What is it with the song “No Handlebars” that I can’t get it out of my head. Well, I’m a sucker for catchy tunes, and this sorta fits the bill. But I think the thing that kept me intrigued was that the “riding a bike with no handlebars” line is quite clearly a reference to this story about President Bush. And once I caught the reference, I started paying attention to the rest of the lyrics, and that’s when I really got intrigued. So what do these lyrics mean?
According to Houston_Proud on Askville – an Amazon propery:
Quite simply, it’s a song about the power of the individual, and how one can do *anything*, both good or bad. It is also about what Spider-Man’s Uncle Ben said, “With great power comes great responsibility”, and how maybe some people (yes, George Bush, but not just the President, other world leaders too) need to remember that assuming “might = right” could get them thrown out of power. Once again, the power of the “little person.”
I like the “with great power comes great responsibility” line – and I agree with the analysis. The song starts out talking about all the good that can be done with power – 64 MPG cars & antibiotics – and all the bad – atom bombs & assasinations – and as power is solidified “my tower secure” the vacilating from good to bad goes all bad and escalates from “assasination” to “holocaust.” A vicious cycle of escalating unbridled state control & violence. If you watch the music video it’s very 1984. However, I also see a second theme here. There’s a section of the song – before the escalating violence -that talks about stupid things:
I can take apart the remote control
And I can almost put it back together …
Me and my friend saw a platypus
Me and my friend made a comic book …
I can keep rhythm with no metronome
These lines are particularly interesting because my reaction is “why are these things special?” Taken with the key line here – which is “I can ride my bike with no handlebars” – I wonder if there isn’t a 2nd theme. The concept that today more than ever before we as a society are willing to accept mediocrity from ourselves & our leaders. The fact that we would accept someone like George Bush as our president despite general consensus that he isn’t too bright. The fact that we put Paris Hilton on TV for being rich & obnoxious. The fact that reality TV tells us you don’t have to be good at anything to be rich & famous – the fact that our society is rewarding the dysfunctional. The fact that since birth this generation has been told – by Mr. Rogers & highschool counselors & therapists – that we’re special, only so that we all grow up expecting special treatment. We all grow up wanting Fendi bags & giant houses & thanks to our credit cards & plastic surgeons we can have it all. But when you get there you find that having it all isn’t what it used to be.