Tag: satire

Melodious Mirth 9

My mini-history of comedy music is coming to an end.

That’s not because I’ve run out of material – on the contrary, I’ve never produced so many draft posts, each with a musical comedy gem waiting for me to add some words of introduction. I just think it’s time to wind things up.

My previous post took a turn towards a harder edge of humour with satirical sideswipes at the Vietnam War (Country Joe MacDonald) and Cult Religion (Frank Zappa), so how about keeping the satire sizzling with this splendid spoof from Down Under that kicked new life into the semi-comatose novelty-song genre?

It’s also, by my standards, bang up-to-date – well, more recent than most of what I listen to! – which may improve my somewhat shabby street-cred and help me get down with the kids and stuff. So for now I’ll leave Chas & Dave and The Two Ronnies, not to mention The Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band … [You just did! Ed.] … though of course I’m always open to reader requests … [So much for street-cred! Get on with it! Ed.]

Yeah, right, don’t want to alienate the younger element … future of blogging and all that … so it’s over to “New Zealand’s fourth most popular guitar-based digi-bongo acapella-rap-funk-comedy folk duo” for something or other hot and happening from where it’s at … [Where’s that? Ed.]

 

Melodious Mirth 8

Post 8 already?

The previous 7 have, for the most part, featured jolly music – cheery tunes you could whistle when your mum asks you what you’ve been up to – although the lyrics may sometimes be darker than a jaunty melody might lead you to expect. A good example of this is Tom Lehrer’s So Long Mom in ‘Melodious Mirth 4’ where the meaning is deliberately at odds with an upbeat air.

Such mismatches can make satire sharper. They add bite when the satirical targets are war and the gung-ho public attitudes that can, all too easily, lead us into it. Country Joe MacDonald set his acerbic song I Feel Like I’m Fixin To Die to the upbeat tune of Louis Armstrong’s Tiger Rag. The film of his 1969 Woodstock appearance provides powerful and moving evidence that he’d read the zeitgeist right.

Er, have I posted this clip before? Never mind, here it is again, just in case anybody reading this hasn’t seen it. And who knows, some of you who have seen it might fancy another look.

Me, well, 50 years on and I’m not tired of it yet ….

Flash forward five years and we find Frank Zappa taking aim at self-styled spiritual teachers who used bogus ‘healing’ methods to defraud gullible and often vulnerable people. But his contempt is for con-artist and con-victim alike. The persona he adopts is the guy who sees through all the hocus-pocus.

Zappa always satirised without fear or favour – hypocrisy and stupidity were his targets, no matter who you were. Nothing seemed to escape that eagle-eye, whether right-wing bigotry or fuzzy ‘New Age’ thinking. An outspoken critic of mainstream education and organised religion, he was a passionate advocate for freedom of speech, self-education, political participation and the abolition of censorship.

But humour is always his weapon, deployed here in the range of voices that he adopts – including a prototype rap-style delivery – and the clever match between a chaotic subject-matter and a musical arrangement that sometimes appears on the verge of collapse – though, of course, it never does!

It’s a bit like discovering a circus for grown-ups … with a decent band, for a change!

Melodious Mirth 4

No round-up of rib-tickling rhythms would be replete without that swinging sultan of singing satire – and avid aficionado of amusing alliteration, along with much wickedly-waspish wordplay – deep breath, big drum-roll! – Tom Lehrer. 

The wonderful Wikipedia [Enough already! Ed.] describes him as a retired American musician, singer-songwriter, satirist and mathematician. In the early 1970s, Lehrer  largely retired from public performances to devote his time to teaching mathematics and music theatre at the University of California. He’s best known for the pithy and  humorous songs that he recorded in the 1950s and 1960s which often parodied popular musical forms, though he usually created original melodies when doing so.

Lehrer’s early work typically dealt with non-topical subject matter and was noted for its black humour in songs such as “Poisoning Pigeons in the Park”. In the 1960s, he produced a number of songs that dealt with social and political issues of the day. The popularity of these songs has endured their topical subjects and references. Lehrer quoted a friend’s explanation: “Always predict the worst and you’ll be hailed as a prophet.”

The Cold War may be over but, perhaps sadly, the song I’ve chosen still has bite today. His elegant, laid-back style has hardly dated and that innocent insouciance – and jaunty piano – somehow subtly subvert the seriousness of the subject-matter. A short, sharp shock … [He’s at it again! You’re fired! Ed.]

 

When You Find Yourself in a Hole, Stop Digging …

… although it can be surprising what comes to light when you look. Here (as the ‘Blue Peter’ presenters would say) is one I prepared earlier: 

When buying things it pays to read the labels
For sell-by dates and sugar overload,
But never trust those advertisers’ fables –
Their promises will sell you down the road.

