An Analysis of The Lyrics to ZZ Top’s Ten Foot Pole

Cover of "El Loco"
Cover of El Loco

“I bet you can’t work out these lyrics” said a friend in 1986, holding a copy of ZZ Top‘s El Loco album with an evil glint in his eye.

I guessed it couldn’t be too tricky. Child’s play. The sort of thing that I could probably sort out whilst a) assembling some flat pack furniture and b) patting the top of my head with one hand whilst moving the other hand on my stomach in a circular motion. Easy peasy, as the saying goes, lemon squeezy.

Sadly, the song turned out to be ZZ Top’s Ten Foot Pole, a brilliant song that I hadn’t heard until that point, which is only blighted by being as articulate as one of the blunter minds in the Premier League’s toolbox (say, John Terry at 3am after downing fifteen WKDs in China White).

It turned out that deciphering the lyrics to Ten Foot Pole would have caused even the Enigma machine to complain of a headache and tummy pains and dive under the duvet for the day. Imagine Vic Reeves taking the microphone and doing his Shooting Stars “Geordie pub singer” routine. In Norwegian.

Difficult, difficult, lemon difficult*.

So what, I hear you ask, could possibly be so tricky about the lyrics of a song? In times when we can send singer-songwriters into outer space, surely it is not beyond the wit of man to achieve such a simple task?

That afternoon I singularly failed to decipher the lyrics. However, I was not to be beaten, and some twenty six years later, I have decided to try again: Live! (NB due to a lack of clever technology, the only way for me to do this is for me to listen to the lyrics, and transcribe and translate live right now. You, the reader, will have to use your imagination that this is a live feed. OK? OK.

If you want to have a go too, use the Spotify link below.

Here we go – possibly for the first time ever anywhere, is an analysis of the lyrics to ZZ Top’s Ten Foot Pole:

Trida fine, a sinmah (or is it finba?) do dah hep haing ding fum gogamamo

Er, pretty obvious this line, so I’ll skip this in order to save time. On to the next one…

Stry da fings thadd awondt oont do butt any il thang thad a wondt meeto

We can translate this as “Try the things that you want me to but any little thing that you want me to”. Clear as day that.

Shees fine bring mi do’ esit seten ra mind at a ros reshoo

You know, it’s bitterly disappointing that El Loco didn’t come with a lyric sheet…

I don loo kadang doo my net loohah leten meen you

…or it could be “I don’ minadang do dan ma nen no man fever”. I think my speakers are playing up…

Hmm, I wouldn’t touch her with a ten foot pole

Got that one! Yes!

You just don’t know what shape I’m in

You know what? I think we do know what shape you are in. The only other person I ever heard talk like this was clearly off their face on a toxic blend of tequila and peach schnapps (long story). Back to the song.

Try-da-fy thedit dern tasgoo

Er, “Try to find what you want me to” again?

Letit ang ifen eeton wacha ron wichoo

Um, “let it hang if even what’s wrong with you”

Day me dy ron my nek

“The day I die / around my neck”

Thars a dang ana ding doo itan beegon

“”There’s a thing I’ll do and it’ll be gone”

Shee kina sitn wita ly dou fang

“She’s kind of sitting with a little thing”

Let it ang wit a itin imin babee

“Let it hang with something baby”

Ide oln lee pak da thangs yoodo

“I’d only take the things you do”

Letit ang ifen eeton wacha ron wichoo

That’s that “Let it hang what’s wrong with you” line again.

I wouldn’t touch it with a ten foot pole

Is it “her” or “it”?


Hmmmm. Interesting. I think the kadangs and the dings and dos are especially significant in the first verse…

So what do I conclude? I think it’s about a guy who’s girlfriend wants him to do something that he wouldn’t touch with a ten foot pole. But I’m not entirely sure. Compared with my translation, John Prescott comes across as positively eloquent.

I also think there might be a deeper message in there that perhaps we could all learn from. It’s just that I don’t know what it is. Perhaps I should send a copy of these lyrics to sixty great and noble world leaders – Obama, Putin, hey, even Clegg – perhaps wrapped around an acorn and a copy of Whizzer and Chips. To promote world peace. Or something. If you think you know, leave a suggestion in the comments below. Now, ‘scuse me while I kiss this guy…

Record #209: ZZ Top – Ten Foot Pole

* with thanks to “The Thick of It” for that lovely phrase.





