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Camper Van Beethoven: Explain it to Me!


During the past couple of years, I have posted song title games about a variety of bands, musical styles and performers. I recently handed my song title game over to RoaDapple with glee!

Today, I am not only honoring someone I got to know through these song title blogs, as a way of wishing him a Happy Birthday, but am trying to find out more information about the whys and whos of a specific group of people. Help me out here!

Camper Van Beethoven came out of Redlands, California in 1983 with the likes of guitarist Chris Molla, drummer Bill McDonald, Krammenacher, John Segal, and future Crackers initiator, David Lowery.

Repeatedly, both Beethoven and Crackers' band name have come up in conversation and as a request for this game. So, finally, here it is.

I'll leave it up to my wise, and extremely knowledgeable audience, to further my education when it comes to this band's members, differing performance styles, past and present band names, etc.

Their song titles include such interesting and creatives names as in their first hit single, "Take the Skinheads Bowling", and are followed by "Mouth of the Crocodile", "Pictures of Matchstick Men", and "Vampire Can Mating Oven".

Please post a link to your favorite song by any of these members and their bands, past or present, and tell us anything you care to about why you like them, a favorite performance you saw, your dream combination of members, or favorite lyrics.

Happy Birthday, Camper (hope you had a terrific day yesterday!)


Ronda Miller 7 years, 10 months ago

tange, I know you're a fan of these guys and have mentioned how much you like Cracker. Please post a song or two that I would have heard - most likely in your company.

tangential_reasoners_anonymous 7 years, 10 months ago

"... I had a dream last night, about you, my friend I had a dream--I wanted to sleep next to plastic I had a dream--I wanted to lick your knees I had a dream--it was about nothing...."




[ play buttons, upper right ]

alm77 7 years, 10 months ago

I have to choose a favorite? My husband likes "You Are So Beautiful (You Should Be Guarded By Monkeys)", but his ring tone right now is "Low". I like "Euro-trash Girl".

tangential_reasoners_anonymous 7 years, 10 months ago

"I remember his hat tilted forward His glasses are folded in his vest And he seems like the kind of man who beats his horses or the dancers who work at a bar..."


"... Grant us the luxury, 'cause all our heroes are bastards Grant us the luxury, 'cause all our heroes are thieves Of the innocence of the afternoons Now we think it's a virtue to simply survive...."

Sonicgoddess 7 years, 10 months ago

I recently thought about this myself. I was to go meet up with the Campers in St. Louis and Chicago but alas the weather deterred me. I first met CVB at the Gas Station at 9th and Indiana. I had the task of finding lodging for them for their show at Burge Union in 1985(?). I have been friends with them and spent many fun times with them ever since. That is what is or was beautiful about our music scene here in Lawrence. My favorite song, technically should be the entire "Tusk" album, inside joke see liner notes, hee hee- but seriously, it is "All Her Favorite Fruit". During the recording of Key Lime Pie, both David and I were going thru breakups. I think that was a time when David and I related the most to each other as friends and always appreciated his friendship at that time. Mostly I have always been closer with other guys in the band, hanging out with Greg or Jonathan. But at that time, it was the summer after I just graduated from College and felt entirely lost. What better to help get over everything than to watch a band record an album. This song evokes a lot of emotions and memories of that time period and getting thru that. When Key Lime Pie came out and CVB played the Universal Amphitheater at the KROQ Xmas Party, I realized I should be working in the music business. And from the people I had met thru them, I was able to embark on that path. When they played "All Her Favorite Fruit", I kinda teared up because I was seeing them bear the fruit of all that hard work and it was good! Secretly, ever since that first show when Kate Tuttle and Amy Alton got to play tambourine on stage during "Matchstick Men"... I have had the desire to get to play tambourine and hopefully they will allow me to join in on TUSK sometime when I finally see them next time!

tangential_reasoners_anonymous 7 years, 10 months ago


"... and hey, June, why'd you have to come, why'd you have to come around, so soon? I wasn't ready for all this nature

The terrible, green green grass and violent blooms of flowered dresses and afternoons that make me sleepy...."

