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Badfish by Sublime

Album: 40 Oz. To FreedomReleased: 1992
  • On occasion, when playing this song live, lead singer Bradley Nowell would sing: "Lord knows I'm weak, won't somebody get me off of this tweek?" which implies that the song is about trying to kick addiction, with the "Big, blue whale" being the drug, thus: "I swim, but I wish I'd never learned." Nowell died of a heroin overdose in 1996. (thanks, Mark - Desperate Hot Springs, CA)
  • A "Badfish" is a term used to describe a person who exposes someone else to heroin for the first time. (thanks, Vanessa - Covina, CA)
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Comments: 48

Brad was a smart guy. It was very intentionally meant to blend the lines between alcohol and heroin. He wasn't an addict at the time this song was made, but he had tried it and even shot up a girl at a party once despite being told NEVER to do that. Bud kicked his ass for it (source: Crazy Fool). Brad was also locked up for having a couple DUIs, so my belief is this song is about all this stuff combined and hoping for help.Joe - Somewhere, Ct
I went to HS w/ Miguel(mike/or flash) Happoldt of Sublime & Skunk records. We had many good times before Sublime was even famous or Brad had an addiction to h. I cannot say the exact inspiration for Brad & the boyz...Bud, Eric, Marshall...But open your New Testament Bible to Matt 13:47 - We are all Badfish at some time or another...Peace.Spudz - Lakeland, Fl
I thought "Baby, you're a big blue whale!" meant that he was telling a girl that she's got the biggest heart any warm-blooded creature could have; she's a rare, mysterious, special, and powerful creature, -strong enough to navigate the depths of the ocean unlike himself where he feels he has to grab a reef before being pulled away by the water.Glory - Los Angeles, Ca
Just pointing out a fact. a Badfish is someone who starts someone else on heroinSteve - Belffast, Me
Hes right you know. This song was one of their first, its on the Jah wont pay the bills demo.

Seeing as everyone here is a sublime fan, one should know when he started his addiction...

Its about drinking, smoking the ganja and chicks, but I guess you can interpret it any way you want.
Mike - Toronto, Nu
Im going to have to agree with brian from vancouver. Brad started doing heroin in late '92. this song came out summer of '92 and this song was recorded a few months before the albums release. and he did change reef to tweak sometimes on live recordings, because by that time the song had a different meaning in brads life.Brendan - Salem, Or
if you guys love sublime then u will enjoy their cover band caled badfish......they r awsome live give a lot of attention to the rockers.....they play all over the united states.....close your eyes and your at a sublime show....its one of my favorite bands to watch. badfish a tribute to sublime also ik bud and eric have been on stage with themNatasha - Rochester, Ny
Saying that "Badfish" is a Ziggens cover is a stretch. The guitar track in "Badfish" is a blending of the guitar and harp in "All the fun we missed" from the "Wake up and smell the Ziggens" album...in fact...the entire song is almost identical. However...the lyrics of "Badfish" are Bradley's. 2 songs later on the same album, Sublime does the complete opposite, an exact lyrical cover of "The Grateful Deads" "Scarlet Begonias"...but with completely unique music. If we start saying that songs are covers of other songs...then all modern music is entirely plagaristic. In some form or another, everything has been done already. I challenge anyone to submit a set of chords or a melody that is original from anything previously done...or submit lyrics that are not a direct copy of a previous song or poem put through a thesaurus. If we didn't emulate those before us...we would still be living in caves. All modern civilization is an adaptation of the previous generations...and it is no different with music and art. To call "Badfish" a cover is to call all music a cover. What matters is how the song makes you feel...not the conjecture, interpretation, nostalgia or romantization of it. It's art...Quit over-thinking and opinionating and just listen. Describing the song as a feeling...like temptation, co-dependancy or hopelessness is a much better insight than just spouting out obscure musical triviaTravis - Muscatine, Ia
ok to the guy that said that the ziggens wrote this song, in 1996 the ziggens played a cover for this song in honor of Bradley when gwen stefani put together a farewell concert.Christian - Maumee,
Haha, some of these comments crack me up. No, this song isn't about smoking pot and getting drunk all the time. It is in fact, about Brad's heroin addiction. If you truely "love" Sublime, then you would listen to the lyrics. Of course you know, Brad was addicted to heroin, so you would know that this song is about his addiction and his tying to free himself from it, but lord knows he's weak. Meaning, he wants to quit, but his addiction is too strong. And the big, blue whale means his heroin. I love this song, because he's really trying to get help, and he really does want to quit. It's actually very sad, because he ended up dying 4 years later. He was a great guy, with a huge battle in life.Hailey - Chicago, Il
I love-love-love sublime. Huge fan. I know it sucks Brad died. People should really get over it. His death does not take a way from his greatness or add to it for that matter. Badfish is about anything that has ever greatly torn you into pieces because you love it and you hate it. And it wins you over. And it screws you over. But it picks you up Again. And yes the Ziggens are great too. Their cover band also called Badfish dont do him credit but they got another band Scotty Dont thats pretty cool.Nicole - Miami, Fl
Bobbilyn, my intention is not to diss you in any way, but I was wondering if you could elaborate...are you just a bit angry because everyone seems to talk about Nowell's addiction/overdose? Or are you saying that pop music is no good? I just don't feel I understand the point you were trying to makeTed - Chicago, Il
Why does everyone dwell so much on the fact that he was an addict and he died that way? I can name at least ten musicians who were addicted to heroin at some point in time (and are still alive). People write about what they feel, what moves them, and the problems in their lives. That's why pop music sucks because its almost always about losing a girlfriend or trying to hook up or some stupid stuff like that. The songs wouldn't reach such a wide audience if they didn't have metaphors because then it would just be blatant drug references, but you can play this song with your kid in the car and not worry about it. The metaphors are obvious... "the waters too polluted with germs"=dirty needles. It can also be interpreted as someone who is having agoraphobia if you didn't know any better. The reason why so many people wig over the lyrics is because he died of an overdose. Like they say the good die young.Bobbilyn - Jacksonville, Fl
Not to criticize John from East Brunswick, but I do not believe one must be an addict to truly relate to the song's lyrics. Although Nowell was ostensibly referring to his struggles with addiction in this song, I feel that the beauty of metaphor-laced lyrics is that they are NOT specific to one particular thing. That is, the metaphor of the drugs being his particular "reef" could easily be identified with by someone who isn't an addict but is struggling with some type other type of stressor.

