Category Archives: Tom Lehrer

Jello Shots


Tom Lehrer, who turns 80 today, is widely credited with inventing Jello shots; i.e., replacing half the water with distilled liquor.

Oh, yeah, he also did some nifty songs, from Poisoning Pigeons in the Park (1953), which I have on a Dr. Demento album:

To the exquisite Vatican Rag:

To ‘Silent E’ from “the Electric Company:

My suggestion: go to Evanier’s page, type Tom Lehrer in the search mode. 15 of the 16 hits prior to today will be Tom Lehrer videos, and I’d be surprised if there weren’t one or two more to celebrate the occasion. Then go here and check out the lyrics.

Here’s an interview from 2007 from whence I stole the image above. To paraphrase the great Tom Lehrer, “When Mozart was my age, he had been dead for 20 years.”

ROG

The ABCs of Music


Tom the Dog made this abecedarian list; actually, he’s made at least three recently, and I haven’t done one since Thanksgiving 2005, I don’t believe.

So, these are songs I like. I think they’re a bit goofy, not necessarily in a Weird Al or Dr. Demento sort of way (though one of the artists does appear on a Demento album I own). Some are actually good songs, though a couple are terrible.

ABBA- Waterloo. Yeah, I know, they rule, a top 10 group for Mr. Hembeck. But they’re still a guilty pleasure for me.
Bee Gees-Jive Talkin’. Released before Saturday Night Fever, but included on the soundtrack, I find myself walkin’ down the street like Tony Manero when I hear it, which really hurts.
Costello, Elvis-Chewing Gum. Elvis’ birthday was last month and I was listening to Spike, my favorite EC album (and apparently no one else’s). I said to one of my co-workers, “Get that chewing gum out of your ears!” She said, “Why DID you say that to me?” It was this song featuring the Dirty Dozen Brass Band.
Doors-Touch Me. I’m not a big Jim Morrison fan; I went out with a woman (briefly) who was. Yet, I’m always waiting around for the “stronger than dirt” line.
Emerson, Lake and Palmer-Nut Rocker. At the end of the excess that was ELP doing Pictures at an Exhibition, the coda on the album was a variation on the Nutcracker Suite; a version is shown here. The song was originally done in 1962 by B. Bumble and the Stingers .
Focus-Hocus Pocus. This is a dopey, yodel-driven song by some Dutch band that was an unlikely hit. I bought the album. Check out a live version here.
Gore, Lesley- Judy’s Turn to Cry. Lesley sang, “It’s my party, and I’ll cry if I want to.” This is the vengeful follow-up. HA, Judy!
Herman’s Hermits-Mrs. Brown, You’ve Got a Lovely Daughter. When I joined the Capitol Records Club when I was 12, I needed to buy 12 albums. Since the Beatles had only a half dozen albums out at the time, one of my selections was The Best of Herman’s Hermits. I used to do a fairly good Peter Noone impression.
Ives, Burl-Funny Way of Laughin’. I don’t know why, but I’ve always been fond of those songs in which the protagonist pretends not to be crying, or doesn’t want to be seen crying (the Temptations’ I Wish it Would Rain comes to mind.)
Jackson Five-Maybe Tomorrow. An overwrought power ballad. I once requested this on a radio station and the DJ took it off before its peak overwroughtness.
Kinks-Skin and Bone. A swing tune about the dangers of dieting. From possibly my favorite Kinks album, Muswell Hillbillies.
Tom Lehrer-the Vatican Rag. This is the artist on a Demento album, the 1950s novelty song Poisoning Pigeons in the Park. But this song is from the great mid-1960s album That Was The Year That Was, which I own on CD. Bizarrely, someone posted on You Tube someone playing the LP on his record player, placing the tonearm on the first track for Part 1, continuing Side 1 and onto Side 2 on Part 2, more of Side 2 on Parts 3 and 4, and finishing up with the theologically incorrect Vatican Rag.
Marcels-Blue Moon. A big doowop hit in 1961.
Napoleon XIV: !Aaah-aH yawA eM ekaT oT gnimoC er’yehT. The backwards B-side version of the annoying They’re Coming to Take Me Away Ha-Haaa!, is also an unlisted final track on the CD Second Coming.
Ohio Express-Yummy Yummy Yummy. Is there a lyric so vapid as “Yummy, yummy, yummy, yummy, I’ve got love in my tummy”? Maybe their hit Chewy, Chewy, which has been used on TV commercials. I often confuse this group with the 1910 Fruitgum Company, their bandmates on Buddha, who had hits such as Simon Says; 1, 2, 3, Red Light; and Special Delivery.
Presley, Elvis-Hey Jude. A truly awful, out-of-tune version on a mixed CD that someone gave me. Listening to a train wreck.
Queen-Somebody to Love. It’s that dramatic, harmonic beginning that I love.
Rascals-More. Talk about overwrought. From the Groovin’ album.
Sinatra-The Lady Is a Tramp. Sometimes, Sinatra is cool (That’s Life), and then there are times when Sinatra thinks he’s cool; this is the latter.
Thomas, Rufus-Do the Funky Chicken. After doing at least four Dog songs, he moved on from canines to poultry. People will jump fences to do the Funky Chicken.
Utopia-Everything Is Going Wrong. Todd Rundgren’s group did this great Beatles parody, Deface the Music; this is the last track, designed in the Strawberry Fields/I Am the Walrus mode.
Van Halen-Happy Trails. The last song on the only Van Halen album I’ve ever owned, this Dale Evans classic is performed goofily.
Who-Boris the Spider. I just like to say “Boris the spider” in the scariest voice I could muster.
XTC-Your Dictionary. This is not a goofy song, this is a nasty song I first heard on a mixed CD.
Young, Neil-Mr. Soul. Neil must have really liked this song. He first recorded it with Buffalo Springfield. Then a live version is the springboard for Springfield’s Broken Arrow. The version I have in mind is the vocoder version on the much-maligned Reactor, which I love.
Zappa, Frank-Cosmic Debris. There are lots of Zappa songs that might have qualified, but this one has the great lyric, “Is that a real poncho or is that a Sears poncho?”
***
Teen death songs will never die.

ROG