATION
    "We marys had ourselves a ball"
    Marys are whores. It's a reference to Mary Magdalene, who was considered a prostitute in the bible.


    "Take a little dive into the shallow and spy."
    The narrator is asking you to step into another world. Walk in someone else's shoes, especially before you judge them.


    "I see the tortoise and the hare in a rat-race and it fits like a glove under my sleeve."
    The world is one big cliché of a rat-race. Even with prostitution life can still be a big mary-go-round? Even so this secretive lifestyle is fitting.


    "Their heads are the heaviest in operation, he has still not lost imagination."
    It's about shame. The marys/whores hang their heads lowest when they are "operating". Despite that, their cliental haven't lost any imagination.


    "Hang Us! Those limbs (hold no virtue)."
    The marys feel regretful that they live such lives. They feel suicidal
    (Sudderth's transition in vocals to tenor [the high pitched singing] is very suggestive that this is supposed to be the marys singing.)


    "(Those limbs) hold no virtue"
    The deeper bass voice is the narrator cutting in, saying it's the nay-sayers who should be ashamed, not the marys.


    "Those told to hold"
    Another bible reference "Let he who is without sin cast the first stone", so everyone else (ie prostitutes) should hold their tongues against criticizers because they are in the wrong.


    "(Those told to hold) project on my cue!"
    Again, the narrator cuts in, finishing their sentences in a way, telling the marys that they have every right to criticize those who try to condemn them.


    "Whether a he or a she put your mouth where your money is"
    Narrator says this instead of "put your money where your mouth is"


    "And are a bird of a feather that clever? If I knew I'd keep locks that's a given."
    Were the men and women against him clever enough to get his play on words?


    "Their heads cast shadows like skyscrapers. So small enough to feed off the lesses to put it all into perspective, with definition."
    "Their heads" are the heads of the nay-sayers. They act so high and mighty all the while attacking the marys.


    "Oh, take a gander the bigger they are the harder they fall"
    Refers to the skyscrapers.


    "Not needy you'll see, not needy and I come with open arms over trees."
    Narrator explains himself to the judgmentalists. No, he doesn't "need sex", he says, he's made a connection with these people, because he came with open arms and an open mind.


    "Listen to proven guarantees while you're rolling up your sleeves, beatin' on the chest. But we can keep it in a jar when it's comin' cats and dogs for days."
    No matter what is being said those who oppose the marys will continue to harshly judge them. The narrator sarcastically comments that the marys can "keep it" (their services) in a jar no matter how horrible life gets.


    "And I guarantee that what they've done for you, they've done for me."
    The narrator knows of their hypocrisy. They too use the services of the marys while simultaneously belittling them.

  • Arnaldo from Ponce, OtherThis band is really good. I agree with the user that says that it's like The Pot by Tool. Another interesting fact about this band is: the singer is a baritone. He sings the chorus in falseto and it sounds vey good. It's amazing the way he can shift voices so quickly.
  • Steven from Sulhpur Springs, TxI am from the town from where the band was formed and even though a lot of sites say dallas Texas, they were origonally formed in Sulphur springs Tx they also have two other cd's before this one "Carbon Copy Silver Lining" and "inter.funda.stifle" which you can buy here http://cdbaby.com/found?allsearch=fair+to+midland
    Darroh's real name is Andrew and he used to work at a record store "ONCUE" gangster version of Sam Goody.
  • Angela from Sacramento, CaThis song is very similar to Tool's song "The Pot", only it focuses on prostitutes instead of marijuana. It's about an objective observer taking "a little dive into the shallow" or looking closer at a prostitute's lifestyle.
    The "Marys" mentioned in the song are the whores (it's short for Mary Magdalene, who is considered a whore in the bible)
    "Their heads are the heaviest in operation" - the hookers feel the most shame when they are "operating".

    For complete lyrical interpretation - www.myspace.com/persephone_333
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