The Witzelsucht Memorandum
Top-Hat, Red-Carpet Service is Practically A Motto-
THEY WROTE THE SONGS
The spate of fin-de-siecle musical retrospection,
with box sets and tributes to giants like Louis Armstrong, The Beatles,
Hank Williams, and Weird Al Yankovic, has set the stage for some long-needed
light to be shed on an anonymous group of influential lyricists from whom
generations of American children first learned that music could be an instrument
of subversive social commentary, and an effective antidote for adult-imposed
constraints on creativity. Laboring in an obscure Manhattan office eerily
equidistant from the legendary Brill Building and the Madison Avenue home
of Mad Magazine, these writers churned out a staggering catalogue of parodies
and take-offs that were passed across the country in the oral tradition
that has always been the truest expression of American folklore. No sooner
would a pompous pop standard, commercial jingle, or inane TV theme song
gain currency on the airwaves, than could the dead-on "peoples' version"
be heard on the lips of youngsters from Maine to California.
This veritable song-creating engine finally receives just homage with
the impending release of the 27-CD "lunchbox" set "IT'S A BONER -- SONGS
IN THE KEY OF CHILDHOOD (that you weren't supposed to know)" ($269.95
on Overproductions Records - "You'll Know When It's Over"). Collected here
are NOT the bowdlerized, cleaned-up campfire pap that kids learned
through official channels with their parents' consent, and which have long
been available on record, such as the ubiquitous "On Top of Spaghetti."
These are the ribald and rebellious gems that kids passed among themselves
and hid from grown ups. They could only be heard in tree houses, recess
schoolyards, detention halls, summer camp cabins, and sometimes in that
culvert out behind Dugan's Field.
Until now, most of these unexpurgated marvels had never been captured
on record, outside of a few rare party tapes available "under the counter"
at some record stores and from your friend's older brother Lou who stocked
the shelves at Jensen's Market, smoked cigarettes, and could always get
cherry bombs and M-80's. Now they're all here in one collection, in takes
faithful to the versions that haunt childhood memories. This weighty set
takes its name from an early yet flawed hit, a send-up of the Dean Martin
50's honeydripper "That's Amore."
IT'S A BONER (to the tune of "That's Amore")
When your dick stands up straight like the Empire State-
"Boner" was heard by few individuals over the age of 20 and attained great
popularity notwithstanding the contrived second verse, which overlooked
the twin realities that a) there is no such airplane as a "B-54," and b)
rarely will achievement of an erection make one's "balls hit the floor."
Despite its success these defects annoyed the song's creators, and they
strove to ensure that their next sexually-charged number was a model of
It's a boner.
When your balls hit the floor like a B-54-
It's a boner.
MY BONNY (To the tune of "My Bonny")
Long before blowjobs were headlines and American advertainment trailblazed
the sexualization of children, innumerable boys and girls looked to the
songs of their community for life lessons, and when it came to the ways
of the birds and the bees, "My Bonny" with its elegant succinctness didn't
disappoint. The song was all the more appreciated for its effective skewering
of the original's failure to explain to its American-speaking audience
just who in heck "Bonny" was supposed to be.
My bonny lies over the ocean,
My bonny lies over the sea.
My Daddy lies over my Mommy,
And that's the beginning of me.
For children of an era when classroom violence was all but unheard of
and any kid foolish enough to bring a weapon to school knew he was in for
"automatic detention, no ifs, ands, or buts, young man," harmless fantasies
of revenge against evil teachers in "GLORY HALLELUJAH" offered outlet for
youthful frustrations and presaged by some 20 years the exploration of
such themes in gangsta rap:
GLORY HALLELUJAH (to the tune of "Glory Hallelujah")
This song attained wild popularity, and was even sung openly in class right
before the first bell rang, in defiance of the insult inherent in having
to kowtow to elementary school music teachers so dim witted as to take
umbrage at the predictable disorder that followed their attempts to lead,
with a straight face, a class of sixth-grade boys in singing a song called
My eyes have seen the glory of the burning of the school.
We have tortured every teacher
We have broken every rule.
