The Future's So Bright, I Gotta Wear Shades

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"The Future's So Bright, I Gotta Wear Shades"

7" U.S. single
Single by Timbuk3
from the album Greetings from Timbuk3
Released 1986
Format 7"
Genre College rock, new wave
Length 3:21
Label I.R.S. Records
Writer(s) Pat McDonald
Producer(s) Dennis Herring

"The Future's So Bright, I Gotta Wear Shades" is a song by Timbuk3. It is opening track from their debut album, Greetings from Timbuk3. Released as the album's first single in 1986, it was the band's only significant mainstream hit.


The inspiration for the song, and the title specifically, came when Barbara MacDonald said to her husband singer/songwriter Pat MacDonald, "The future is looking so bright, we'll have to wear sunglasses!" But, while Barbara had made the comment in earnest – it was the early '80s, the two had met and married and were starting a family, their first EP was coming, their book was filling up with gigs – Pat heard the comment as an ironic quip and wrote down instead, "The future’s so bright, I gotta wear shades."[1]

From there, the lyrics to the song were born, but not the song as it ended up in the minds of popular culture. While Pat wrote a song of a young nuclear scientist and his rich future,[1] listening audiences heard a graduation theme song.

Pat revealed on VH1's 100 Greatest One-Hit Wonders of the 80s that the meaning of the song was widely misinterpreted as a positive perspective in regard to the near future. Pat somewhat clarified the meaning by stating that it was, contrary to popular belief, a "grim" outlook. While not saying so directly, he hinted at the idea that the bright future was in fact due to impending nuclear holocaust. The "job waiting" after graduation signified the demand for nuclear scientists to facilitate such events. Pat drew upon the multitude of past predictions which transcend several cultures that foreshadow the world ending in the 1980s, along with the nuclear tension at the height of the cold war to compile the song.

When they performed the song on the Joan Rivers show in 1989,[2] a third verse fit the ironic intent of the song:

I'm well aware of the world out there,
getting blown all the pieces, but what do I care?

Similarly, the group's EP Looks Like Dark to Me contains a slower version of the song with an additional verse, making clear the dark nature of the song's intent:

Blowin' up the lab,
Blowin' the professor,
Torn between two evils,
I always pick the lesser.

That same EP's title track also refers back to this song:

The future's been bright for so long now, it looks like dark to me

Chart performance[edit]

The song was the group's only major pop hit, reaching number 19 on the Billboard Hot 100[3] and number 14 on the Billboard Mainstream Rock Tracks chart.[3] Additionally, the song reached number 21 on the UK Singles Chart.[4]

Chart (1986-1987) Peak
Canadian RPM Adult Contemporary[5] 23
Canadian RPM Top Singles[6] 15
Irish Singles Chart[7] 11
New Zealand (Recorded Music NZ)[8] 29
UK (Official Charts Company)[4] 21
US Billboard Hot 100[3] 19
US Hot Mainstream Rock Tracks[3] 14

Use on film and TV soundtracks[edit]

The track was used in the 1986 movie Something Wild, 1987 movies Campus Man and My Best Friend Is a Vampire, 1992's Kuffs starring Christian Slater, Dream a Little Dream (1989), Tommy Boy (1995) and TV show soundtracks.

A cast video for the song was also created in 1987 and aired for the TV show Head of the Class.

In 2000 Pat Benatar recorded the song for the Disney movie An Extremely Goofy Movie

Rejection of commercial licensing[edit]

The former members of Timbuk 3 have refused to license the song for commercials, including a $900,000 offer from AT&T and offers from Ford, the U.S. Army, and Bausch & Lomb for their Ray-Ban sunglasses.[9]


  1. ^ a b Margaret Moser (23 Feb 2007). "The Future's So Bright I Gotta Wear Shades - Barbara Kooyman leverages Timbuk 3 for". Austin Chronicle. Retrieved 9 Mar 2011. "'Oh, the future's so bright, we'll have to wear sunglasses!'" Kooyman teased. "Pat heard me say it, but he heard it with irony so he wrote down, 'The future's so bright I gotta wear shades.'" 
  2. ^ YouTube - TIMBUK3 on Joan Rivers 1989 with cute as hell interview
  3. ^ a b c d "Allmusic: Timbuk3 - Charts and Awards". Retrieved 20 April 2013. 
  4. ^ a b "Official Charts Company". Retrieved 3 May 2012. 
  5. ^ "The future's so bright, I gotta wear shades in Canadian Adult Contemporary Chart". Library and Archives Canada. Retrieved 5 June 2013. 
  6. ^ "The future's so bright, I gotta wear shades in Canadian Top Singles Chart". Library and Archives Canada. Retrieved 5 June 2013. 
  7. ^ "The future's so bright, I gotta wear shades in Irish Chart". IRMA. Retrieved 5 June 2013.  Only one result when searching "Timbuk 3"
  8. ^ " – Timbuk 3 – The Future's So Bright I Gotta Wear Shades". Top 40 Singles.
  9. ^ Langer, Andy (2000-11-24). "The Future's Still Bright". Austin Chronicle. Retrieved 2013-02-01. 

External links[edit]