If I Had $1000000
|"If I Had $1000000"|
|Single by Barenaked Ladies|
|from the album Gordon|
|Format||CD, 12", 7", cassette|
Michael Phillip Wojewoda
|Barenaked Ladies singles chronology|
"If I Had $1000000" is a song by the Canadian musical group Barenaked Ladies from their album Gordon. Composed by founding members Steven Page and Ed Robertson, the sing-along track has become one of the band's best-known songs, and is a live show staple, despite never having been a true single and without an accompanying music video. In the band's iTunes Originals, Page recalls a Maroon-era interview in which bassist Jim Creeggan cited this as his favourite song of theirs, which sparked a realization in Page that the song means so much to so many people, and has become a part of people's memories of a certain time in their lives.
The song first appeared on one of the later versions of the band's first independent release, Buck Naked. The song subsequently appeared on their second and third tapes, Barenaked Lunch, and The Yellow Tape, as well as their 1991 EP Variety Recordings, and their debut CD, Gordon, which would go on to sell over a million copies in Canada, where the song remains very popular and well known. An edited version of the Gordon recording of the song later appeared as a bonus track on the UK edition of Born on a Pirate Ship (this version was later released as a single), and a live version of it was featured on Rock Spectacle. The Gordon version was then included on Disc One: All Their Greatest Hits, bringing the total album count for the song to eight.
If I Had $1000000 gained popularity over the course of the band's early tours, before the release of their first album (Gordon) and became highly requested on radio stations in Canada following the release of Gordon. This prompted the band's label to release a one-track radio single of the song in 1992. In 1993, the song would be officially released as a commercial single in the UK; a second commercial single was released there in 1996. Another radio single containing the Gordon and Rock Spectacle versions of the song was released in North America later. Despite these releases, the song is often not considered a true single, since it gained popularity before the release of a radio single, and it never had a music video (although stations such has MuchMoreMusic and MuchMoreRetro have occasionally aired a 1992 performance from Intimate and Interactive as a video).
If I Had $1000000 is one of the earliest-composed Barenaked Ladies songs. It was first conceived as a simple improvised song while Page and Robertson were counsellors at a summer music camp. On the way home from camp, Robertson played the tune for the campers, randomly listing amusing things he would buy with a million dollars. Upon returning to camp, he brought the idea to Page, and the two fleshed out the song. The song has become an icon of Canadian culture, reflecting sentiments on Canadians who wish to win a large lottery prize. In 2005, the song's popularity to people of all ages caused it to be placed at #2 in the list of Top 50 Essential Canadian Tracks, aired on CBC Radio. The song's title is sometimes written (unofficially) as "If I Had A Million Dollars," or "If I Had $1,000,000" (with commas inserted).
While hinting at romantic intentions, the lyrics offer eccentric ideas about purchases one would make with a million dollars. The protagonist suggests all the things he would buy for his sweetheart were he a millionaire. Ed Robertson and Steven Page share the vocals: in the verses, it is a call-and-response vocal with Page responding to the lines Robertson starts; in the choruses, Robertson and the rest of the band repeat the harmonized title line while Page responds to the line with further spending ideas.
A trademark of the song developed early on: After each of the first two choruses of the song, the vocals break down into a free-form banter. On each of the song's first three indie cassette appearances (Buck Naked, the Pink Tape and the Yellow Tape), the banter between Page and Robertson lasts only in the remainder of the bar after the last line of the chorus. On Buck Naked, the second banter is followed by an instrumental interlude.
The dialogues became improvisational for Page and Robertson at live shows. When it came time to record Gordon, recognizing that spontaneity in these banters would be vital to the song, the band chose to record a different take of this song each day, with the best one chosen for the album. In live performances, it became traditional for Page and Robertson to improvise entirely new dialogue at these points. Initially the subject tended to flow from the previous sung lyric (a fridge in a treefort after the first chorus, and Kraft Dinner after the second chorus); with time this grew less common, and evolved into one of the two lead singers telling an unrelated anecdote. Since Page's departure from the band in February 2009, keyboardist Kevin Hearn has filled his singing role in concert and all of the remaining band members have picked up some of the bantering with Robertson.
The line "but not a real green dress that's cruel" was originally written as "so tastefully around your neck". Page incorrectly sang the former lyric in the studio, which Robertson found so funny that the rest of the band decided to leave it in the finished song.
