Is it really 23 years since Wheatus released Teenage Dirtbag? Wheatus was formed in NY in 1995 by lead vocalist and guitarist Brendan B. Brown (known as BBB, for obvious reasons). BBB is the sole permanent member of the band & Teenage Dirtbag is the band’s best known song. The song charted around the world and is now rated 3X Platinum in the UK.
For many, Teenage Dirtbag is a great sounding grunge-era song about teen self-loathing. The backstory of the song is actually much more interesting than one would assume. It concerns a true incident from when BBB was ten years old. Before getting onto the story, here is a terrific live version of Teenage Dirtbag performed by Wheatus in 2019.
The video was filmed at Paste Magazine in NYC. The format is a lot like NPR’s fabulous Tiny Desk series, where a band crams itself into a corner of a music-related office and makes do in the confined space. An advantage of these performances is that they tend to have a relaxed intimacy that is surprisingly conducive to great music. The YouTube comments remark on how good the band sounded and express wonder at the extent to which BBB retained the same singing voice as on the original release.
In 2012, BBB told the story of the song to Tone Deaf. In the summer of 1984, on Long Island, there was a Satanic, drug-related ritual teen murder in the woods behind BBB’s house. “The kid who did it was called Ricky Kasso, and he was arrested wearing an AC/DC T-shirt,” BBB said. The case made headlines across the US, and drew local attention onto BBB due to his taste in music. After seeing the Paste video of Teenage Dirtbag, it is interesting to see the original “time-capsule” video of the song:
Concluding the story of the homicide in the woods behind his house BBB said: “There I was 10 years old, walking around with a case full of AC/DC and Iron Maiden and Metallica – and all the parents and the teachers and the cops thought I was some kind of Satan worshipper. So that’s the backdrop for that song.”
Wheatus is still a working band. On the band’s YouTube channel there is a video of the band playing in their home studio on Thursday 5 January 2023. No doubt Wheatus fans are hoping for a new album of original music. If you would like to see more from Wheatus, you can subscribe to their YouTube channel or follow them on Facebook. You can also visit their official website for more information.