No product yet invented makes you cheerful
When sad and lonesome feelings fill your head –
The more you buy, the more you will be fearful
That folk are out to rob you in your bed.

When future archaeologists dig landfill,
They’ll wonder why we needed so much stuff!
Then suddenly they’ll come across a handbill:
BUY GLUGGO – YOU CAN NEVER HAVE ENOUGH!

They’ll see the advert model madly grinning –
Poor sod, they’ll say while safeguarding the proof,
To muddle mere consumption up with winning,
Mistaking greedy lies for grown-up truth!

 

Image result for snake oil

 

Image: The Creative Cottage

Clucked!

Here’s a further find from my furious foragings …

They ask if he would care to rule the roost -
Too chicken, me! he says and turns them down.
Responsibility's not quite his thing -
Uneasy lies the head that wears the crown.

And then they come a-pecking on his door -
Carte blanche, they say, to come and do it his way!
See how they trust him - gullible buffoons! -
So keen are they to have their bright new day!

OK, he gives them that - but just the one -
To wave their little flags and scoff their cakes.
The morning after that, he cracks the whip -
The dream's asleep when real nightmare wakes.

The more it hurts, the deeper their devotion.
O punish us, great monarch, we are dirt!
And never do they seek his abdication,
While each endures the itch of rough hair-shirt.

By then he loves unquestioning obedience,
A pampered prince and lord of all he saw!
They never know their minds - this captive audience! -  
Once he's made 'thinking hard' against the law.

They teach his book (on etiquette) in schools.
It tells them what to do and what to say.
They have no need of any other rules.
He whistles as they learn to act his way.

To make them love him more, he stages death -
Pronouncements from the palace, funeral rites -
But lo! a miracle resuscitation,
A strong man never giving up such fights!

And back he comes, a phoenix from the ashes
That bears bold news of bliss beyond the grave -
How only those that do his will may gain it -
How those that disobey him won't be saved.

The royal scam - abandoning commitments
And making sure his subjects feel the blame.
He tears up their petitions, spends their money -  
Fast cars and faster persons on the game!



Image result for chicken politics


Image: Savage Chickens

Alphabetti Spaghetti

Here’s one I did earlier – thought it deserved its moment in the sun before they shut the window of satirical opportunity and return us to our customary state of well-governed happiness and contentment.

On second thoughts, to misquote Captain Oates, we may be some time … 

Plan A is lost – Plan B will cost
Plan C‘s just schemes – Plan D is dreams
Plan E‘s no fun – Plan F won’t come
Plan G‘s G Plan – Plan H they’ll ban
Plan I is pants – Plan J no chance
Plan K needs facts and counteracts
Plan L – Plans M and N are wool
Plan O is cock – Plan P is bull
Plan Q‘s half-baked – Plans R, S, T
Are shelved – Plan U is for the birds
Plans V and W – mostly random words
Plan X is feared – Plan Y‘s just weird
We’d better get Plan Z prepared

 

Image result for insomnia

 

Image: BBC

Coming from a Shopping Channel Near You …

Sorting through my paper mountain, I unearthed this attempt at cultural exorcism from 2012:

I can’t tell you, my friends, how thrilled I am to be bringing you this next item … There it is … I mean, you only need to look at it to appreciate the quality … Wow, absolutely stunning, with every beautiful detail lovingly crafted by genuine artists … That, for me, encrypts years and years and years of matchless experience … A pure work of art that will not only beautify your home … Not only a precious treasure that will be the envy of all your friends … But an objet d’art that will be a constant delight for you and your loved ones for years and years and years to come … Just look at the charming way it catches our studio lights … Simply gorgeous … No other word to describe this wonderful piece … Not only really unique … Not only a strictly limited edition … Not only are the phone lines on fire tonight but I can tell you here and now that the last time we offered this to our viewers it positively flew away … I kid you not, it sold out in minutes … And here we are again giving this remarkable creation away at silly prices … We must be round the bend, my friends … This exclusive offer you won’t find in the shops, search all you like … Ah yes, a superb investment for the future … A truly magical heirloom that will not only give your children and your children’s children something really special to remember you by … But a lasting testimony to your impeccable good taste … Congratulations to Margaret of Greenock … Colin of Lowestoft, well done … Not only will this exquisite purchase grace the stylish collection in your own personal display cabinet … Not only will you delight in taking it out from time to time and running your quivering fingers up and down its truly sensuous lines … Oh goodness, they tell me the lines are closed … Never mind … Coming up next, my friends, the absolute highlight not only of the night … Not only of the year … Not only of my lifetime … Not only of the whole history of humankind, but …

If this sounds like a spoof, you may be surprised to learn that it’s an almost word-for-word transcript of an actual shopping-channel pitch. OK, I might have taken a liberty or two in the final fourteen words … 

 

Image result for shopping channel cartoon