#49-Where the Hell is Bill. More Smart Ass Comments. Deer skulls.

cvb truck more square

Camper Van Beethoven 1986.

08 Where The Hell Is Bill-

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Where the Hell Is Bill is probably the mother of all bust-the-balls-of-one-of-the-guys-in-the-band jokes.  You do have to think about it a little bit to see it in that light. It’s an innocuous silly song. Right?  Except  we wrote an entire song about the drummer (Bill McDonald) being late for practice. While waiting for him to show up!  Then when he showed up we made him not only learn the song but made him sing it.  Not just that day but for the rest of the time he was in the band.   That’s some serious ball busting.

There is some light commentary on the different music scenes and fashion that existed in southern california at the time. Punks,  Mods and the weird oingo-boingo (shudder)  inspired fashions.  But basically this song came about for the sole purpose of  embarassing our drummer. And this is probably one sentence too many on the subject.

As far as plain old get-your-ass-kicked smart ass comments goes there is a better story and I neglected to include it in the last post.

Feb 1986  CVB had embarked on it’s first  nationwide US tour.    We played LA probably at the Anti-Club.  Then hit the Mason Jar in Phoenix, possibly another show in Tucson AZ,  Then we did what would become the very familiar run up I-35 San Antonio TX to Minneapolis.

We drove into Oklahoma City on a relatively warm day for February.  It actually had been colder the night before in Dallas. So the weather raised our spirits and we were glad to be in a strange new city. We’d been to Texas before.  Oklahoma was a new state for us.  It seemed distinctly different that Texas.  There was something soviet about the architecture. There were a lot of blocky apartment buildings and government structures. There were also a lots and lots of churches.  We were in the very heartland of the USA.  And it flet alien to us.  I mean our town had a feminist marxist mayor.  we weren’t even sure if any of that was even legal in this state.  But i digress.

Unlike the dive and punk rock places we had played in Texas  the place we played in OKC was kind of a grown up bar.  It was a “blues” club from what I remember and we were opening for The Blasters. It was upscale compared to what we wre used to.  Now me and Victor Krummenacher really loved the blasters so we were quite happy to open for them.  I’m not sure if Jonathan Greg or Chris really cared about them that much.  But it didn’t matter. We were excited.

We were not so excited when we played for their audience.  Or rather their audience weren’t so excited about us.  The audience was largely seated at cocktail tables.  And they weren’t really hostile or anything. They were polite.  But they weren’t really digging us either.  They began to get impatient.  That’s when we started talking to the audience. It was all down hill from there.

Especially in the early days of CVB we liked to kind of harass the audience.  Playfully tease them.  Sometimes it wasn’t so playful.  And we were always sarcastic.  We had launched into a little of this.  It seemed to loosen the crowd up.  Unfortunately it also loosened up a couple folks who really didn’t like us.  We were now getting heckled.  So I resorted to an old trick. I played the momma card.

“Hey, now,  whoa, whoa, that’s too much.  You can say anything you want about me,  the band,  how much we suck whatever but don’t say anything about my mom.  my mother passed away recently and that… that is really not called for…”

No one had said anything about my mother. But in the commotion no one could possibly know that. Also my mother is very much alive and well.

There was dead silence in the room. Uncomfortable silence. You could hear a pin drop. I let it stretch out and hang there for a while then   I turned around and looked at the rest of the band. Chris took this as a go signal and started counting off the next track. Suddenly  i hear Jonathans voice over the PA on the upbeat of the next song.

“Yeah, she was on the Space Shuttle”.

As you could imagine this did not go over well with the crowd. First it was Oklahoma City in the very earnest and patriotic state of Oklahoma.  Second the space shuttle Challenger had blown up only a  few weeks before that show.  Many of us had watched the event live on TV. It was fresh in all our minds.  It kind of shocked even me and I was used to Jonathan’s shocking humour.  Still the Andy Kaufman part of me had to laugh,  I mouthed to Victor across the stage  “we are all gonna die”.   He nodded in agreement and motioned towards the stage door.  I guess he was suggesting the escape route.

We made it through the next song but were roundly greeted with a mixture of boos loud grumbling and epithets.  We may have played another song,  I don’t recall but  the show was definitely  cut short and we retreated to the dressing room.  We didn’t come back out until long after the Blasters show was over and the audience had all gone home.


One final note on Jonathan’s shocking smart ass punch line.

By this point everyone must be familiar with the expression “Jumping the Shark”. Basically this is when a show spins off into an absurd plot line  or more generally the moment or event that begins a celebrity’s downfall.   In Camper Van Beethoven we have a similar concept.  It’s “The deer skull has been F*cked”.  Shocking! and from such a nice band!

