Saturday, October 16, 2010

Parody and Satire: Take a Look Around Mrs. Brown

Jeremy Spencer: Take a Look Around Mrs. Brown

[out of print]

I've mentioned this song before, but thanks to this weeks' theme, you can finally hear it.

Jeremy Spencer released his first solo album in 1970, while still a member of Fleetwood Mac. All of his bandmates played on it, and it's possible it was recorded to make up for the fact that Spencer didn't play at all on the Mac's then-recent Then Play On album.

It's basically a collection of rock'n'roll pastiches and send ups of Elvis, the Beach Boys, "heavy" blues, and more. "Take a Look Around Mrs. Brown" spoofs psychedelic rock, and after a dodgy start, it's spot-on.

Spencer was never much of a songwriter. His early contributions to Fleetwood Mac albums were largely Elmore James impersonations. When founder Peter Green left the band, Spencer and fellow singer/guitarist Danny Kirwin had to pick up the slack for Kiln House, and Jeremy's attempts at real songwriting are particularly weak. But his ability to mimic a variety of genres was always spot on.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Parody and Satire: Yuppies in the Sky

Tom Paxton: Yuppies in the Sky


In the 1960s, there were hippies. The 1980s had yuppies. It stands for Young Upwardly-mobile Professionals, and I was never clear on why it wasn’t yumpies. The idea was that the youth of that period were obsessed with the pursuit of material wealth, and with showing that wealth off with their conspicuous consumption. Yuppies would sport the latest technology, and would dress in a way that suggested they had attended ivy league schools. The mind set is still very much with us today, but the term has all but disappeared. Tom Paxton satirized the yuppies perfectly in Yuppies in the Sky, and the song also qualifies as a parody, since it is based on Ghost Riders in the Sky.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Parody and Satire: A Simple Desultory Philippic

Simon & Garfunkel: A Simple Desultory Philippic

Paul Simon: A Simple Desultory Philippic (Original Acoustic Version)


Purchase original version

A Simple Desultory Philippic is a hilarious parody of the 60's and, more specifically, of Bob Dylan and his fans. Of this song, Paul Simon said, "This is, of course, a take-off, a take-on, a private joke, but no joke is all that private or any less serious for being a joke."

Dylan and his fans are most scathingly mocked in the middle section when Simon sings, in an obvious Dylan-esq whine, about a man who's "so unhip, when you say 'Dylan' he thinks you're talking about Dylan Thomas, whoever he was. The man ain't got no culture. But it's alright, Ma, everybody must get stoned!"

I think Simon keeps the parody at a humorous, as opposed to a personal or hurtful, level when he includes his own work in the list of things that he's sick of. "Been Roy Halee'd and Art Garfunkel'd."

Listen to the original version for alternate lyrics and a more mockingly authentic Dylan guitar riff.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Parody and Satire: Filk Songs

The Brobdingnagian Bards: If I Had 1,000,000 Ducats


John Anealio: Angels & Vampires


Filk Music is an eclectic genre based on that section of the bookstore which seems to think that fantasy and Sci-Fi are a single type of literature, and on those who ground their identity within the bookworlds which spring from those aisles. Its songs are not always parody songs by strict definition, and not always of the silly sort, but they fit the mold for the most part, in that they use the folk and bardic traditions to match existing melodies and songstyles with lyrics which tell of fantasy/scifi settings and, quite often, the particular worlds of a particular author or series. And though the internet has changed the anthropological ground for the filk song, spreading the songs farther than the late-night convention hallway circles where they were born, their lyrics and trope retain their casual, in-crowd nature.

For those who browse outside the SciFi/Fantasy shelves, and think of folk music as a narrow band of solo singer-songwriters with cheesy guitars, Filk may seem small indeed. To prove otherwise, today we bring you the filksongs of two very different musical acts: The Brobdingnagian Bards, my favorite pair of silly Celtic-slash-Renaissance Fair parodists, and Sci Fi Songwriter John Anealio, who doesn't actually self-define as filk, but tends towards electric poprock instrumentation and poignant community self-reflection much like the technologically-aware pop of Jonathan Coulton. Both are professional musicians, proving that there is a real market for this music even as the vast majority of filksong continues to come from amateurs in the community. And yes, both have written at least one song about Star Wars - though I think today's songs better represent the breadth of the genre in general.

Parody and Satire: My Old Flame

Spike Jones and His City Slickers: My Old Flame


I hope everyone knows who Spike Jones was. I grew up listening to his music, which, along with Tom Lehrer, was the closest we got to kid’s music in my house. But I realize that other people may have been raised differently. Spike Jones was a band leader in the 1940s and fifties who specialized in parodies of popular songs. My Old Flame is a perfect example of his method. For one verse and one chorus, Jones plays it straight, giving the listener a taste of what the original song sounded like. But then, all heck breaks loose. The music changes abruptly to a sort of mutant Dixieland. And the lyrics go completely off the rails, to humorous effect. Here, a mock Peter Lorre takes over the vocals, and he has trouble containing his unusual urges. This one turns up sometimes on Halloween compilations, so it seemed appropriate. I should note that Spike Jones’ songs may seem like simple novelty numbers, and it is easy to dismiss them as such, but there is actually a high degree of musicianship involved.

Incidentally, the image above is the cover of the album as we had it when I was growing up. However, following the purchase link will take you to an album with a different title and cover; it is the same album repackaged.