Camper Van Beethoven

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Camper Van Beethoven is an eclectic American Alternative Rock band from Santa Cruz, California, whose output mixes elements of Country Music, Ska, Punk Rock, and Folk Music. They are best known for their 1986 single "Take the Skinheads Bowling." Their lead singer, David Lowery, would go on to form the band Cracker -- who would have a mainstream hit with "Low" -- in The Nineties.


Camper Van Beethoven provides examples of the following tropes:
  • Affectionate Parody: Bradley Nowell of Sublime recorded an acoustic parody of "Lassie Went to the Moon" about his missing dog, Lou Dog (as well as releasing a more straightforward cover of "Eye of Fatima Pt. 1"). Camper Van Beethoven would later cover "Garden Grove," one of Sublime's songs.
  • Chronological Album Title: Sort of - their second album is titled II & III
  • Cover Version: "Pictures of Matchstick Men" (originally by Status Quo), "Interstellar Overdrive" (originally by Pink Floyd), "Photograph" (originally by Ringo Starr), "Who Are the Brain Police?" (originally by Frank Zappa), "I Love Her All the Time" (originally by Sonic Youth), a countrified cover of Black Flag's "Wasted," and the entire album Tusk (originally by Fleetwood Mac).
  • Cut Song: If the liner notes to Key Lime Pie are to believed, there was supposed to be a "Closing Theme" to go with it's "Opening Theme", but the album was "just too damn long" already. If this is the same "Closing Theme" that later appeared on the outtake compilation Camper Van Beethoven Is Dead, Long Live Camper Van Beethoven, then it turns out that it was already used as a B-Side under the title "Guitar Hero".
  • Exactly What It Says on the Tin: The lyrics to "Ambiguity Song" largely consist of the repeated line "Everything seems to be up in the air at this time."
    • "Border Ska" is a ska instrumental with Mexican influence.
  • Greatest Hits Album: Popular Songs of Great Enduring Strength and Beauty, which covers material from 1985 to 1989 (i.e. all of the albums released before they initially broke up, but nothing from the reunion onwards). "Pictures Of Matchstick Men", "All Her Favorite Fruit", "When I Win The Lottery" "One Of These Days" and "Eye Of Fatima" are all re-recordings specially made for the album, since they couldn't license them from their two albums on Virgin Records.
  • Hidden Track: The reissue of Telephone Free Landslide Victory adds one to the end of "Ambiguity Song" - it's a dub-influenced experimental remix of their song "Heart".
  • Instrumentals: Tons, from "Border Ska" to "Eye of Fatima Pt. 2"
  • Recycled Lyrics: Both Camper Van Beethoven's "Long Plastic Hallway" and Cracker's "Big Dipper" mention "Cigarettes and carrot juice". Cigarettes And Carrot Juice was also the name of a CVB box set - oddly, this was back when only Cracker had used that for a lyric. Also, the title of their Greatest Hits Album Popular Songs of Great Enduring Strength and Beauty was later used as a lyric in David Lowery's "The Palace Guards".
  • Rock Opera: New Roman Times
  • Shout-Out: "All Her Favorite Fruit" is based on the romance between Roger Mexico and Jessica Swanlake in Gravity's Rainbow.
  • Signature Song: "Take the Skinheads Bowling," although David Lowery prefers "All Her Favorite Fruit" and Cracker's "Eurotrash Girl" over his more successful songs. Also, the highest charting Camper single is actually "Picture Of Matchstick Men", but more people seem to remember "Take the Skinheads Bowling" as the "hit" because it's popularity on college radio was the thing that initially raised their profile.
  • The Something Song: "Ambiguity Song", "Devil Song", and "Axe Murderer Song".
  • Synthetic Voice Actor: No one in the band wanted to sing "Sister Of The Moon" on the Tusk cover album, so they had a text-to-speech program read them instead. They also gave it some Spinal Tap references and quotes from William Shakespeare and Pindar to recite, seemingly just for the hell of it.
  • Word Salad Lyrics: "Take the Skinheads Bowling" surprisingly isn't really about skinheads or bowling -- or anything else for that matter.
    • "Eye of Fatima Pt. 1" arguably counts as well, containing lyrics such as "cowboys on acid are like Egyptian cartoons" and somehow relating them to the eye of Fatima, an Arabic name for the eye on a hamsa.