Feel My Serpentine

When I was 14 my English teacher was pretty cool. She was probably only a couple of years out of teachers college, young, hip and had a kind of punk hair style.

She decided that instead of getting us to analyse poems instead we’d be allowed to bring along our favourite songs and analyse those.

This sort of thing can cause problems – a couple of years later when my brother was doing the same thing he took along an NWA tape and the teacher started playing “Fuck the Police” until she heard the lyrics and quickly stopped it.

There’s also the problem that many songs 14-year-olds are into don’t have many meaningful lyrics. I remember reading the lyrics to various popular songs in Smash Hits. Many times there’d be things like this:

Ride on time (x8)
Wo-oah
(Ad lib to fade)

But after sorting through the selection of tapes that my classmates had brought along, my teacher decided on one that she thought would work. It was “Welcome to the Jungle” by Guns ‘n’ Roses. A track off their recently released album “Appetite for Destruction,” it was a favourite amongst the metallers in my class.

She put the tape on and we listened to the first verse:

Welcome to the jungle
We’ve got fun ‘n’ games
We got everything you want
Honey, we know the names
We are the people that can find
Whatever you may need
If you got the money, honey
We got your disease

The first question she asked was if we knew what the jungle was. There was a bit of discussion, someone suggested that the jungle represented society, and most people agreed with this. Then someone else suggested that maybe it was drugs, and the class was more or less split between society and drugs. It was time for the chorus:

In the jungle
Welcome to the jungle
Watch it bring you to your knees, knees
I wanna watch you bleed

It was decided that this meant that society and/or drugs, which had previously wanted to be nice to you, now wanted to be nasty and see you suffer. Things were still a bit vague, so we moved onto the next verse:

Welcome to the jungle
We take it day by day
If you want it you’re gonna bleed
But it’s the price you pay
And you’re a very sexy girl
That’s very hard to please
You can taste the bright lights
But you won’t get them for free

It seemed that this verse was directed towards a female. This could that symbolise that the jungle/drugs/society was a male and the thing it was talking to was a female, or it could be a specific man and woman, like Axl Rose and his girlfriend.

Things got a bit awkward when it came to analysing the line “you’re a very sexy girl”. The jungle/society/drugs was obviously judging her outward appearance. But things got more hectic with the next chorus:

In the jungle
Welcome to the jungle
Feel my, my, my serpentine
I, I wanna hear you scream

It was that line, “feel my serpentine”. What was a serpentine? There was that river in London, and it could also mean something like a snake. But he wanted her to feel it, he wanted her to feel his snake-like thing. He wanted her to feel his… er, time for another verse.

Welcome to the jungle
It gets worse here everyday
You learn to live like an animal
In the jungle where we play
If you got a hunger for what you see
You’ll take it eventually
You can have anything you want
But you better not take it from me

The mention of living like an animal (a serpentine?) was impressive as it took the jungle metaphor one step further. But unlike a real jungle that might be ok to live in, this one got worse every day. It was interesting that the jungle was enticing the possible female, but also letting her know that she couldn’t have anything from it.

And when you’re high you never
Ever want to come down

This worked strongly in favour of the jungle-as-drugs supporters, but the jungle-as-society crew pointed out that high didn’t have to mean high on drugs. High society, perhaps?

You know where you are
You’re in the jungle baby
You’re gonna die

This could mean that the female person/metaphor had overdosed on drugs/society. But if it was drugs, why would drugs want a person to die? Wouldn’t the drugs want a person to stick around so they could take more drugs? Or would that only be a drug dealer. Wait, maybe the jungle was a drug dealer? The chorus was repeated again, then the song ended with:

In the jungle
Welcome to the jungle
Watch it bring you to your
It’s gonna bring you down-HA!

Ok, so there’s this person who might be a woman or it might be something that is being symbolised as a woman and she’s being talked to by the jungle who might be drugs or society or possibly a drug dealer, and is probably male. The jungle wants her to have a good time, but says she’s going to die. He also thinks she is sexy and wants her to feel his serpentine.

By the time the bell rang I’m not sure we were really sure what the song was about. But the important thing is that the ability to analyse pop song lyrics has stuck with me. When I’m sitting around watching music videos and there’s that boy band singing, “you’re making it hard for me,” I know exactly what they mean.

2 thoughts on “Feel My Serpentine”

  1. Lyrics can be interpeted many ways and not just one depending on the person.

    This line:

    And you’re a very sexy girl
    That’s very hard to please
    You can taste the bright lights
    But you won’t get them for free

    It reminds me of groupies or girls who want to date them (the band). It’s very possible that rock stars lead very glamourous and crazy lifestyles. Hence “Sex, Drugs and Rock and Roll”. If this is intended toward a female, which it most likely is, it is inviting them into their world. She may be somewhat innocent or naive about the rock star life but if she wants part of his fame and glory, she has to also sleep with him.

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