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Rock Rewind: Timbuk3 “The Future’s So Bright, I Gotta Wear Shades”

In true one-hit-wonder fashion, married duo Pat and Barbara K. McDonald (aka new wave/post-punk act Timbuk3) arrived on the music scene in 1986, made an indelible mark on 80s pop culture with their single “The Future’s So Bright, I Gotta Wear Shades”—then quickly faded into obscurity.

The duo first attracted attention from I.R.S. Records after appearing on an edition of MTV’s The Cutting Edge in 1986. After signing with them, they released their debut (and most successful) album, Greetings from Timbuk3, with “The Future’s So Bright…” as the lead single. The song became an instant hit, breaking the Top 20 in the U.S., and the subsequent attention landed them opening slots for the likes of Bonnie Raitt, Bob Dylan and Sting—not to mention a Grammy nomination for Best New Artist.

Unfortunately, the future turned out not to be so bright for the band. As quickly as their fame arrived, it faded. Although they went on to make five more albums, none of their music came close to the chart success of their first single. Timbuk3 eventually broke up in 1995, and the marriage along with it, and both Pat and Barbara K. went on to work in other music projects. Nevertheless, “The Future’s So Bright…” has become a permanent reminder of an era gone by, and has gone on to be featured in numerous film soundtracks and compilation albums.

Interestingly, the subtle sarcasm of “The Future’s So Bright, I Gotta Wear Shades” was lost on most listeners who mistook it for an optimistic song, when actually the theme was a bit darker. Written toward the end of the Cold War, the song was actually intended to be a statement about impending nuclear holocaust.

Enjoy this tidbit of music history!

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About the Author


Tim Ferrar's interest in pop and rock started as a child, listening to Top-40 radio for hours on end while playing air guitar in his bedroom. Eventually air guitar led to electric guitar, and Tim began playing in bands and writing his own songs. With an admitted weakness for "a great hook or a great guitar riff," Tim's musical tastes are broad and varied, ranging from Michael Jackson and Lady Gaga on the pop side to Bon Jovi and Foo Fighters on the rock side- making him the ideal guy to cover our Rock and Pop categories. By day, Tim is a mild-mannered accountant in Chicago. By night, he rocks out on electric guitar in a cover band in various clubs around town- much to the surprise of some of his clients.

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