Musical Moment 3: Bowling For Soup – ‘Girl All The Bad Guys Want’

Late October, 2009. It’s a week until a particularly Unhappy Anniversary rolls around and I’m feeling bad. Not sad bad, weird bad. Unpredictable bad. Incongruity-of-affect bad.

I think too much about some things, too little about others. Thoughts of the unchangeable past circle continuously in my head like vultures, shrieking and swooping and there doesn’t seem to be anything I can do to scare them away.

So… I work out.

I go to my bedroom and do some warm-ups before the actual weights. I’m thinking to myself, “This is good, this is positive. If nothing means anything, might as well do weights rather than sit on my arse.”

(Secretly, I’m hoping to push things until the pain of the weights gives me something I can understand. Something that’s real. Something I can rely on. Oh yes. I’m in that zone.)

When I workout, I usually listen to the radio. It’s company in an empty house. I can have the illusion of interacting with someone.

I start. Dumbbell pull-ups, five pounds heavier than I normally go and five reps more per set. I do double the usual number of sets. Oooh. Hurty. The radio burbles in the background.

Then onto the presses. I go ten pounds heavier. I’m trying to do ten reps more than normal, which is just stupid and, basically, a waterslide into rotator-cuff injury. I’m sweating and hurting and my arms have sharp pains in them. Then I hear a familiar intro followed by these words…

“8 o’clock, Monday night and I’m waitin’
To finally talk to a girl a little cooler than me.
Her name is Nona, she’s a rocker with a nose ring,
She wears a two way, but I’m not quite sure what that means.”

And, already, I’m smiling. “I’m not quite sure what that means” – heh…

Now, I’m not a huge BFS fan, I only know the hit singles. I loved ‘Punk Rock 101’ when it came out for its sly satire of everything conventional and requisite to be a contemporary punk band. I loved the big fat dude guitarist purely for his magnificent enormity. I’m a bloater, when I see fellow bloaters doing well, it makes me fatly happy.

But this song is hitting home. Here’s me, doing my best, angsty, miserabilist Henry Rollins and here are BFS, taking the piss out of tough guys and the whole schtick around them. Making fun of me.

I can’t help it. I nearly start laughing. I’m still working out and I don’t want to drop the weights on my face so I put them down and listen to the rest of the song…

“There she goes again
With fishnets on, and dreadlocks in her hair
She broke my heart, I wanna be sedated
All I wanted was to see her naked!

Now I am watchin’ wrestling
Tryin’ to be a tough guy
Listenin’ to rap metal
Turntables in my eyes
I can’t grow a mustache
And I ain’t got no season pass
All I got’s a moped…moped….moped….. “

And over the years, miles and airwaves, BFS shake me and say, “What the fuck, dude?” What the fuck am I doing, wallowing in misery, working out like an idiot? Thinking that my tiny, tiny problems mean anything in a world where schools in Gaza get bombed with white phosphorous, where dissenting soldiers get arrested for refusing to carry out war crimes, where, frankly, there are really bad things going on.

Yes, I’m going through some shit, yes, it’s difficult. But that process won’t be made any easier by me trying to be something I’m not, trying to grow a bad moustache and a matching attitude. It ain’t me.

Hearing ‘Girl All The Bad Guys Want’ at precisely that moment was exactly what I needed. The song became magical, more than the sum of its parts. Every lyric seemed either obliquely or directly targeted at my idiocy. And these are brilliant lyrics – you can keep all your whiney, precious schmindie, there’s more emotional honesty in the line “All I wanted was to see her naked” than most indie songwriters manage in a lifetime.

So, thank you, Bowling For Soup, for giving me a wake-up call. Thank you for making a truly great pop record with insightful and gently cathartic lyrics. Every time I dance to this tune from now on, I’ll do a little salute to you. And thanks for stopping me turning into a bad guy.

PS – couldn’t resist this before I go: “Her CD changer’s full of singers that are mad at their dad.” 😀