Camper Van Beethoven – Take the Skinheads Bowling…. 80’s Underground Sunday

I am posting a bonus version of 80’s Underground Mondays on a Sunday. I hope you enjoy this one.

Back in the late eighties I was working while going to college. A co-worker of mine kept playing this song and it drove me up the wall. My first reaction was to ask…”what the hell is this and why are you playing it?” By the end of the week I wanted a copy of it so she taped it and gave it to me on cassette. This song was heavily played on college radio in the late 80s.

In the song it sounds like he is  making fun of skinheads or poking fun at them. The song in itself doesn’t make much sense but it sure is catchy.

From allmusic…

They described themselves as “surrealist absurdist folk,” the group started in the summer of 1983 when David Lowery and friend Victor Krummenacher (bass) started playing music together around Riverside and Redlands, California.  Chris Pedersen (drums) and Chris Molla (guitar) to join the the band… Greg Lisher (guitar) and Jonathan Segel (violins, keyboards, mandolin) were added in 1985.

Their songs were built on acoustic and electric, traditional and punk influences. The band released their 1985 debut, Telephone Free Landslide Victory, on their own Pitch-A-Tent label… it was soon reissued by Independent Project Records, and thanks in part to the college radio success of this song… it made the Top Ten in the 1986 Village Voice Pazz and Jop Poll.

The song peaked at #8 in the UK Indie Charts. The band were mystified that the song became a college radio hit. They would get signed to Virgin Records a little later on.

David Lowery:

I never thought that Take the Skinheads Bowling would become a Hit. If someone had traveled from the future and told me we would have a hit on our first album I would not have picked this song as being the hit. Not in a million years. I would have more likely picked Where the Hell is Bill.

Why? We regarded Take The Skinheads Bowling as just a weird non-sensical song. The lyrics were purposely structured so that it would be devoid of meaning. Each subsequent line would undermine any sort of meaning established by the last line. It was the early 80′s and all our peers were writing songs that were full of meaning. It was our way of rebelling. BTW this is the most important fact about this song. We wanted the words to lack any coherent meaning. There is no story or deeper insight that I can give you about this song.

Lassie and Where the Hell is Bill were silly but there was at least a point to the songs. Plus both songs were pretty jokey. Something that seemed popular at the time.

The band is still together now…sit back and enjoy Take The Skinheads Bowling!

Take The Skinheads Bowling

Every day, I get up and pray to John
And he decreases the number of clocks by exactly one
Everybody’s comin’ home for lunch these days
Last night there were skinheads on my lawn

Take the skinheads bowling
Take them bowling
Take the skinheads bowling
Take them bowling

Some people say that bowling alleys got big lanes
Some people say that bowling alleys all look the same
There’s not a line that goes here that rhymes with anything
I has a dream last night, but I forget what it was

Take the skinheads bowling
Take them bowling
Take the skinheads bowling
Take them bowling

I had a dream last night about you, my friend
I had a dreamI wanted to sleep next to plastic
I had a dreamI wanted to lick your knees
I had a dreamit was about nothing

Take the skinheads bowling
Take them bowling
Take the skinheads bowling
Take them bowling


Author: Badfinger (Max)

Power Pop fan, Baseball fan, old movie and tv show fan... and a songwriter, bass and guitar player.

32 thoughts on “Camper Van Beethoven – Take the Skinheads Bowling…. 80’s Underground Sunday”

  1. Yeah I remember this one – never paid attention to the lyrics before but guess I didn’t miss anything 😀. The other one I liked from them was Pictures of Matchstick Men

    Liked by 3 people

    1. With this band I listened to more this past week than I have in my life…I knew two songs…their cover of Pictures of Matchstick Men and this one…I listened to the Vampire album…quirky and I liked it.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I like that one a lot & remember it well…it was quite big on the alt rock station in Toronto. Fun ditty. I believe it also found its way into an episode of ‘Ed’,early 2000s show largely set in a bowling alley.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I don’t ever remember hearing this, but I didn’t listen to alternative radio in the 80s. The song reminds me of the music of another band Rubber Clown Car, a zany indie act from Illinois I’ve previously written about. They’re getting ready to release another album soon. And Riverside & Redlands are located about an hour from where I live.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I know…when I heard it back then I hated it….then it stuck with me after work and I had to have it.


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