That John Denver Was Full of Shit: A Definitive Guide to the 'Dumb and Dumber' Soundtrack
From the Dead Eye Dicks to that band that plays the theme song of Friends, this is the most '90s thing ever.
It’s been nearly 20 years since Lloyd Christmas (Jim Carrey) and Harry Dunne (Jeff Daniels) set out on a cross-country mission to reunite a woman they barely knew with a mysterious briefcase. The Farrelly Brothers’ 1994 film Dumb and Dumber received lukewarm reviews upon its arrival at the box office, but it didn’t take long for the film to become a cult classic that still delivers to this day.
It’s not just the jokes and the highly quotable one-liners—quick, take a pause to tell your cubicle mate that California is beauuuutiful—that have kept the movie funny after all these years, it’s the songs embedded within the ridiculous plot that have helped Dumb and Dumber age so well. The official soundtrack is a perfect slice of the mid-’90s sound: bubbly pop rock with jangly chords and just enough grit, or aka the thing you can give your kids when they one day ask you what the '90s were like.
Before we get into the nitty gritty, let’s talk about music supervisor Dawn Soler. This champion of sound has assembled soundtracks for The Big Lebowski, Being John Malkovich, and, uh, Spice World. Her knowledge of music syncing was combined with the efforts of psych rock legend Todd Rundgren, who composed several musical interludes for the movie. In other words, these two played a role just as important to the film as Carrey and Daniels. They chose the songs that played alongside our heroes as they experienced heartbreak, lust, and and the ultimate bro-ship. Below, we’ll navigate through Harry and Lloyd’s adventure, while giving a bit of background on the artists that makes Dumb and Dumber rock so hard, man.
“Boom Shack-A-Lak” by Apache Indian
British-born dancehall DJ Steven Kapur had his first major hit with this tune, and it’s all thanks to D&D’s iconic opening sequence. After being rejected by an Austrian hottie—“Let’s put another shrimp on the bar-bie!”—Lloyd Christmas drives off in his limo to this horns-infused reggae jam, while pal Harry Dunne feeds fast food to a bunch of show dogs in the back of his carpet covered van. Remember the condiment massacre? You will never be able to think of anything different when listening to this song.
Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds, "Red Right Hand"
Cave and company's spooky single illustrates the strange duality of Lloyd. He simultaneously loses his wallet in a newspaper dispenser and a box of random road items to a wheelchair bound old lady, while Cave’s polka piece and haunting voice saunters through. The song itself refers to the “vengeful” hand of God, and our bowl-cutted hero is certainly a receiver and an instrument of that device. And you thought this movie didn't have any substance.
The Proclaimers, “Get Ready”
The Proclaimers’ rocking cover of “Get Ready” gives a Scottish twist to the Temptations' original, adding to their reputation as the Best Road Trip Band Ever. Better yet, the song was recorded specifically for Dumb and Dumber and can’t be found on any of their studio albums. “I feel like I’m running at an incredible rate!” Lloyd says, jogging in his car seat to the beat of the song.
“Excuse me, Flo?” Lloyd asks a truck stop waitress as the uber-nineties sounds of Echobelly blast through the cafe. The British band’s single sounds like a Morrissey track, with heavier bass and obviously not as sad because nobody is as sad as Morrissey. Singer Sonya Madan hits the chorus just as Harry mistakenly throws a saltshaker at a formidable man named Seabass. Fun fact: the track is apparently about snorting too much cocaine.
The Sons featuring Bret Reilly, "Too Much Of A Good Thing"
“Too Much of a Good Thing” is the film’s most important track. It’s melancholic intro of rock guitar chords is used as a continuous motif throughout the storyline, soundtracking one of the greatest moments of Dumb and Dumber: the beer bottle scene, in which a bike cop (played by Harlan Williams) pulls the boys over for speeding but becomes the unfortunate imbiber of Lloyd’s pee.
The Cowsills, "The Rain, The Park And Other Things”
The Cowsills are an oddball addition to the D&D soundtrack. The band hails from Harry and Lloyd’s home state of Rhode Island, and also found themselves as the inspiration for the Partridge family. “The Rain, the Park and Other Things” is a demented pop ballad that captures the true essence of Lloyd’s dream sequence about reuniting with Mary Swanson. “I can make you happy!” singer Bill Cowsill croons as Lloyd imagines entertaining guests by lighting farts on fire, and defending the honor of Mary with dinnertime karate. And they say chivalry is dead.
After showing thug Joe Mentalino (played by Mike Starr) the most annoying sound in the world (WAAAAAAAAAAAAAH), Lloyd and Harry treat their guest to an a cappella rendition of “Mockingbird.” The song was originally recorded by Inez and Charlie Foxx in 1963, and features the call-and-response melody of “Hush Little Baby.” Our heroes’ version devolves into a droning dirge after picking up a couple of migrant workers who respond to each lyric by awesomely dry, “sing.”
The Crash Test Dummies, “The Ballad of Peter Pumpkin Head”
Jeff Daniels has come a long way since the time he starred in the Crash Test Dummies video for “The Ballad of Peter Pumpkinhead.” The song (which is an XTC cover) is impossible to decipher but it has all of the delicious trappings of a ‘90s pop tune, and it’s practically candy. Guest singer Ellen Reid does her best Natalie Merchant impression and the band lets loose with a harmonica. And really, is there anything more '90s than lettling loose with a harmonica?