22 responses to “An Analysis of The Lyrics to ZZ Top’s Ten Foot Pole”

  1. chrisflinterman Avatar

    A great analysis! I could not do it better!


  2. simonsometimessays Avatar

    Dangs fodah mafren. Ah goddinow.


      1. simonsometimessays Avatar

        I didn’t realise Elvis was in ZZ Top. Still, behind those beards, it could be anyone.


  3. mikeladano Avatar

    Cheers to ERTAS for the translation. I feel he went the easy way and picked a pretty simple lyric, but hey! Good for you. In the meantime, Thars a dang ana ding doo itan beegon.


    1. Every Record Tells A Story Avatar

      Sorry I took the easy route….


  4. ZZ Top’s First Album (ZZ Top) – 3.10 stars (74.3%) | The Album List Avatar

    […] An Analysis of The Lyrics to ZZ Top’s Ten Foot Pole ( […]


  5. filhtyswit Avatar

    I’m pretty sure he says, “you just don’t know what she might have”. Hence, “I wouldn’t touch her with a 10 foot pole.”


    1. Every Record Tells A Story Avatar

      Excellent – we move one step closer…


  6. […] An Analysis of The Lyrics to ZZ Top’s Ten Foot Pole ( […]


  7. Wrathnar the Unreasonable Avatar

    zargploot clunge ana foopdang spaffock
    wid a gidge ana gidge ana mongplidge wuttock


    1. Every Record Tells A Story Avatar

      I couldn’t agree more…


  8. Mike Anderson Avatar
    Mike Anderson

    I always thought that the lyrics were just gibberish. I’m probably not far off with that statement. One of the greatest bands in history, hands down.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Jim clemmer Avatar

    The story I heard is, Billy went to Nepal. On the treck to an unknown village in search of rare artifacts, Billy and the sherpas spent the night camping in tents. He witnessed the sherpas consume some sort of ritual liquid concoction and, ten foot pole is what Billy says is the closest recreation of the chanting from the psychedelic driven sherpas . with a rockabilly beat of course.

    Liked by 2 people

  10. Patrick Avatar

    I met Billy in the early 90’s at a restaurant on the Hollywood strip and asked him to help me with the lyrics. His comment was they needed a tenth song and they had the riff and song down. But he hadn’t finished what little lyrics they had. And this was the resort of necessity being the mother of invention.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Every Record Tells A Story Avatar

      Hi Patrick – that’s brilliant. Thank you for asking the question and solving the mystery!


  11. everett caine Avatar
    everett caine

    Buds and I tried to do a cover of this back in high school. Our version:
    try find no sin, my mo
    with a diggern dang, come on, gah mo
    tryin’ dang said rost is new
    but nairn nang is wrong wit’ choo
    She’s die, sin my mo
    she’s sairn, a nine, a rost is new
    i don’t tihcken dang in dew,
    my neck mega-burned in gear
    I wouldn’t touch it with a ten foot pole

    Tried find neck burned in gear
    with a dang, a eeka mit der lawmen
    Navy die, blond my neck
    it’s a dang, it’s a ing, it’s a hmm blay blay
    she goes in, lights go dang
    with a dang with a dibba dibba burse blase blay
    I don’t if I thank in dew
    but I can’t thinka what f***k-a wrong wit’choo
    I wouldn’t touch it with a ten foot pole

    you beard so grow, a shave aha

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Every Record Tells A Story Avatar

      I doff my hat to you! This is fine work! Thank you x


  12. Nathan Avatar

    When John Lennon came back from a trip to Gibraltar (or Spain) with a producer he told Paul McCartney that was the first time he knowingly slept with a man, which can be translated as some of their groupies were not what they thought they were. Hence Lou Reed’s “take a walk on the wild side”!


    1. Every Record Tells A Story Avatar

      Hi Nathan. I think the event you are talking about was John’s holiday to Barcelona with his manager Brian Epstein, who was gay. There has been much speculation, but no confirmation, as to whether Brian and John had a “fling” while there, but the comment was not about groupies. And Lou Reed’s song was about characters in Andy Warhol’s factory (including the “he was a she” comment).
      I’m not entirely sure what this has to with ZZ Top’s song, but I appreciate the comment and thank you for dropping by.


  13. Tommy Sanford Avatar

    Greatt read thanks


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