I Must Not Think Bad Thoughts
by X

Album: More Fun In The New World (1983)

Songfacts®:

  • There are many unpleasant realities that can interfere with our contentment. For instance, it's hard to enjoy a meal if you're thinking about people who are starving in impoverished countries. We can be happy and oblivious, or we can try to make things right at the price of our conveniences.

    "It's that kind of inner dialogue you get when you want to change the world," Exene Cervenka of X said in a Songfacts interview. "But if you let it get to you too much, then it affects you on every level."
  • A trigger for this song was the Civil War in El Salvador, which started in 1980. Most Americans weren't aware of the conflict, but Exene Cervenka felt compelled to help, even though there was little she could do. In this section of the song, she draws on the specific meaning of "American":

    I'm a no-good coward
    An american, too
    A North American, that is
    Not a South or a Central or a Native American
  • X was a formative part of the Los Angeles punk scene, but most listeners preferred new wave music, which was more upbeat and less challenging lyrically. More Fun in the New World was the fourth X album; by this time it was fairly clear that their music would not catch on with the masses. In the lyrics, she mentions four specific bands that were being overlooked:

    The Minutemen
    The Flesh Eaters
    D.O.A.
    Big Boys
    Black Flag

    "At that time, there were all these great bands like the Big Boys," she told Songfacts. "All these bands in all these cities were amazing in America, but all you could hear on the radio was like, Depeche Mode and all those bands. So, that's why I said, 'The last American bands to get played on the radio please bring the flag.' Because it was really unfair that even KROQ wasn't playing LA bands - except for Rodney Bingenheimer, of course. You couldn't get on the radio. So, that was a comment on that."
  • Like their first three albums, More Fun In The New World was produced by Ray Manzarek of The Doors, a distinguished figure in the Los Angeles music scene. But while The Doors broke through with their transgressive sound, X couldn't get to the next level. "I Must Not Think Bad Thoughts" is one of their more popular songs, but like all their others, it couldn't crack the Hot 100.
  • The line, "Woody Guthrie sang about b-e-e-t-s, not b-e-a-t-s" is a reference to Guthrie's song "Pastures of Plenty," where he sings:

    Dig the beets from your ground
    Cut the grapes from your vine


    Guthrie was big influence on X, which often referenced his music.

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