It’s a little hard for people who weren’t paying attention to pop culture at the time to understand just how famous Tom Green was in the summer of 1999. Earlier that year, MTV took a chance when they hired the Canadian TV host – best known in his home country for pulling stunts like filling his parents house with farm animals and waking them up in the middle of the night by throwing a severed cow’s head onto their bed – and gave him a talk show. Teenagers all over America instantly had a new hero, even if he seemed like a deranged mental patient to most people over the age of 25.
On one memorable episode, he wreaked havoc on a cruise ship. When a member of the crew attempted to chastise him, he rubbed up against a rail and sang, “My bum is on the rail, my bum is on the rail.” It was an oddly catchy bit of nonsense, and Green soon fleshed out the line into a whole song where he rubbed his bum on everything from cheese to a dog to a battleship. He shot a video for the song he called “Lonely Swedish (The Bum Bum Song)” that he debuted on The Tom Green Show in August 1999. He urged viewers to vote for it on Total Request Live, and within days it was the top video on the show.
Green was overwhelmed with joy to see his ridiculous song above Britney Spears, Eminem and Christina Aguilera on MTV’s flagship show, but the network executives were less than thrilled. “We got a call at the office,” Green recalled on The Joe Rogan Experience. “They said, ‘Guys, we want you to play ball with us here. We need you to go on the show and retire the song, take it off the countdown.'” They explained that the next week of Total Request Live had already been taped since host Carson Daly was on the road in Seattle. They had simply made up the video rankings, but they hadn’t anticipated “Lonely Swedish (The Bum Bum Song)” entering the picture.
“I didn’t want to get fired,” Green said. “Everyone was already mad at me over all this shit, screaming at me all day long because I wanted to suck milk out of a cow’s udder. We were arguing nonstop. It was the most stressful time of my life. I played ball.” Green retired the song, a decision he lived to regret. “We could have rode that thing even further,” he said. “I could have put out a record and had some fun with that.”
“Lonely Swedish” may have faded from memory for most people, but it will live forever in the lyrics to Eminem’s “The Real Slim Shady.” “It’s cool for Tom Green to hump a dead moose,” he rapped. “‘My bum is on your lips/ My bum is on your lips/And if I’m lucky you might just give it a little kiss.'”