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"The Ballad of Peter Pumpkinhead" is a single
by XTC from their 1992 album Nonsuch.
It was the band's second #1 hit on the Modern Rock Tracks chart. The song was covered and
released as a single by Crash Test Dummies in 1995 for the
soundtrack to the film
Dumber. Crash Test Dummies' version is notable in the fact
that it was their first of two singles to feature Ellen Reid on lead
vocals. The Crash Test Dummies version differs slightly to the XTC
version, omitting the second verse.
The song follows the story of Peter Pumpkinhead, a man who comes
to an unspecified town, "spreading wisdom and cash around". He is
extremely popular with the people of the town, but extremely
unpopular with government figures. In the end, Peter Pumpkinhead is
killed by those he made enemies of, "nailed to a chunk of wood"
(probably a reference to being crucified, like Jesus, possibly even comparing the two men).
Many believe "Peter Pumpkinhead" is a pseudonym for and refers
to one of various historic figures such as John F.
Kennedy, Jesus Christ, or John Lennon. However, the writer of the
Partridge, stated that he was not referring to any one being,
but to such characters and their lives as a whole; namely that
their mission to do good resulted in their death brought about by
The name Peter Pumpkinhead in fact came about by Partridge
having carved out a Halloween pumpkin and, following the October
festival, sticking it on one of the fence posts in his garden.
Partridge walked past the pumpkin each day on the way to his
composing shed and, feeling sorry for the increasingly decaying
fruit head, decided to write a song about him.
The XTC version of The Ballad of Peter Pumpkinhead can
be previewed in its entirety on the Nonsuch Last.fm page.
There are two different versions of the XTC music video, both of
which feature a scenario very similar to the assassination of
F. Kennedy, although one is heavily edited for US TV broadcast
and removes much of the more controversial material. They also
briefly feature an actress dressed like Marilyn Monroe during the 3rd verse. In
addition, the uncensored video makes brief reference to Jesus
Christ by flashing the words "three nails" and showing a crown
of thorns. The lyrics "Peter Pumpkinhead was too good; Had him
nailed to a chunk of wood" reinforce this crucifixion reference. It
also cross references all three stories by strongly implying that
the death of all three were caused by some sort of government conspiracy.
Crash Test Dummies cover
Crash Test Dummies' music video for their cover of the song
Daniels reprising his role of "Harry Dunne" from Dumb and
Dumber. In the video, Harry falls and gets a Jack-o'-lantern stuck on his head. In
his struggle to get it off, he foils a bank robbery and becomes a
media sensation. However, he is unfairly found guilty of the bank
robbery and narrowly avoids being hanged (he is saved by the
pumpkin, which is placed on his head before he's put in the noose).
It ends with a spoof of the religious imagery in the original
video, as Harry's followers (oblivious to his having survived)
venerate him as a martyr and establish the "Church of the
Latter-Day Pumpkinheads" where they don Jack-o'-lantern masks, ape
Harry's struggle to remove the pumpkin stuck to his head, and take
communion of pumpkin seeds and wine sipped
from a pumpkin stem.
This video was filmed in Nathan Phillips Square, home to
City Hall, in Toronto, Ontario; fans of the band were
invited to an open casting by VJs on MuchMusic.
Crash Test Dummies cover
Audio preview of the XTC version of The Ballad of Peter