The Music Meme: Day 27

Day 27: A song you make fun of


Since I have written thousands of words on the subject, many of them over the last month, I suppose I could say that I take popular music very seriously indeed. Unfortunately, I'd be lying. Like every other subject involving human beings, pop music has myriad absurdities to delight and amuse the observer, so mockery is almost always an option. The only real question is what to mock, though an argument about how best to mock it may well follow. 

I'm pretty consistent about mocking some musicians. As you know if you've been reading this series of posts, it's hard for me not to joke about Aerosmith's penchant for making practically every song about sex (even the ones I like), or Morrissey's tendency to sing on the third of every chord behind him. I'm also willing to poke fun at artists I thoroughly enjoy, sometimes by mimicking voices; I've been known to try singing in Johnny Cash's voice on countless occasions, testing our household theory that JC could sing anything. (The exceptions so far discovered: "She Bop" and "I've Never Been to Me," but don't assume Johnny would struggle with any song from a female point of view, because I know damn well he could actually pull off "Milkshake" or "Total Eclipse of the Heart.") The alternative approach is to imitate someone singing a song that is wildly inappropriate for them; believe me, there's a lot of cheap laughter to be had when Katharine Hepburn sings the Rolling Stones' "Let It Bleed."

I've even been in a few parody musical acts working this territory. The best-known, for a given value of "known," was the semi-legendary Great Wall of Doo Doo, the world's only Wall of Voodoo tribute band, which I formed in the mid-80s along with Foreign Bodies bassist Dan "Zingo" Munger" and three of the Pressure Boys: vocalist/trombonist John "Zippy" Plymale on guitar, guitarist Bryon "Elmo" Settle on lead vocals, and sound engineer Mike "Cheeseman" Beard on percussion. (I handled keyboards and backing vocals.) Our mission was to perform a variety of our favorite WoV songs ("Red Light," "Call of the West," "Can't Make Love," "Ring of Fire," and of course "Mexican Radio" made the set list), but we also performed a bunch of other songs in the WoV style (which involved an electronic drumbeat, found percussion--Mike's use of the electric football playing field was groundbreaking in this regard--discordant guitars, and a vocal delivered in Stanard Ridgway's distinctive nasal twang, usually out the side of the singer's mouth). These songs included Devo's "Pink Pussycat" and the theme song from Warner Brothers' "Road Runner" TV show, among others, but one of my favorite songs in our repertoire was performed almost straight: Flash & the Pan's "Walking in the Rain."

The combination of slow, pulsing beat, rolling bassline, and slightly suspended block chords was not much like the rest of our set, but Bryon so loved the way the lead singer said the word "billboards" that we were forced to play it. It's the only song by the band that I've ever heard, but it's stuck with me for over 30 years now, and even if it's not entirely accurate to say we made fun of it, we certainly enjoyed the hell out of playing it in the course of our set, and we were certainly making fun of other stuff. I think that gives it a legitimate case for inclusion here. Enjoy!

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This page contains a single entry by Peter Cashwell published on September 2, 2017 8:17 AM.

The Music Meme: Day 26 was the previous entry in this blog.

The Music Meme: Day 28 is the next entry in this blog.

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