Steven Page and Ed Robertson of Barenaked Ladies co-wrote this song and shared lead vocals. In our interview with Robertson
, he talked about the meaning of the track. "That song, it was about being in love and being maybe a little bit extravagant but not losing hold of what's important," Robertson said. "Ultimately it's just about celebrating your good fortune with someone else, and I think I've stayed pretty true to that."
For many years, at the line, "I wouldn't have to eat Kraft dinner," fans would throw macaroni and cheese at the band. It was cute at first, but got to be annoying. It didn't happen as often when Barenaked Ladies started playing larger venues.
Kraft macaroni and cheese is known as "Kraft dinner" in Canada, where the band is from.
In an effort to end to the Rocky Horror-style Kraft Dinner peltings, Barenaked Ladies began asking that instead of throwing Kraft Dinner at the band, the boxes be collected at the door of the concert and donated to a local food bank in each city.
This is a very important song for Barenaked Ladies, who have performed it at nearly every live show since 1988. Frontman Ed Robertson told Songfacts, "It has become its own thing and people sing along and it represents a time and a place for so many people. It's oddly a song I don't get bored of. It brings such joy to the room that it's hard to not enjoy it."
They have done different variations and arrangements of the song, sometimes closing their shows by doing "If I Had $1000000" followed by a big rap number taking lyrics from a handful of popular songs and beatboxing along with some interesting late-'80s hip-hop choreography.
Many friends and associates of the band sing on the chorus of this track. Credited as "The Suburban Tabernacle Choir," among the voices are members of various bands that were also part of the Canadian club scene. These include Bob Wiseman of Blue Rodeo, Dave Bidini of the Rheostatics, and members of Bourbon Tabernacle Choir, a Toronto act that inspired the album credit.
This was the first single Barenaked Ladies released on a major label. They were signed to Reprise Records after they built a following and their independent releases sold well.
Even though it's one of the group's most popular songs, "If I Had $1000000" was never a hit single in America or the UK. A lot of it was timing: The group didn't break through outside of their native Canada until their 1998 album Stunt. The song was even re-released in 1996, but didn't chart then either.
Barenaked Ladies included this on Buck Naked, the first tape they made and one that only Steven Page and Ed Robertson played on. Released in 1989, they made about 500 copies of it. The song also made it onto their second tape, Barenaked Lunch, in 1990. About 2000 copies were made, but the tape was recorded wrong, resulting in the song playing too fast. It was also included on the last tape they made before they were signed by a major label. Known as The Yellow Tape, it sold over 500,000 copies and became the first Canadian independent release to go gold.
The line "I'd buy you John Merrick's remains" refers to The Elephant Man, who had a disease that made him horribly deformed. In live versions, the band sometimes changes the line to "I'd buy you John Davidson's remains." Davidson was the goalie for the New York Rangers hockey team and is a color analyst for ABC Sports. The Barenaked Ladies are huge hockey fans.
The lyrics listed on the liner notes to Gordon are actually the lyrics from the version on their independent release. Some of the lines are different.
In 2001, the New York Lottery used this in commercials featuring people singing this while they fantasized about hitting the jackpot.