After a rough week, thought I’d go for a long trail run in the mountains and work through some stuff.

Stopped by to visit my favorite horses (referenced in “CEOs are Just Like You – Without All the Whining”). They were eating breakfast. The brown one took one look at me, dropped a load and went right back to what he was doing. I got the message.

Sat on a mountaintop trying to sort things out, but nothing came. Absolutely nada. All I could come up with the whole time I was up there was this funky song by the inimitable John McCrea and Cake, Sheep Go to Heaven:

Analyzing dreams may be easy for me, but songs that get stuck in my head for no apparent reason, not so much. Give it a read (lyrics below) or a listen (better still: the song is great, if you’re into that sort of thing, and the video is pretty out of control). See if you can figure out what it means and/or why my brain won’t seem to let go of it.

Signed copy of Real Leaders Don’t Follow goes to whoever comes up with the best explanation (comment below). Got a box of them just sitting here taking up space, so what the hell (no pun intended). I’ll even throw in a personal message, for what it’s worth. Thanks guys; I owe you one.

Sheep Go to Heaven 

I’m not feeling alright today,
I’m not feeling that great,
I’m not catching on fire today,
Love has started to fade,

I’m not going to smile today,
I’m not gonna laugh,
You’re out living it up today,
I’ve got dues to pay,

When the grave digger puts on the foreceps,
The stonemason does all the work,
The barber can give you a haircut,
The carpenter can take you out to lunch,

Now, I just want to play on my panpipes,
I just want to drink me some wine,
As soon as you’re born, you start dying,
So you might as well have a good time,

Sheep go to Heaven,
Goats go to Hell,
Sheep go to Heaven,
Goats go to Hell,

I don’t wanna go to Sunset Strip,
I don’t wanna feel the emptyness,
Old marquees with stupid band names,
I don’t wanna go to Sunset Strip,

I don’t wanna go to Sunset Strip,
I don’t wanna feel the emptyness,
Old marquees with stupid band names,
I don’t wanna go to Sunset Strip,

The grave digger puts on the foreceps,
The stonemason does all the work,
The barber can give you a haircut,
The carpenter can take you out to lunch,

Now, I just want to play on my panpipes,
I just want to drink me some wine,
As soon as you’re born, you start dying,
So you might as well have a good time,

Sheep go to Heaven,
Goats go to Hell,
Sheep go to Heaven,
Goats go to Hell,

Sheep go to Heaven,
Goats go to Hell
Go to Hell (repeat)

Image credit Alex via Flickr (Gotta love that pic. Question is, are they sheep or goats?)

  • Great…now I can’t get the damn song out of my head either. Thanks, Steve 😉

    • Steve Tobak

      Ha! Misery loves company.

  • BigGameHunter

    For someone who has hunted the wild goats (Capra) of the world (in Pakistan, Tajikistan, Azerbaijan, Spain, Turkey, Kyrgyzstan and similar other vacation spots) I can tell you they deserve to go to hell for what they put you through. They are found at the highest elevations and in the roughest territory. To hunt them is to climb high with a heavy pack, glass endlessly in high wind in hope of spotting them in terrain that matches their color before they get a waft of your scent. They can smell parts per billion and scadoodle over the next ridge quicker than you can blink. And should you be skilled enough to take one, you must pack them out. As they say, what goes up must come down. Wild goats can comfortably go places like craggy outcroppings where a wild sheep will trip. They are escape artists, and are notoriously independent, uncontrollable and unpredictable. But, there is no more majestic sight like an ibex looking down from a peak, with its horns arced back and silhouetted against clear blue sky. The domestic variety are totally destructive and will eat the clothes off you if given the chance when you take nap on the ground. Recently in Cameroon, goats lay on the road in between humping wandering ewes in full public display. They seem personable and affectionate, but they are totally nuts, and cause traffic to slow or jam. The Africans run them over to tenderize them before committing them for dinner over a proper wood fire.

    I also give a lot of credit to wild sheep of the world like the 4 species that we have in North America (Dall, Stone, Rocky Mountain Bighorn and Desert Bighorn), but also in the Pamirs of Tajikistan where the Marco Polo Argali live and in Mongolia which is home to three other awe-inspiring argali species. They are all grand animals, but while being totally alert with 8X vision like goats and excellent noses, they are more docile and less destructive. Domestic versions of sheep cohabitate with wild sheep all over the world and they bring harm to the wild species. They can eat the wild version out of their territory and spread disease, like pneumonia. I don’t think sheep deserve heaven, however. The wild versions are found in similarly difficult terrain as wild goats, so you earn them if you shoot straight and survive the ordeal. Domestic sheep behave more like lemmings. So, I guess if there is a bad leader out in front of the pack, that one goes to hell and the others get a pass because they can blame their leader for everything that happened.

