Blister In The Sun

Album: Violent Femmes (1982)
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Songfacts®:

  • Written by Violent Femmes lead singer Gordan Gano, this song sure sounds like an ode to masturbation:

    Body and beats
    I stain my sheets
    I don't even know why
    My girlfriend, she's at the end
    She is starting to cry


    Gano says it isn't, and that he didn't hear that interpretation until years later. "I don't think there's a whole lot to understand with the lyrics," he told the Village Voice. "But I can see where people could get that idea."

    Gano is coy in discussing the song, but he has explained that it's about the strung out feeling that comes from drug abuse. The girlfriend is at her wit's end because he keeps staining the sheets, as he lacks sexual control.
  • This is the first song on the first Violent Femmes album, introducing the band with the famous guitar riff and snare hits. The band made inroads with songs like this one about adolescent insecurities delivered in a deprecating tone. Gordon Gano was just 19 when the album was released.
  • The song had a cult following and was favorite on American college radio in the '80s. In the early '90s, as "alternative" and "modern rock" radio stations went on the air, it got a lot of airplay because it was considered a classic of the genre. The album gradually sold over one million copies and earned the Violent Femmes a formidable fan base.
  • The line, "Big hands I know you're the one" is in the song because Gano has small hands. In the song, he's in a self-loathing state where he knows the girl is just going to take up with some big-handed guy.
  • In 2007, this was used in commercials for the fast food purveyor Wendy's. Gordon Gano authorized its use, which triggered a lawsuit by the group's bass player Brian Ritchie, who stated: "I don't like having my sound misappropriated to sell harmful products, such as fast food… that's not why we made the music. It should not be hijacked." Ritchie cited misappropriation of jointly owned intellectual property as the basis for his suit.

    Ritchie also blasted Gano in the publication OnMilwaukee, where he wrote, "When you see dubious or in this case disgusting uses of our music you can thank the greed, insensitivity and poor taste of Gordon Gano, it is his karma that he lost his songwriting ability many years ago, probably due to his own lack of self-respect as his willingness to prostitute our songs demonstrates. Neither Gordon (vegetarian) nor me (gourmet) eat garbage like Wendy's burgers."

    The band was still touring when this went down, but they broke up soon after. They didn't return to action until 2013, when they played the Coachella festival.
  • This was featured in the 1997 John Cusack film Grosse Pointe Blank. The soundtrack includes two versions of the song, the original 1982 release and a remake entitled "Blister 2000." The remake is slower and has kind of a funky instrumental sax solo in the middle. >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Kristy - La Porte City, IA
  • A multi-instrumental cover of the song was used in a 2012 television commercial for the Hewlett-Packard DV6T notebook. In the ad, the song in played in various styles, including gospel, Mariachi and metal.
  • The barefoot child peeking into an old building on the album cover is three-year-old Billie Jo Campbell, who photographer Ron Hugo spotted walking with her mother in Los Angeles. Speaking to MTV News in 2007, Campbell recalled: "I remember looking into that building, and they kept telling me there are animals in there. I had no idea there were photographers there. I was pissed off that I couldn't see the animals."
  • The Violent Femmes album went Gold four years after its release and reached Platinum sales status four years later, despite never reaching the top 150 of the Billboard 200 album chart.
  • Gordon Gano wrote the song for a woman he met at a poetry reading. "She wanted to form a band like The Plasmatics, and maybe I'd play guitar, and I wanted a song I could offer," he told Mojo magazine. "But the rehearsal got canceled and I never heard from her again. I hear she joined a cult and moved to Canada."

