Lists

"We Got Cactus," Bloodspasm (1985), Al Perry (2004), The Dusty Buskers (2010)

Editor's Note: An abridged version of this article appears in this week's issue, featuring 100 Songs that Defined Arizona. In celebration of Arizona's centennial, we spoke with Eric Swedlund, a writer, photographer, editor, and all-around-good-dude in Tucson, Arizona, about "We Got Cactus," sort of an unofficial Tucson anthem, which coincidentally works pretty good for the rest of the state, too.

"Spring without flowers is just as remorseful/As an autumn denied the colored leaves fall/Long is the winter when there's no snow/And summer is painful when the wind won't blow/Welcome to my home, no fear of pneumonia/This is paradise, in Tucson, Arizona.

Bloodspasm tore up a series of now-closed Tucson clubs and house parties starting in the mid-80s with blistering hardcore punk rock.

But the band's lasting mark is surely "We Got Cactus," a song that exemplifies life as a desert rat and a local classic that's endured for nearly three decades, in its original wild and boisterous form as well as new country-rock and folk cover versions.

The song tells the story of Tucson in 1985, with a sarcastic and self-deprecating pride that focuses almost entirely on the seemingly negative aspects of the city. And in comparison to the glamorous attractions of other cities -- surfing, nightlife, lakes, beaches -- all Tucson can claim is cactus.

"In terms of modern Arizona there's not a song that nails it better than that," says Al Perry, a longtime Tucson musician who covered "We Got Cactus" on his 2004 album Always A Pleasure. "It perfectly encapsulates life in Tucson and it works so well on every level. There will never be a more accurate portrait of Tucson. That song is the beginning and the end."

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Eric is a freelance writer covering music, travel, science, and food and drink.
Contact: Eric Swedlund