    I can’t figure out the lyrics except to say that there is a wild side to the singer who follows no rules and lives for the moment. While goat-like, I would say there has to be a place in heaven for that way of thinking and living. The inference that sheep should go to heaven is possibly attributed to their instinct to follow, in which case most can make the argument that they are blameless.

    • Steve Tobak

      I hunt mice, gophers and moles. Impressive, BGH. Almost poetic.

  • Brad

    Okay here goes…as much as he laments and wants to break out of his dull and stagnant phase, he’s torn because he really doesn’t want to go hang out with a bunch of sheep mindlessly existing. He envisions going out to be part of the herd on Sunset, concerts, bars, games, etc. and yet he goes home and watches TV. Sheep form tight groups, goats are herd animals that tend to stay spaced apart – nearby, not clumped together. He’s a goat, as bad as he wants to be a sheep, he just can’t do it, not for all the fun and joy it may appear to be. So he gets stuck in his head, loses his proverbial shit, kills a bunch of people and now has the solitude he swears he hates, maybe he still does.

    MORAL: If you go to hell, you get a poodle! Nah just kidding the above is about all the introspection I can muster right now.

    • Steve Tobak

      Ha! Not a big fan of poodles but i guess in hell beggars can’t be choosers.

  • Monty Gry

    I had a creepy Psych 101 professor in college. He was all in on Freud…so no doubt that it has to do with some sort of sexual thing.
    Seriously, the song is about the humdrum life of almost everyone. We all want to break out, we all want to get away from being sheep…goats have more fun.
    Lots of “Paradise Lost” in that video and tune.
    The struggle between good and evil…..and evil is always more fun.

    • Steve Tobak

      Only the good die young.

  • Rick Gagner

    Steve it’s a biblical reference in the chorus:
    Matthew 25:31-33
    The Sheep and the Goats
    “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.

    • Angie Clark

      Very interesting. I had no idea there was a sheep and goats metaphor in a bible verse. It makes sense, especially since early Christians demonized the pagan worship of goats. That’s not a criticism, just a historical fact. I’m glad some people can still site biblical references. Without this knowledge, we’d miss a lot of symbolism in songs, literature, and art. Thanks for sharing. 👍🏼
      I think we both deserve s copy of Steve’s book. 😁

  • Kristen Carter

    Hey Steve!
    1. Song reflects your stuck place – repetitive, indiscerable message. Plus, being stuck, it keeps playing in your head.
    2. You aren’t ready to figure it out yet, but underneath you are working on it. Sometimes, you just have to wait for the answers, even though it’s frustrating. Just like in the song.
    3. Song is edgy but grounded, like you are. (Here, I am not trying to suck up to you so I will win a book. Well, maybe a little…)

    • Steve Tobak

      Strangely insightful, Kristen.

  • Steve Tobak

    From Angie Clark on LinkedIn:

    Can one ever disect the mind of a musician/poet? I’ll give it a shot. The goat reference is the Greek god Pan, known to play the flute and cause mischief. He represents frivolous fun, such as drinking, dancing, and wanton sexuality. A sheep has the opposite nature since it follows the straight and narrow course of the herd. They aren’t much fun; you count them to fall asleep. So, obedient sheep go to Heaven, while hedonistic goats go to Hell. The songwriter is taking a Dionysian point of view. Life is short and he’d rather be a goat. It’s the band Cake so I’d expect nothing less. 🐐

    • Angie Clark

      Thanks for including my comment on your blog—and letting me know about it.

  • Rommel Sachs

    It’s interesting that you were given this message in the mountains, where the ancients went to seek divine revelation. Here’s my two cents from a layman’s scriptural understanding:

    1. Emptiness: finds its origins in Genesis 3, with Adam and Eve, the Fall, and being cut off from their relationship with their Creator. Even today we feel this emptiness and ache in our hearts.

    2. The grave digger: our earthly life is a gestational period for the eternal life that is to come. The grave digger in a divine sense uses the forceps to birth us from our earthly womb into the next life.

    3. The barber, stonemason and the carpenter: they might also point to the divine. The barber ‘cuts’, and seems to hint at Matthew 7:19 where ‘every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire’; the stonemason seems to hint at Jesus the ‘cornerstone’, and the rolling away of the stone at Jesus’ tomb; as for the carpenter, Jesus was a carpenter.

    4. Sheep and goats: see Matthew 25: 31-41. Two roads diverged in a wood. Which one to take? That is the question.

    Hope you find answers and peace. Maybe a bottle of good wine with your olives will help.

    • Steve Tobak

      Huh. Wine and olives. Will have to try that.

  • Anurodh Sharma

    I will promise you Steve that the writer/poet was on a dope sky high when he/she may have written this song 🙂