Comments: 33

  • John Roberts from ChicagoZenith from Canada, if you think that I don't recommend you become a copyright lawyer, lol.
  • Zenith from CanadaAtomjack the song that you referred to sounds nothing like 'blister in the sun', but it may be 'inspired' the making of blister in the sun but it is not plagiarism.
  • Agnello Noel from MumbaiReally, Atomjack?
  • Dirk from UsaThe Violent Femmes have stated, unequivocally, that the song isn't about masturbation.
  • Atomjack from Porto, PortugalReally disappointed to learn that this song is plagiarism from The Shadows song "Little B" https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fwnt-GiPcyc
  • Terry from Grafon, WiThis song always reminds of Angela Chase in "My So-Called Life" dancing around her bedroom because she thought she was over Jordan Catalano. I loved that show!
  • Calvin Ford from Escondido, Cathis song is about heroin, "when im a walking i strut my stuff and im so STRUNG OUT im HIGH AS A KITE ans i just might stop to check you out, the second part is about involentary ejaculation when you withdrawling from heroin im sure theres more meanings to it but thats the one that makes the most sence
  • Rosemary from Atlanta, Gato be honest i felt dumb for looking the meaning of it up, i felt that the meaning was probably as obvious to some people as it should be to me, but i guess i'm not an idiot for looking it up. So it's not obviously just about heroin...i always thought it was, but i see that i was right to question it. If someone had asked me when i listened to it "what is this about, what are you listening to?" I would naturally have said "omg what do you think it's about? It's about getting high, probably heroin, i don't know what all of it means though, but what do you expect, its about being high" lol
  • Rosemary from Atlanta, GaHonestly, I thought the song was about heroin for obvious reasons. I thought staining the sheets were about passing out and pissing himself while high, just like some do that are so drunk all the time they can't get up to go to the bathroom. I also thought blister in the sun I shouldn't even bother asking because it was something I didn't know since i'm not a heroin user, just another old term that heroin addicts used to use maybe, but not one that was common. Of course the gf would cry because he was high, and messing everything up with his bodily fluids. But, i sure do like some of the thoughts here on it...the thought on herpes (wow), and also, it can't just be on masturbation...if it's on that then the song has more than just as a meaning.
  • Darren from Brisbane, AustraliaI don't know how true this is, but I heard (quite a few years ago) that the song was about herpes.

    Apparently a herpes simplex outbreak can be triggered by exposure to the sun (at least according to a quick Google search - and no, I'm not speaking through personal experience).

    This may explain the line "Let me go on, like a blister in the sun".

    According to http://www.cureforherpes.org/herpes-blisters.html, when the herpes blisters get large enough, they can burst and secrete puss, which may explain the "Body and beats, I stain my sheets, I don't even know why" line.

    It also might explain "My girl friend, she's at the end, she is starting to cry".
  • Brad from Lexington, KyThe music video is totally random and funny, it has nothing at all to do with the song's subject matter. It is about a guy who assassinates the President's cat. At least that's what I got from it anyway.
  • Greg from Appleton, WiFor some people, holding on to the masturbation theory (rigidly) is a worldly-wise position. But I like the first poster's explanation best. A male group called the Violent Femmes performs a sarcastic song from the perspective of a woman. This woman, a spiteful caricature of a real person, is feverishly enamored with a big-handed man. The lyrics work as revenge for one of the band members. And so a "blister in the sun" is simply a general insult that refers to a festering sore. Believing this, we might then use another M-word to describe this song. Misogyny.
  • William Rayder from Wartburg, Tni always thaught that he was doing alright with one girl but when he got high he would check out other girls, making his girl cry....
  • William Rayder from Wartburg, Tni always thaught that he was doing alright with one girl but when he got high he would check out other girls, making his girl cry....
  • Marty from San Francisco, CaYeah, I don't know about any VH1 show, but this tune is clearly about kicking dope. Number 1, the obvious "high as a kite" and "I'm so strung out" couldn't be clearer references. "Body beats" or "Body beads" are reference to the sweatiness and high heart rates that happen during withdrawal. In some places, like in Harlem, NYC, and Oakland, CA the cat with "Big Hands" is holding dope. What many don't know is that males will experience spontaneous ejaculation when kicking s--t. Hence "I stain my sheets, and I don't even know why". As for "My girlfriend, she's at the end, and she's starting to cry". I presume this is a reference to the latter, and longer lasting stages off withdrawal, which is a sever depression. Sorry to burst the bubbles.
  • Josh from Minneapolis (orig Philadelpha), MnScenario: I was in HS when this song first came out, and liked it then (but not as well as 'Gone Daddy Gone' or some others). Twenty plus years later, I was thinking about it today because I writer on a financial website used it in a pun talking about a stock ticker ("Big HANS I know you're the one) and that got me wondering what a blister in the sun is actually a metaphor for. I always got the masturbation references, but never believed that blister breaking=ejaculation was the intended connection. Reviewing the lyrics, reading over other's comments, and thinking about it some more, here is the interpretation that I like best:

