Ming mang mingalong, ning nang ningalong, ping pang pingalong pay
As a youth, my best friend and I enjoyed the “ming mang mingalong” part of this song the most. It’s nonsensical and silly and was included intentionally and in a non-jokey way to this song. This in itself, made it very funny and fun to sing along to. Like many songs by They Might Be Giants that I heard as a kid who mostly didn’t know shit about shit, I let the theme and possible meanings of the song float right over my head. It was a silly song to sing along to while camping, playing video games, or to reference in daily conversations as an inside joke. That is until you get dumped for the first time.
32 footsteps leading to the room where readers will subscribe.
Do you remember your last break up? I married right out of high school and then was a teen parent followed by a marriage that I ended after 4 kids and 16 years of marriage, so the last time that I was broken up with and in turmoil was my junior year of high school. I would listen to this song (along with other mainstays that will be discussed in the many months ahead) during that break up. I remember the breakup pretty well for it being 27 years ago. I sat in my royal blue 1970 Ford Falcon Futura with - let’s call her Caitlyn - wait. No, I think she broke up with me over the phone. We’re going to say that this memory is a not-so-vivid one.
She broke up with me after a new co-worker started at her job in a grocery store. My mom had given my girlfriend a tarot card reading (longer story to be shared at some point over on my other publication, Succulents and Cactuses, about the art of anxiety and overthinking) and had predicted that my girlfriend may meet someone at work who is tall with dark hair. This person would be her perfect match and she would have to choose between me or this new thing. What a great thing for a mom to tell her son’s girlfriend, right?
This was the era of teenagers having pagers. Malls had kiosks dedicated to them and Caitlin loved her translucent pink glittery pager. Anyone that she gave her pager number to, could call her and leave a voice message! Versus calling her house landline and leaving a message on the answering machine. Incredible technology that I knew at age 16 was going to be short lived and refused to participate.
I knew what Caitlin’s pager voicemail code was, so when I called it to leave a message, I could check each day to see if she had listened to it or not by waiting for the “You have 1 unheard message” prompt and then hang up. Yeah, this is cringe. I was a teenager who was ill equipped for intrusive thoughts and was clearly raised by a very manipulative parent. I obsessed over details of our relationship trying to prove to myself and eventually to her why she was wrong to break up with me (omg also so cringe, Chase WHYYY). Recounting all of the signs, all of the indicators that our love was real.
Counting all of the footsteps over and over.
This song conjures all those feelings for me. It may or may not be the intended theme or interpretation but it sounds like a man who is obsessed over a great loss and having a difficult time accepting the reality of it or of his behavior that follows.
32 footsteps leading to the room where the paint doesn't want to dry
32 footsteps running down the road where the dirt reaches the sky
So why all those “bing bang bingalong” lines? Because the guy is bonkers. He’s talking silliness and going nuts. Is that what the writer intended? I don’t think so. I think They Might Be Giants are masters of creating absurd or ambiguous lyrics because they sound good or compelling and leave room for interpretation by the listener. This may contribute to part of their success at still being a fantastic band since this song and album debuted in 1986 (37 YEARS AGO).
How do you feel about 32 Footsteps? If today is your first listen, I want to hear from you! Leave a comment or send an email to me! If you’re relistening with a new context, what are your thoughts?
Thank you so much for reading Kiss Me, Son of Blog! If you enjoy this, I have another free publication you can check out while I stumble my way through writing my first book. I’d love to have you there.