I Must Not Think Bad Thoughts... But I Can't Help It.

I'm working on a piece right now for my friend Brian's site -- Rupert Pupkin Speaks -- about my picks for "Underrated Films of 1986". One of my film picks for the article is X: The Unheard Music, a documentary about one of my favorite bands of the '80s (and of all time, actually). But before I wrote about the film, I wanted to give it another watch, mainly so I could listen to X's amazing music again.

Near the end of the film, the full video for the song I Must Not Think Bad Thoughts (off of their More Fun in the New World album) is shown in its entirety. It is a song that I often sing to myself when I go on my walks (if I have not brought the iPod), if only because I sometimes find the mantra in the chorus, "I must not think bad thoughts," helpful when I find those moments when the day or life or whatever has gotten me in a bad place in my mind. Which is quite often these days.

The irony (fully intended) in the mantra is that, when read along with the lyrics, the bad thoughts that the lead singers (John Doe and Exene Cervenka) are reminding themselves not to think are actually thoughts one should be thinking about and using to seek out solutions in our world. Concerns about the harm we are doing in the world with our endless wars and hatred for others ("Both sides are right/But both sides murder/I give up/Why can't they?/I must not think bad thoughts"). Concerns about the poor in our streets. Concerns of guilt in being complicit in the propagation of wars in foreign lands. Concerns about the superficiality of pop culture when faced with social issues that are never corrected ("Woody Guthrie sang about b-e-e-t-s, not b-e-a-t-s. I must not think bad thoughts").

It's a powerful song, and X even works in the lyrics to the theme song from an old forgotten '60s sitcom (It's About Time). If you have never listened to X, do yourself a favor here.

RTJ



The lyrics:

"The facts we hate
We'll never meet
Walking down the road
Everybody yelling,
"Hurry up, hurry up!"
But I'm waiting for you
I must go slow
I must not think bad thoughts
When is this world coming to?
Both sides are right
But both sides murder
I give up
Why can't they?
I must not think bad thoughts
I must not think bad thoughts
I must not think bad thoughts

The civil wars
and the uncivilized wars
Conflagrations leap out
of every poor furnace
The food cooks poorly
and everyone goes hungry
From then on, it's dog eat dog,
dog eat body and body eat dog
I can't go down there
I can't understand it
I'm a no good coward
An American, too
A North American, that is
(Not a South or a Central or a Native American)
Oh, I must not think bad thoughts
I must not think bad thoughts
I must not think bad thoughts

I'm guilty of murder of innocent men
Innocent women,
innocent children,
thousands of them
My planes, my guns,
my money, my soldiers,
My blood on my hands,
it's all my fault!
I must not think bad thoughts
I must not think bad thoughts
I must not think bad thoughts

The facts we hate
You'll never hear us
I hear the radio is finally gonna play new music
You know, the British invasion
But what about the Minutemen,
Flesh Eaters, D.O.A.,
Big Boys, and the Black Flag?
Will the last American band
to get played on the radio
please bring the flag?
Please bring the flag!
Glitter-disco-synthesizer night school
All this noble savage drum drum drum
Astronauts go back in time
To hang out with the cave people
It's about time
It's about space
It's about some people in the strangest places
Woody Guthrie sang about b-e-e-t-s not b-e-a-t-s
I must not think bad thoughts
I must not think bad thoughts
I must not think bad thoughts

The facts we hate
We'll never meet
Walking down the road
Everybody yelling,
"Hurry up, hurry up!"
But I'm waiting for you
I must go slow
I must not think bad thoughts
When is this world coming to?
Both sides are right
But both sides murder
I give up
Why can't they?
I must not think bad thoughts
I must not think bad thoughts
I must not think bad thoughts"

Songwriters: John Doe & Exene Cervenka. Published by Lyrics © The Bicycle Music Company

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