    The song is about the general adolescent drive towards excess, over the top sexuality. Examples include masturbating even while in a relationship, having wet dreams even while sexually active, and seeking outsized sexual equptment on partners (breasts,hands,penis, etc.). This is compared to somebody who wants to stay out in the sun even after their skin is already blistered with sunburn.
  • Joe from Bellingham, Wawhat commercial was this on? was it Wendys or Arbys or something
  • Chenel from Salamanca, Nyyeah this song is also on a fast food commercial, Shana. I saw something on VH1 about this song but I wasn't paying attention because I was twisted.
  • Ti from Seattle, WaI always thought the lyric "like a blister in the sun" worked with him being "high as a kite" and "strutting his stuff" to mean that the singer was a druggie, staining his sheets with sweat and having trouble talking... (the "nnana, nanana's"). Strung out, about to burst, strutting down a sidewalk, a fed up girlfriend at the end of her rope starting to cry, lowered inhibitions.
  • Tom from San Marcos, TxI always thought it was a guy who's straight relationship was falling apart because he found himself attracted to a guy.
    I mean, he will check him out because he's strung out, it makes him stain his sheets (i.e. wet dreams) and it makes his girlfriend cry, and he's attracted to someone because of their big hands?
    I always thought "Blister in the Sun" was kind of a gross metaphor, but it's obvious that it would "burst" in the sun, symbolizing in this case both ejaculation and the uncomfortable awkward situation coming to some sort of painful release.
  • Richard from Noblesville, InFROM WIKIKPEDIA: Gordon was sensitive about his small hands, and on the first day of school a girl came up to him, held his hands in the air, and exclaimed "LOOK WHAT SMALL HANDS HE HAS". So, he wrote the song from the perspective of a girl lusting after a boy with big hands. This would explain the "big hands I know you're the one" line.

  • Emlem from Nyc, NyNo, Greg, you're thinking of LOLA by The Kinks.
  • Jer from London, CanadaOk ,guys out there do you agree with me that the word blister sould never be put in a song thats about whaking it, seriously?
  • Ben from Lindenhurst, IlI dont really care what the song is about, but it is one of the best "alternative" songs I have ever heard.
  • Dennis from Anchorage, AkActually, I always took the line "big hands" to refer to big breasts. It's an old joke: you hold your hands at chest level to suggest big boobs and say, "She had the biggest... hands I ever saw."
  • Philip from Omaha, Ne"Big hands, I know you're the one" He likes a girl who gives a good handjob.
  • Lauren from Kansas City, MoMight I add, "Body and beats I stain my sheets", could very well mean that premature ejaculation happens with women and without. Body, woman. Beats, masturbation. "I don't even know why". It's hard not to be clueless of the reasoning behind such an occurance.
  • Lauren from Kansas City, MoPermature ejaculation, perhaps? Sheet staining, pretty much begging to "go on like a blister in the sun", girlfriend whining about it...
  • Monty from Omaha, NeWow Greg, thanks for the awkwar insight... Me, I am not sure I would admit the "picking up the Transvestite thing on the web, but you go!...
    As for the Masturbation vs. Girl's view debate, is there even a need for debate, I had heard this sond was always about masterbation, but maybe not a male's... I mean women masterbate too right? I mean for a small fee you can watch one do it on a web-cam... so why could this song not be from both the perspective of a female fan and about masterbation... of course since this is sonfacts, we are bound to get someone from ohio claiming it's about heroin too... but that goes without saying.
  • Gregmon from Intelbuquerque, NmLive and learn. I always thought this song was about lusting for a transvestite. After an awkward experience once, I make sure to look for an Adam's apple or large hands before making my approach.
  • Kristy from La Porte City, Iahow do you explain "body beats, I stain my sheets" then?
  • Kristen from Campbellville, Canadathats funny, that thats what the songs bout
  • Monty from Anaheim, CaAcctually the "Songfacts" are wrong. The song isn't about masturbation. On the VH1 "True Spin" tv program, a member of the band said that a girl he liked came up to him, pick up his arm and said, "Look at him tiny hands." So the song is acctually in the point of veiw of the girl he liked which explains why the song goes, "...Big hands I know you're the one"
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