Thursday, January 30, 2014

Timbuk3 - The Future's So Bright, I Gotta Wear Shades

Timbuk3 consisted of Pat and Barbara MacDonald, a married couple who met at the University of Wisconsin in the late 1970's and formed Timbuk3 in 1984.  The name was a play on words on the Malian city of Timbuktu and underscores the band's eccentric sense of humor.

The group was signed by I.R.S. Records and released their debut album, Greetings from Timbuk3, in 1986.  It became a surprise hit, reaching #50 on the album charts, led by the single "The Future's So Bright, I Gotta Wear Shades"  That song reached #19 on the charts, making Timbuk3 an official one hit wonder.

While the song initially appears to be an upbeat pop tune, the lyrics are heavy with irony (the sunglasses are likely due to an impending nuclear blast) and meant to be symbolic of the Reagan/Yuppie era in the U.S.  It seems likely that many listeners missed this back in the day.  Pigeonholed as a novelty act, the group's pop/folk music did not get a fair shake, and that is really a shame.  Allmusic points out that audiences (and critics) loved Beck in the 1990's; Timbuk3 was attempting to carve out a similar path a decade earlier, but were unsuccessful after their one big hit.

The MacDonalds divorced in 1995, effectively ending Timbuk3.  However, Pat and Barbara K. (for Kooyman, her maiden name) remain active in the industry to the present day.  To their credit, they have refused to license the song for commercials (they have had offers from AT&T, Ford, the U.S. Army, and Bausch & Lomb (Ray-Ban sunglasses).

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