Drug addiction is but one of countless things people struggle with, but someone could apply these lyrics to the suffering/hopelessness brought on by, say, depression.

Great song, yet another avenue through which Nowell & Sublime display their vast talent and creativity
Ted - Chicago, Il
"When you grab a hold of me, tell me I'll never be set free" is about how drugs take over your life.Nicole - Chicago, Il
heroin is a hell of a drug..Cesar A - Moval, Ca
the last fight by velvet revolver has the same rhythm as thisJohn - Lackawaxen, Pa
this is and amazing song but it seems like people only care about it because of the way bradley diedLexi - Hutchinson, Ks
i love this song its awesomeBrianna - Watsonville, Ca
the reef is heroin
he swims but he wishes he never learned... "Swim" either meaning Shooting up/doing all drugs--cause once u walk into that s--t, you can't get away very easily-- or refering to the idea of maintaining oneself in the real world, among the bleakness of the real world.. "the waters too polluted with germs".. and he is saying that yes, he can live in it, but he wants to blur it & dull the pain of it by beaching on the reef that is Heroin.. maybe he wishes he never lost his innocence and learned the filthy realities of our world. Dope can make a person feel like theyr straight up crawling back into the womb, safe & warm, rather than diving back into that dark/obscure/unpredictable water. This might sound contradictory because he says throughout the song "wont somebody get me off of this reef", but it is what it is, heroin addiction is a wild internal conflict for most people.. while he finds refuge on the reef, he knows its unsafe to be riding on this crutch & he needs to reharness a sense of liberty.
"once you grab ahold of me, tell me that i'll never be set free"- talking to the dope i think
aint got no money, spending it all on dope.
"Grab the reef underneath my bed..." mmm great line
"Aint got no quarells with God"- almost like he's pleading.. its not that i'm trying to do this evil thing, or that i'm upset about my place in life, dope is just something that catches you up & arrests you and you really do "beach" there in a sense.. you can't see past it, your suspended in your addiction & can't make real or internalize the consequences.
"Baby your a big blue whale".. talkin to a girl or someone that has the potential to arrest his heart & attention, and inspire a will in him to disengage from the reef.
Vanessa - Madison, Wi
The guitar solo in this song, especially, brings back the smell of bong water and stale doritos, and of course, that long-forgotten ache.Matt - New Castle, Nh
True Fact: Bradley Nowell had gotten tattoo's to hide his trail marks from heroinKelsey - Largo, Fl
This is what i truely think Badfish was about....heroin.

Brad did heroin and died from an overdose. on his arm was a tattoo of a badfish. that spot was where he would shoot up. he eventually had waves with trash floating in it tattooed around it to cover up his track marks.