A line in the song inspired fans to begin throwing Kraft Dinner at the band during concerts. It initially began as a single box at a 1991 show at the Danforth Music Hall in Toronto. It quickly grew by word-of-mouth, and the number of boxes being thrown rapidly increased. It became so bad that eventually hundreds of boxes were pelted at shows; the band and their instruments were often the target. Especially unpleasant were open cheese packages, which would create a putrid aroma when sitting on stage under hot spotlights. Some diehard fans would go one step further and throw cooked pasta. Eventually, BNL requested that fans cease the Kraft Dinner throwing ritual, and instead donate the food via bins set up in the lobbies of their shows for local food banks. Security occasionally checks incoming concert-goers for boxes, though the practice almost entirely subsided by the late 2000s. The campaign spawned the fan slogan, "those in the know don't throw".
Television and film
In the early 2000s, the song was used in television and radio advertising for the New York Lottery. In 2002, it was featured in the episode "My Fruit Cups" of Scrubs. The song was also featured in the end credits of Dave, Shelly, and Chainsaw's 2006 film The Trouble with Money and was featured on the soundtrack of the 2003 film My Boss's Daughter.
It has been parodied by the Brobdingnagian Bards as "If I Had a Million Ducats," replacing the objects and banter with more medieval and renaissance references.
The song became a flavour in May 2009 when BNL partnered with American ice cream company Ben & Jerry's to create "If I Had 1,000,000 Flavours." The confection consists of vanilla and chocolate ice cream, peanut butter cups, chocolate-coated toffee chunks, white chocolate chunks and chocolate-coated almonds.
BNL became the first Canadian band to receive their own ice cream flavour, following in the footsteps of other band-themed Ben & Jerry's flavours such as Cherry Garcia (Jerry Garcia), One Sweet Whirled (Dave Matthews Band) and Phish Food (Phish). All royalties from the sale of "If I Had 1,000,000 Flavours" are donated to the ABC Canada Literacy Foundation, a Toronto-based organization that promotes reading to children at home.
List of potential purchases
The following is a list of things the narrator would buy for his sweetheart if he had $1,000,000 (from the Gordon version):
- A house
- Furniture for the house (such as a chesterfield or an ottoman)
- A K car (such as a Plymouth Reliant)
- A tree fort
- A "little tiny fridge" to put in the tree fort, (containing pre-wrapped sausages in the Gordon version)
- A fur coat (made of fake fur)
- An exotic pet (such as a llama or emu)
- The remains of John Merrick (possibly a botched reference to Joseph Merrick, the "Elephant Man")
- A limousine to drive to the store
- More Kraft Dinner (and expensive ketchup - dijon ketchup - to go with it, in the Gordon version)
- A green dress (but not a real one)
- Some art (such as a Picasso or a Garfunkel)
- A monkey
- "Your love"
Several live changes have been common in performances. The post-chorus banters mentioned earlier are ad libbed at every performance and far more lengthy than the album versions. Due to these banters, the song is typically the longest song in a concert (it typically falls at the end of the main set or as an encore).
The lyric "I'd buy you John Merrick's remains" sometimes has another name substituted, such as John Tesh or John Davidson. The latter can be heard on the Rock Spectacle album, while the former is heard on Live from the River Music Hall Vol. One (1998), an album featuring multiple artists recording songs live at WXRV radio in Haverhill, Massachusetts.
Since the early 1990s, the third verse of the song has featured a different groove than the rest of the song, and since the mid-1990s has become a sing-along, with the audience calling back the title line instead of Page. This has continued by Hearn since Page's departure. Both of these are heard on Rock Spectacle.
The introduction to the song has also occasionally also been used for banter or to sing covers or parodies of songs. In the early 1990s, Page and Robertson would often talk about the intro's "hot guitar lick". An example of the intro being used to sing another song is found on the Rock Spectacle version, in which they sing an excerpt of their own song "Grade 9." The aforementioned River Music Hall version begins with a parody of Kenny Rogers' "The Gambler".
At the end of the song, the band would often extend the musical outro to allow Page to demonstrate his vocal ability by belting out a short excerpt of another song (typically a cover song). In the past, this tended to lead into a medley of cover songs and rapping known as the "Barenaked Rap". This medley was retired in 2002, but was revived after Page's 2009 departure. On the band's tour to support the album Maybe You Should Drive, the song frequently ended on the lyric "If I Had $1000000, some son-of-a-bitch would die", an allusion to the Bruce Cockburn song "If I Had a Rocket Launcher".
Tracks for the two commercial UK singles:
|Canadian RPM Top Singles||13|