"The Impression That I Get" is a song by The Mighty Mighty Bosstones.
It is the first single from the 1997 album Let's Face It and reached number 1 on the Billboard Modern Rock Tracks chart. It also reached #23 on the Billboard Hot 100 pop chart. In 1998, a live version of this song appeared on Live from the Middle East. That same year, the Bosstones performed this song during their debut performance on Saturday Night Live.
"The Impression That I Get", like their song "Where'd You Go?", is fairly characteristic of the Bosstones’ ska punk style. Horns play a large role in this sound, as do the distinctive vocals of Dicky Barrett.
In the lyrics, the singer asks listeners if they have "been close to tragedy" necessitating "a strength most don't possess". The singer says while he has not faced such a daunting situation himself, he "know(s) someone who has" and makes the understatement that he is "sure it isn't good." The singer also expresses doubts about his own mettle and wonders how he would perform in such a situation himself. While stating "I like to think that if I was I would pass" he confesses "I'm afraid of what I might find out."
The opening line of the chorus states "I never had to knock on wood," and it may be more accurately rendered as "I never had to...(knock on wood)" referring to something that the singer has never had to do (i.e. face a huge crisis) and utilizing the superstitious phrase "knock on wood" which is said in the hopes that a good thing will continue to occur after it has been acknowledged. Similarly, the mid-chorus lyrics "It makes me wonder if I never had to knock on wood" are more easily understood with the insertion of ellipsis and other punctuation, i.e. "it makes me wonder if I...? Never had to... (knock on wood)."
The lyrics have been interpreted by some to be in reference to AIDS, and the anticipation of blood results:
I'm not a coward, I've just never been tested, I'd like to think that if I was, I would pass. Look at the tested and think, there but for the grace go I might be a coward, I'm afraid of what I might find out.
The group's official website denies this. The lyrics are more commonly regarded as having been derived from the experiences of a Bosstone's family member as has been disclosed by the group.