When I saw
I was born
And I was dead
This is how the refrain goes, as I hear it (no "a" before "mushroom head").
As I see it, it is "about" being part of a still-born generation. Even I am that, even though I was born in 1968 and not for instance 1945 (or 1950 as Damo Suzuki). Part of a generation or generations marked by a profound distrust against our "fathers" (maybe also "mothers") and humanity "in general". A generation — or generations — of despair, but a shared despair, one that has to be "given" ("I'm gonna give my despair" is how I hear the other refrain; some have heard it otherwise).
Saying it is "about" that does not mean that I guess this is what Suzuki and Can "wanted to say" with their song (even though I'm quite convinced it is not, or at least not exclusively, about "'shrooms" or any of that hippy-go-lucky scene — listen to the next track on Tago Mago, "Oh Yeah", beginning with an explosion and sung partly in Japanese, and decide for yourself).
P.S. It brings to my mind Beckett and his Pozzo:
They give birth astride of a grave, the light gleams an instant, then it's night once more. [Elles accouchent à cheval sur une tombe, le jour brille un instant, puis c'est la nuit à nouveau.]Is "dead" just a metaphor, then? Well — it most often is, as Blanchot might say — being mortal means being unable to die, because the ability to die and to be mortal "ends" with what we call "death" and what Heidegger calls "the possibility of impossibility", the ever-imminent possibility that all possibilities become impossible.
No one knows what it's like to be dead, "literally" and in person, and yet we "know" the death of the others, all too well perhaps. Mort galore (I know this combines French and Irish, but I guess that suits the context).
Did someone say "Death died in Auschwitz" or am I just hearing voices?
P.P. S. And maybe it's the mentioned distrust, a distrust against "common opinion", that encourages "ambiguous messages" — and laconic comments, too? I would not ask the artist "Am I right? Is this what you wanted to say?" It's an artist's privilege to be reticent about his/her "message", even to give away authorship ("I'm gonna give my despair" is also ambiguous, a "Gift" indeed, if you add the German significations to the English).
P.P.P.S. About the "'shrooms" — I know it's also a generation of hallusinogenetics, all kinds of escape from the shadows of all kinds of clouds and all kinds of "values" that have become questionable, to say the least.
P.P.P.P.S. (Added August 27, 2009) Listening to the Jesus and Mary Chain's cover of the song, I realized they sing "I gotta keep my distance." I prefer "I'm gonna give my despair" – and that's what I hear Damo singing...