Camper Van Beethoven

Take the Skinheads Bowling

Composed by Chris Molla / David Lowery / Jonathan Segel / Victor Krummenacher

Song Review by

"Take the Skinheads Bowling" is one of those songs that seems like a much bigger hit than it actually was. A staple of radio's '80s rock weekends and nostalgic mix CDs, it's one of those songs that seemingly everyone who was in high school or college between 1985 and 1989 knows by heart. However, the song never came anywhere close to the Billboard charts, and indeed was never even released as a single. Still, its ultra-quirky charms are undeniable. Stylistically, "Take the Skinheads Bowling" is not terribly different from anything else on Camper Van Beethoven's debut, 1985's Telephone Free Landslide Victory: the arrangement is dominated by Jonathan Segel's wavery violin line and a couple of enthusiastically strummed acoustic guitars, as lead singer David Lowery sing-speaks nonsensical lyrics in a yelping voice that sounds like Jonathan Richman's southwestern cousin after a long session with a beer bong. The difference is that the song has an incredibly catchy singalong chorus and a bouncy, country-ish tune that has neither the hardcore punk nor the ethnic folk influences of the rest of the album. Immediately adopted by 1985's black-clad teenage hipsters as the key novelty song of the burgeoning American indie scene (along with the Dead Milkmen's "Bitchen Camaro"), "Take the Skinheads Bowling" eventually bit Camper van Beethoven on their collective posterior, giving the group a reputation as goofy jokesters that proved impossible to shake as they tried to grow artistically on their later albums. Still, the song remains popular enough that the third-wave ska band Crawdaddy covered it on the 1997 compilation Ska Bandits and Foggy Notion essayed the tune on their 1995 debut Mission. The band understands the song's importance in their history; the last track on Camper Van Beethoven's 2000 semi-reunion Camper Van Beethoven Is Dead, Long Live Camper Van Beethoven is "We're All Wasted and We're Wasting Your Time," which is simply "Take the Skinheads Bowling" played backwards with new vocals over the top.

Appears On

Year Artist/Album Label Time AllMusic Rating
Telephone Free Landslide Victory 1985 I.R.S. Records 2:28
No Image 1986 Pitch a Tent Records
Hits from the Underground: The 80's 1998
Various Artists
BMG Special Products 2:28
Cigarettes & Carrot Juice: The Santa Cruz Years 2002 Spin Art 2:32
Left of the Dial: Dispatches from the '80s Underground 2004
Various Artists
Rhino 2:30
Connections 2: In Benefit Of KRCB-FM 2004
Various Artists
Jackalope Records 2:34
Live at the World Cafe, Vol. 20 2005
Various Artists
WXPN 88.5 2:33
Popular Songs of Great Enduring Strength and Beauty 2008 Cooking Vinyl 2:31
Auteur Labels: Independent Project 2010
Various Artists
LTM 2:31
Cooking Vinyl: 1986-2016
Various Artists
Cooking Vinyl
blue highlight denotes editor's pick