It refers to Jonathan Segel’s tendency to take a slightly off color story or topic of conversation and take it way way way beyond the bounds of good taste.   In particular one evening Victor was musing on Maria and Arnold Schwarzenegger ‘s sex life.  The conversation was hijacked by Jonathan who then painted a grotesque and hilarious picture that ended with the govenor and first lady of California copulating with a deer skull.

So in general it refers to anything that has been taken beyond the boundaries of good taste.

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Where the Hell is Bill

[A] Where, [D]where the [E] Hell is [A] Bill?
Where, [D]where the [E] Hell is [A] Bill?
Where, [D]where the [E] Hell is [A] Bill?
Where, [D]where the [E] Hell is [A] Bill?

[A] Well, maybe he [D] went to get a [E] sideways haircut
Maybe he [D] went to get a [E] strip-ed [A] shirt
Maybe he [D] went to get some [E] plastic [A] shoes
Maybe he [D] went to get some [E] funny sun-[A]-glasses


Well, maybe he went to get an Air Force parka
Maybe he went to get a Vespa scooter
Maybe he went to get a British flag
Maybe he went to go Mod Ska dancing


Well, maybe he went to get a mohawk
And maybe he went to get some gnarly thrash boots
Maybe he went to go ride his skateboard
Maybe he went to see the Circle Jerks



13 Responses to “#49-Where the Hell is Bill. More Smart Ass Comments. Deer skulls.”

  1. Another great glimpse into the twisted minds of the CVB. There are so many levels of gamesmanship in a band. And the image burned in my mind from your few words suggests the governator / first lady / deer skull love triangle scenario is entirely plausible.

  2. zombiebutter Says:

    yes! I like Jonathan even more now! btw, i also love the blasters. always have. thanks for another great story, david.

  3. If nothing else, you’ve inspired this:

  4. justandrewvt Says:

    I think this song has worked its way into the pop culture lexicon even more than ‘skinheads’. I have heard people use it when wondering about any old person’s whereabouts. If we’re all waiting for Joe to show up and we all know we’re waiting for Joe to show up, one in the group will say “Where the hell is Bill?”.

    Now where I think transcendence has occurred is when I then ask if they are a CVB fan and get the blank stare, so I say, you know, the song? And they say “no, is that where that came from?”

    So the question I’d really like the answer to is: It is 2010, where is Bill now?

  5. funny story. yet another song that I can’t hear or think about without laughing. cvb inspired me to buy my first pair of combat boots. I wore no other type of shoes for 10 years, and they were always known as my gnarly thrash boots. ahh, the salad days… to this day whenever I see combat boots – well they are gnarly thrash boots.

    I’ve always loved the concept of a sideways haircut.

    and man that photo… stoned or WHAT? that’s a great one.

  6. Jonathan Segel Says:

    heh. my favorite is still the Nashville roadie warning.

  7. Maria Shriver being Skeletor and all, are you sure the deer skull is a third party?

    Now I’m gonna go get a patchouli shower
    Or maybe go smoke some Humboldt
    Maybe I’ll go find that Jerry tape
    Maybe I’ll use my secret credit card

  8. I still have the Air Force parka

  9. As a Nashvillian, I have to ask what “The Nashville Roadie Warning” refers to.

    • CVB story Our roadie jeff mayes walked across stage in nashville and someone yelled something unflattering at him. he stopped and glared at the person and then walked on. I said something over the mic about how you really didn’t want to fuck with jeff. that he had in fact beaten his stepfather to death with a shovel. there was this weird uncomfortable pause. then jonathan says “twice”. the band thought this was hilarious because it was almost like a riddle. twice? how is that possible? oh wait you could sequentially have more than one stepfather. this was lost on the audience but we had trouble starting the next song cause this was such a genius over everyone’s head type smartass comment we were laughing.

  10. justinwatterson Says:

    That’s some funny stuff. Your ball-busting stories are the best. Incidentally, the Challenger disaster happened on my ninth birthday. I grew up in the hometown of Gus Grissom, and every kid including myself wanted to be an astronaut. Bummer of a birthday.

  11. I think I attended this show in OKC – but I’m pretty sure we came late and only saw The Blasters. Based on the description, sounds like a place that operated as a restaurant/bar/concert venue on Meridian Avenue close to Reno. It later became a steakhouse. I was working at a mall record store, and we were all big Blasters fans.

    It’s true – earnestly patriotic is an understatement when describing most Oklahomans. Even for the moderately more liberal rock music crowd, it’s amazing CVB didn’t get bottles thrown at them for that space shuttle comment!

    By the way, great Camper/CVB show in Steamboat Springs CO in August!

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