aka The Vinyl Villain incorporating Sexy Loser

#012– Camper Van Beethoven – ‚Take The Skinheads Bowling’ (Rough Trade Records, ’86)


Hello friends,

the first single from a band starting with a ‘C’ … and all the way to America we go, too!

Let’s be honest, not very many of us know a lot more songs by Camper Van Beethoven than ‘Take The Skinheads Bowling’ – their signature tune, I think it’s fair to say. When trying to find out more about the band, I learnt that their output was quite massive, and I made a note to myself to start a more profound search within their back catalogue soon.

Camper Van Beethoven hail from Santa Cruz, California, and if you – like me – ever wondered why it is that they called themselves Camper Van Beethoven and not something more easy, like, say ‘The Beatles’, here’s yer explanation:

“The band’s name was coined by McDaniel (on guitar ’83 – ’84): according to (David) Lowery (lead singer) “McDaniel was into this stuff that would sound like it made sense, but really it didn’t… He’d watch a lot of TV, accept all this mass-media stuff and spit it out all chopped up.”

And not only the band’s name is strange, the title of today’s tune is strange as well. But of course David Lowery has an explanation for that as well:

“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.”

So there you are, two lifetime mysteries solved, as easy as that! I really don’t know how often I must have listened to this song since it came out in 1986. But each and every time I did, I thought to myself “next time you are late for work because you had a few too much to drink the evening before (and look appropriately hangoverish), just look your boss firmly in the eye and say to him: ‘Sorry for being late, boss, but last night there were skinheads on my lawn!’” … so far I never remembered to do it, but one of these days I will, for sure!

And finally, this is the first record of quite a few from the nice people of Optic Nerve Records in the UK, a label who re-releases old gems for rather fair prices. They stick to the original artwork, but include some extras, like little posters and/or postcards. This comes in shimmering orange vinyl, rather nice in fact:



mp3:  Camper Van Beethoven – Take The Skinheads Bowling

 See you soon, take care



  1. Growing up spitting distance from Santa Cruz, this song, band, and their spin-off band Cracker were huge. There’s a whole movement of stoner/slacker music that owes a lot to this band and song (Pavement, Beck, etc. ).

    The album it comes from is a great and was released on the very cool Independent Record Project. Their records were easy to spot in the bins back in the day for their high quality packaging and printing. Kinda like a proto-McSweeney’s.

    I had always thought there was some shared DNA between this song and the punks from Repo Man “Let’s go get sushi… and not pay!”

  2. Hard to believe, but I saw Camper Van Beethoven in Orlando in a club in 1988. They were into the letterpress printing back then, so very nice merch. I recall buying a note card that was typically elegant.

  3. Great post – know what you mean about only knowing Skinheads but I recently heard them do a creditable slacker version of Francis Rossi’s Pictures of Matchstick Men.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.