Stranglehold by Ted Nugent: Lyrics Meaning and Interpretation

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“Stranglehold” is a popular rock song released by Ted Nugent in 1975. The song catapulted him to fame and is often considered a classic by fans.

Ted Nugent is best known on the music scene for his guitar playing skills, which are evident in this song. While fans of his music do consider him a star, his fame has also been somewhat eclipsed by his controversial advocacy of gun ownership as well as trophy hunting. He has expressed anti-Semitic views and is also an anti-vaxxer. Nugent has come under criticism multiple times from humanitarian groups, environmentalists, and animal welfare activists. His social media pages are full of disturbing images of animals that he kills and poses with.

What does the title mean

The word “stranglehold” is an explicitly violent one that has many disturbing implications of abuse as well as other kinds of violence. To put someone in a stranglehold is to choke them. Although the song was written decades ago, the title immediately brings to mind the recent protests during the #BlackLivesMatter movement. We are reminded in particular about the murder of George Floyd in particular.

The title suggests that the song is going to be about either being in a stranglehold or putting someone else in a stranglehold. Either way, the title makes it clear that the song is not going to be sweet, gentle, or kind.

Verse 1 – What does it mean

Here I come again now baby

Like a dog in heat

Tell it’s me by the clamor now baby

I like to tap the streets”

The first verse presents the character of someone who is worldly-wise and street-smart. The singer sets himself up as a person who has animalistic characteristics. The verse is almost explicitly sexual as it compares him to a dog in heat, suggesting that he will do anything for sexual pleasure.

The singer says that there is clamor in the streets when he arrives. He almost seems to be similar to a mob boss or a gangster. He certainly comes across as someone who has a lot of power.

Verse 2 – What does it mean

Now I’ve been smoking for so long

You know I’m here to stay

Got you in a stranglehold baby

You best get out of the way”

These lines make it clear that the singer is the one who has someone else in a stranglehold. While the idea could be metaphorical, it also suggests abuse within a relationship since he is singing to his lover.

There is a kind of paradox in these lines because the singer tells the other person that they should get out of his way. He does not specify how they can do so while being in a stranglehold. It feels as though the singer has established himself and is successful. His lover is worthless to him, someone who is to be discarded thoughtlessly.

What does the chorus mean

The road I cruise is a bitch now baby

You know you can’t turn me ’round

And if a house gets in my way baby

You know I’ll burn it down

You remember the night that you left me

You put me in my place

Got you in a stranglehold baby

You’re gone, I crushed your face”

The chorus takes the violent implications of the title to an undoubtedly violent level, with the singer telling the other person that he has crushed her face. This definitely does not seem to be a metaphor.

The singer recollects the night when his lover left him. It seems now that he is being violent towards her for leaving him. Such ideas are often promoted in popular music and other media. They make impressionable listeners, especially young people, believe that it is okay to propagate violence and hurt others who are less powerful.

Verse 3 – What does it mean

Yeah, sometimes you want to get higher

A sometimes you gotta start low

Some people think they gonna die someday

I got news you never got to go old”

This verse blatantly opposes the scientific truth that everyone grows old and dies. The singer seems to want to retain the idea of himself as a legend or all-powerful figure. He is so privileged that not even death or old age can affect him.

The first two lines strongly suggest the idea of the American Dream. The American Dream was established when European settler colonists broke away from the British Empire. Britain was a place with rigid social structures, where no upward social mobility was possible. The settler colonialists were people who wanted to establish a place where anyone could become rich and successful.

People such as Nugent are the epitome of the idea that those with enough power can make their own rules. These lines imply that even if you start with nothing, you can still “get higher” and make it big.


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What does the bridge mean

Come on, come on up

Come on, come on up

Come on, come on up

Come on, come on up

Come on, come on baby

Come on, come on, come on, come on up

Come on, come on, come on, come on baby

Come on, come on, come on”

The constant repetition of the phrase “come on up” in these lines underscores the propagation of the American Dream in this song. As the singer said in the previous verse, one can start low but get higher.

By using the term “come on up,” he seems to be encouraging others to join him at his high level. The lover he earlier had in a stranglehold is noticeably absent here, presumably discarded in some violent fashion. He does not even consider her worth remembering in his quest for fame and success.


This song by a controversial celebrity is definitely a piece that reminds us about the idea of separating the art from the artist. One can make an effort to focus just on the music one loves without thinking about the musician’s identity or character. But in the digital world, where everything celebrities do is easily accessible to everyone on the internet, it is difficult to justify being ignorant about controversial words or actions.

The song is quintessentially American in its themes and values. It reminds us that history is a violent process through which certain communities get privileges while others are erased or subjugated. The singer uses the popular and influential genre of rock music to promote his ideas. His disdain for those less powerful than him is obvious through the song. He seems to be encouraging his listeners to be more like him, ruthlessly violent and focused only on his own betterment and material success.

In this, he promotes the institutionalized view that the rich keep getting richer and the poor keep getting poorer. Ironically, even though he is a staunch advocate of gun ownership, Nugent is said to have faked illness to get out of serving in the armed forces in Vietnam. The subtext of this song, therefore, also implies a very specific definition of American individualism. It does not take the common good into account, but rather celebrates the urban myth of the strong, powerful, successful individual.

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