Read the lyrics again but this time think about Brads addiction to heroin when you do. The metaphor in badfish will begin to come to life.

Bradley Nowell R.I.P.
Raleigh - Pacific, Mo
favorite sublime song...Tom - Chicago, Il
You know, I've listen to this song time and time again and what I figured out about it is this. The best thing about artists is to get in touch with their listeners is to put a double meaning in their songs so that people can relate to it however they want. If you do any kind of drugs...you are going to relate to it that way. If you are a surfer...then you will relate to it that way.
Just my two cents.
Later,
Larry
Larry - Quakertown, Pa
There is a Sublime Tribute Band named "Badfish". The lead singer (not sure of his name) sounds 100% just like Bradley, I walked out of the concert feeling like i had seen Sublime. Strongly recommend you see them!Randi - Las Vegas, Nv
im pretty sure this songs about being a pothead and a drunk trying to get it on with a girl but failing, the term "reef" is about weed and ive heard this song over a thousand times, i dont know if im right but i think its about just goin around stoned, drunk looking for a hook up and being shot down
R.I.P Brad James Nowell
Brian - Vancouver, Canada
what does "baby your a big blue whale" meanJeff - Plano, Tx
Anyone think of the reef as drugs? I mean everything in this song seems to sound like Bradley's struggle with addiction. maybe it takes an addict to hear another addicts cries for help.Raoul Duke - Here, Ca
the surfing metaphor is very strong in badfish. grabbing the reef when it is 10ft overhead refers to the way a surfer will abandon their board and swim down to grab the reef as a wave passes overhead, in the hope of avoiding the turbulence.Dom - Newquay, England
If anyone has ever watched "Lies, Tales, and Exagerations" you would know what this song truly meant. If you really think you know then go watch it, and find out. He does say "Tweek" rather than reef, sometimes, when he sang it live.Sara - Austin, Tx
I think you guys are mixing this song p with big salty tears. That was the song they re-did by the ziggens.Sofa - Spana, Nm
This song sort of change my life, during a time that i was getting sucked into drugs, I tripped bad while listening to this song, and it changed my views on life, and drugs. The lyrics are so powerful and mean so much. R.I.P Bradley NowellIndk - The South, United States
"Duck Diving" is a surfing term. It is a technique to go under coming waves to get to the next wave. You hold the board and "dive " under the wave so it does not take you with it.Eric - Montgomery, Az
the lyrics 'creep and crawl into the night' are from the song 'nite club' by the specialsTony - La, Ca
The song "No woman no cry" is awesome. Good Call.Scott - Canton, Oh
When Brad says "when all duck diving fails" I believe he is trying to say that when all of your efforts to stay clean just dont seem to work you just go right back to usingJohn - East Brunswick, Nj
When Brad Sings Badfish what ever the lyrics may be, this is his subtle way of calling out for help because he wants to get out of his drug addiction. This song really hits home for me because I feel what he was going through, also, this song has helped me to get through really strong urges to use. Only an addict can actually relate to his disease for this I respect him. May his lyrics help addicts now and for ever. Bradley James Nowell R.I.P.John - East Brunswick, Nj
So... what does he mean when he says "when all duck diving fails?"Mike - Jacksonville, Fl
this song is obviously about his addiction to heroin. He also relates his addiction to surfing prob because it was a release(surfing) for him.The "Reef"=Heroin addiction. This song is very sad because he really wanted help. Check out Pool Shark and you will understand. Long live Brad and is music!Eric - Montgomery, Az
i love sublime just to tell yaMegan - Scituate, Ma
why is sublime so good? why do all of their songs have to be so good? i love badfish. great song, one fo my favorites. you should try listening to sublimes cover of the bob marley song no woman no cry, its awesome.Izzie - Lala, Hi
i think badfish is the greatest song of sublimeBurawk - Malaysia, Malaysia
Actually it is response to a Ziggens tune called "All the Fun We Missed"Mike - Los Angeles, Ca
Ok, Sublime is not the original creators of this song. It is by The Ziggens. Many of Sublime songs are covers.Kim - Sanford, Fl
bradley does say "wont somebody get me off of this tweek" in some live versions even though the actual lyric is "wont somebody get me off of this reef" his reef is his addiction or his way of live. this song is pure metaphor and geniusKieran - D.c., Va
in the lyrics bradley doesn't say "won't somebody get me off of this tweek?" it's "won't somebody get me off of this reef?" hints the song title "badfish"Zach - Norman, Ok
this is my favorite sublime song. it's just so friggin ambient.C.j. - Tunkhannock, Pa