Everyone remembers the scene in My So Called Life where Angela celebrates getting over Jordan Catalano by dancing to the Violent Femmes’ “Blister in the Sun” in her bedroom, or when the song was prominently featured in Gross Pointe Blank. (The band even made a new video for the film that starred a puppet version of Bill Clinton’s cat, Socks.)
Now, in the latest installment of Rolling Stone‘s “The Breakdown” series, Femmes frontman Gordan Gano and bassist Brian Ritchie discuss the making of their 1983 hit — and its long misinterpreted meaning. Gano describes a conversation that took place nearly 20 years after the song’s release, where someone claimed it was about masturbation. “I was really surprised,” says Gano. “When you say ‘I stained my sheets,'” replies Ritchie, “if it’s not about masturbation, then what was it about?”
Gano says he initially wrote the song with a female singer in mind. “I just thought of big hands because mine are small,” he says of the line “Big hands I know you’re the one.” Original drummer Victor DeLorenzo spontaneously created the song’s signature drum lick, making it the first song he played with the band.
Elsewhere in the clip, the duo discuss the song’s long-lasting popularity, despite the fact that it was never put out as a single (the record company decided against it because it didn’t have a bass drum). The song has taken on a life of its own, constantly playing in pubs, sports stadiums and in the media. “Through a long process of word of mouth, playing the gigs, other people doing covers of it, radio stations going rogue and playing it anyway even though the record company didn’t want them to,” says Ritchie, “it became a standard before it was a hit.”
36 years later, Gano says he hasn’t grown wary of playing “Blister in the Sun.” “We’re never tired of doing it for an audience or for people because there’s such joy,” he says. Adds Ritchie: “It’s wonderful to be able to incite such enthusiasm by simply doing what we do and having a song that has that impact.”