Green Jellÿ, “The Bear Song”
Comedy metal band Green Jellÿ have been making stupidly sardonic tunes since 1981, but “The Bear Song” stands alone as their greatest achievement. When Lloyd and Harry feed their mafioso friend ghost chillies and rat poison at a roadside restaurant, “The Bear Song” grows louder and louder in the background. Mentalino collapses on the floor, gurgling toward death as the lyrics “the other side of the mountain was all that he could see,” forshadow the character’s immediate demise. This movie is a lot darker than you thought. “Check please!”
The Lupins, “Take”
Chicago punk rockers the Lupins toured the college music circuit throughout the ‘90s before getting their big break on the Dumb and Dumber soundtrack. (Sidenote: Could you imagine telling people that you got your big break on the Dumb and Dumber soundtrack?) Anyway, “Take” begins with a thrashing bass line, leading to a vocal-heavy chorus reminiscent of Jane’s Addiction. The song meshes well with Harry and Lloyd’s narrow escape from an FBI traffic stop.
The Primitives, “Crash”
The Dumb and Dumber soundtrack is rife with British rock bands whose songs literally detail exactly what’s going on in the movie. The Primitives’ catchy single plays right before Harry and Lloyd accidently drive to Nebraska where their friendship, yes, “crashes” in defeat. There's really not much more to say about this song than that.
Crash Test Dummies, “Mmm Mmm Mmm Mmm”
The guys go their separate ways in the Middle-of-Nowhere, Nebraska, but after a short interlude Lloyd catches up with Harry on a shoddily constructed motorbike. “I can get 70 miles to the gallon on this hog,” he says before—get ready for something else you love to quote—totally redeeming himself. The characters’ reunion is scored by yet another Crash Test Dummies track, this one featuring the comical baritone of singer Brad Roberts, who once credited his low voice to the presence of a third testical.
Gigolo Aunts, “Where I Find My Heaven”
This song ages so well that listening to “Where I Find My Heaven” today is comparable to finding a perfectly preserved piece of Halloween candy from your childhood that has a shelf life of "always" (shouts to that Now and Later I ate last week). The boys roll into Aspen, covered in snot icicles, hoping to find the owner of a lonely briefcase. The Gigolo Aunts’ single is filled with cool arpeggios and Babysitters Club-era melodies that’ll warm your millenial heart.
Deee-Lite, “You Sexy Thing”
You just can’t have a popular ‘90s film without the presence of Deee-Lite. The New York-based club group help to introduce Harry and Lloyd 2.0. The heroes find out that the briefcase is filled with thousands and thousands of dollars and walk around Aspen decked out in ostentatious ski gear to the beat of a hip-hop tambourine. Justin Bieber, take note. This is original swag.
Roy Orbison, “Pretty Woman”
The first time I heard “Pretty Woman” was while watching Dumb and Dumber. The guys are getting ready to attend a Snow Owl benefit, but need to be primped and primed before their big reveal. It's probably a good thing that Roy Orbison wasn't alive to witness his buttery vocals soundtrack the image of Lloyd Christmas getting his toenails shaved down with a bandsaw. But, really, dude should be proud because considering the final result—Lloyd and Harry's infamous orange and blue suits—have inspired buddy Halloween costumes for the rest of time.
Deadeye Dick, “New Age Girl”
New Orleans’ Deadeye Dick will never escape their relationship with the Farrelly brothers’ film. The trio’s “New Age Girl” is pretty much the sonic definition of Dumb and Dumber. The lyrics are surprisingly stupid (“She drives a wooden car/Why she doesn’t bike it?”), yet the track possesses such an endearing chorus, describing a woman named Mary Moo, who is also a vegetarian. If you think about it, the earnestness is actually quite moving. Too bad most people just think about Jim Carrey making ridiculous faces.
Pete Droge, "If You Don't Love Me (I'll Kill Myself)"
Pete Droge is a Seattle rocker that’s gotten lost in the mix over the years, but his tongue-in-cheek "If You Don't Love Me (I'll Kill Myself)" remains an impassioned lament that aptly describes the emo lifestyles of Northwest artists. Thankfully, its insertion into Dumb and Dumber isn't as heavy. Instead, we just get pure fun, playing alongside Harry’s battle with a frozen pole. A battle he very much loses.
Todd Rundgren, “Can We Still Be Friends”
Long-faced rocker Todd Rundgren’s piano gem “Can We Still Be Friends” soundtracks the end of Harry and Lloyd’s epic journey. Even after imagining killing Mary’s husband, Lloyd slinks back toward his confidant Harry and the duo walk hopeless back toward Providence. Even after all they had been through, these knuckleheads and their friendship is too strong and they can’t live without each other.
The Rembrandts, “Rolling Down the Hill”
As the film comes to an end, and Harry and Lloyd give up the opportunity to grease up bikini chicks, the Rembrandts enter with “Rolling Down the Hill,” a jangly pop tune that is all but forgotten from the ‘90s. The band’s only other major film/TV sync was with “I’ll Be There for You,” which, yes, is the theme song of Friends. It’s amazing how a band can have such an impact on culture, but none whatsoever on the music industry.
Cameron Matthews probably cried the first time he watched Dumb and Dumber. He's on Twitter — @cmatthewsnyc