Ronda Miller 7 years, 10 months ago

Agno, thanks for the clarification. As I mentioned, I'm rather new to the differing members of the bands and to their music.

Sonic, your comments and insight were worth writing the blog, totally! How interesting. Any other thought or info you care to share is appreciated. What is your line if work these days, may I ask?

Tange, thanks for the links and the lyrics. I'm beginning to understand the attraction - well, on some levels. I need to hear more of them.

beatrice 7 years, 10 months ago

No explaination needed, other than Camper Van plays some great music aimed at an intelligent, alternative audience. This isn't intended for the pop music crowd. I am happy to say that I supplied a youtube link to their song "Tania" back in August when you had your "Song with a male or female name in the title" blog.

Here it is again. Wonderful song with interesting instrumentation, all about Patty Hearst of all things. Tania was the name Hearst adopted for a time after being held captive by the SLA. If you remember those photographs of her with the seven headed dragon, then this song should be of interest.

RoeDapple 7 years, 10 months ago

"some great music aimed at an intelligent, alternative audience"

Thanks bea! I was worried about why I wasn't getting it....


(I'm the good lookin' one)

beatrice 7 years, 10 months ago

roed, if you are the good looking one, then you must have been the photographer! Those boys appear to be from a family that has gone swimming far too often in the same gene pool.

I didn't mean to suggest that if others don't ge or like Camper Van, then they aren't intelligent. Not at all. Just noting that their music is clearly something more than just simple pop aimed at mass appeal by reaching for the lowest common denominator. They aren't trying to be the Jonas Brothers, that is all.

Ronda Miller 7 years, 10 months ago

Yes, I had been wondering where you've been as well, Bea! Welcome back! I appreciate your comments as usual. It must be a cuzin thing with Roe and myself - not understanding what all the fuss was about. Maybe it's like that high sound that only youngins can hear! :)

I am beginning to like their sound, though. I feel the years dropping away. And I always thought I was alternative.....the older I grow, the more I realize how mainstream I am.

beatrice 7 years, 10 months ago

Glad you are beginning to like their sound Ronda. They can be rather clever, for what that is worth. However, I don't believe anyone will argue that CVB is meat and potatoes music. It isn't the type of thing you want as one of the 10 you get to take to a desert island or anything, but it is good at times -- kind of like asparagus or a variety of cheeses. An acquired taste, perhaps, and even then not something you want with every meal. Sometimes you just want a main course of The Beatles, with sides of Pink Floyd and Led Zeppelin.

The most interesting stuff I've been listening to in the last couple of years has been St. Vincent, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V-24m-... and The Dresden Dolls http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sO5APf...

camper 7 years, 10 months ago

Ronda, thanks for posting the Camper Van Beethoven blog! I'm not sure what I'd think of their music if it was the 1st time I've heard it (now at the advanced age of 42). But Camper, along with bands like REM were in an interesting and neat window of time when a lot of creative music was made. Camper was for people who liked classic Rock but wanted to hear someting new. While I am not as fanatical as before, I can still appreciate there stuff....and it does bring back great memories from those college days. I had the honor of helping David Lowery load an amp into his van. This was after he recorded the 1st Cracker album and was touring with a German band he was producing at the time. After we loaded it, he smiled and told me that the amp went to eleven. Thanks for posting Ronda. Thanks Tange and everyone for their interesting insight. Now I know there are more CVB fans still in town!

Lets see if I can find one or two songs not played already. Peace everyone and thanks Roe for sending me a B-Day wish. Life is Grand & The History of Utah http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FzCjq2mUFFY http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VENce1...

schula 7 years, 10 months ago

Hey Ronda -- great blog. I am learning more about Camper Van Beethoven right along with you.