We have snuck into the office
And hung the principal.
Our truth is marching on!
Glory, glory hallelujah.
Teacher hit me with a ruler.
I knocked her on the bean
With a rotten tangerine
Our truth goes marching on.
Because the children who learned and shared these songs typically imagined
them in the voices of the professional entertainers who'd performed the
originals being lampooned, the producers wisely recruited adult studio
singers, with a smattering of bonafide stars thrown in for good measure.
One standout is Tony Bennett's Lounge-a-palooza take on the theme song
from "THE BEVERLY HILLBILLIES."
THE BEVERLY HILLBILLIES (to the tune of "The Theme Song
from The Beverly Hillbillies")
Well let me tell y'all a story 'bout a man named Jed.
He took Ellie Mae and he threw her on the bed.
Pulled down his zipper, whipped out his worm,
And out from his worm came a bubblin' sperm.
As Ken Burns, hot off his "Jazz" triumph, tells us in his extensive
liner notes, the producers omitted the "white gold, children's tea" ending
sometimes added in mimicry of the original's "black gold, Texas tea," to
avoid the disturbing imagery of semen being consumed in china tea cups
of the sort used at children's tea parties, even if children haven't held
children's tea parties since the days of "Alice in Wonderland."
The producers did avoid adult singers for one take-off of a song that
was originally recorded by children, the old "Beef-A-Roni" commercial.
It's also one of the few songs not recorded especially for this collection.
This version of "Horse Manure" is a rare old recording by the famous British
child singers who supplied the kiddie choruses in Pink Floyd's "The Wall"
and the Clash's "Career Opportunities."
HORSE MANURE (to the tune of "We're Havin' Beef-A-Roni")
Devastating takes of popular commercial jingles are a staple of the genre.
No tune is as likely to evoke tears of nostalgia in boomers as the theme
song for that white powder cleanser, Comet:
We're havin' horse manure.
We got it from the sewer.
Horse manure tastes so great,
Makes you throw up on your plate,
For horse manure!
COMET (to the tune of "Comet")
Not surprisingly, television figures largely in this collection. One of
the more obscure tunes comes from the theme song from 1965's "Branded,"
originally heard over scenes of Chuck Connors, playing a Civil War officer,
being stripped of his decorations and sword on a bogus charge of desertion.
Comet- will make your mouth so clean.
Comet- it tastes like gasoline.
Comet- will make you vomit
So get some Comet
STRANDED (to the tune of "The Theme Song From "Branded")
'Stranded' ran for only a few years and is rarely seen in repeats. Few
fans, however, will fail to recall the music from one of the most popular
cartoons of all time:
Stranded on the toilet bowl.
What do you do when you're stranded?
And you don't have a roll.
Be a man-
Use your hand.
POPEYE THE SAILOR (to the tune of "Popeye the Sailor")
Military songs were often sung in elementary school music classes and have
thus earned a rightful place in this commemoration, as with this version
of the popular Marine Corps anthem, "From the Halls of Montezuma."
I'm Popeye the Sailor Man (toooot!)
I live in a garbage can.
I eat all the worms,
And smell all the germs.
I'm Popeye the sailor man.
FROM THE HALLS OF MONTEZUMA (to the tune of "From the
Halls of Montezuma")
"It's A Boner" is set to hit record stores and on-line retailers at the
beginning of April. Despite the nostalgia crazy of the last few years,
however, it remains to be seen how much of the music-buying public is ready
to pony up the two-hundred-and-seventy dollar asking price. After all,
the children who once made these songs infamous eventually straightened
up and flew right, grew to adulthood, fell in love, got married, had children
of their own . . . and along the way completely forgot these songs and
managed to convince themselves that their own kids have never heard them
. . . or their modern equivalents, which have yet to be written.
From the Halls of Montezuma
To the shores of Tripoli.
We will fight our teacher's battles
With spit-balls, glue and clay.
First to fight for rights and recess
And to keep our desks a mess.
We are proud to claim the title of
The teacher's little pest.
The Witzelsucht Memorandum