Bowling for Soup vs. 1985

Bruce Springsteen, Madonna
Way before Nirvana
There was U2 and Blondie
And music still on MTV
Her two kids in high school
They tell her that she’s uncool
Cuz she’s still preoccupied
With 1985.
Bowling for Soup, “1985”


I don’t know about you, but this “1985” song has been the bugging the bejesus outta me for months. Maybe it’s the curmudgeon subject matter. Maybe it’s because this former SR-71 song went through a rewrite by Bowling for Soup singer Jaret Reddick, yet it still includes a reference to Blondie, who split up way before 1985. He could’ve easily replaced “Blondie” with the more logical MTV-rhyming schemers like “Don Henley,” “McCartney,” “Tom Petty” or (gasp) “Huey.” And even if it didn’t rhyme, what would’ve been more punk rock than saying, “Fuck iambic pentameter, fellas, let’s just throw Billy Ocean a bone?” (Not that he’d know what the fuck iambic pentameter is in the first place.)

But this is nerd rock we’re dealing with here: cheeky, geeky and teeming with sneaky smarts. This subversive anthem wants (and gets) it both ways. It castigates parents for getting old (and acting immune to Limp Bizkit’s inconsiderate charms) in order to win high school hearts. At the same time it high-fives the parents by illustrating that things actually were way cooler in 1985, what with a pumped-up Bruce and a pre-kabbalah Madonna and all. These guys even score fortysomething brownie points by covering A Flock of Seagulls’ “I Ran,” Bryan Adam’s “Summer of ’69,” and referencing Bon Jovi’s “Livin’ on a Prayer” in “Punk Rock 101.” Which would make them seem mucho preoccupied with 1985.

Why so? Because in 2005 Bowling For Soup is reasonably uncool but not as across-the-board uncool as they would’ve been in the days of Live Aid and Night Ranger. In 1985, bands hadn’t run out of boss names yet — although Kajagoogoo and the Honeydrippers were a harbinger of worse things to come. Back then, a band called Bowling for Soup would’ve stood out like a band called 20,000 Steaming Piles of Poo might now if we weren’t so jaded. Plus BFS has got a bassist so obese he could’ve stood in for three guys in Madness. But nah, the sad fact is BFS are stuck here in 2005, slogging it out for the nerdy crown with pocket protector bands like Dorkweed and Phobophobe.

If only we could stuff these feisty fatsos in a DeLorean and go back in time to, say, 1985, where all the monumentally wonky bands thought they were sitting pretty at the cool lunch table, long before MTV would begat VH1, the make-fun-of-the-’80s channel of the future. Maybe then Bowling for Soup could emerge as pioneering dweebs for all time. Even so, they’d face some formidable competition going toe-to-toe with some Class of 1985 geeks and dweebs. Woo-hoo hoo indeed!

Nerdy Singer

As a major annoyance factor, Bowling For Soup’s got Jaret Reddick, who sings like he’s Mike Love crossbred with a mosquito.

As a major annoyance factor, Wham’s got Andrew Ridgely, who sings like he’s the left ear of a flea.

Nerdy Word Maker-Uppers

On Bowling for Soup latest single, “Almost,” Reddick invents the word “breastes” so he can rhyme the girl’s jugs with “Texas.”

In 1985, Phil Collins makes up the word “Sussudio” so it can rhyme with … errrr … “Sussudio.” Long rumored to be gibberish, it’s now believed to mean a balding drummer will ruin his nice guy image by asking his wife for a divorce through a fax machine.

Nerdy Camaraderie

In a show of solidarity, the other guys in Bowling for Soup call themselves “fat guys” in interviews to lessen the burden of Chris Burney’s personal tonnage.

In a show of solidarity, the other guys in Loverboy adopt wearing red bandannas in videos to draw attention from Mike Reno’s receding hairline.

Nerdy Humanity that Leaves Fan Guessing

When Jaret Reddick sings “When I’m with you I’ve got everything/I can walk and I can pee,” fans wonder whether he’s talking about taking to the streets with some Depends.

When Billy Joel stumbles on the line “everybody makes mistakes” on “You’re Only Human (Second Wind),” fans wonder if this isn’t the most premeditated blooper in recorded history that didn’t involve Dick Clark and Ed McMahon laughing like hyenas directly after.

Nerdy Self-Contradiction

In “My Hometown,” a song meant to be a humble thanks to all their good friends, Reddick emphasizes “especially the ones I had before the Grammy nominations in 2003” with the same smarmy braggadocio Barney Fife has when he puffs up his chest about, “Yep, goin’ to Raleigh.”

In “We Built This City,” a song meant to be an attack on faceless corporate rock (“Someone’s always playing corporation games/Who cares they’re always changing corporation names”), it’s hard not to think of faceless corporate rockers Starship, begat from Jefferson Airplane and Jefferson Starship. When Grace Slick became the last original member of all three bands to defect, she joined the reconstructed Airplane who really blew a nerd moment by not simply calling themselves the Jeffersons.

Nerdy Movie Appearance

Bowling for Soup appeared as the prom band in Britney Spears’ movie debut, Crossroads. Beat that, Mr. Hip to Be Square!

Huey Lewis played a teacher judging prom bands in Back to the Future, making Michael J. Fox seem like a rock demigod by comparison.

Nerdy Use of a Fat Member in a Video

Bowling For Soup exploit Chris Burney’s girth by squeezing him into a pink tutu for cheap laughs.

Heart exploits Ann Wilson’s acquired girth by scrunching up the screen to make her look svelte every time they cut away from Nancy on their videos. Way to go, tugboat Annie!

Nerdy Revenge

Reddick’s turned his former girlfriend’s car into a “Two Seater” when he decides to keep the back seat she pity-screwed him in, along with stealing the radio, smashing the windows and keying the paint job.

Everyone’s favorite egghead Sting threatens to build a fortress around your heart and encircle you with barbed wire just because he “cannot fill the chasm.” Hardly seems fair, especially since that was the same lame excuse he gave for breaking up the Police!

Serene Dominic is a freelance writer. Send comments to [email protected]
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