Happy birthday Camper! Like the two songs you posted, especially Life is Grand.

Sonicgoddess 7 years, 10 months ago

Well, I guess I should have signed off from my post. This is Sunshine. I lived in Lawrence from 84 to 88 and moved back to L.A. where I began a small indie record label before it was Trendy. It was called Fiasco Records. I moved back to Lawrence and I am the Punk Rock Realtor of town, I run Virtual Value Real Estate and Ichiban Tattoo Studio... My real name is Leslie Dunham but old townies and all the music biz call me Sunshine which is my nickname that I received in Lawrence because I am from Cali. Anyway as for the "Tusk" fist Bump... I mentioned it because that was my idea the Tribute Album and very dear to my heart although would have liked some female backing vocals to help them out on some songs there but not my band just my idea.,.. lol :)

Katara 7 years, 10 months ago

Glad to see someone interested in exploring music that is not normally in their routine.

My favorite, although it is not a CVB original. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-puAbh...

And in a close second... http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U3vJED...

001 7 years, 10 months ago

“… and hey, June, why'd you have to come, why'd you have to come around, so soon? I wasn't ready for all this nature

The terrible, green green grass and violent blooms of flowered dresses and afternoons that make me sleepy….”

Sonicgoddess 7 years, 10 months ago

Oh, hey I have another funny CVB story that I can share if you will endulge... Once I was visiting them in Santa Cruz around New Years of 86. So for this story just imagine it is like Lawrence... We were at David's house where I met Fatima, his cat. We were all going somewhere and about to go down the stairs of this old Victorian house and it had a large window in the stairwell that looked into the neighboring house...which at the time already had a ragin dance party breaking out in the back. As we are going down the stairs we see all the dancing and then the music bleeding thru the window and suddenly the dancers burst into singing.. "Went to your party, drank all your beer, ya we're a bad trip". I turned to David and asked if they knew he was their neighbor. He didn't think so. It was a very surreal moment and neat synchronicity.

Ronda Miller 7 years, 10 months ago

Sunshine, keep sharing your stories! What an interesting life you lead. Are you a singer? My daughter is wanting a tatoo. We may come pay you a visit. Any suggestions on whether a hummingbird would age more gracefully in color or black and white?

Camper., hope your bday was extra special. Hopefully you're sharing your favorites with schula! Tange played a specific one for me last night. All those lessons to share! Always! So much music to love and appreciate!

Sunshine, children?

Leslie Swearingen 7 years, 10 months ago

Ronda, I have a habit of reading the same authors and listening to the same bands, so I am always happy to find someone new that I like. But, I like opera, country, pop, rock, alternative and some heavy metal. I hate it when people say pick a favorite this or that. Roe, those two look like my twins that I sent off to Genron for genetic experimentation. If I had known they were going to turn out that well, I would have asked for them back. Too late now I suppose.

Leslie Swearingen 7 years, 10 months ago

Everyone does know that last remark is a joke, right? Forgot to add the smiley. :-)

Mel Briscoe 7 years, 10 months ago

i don't know anything whatsoever about the music titles ronda mentioned, however, i would like to wish camper a very happy and blessed birthday. :)

Ronda Miller 7 years, 10 months ago

Irish, I'm with you as far as 'most' music goes. I like songs, music, lyrics from all backgrounds including rap. I was rather closed in my youth and really only listened to British bands and a few American rock bands. It even took me too long to appreciate Dylan and Neal Young because either there voices weren't up to my tastes or I didn't like their looks. - yeah, I was shallow! Now I've taken the time to really listen to what they said/say, I've found a mutlitude of range and depth I couldn't imagine living without.

Kat, thanks for sharing the links.

Sunshine, I appreciate the info and we'll check it out!

Ronda Miller 7 years, 10 months ago

Agno, thanks for the information! I suspect camper and tange are interested. Thinking sunshine already has it all.

I'm still listening and learning.

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