‘Tain’t very sanitary: Some songs I know by heart for no reason at all

People have been passing around an article about how some people don’t have a constant interior monologue going in their heads. You can count me as part of that group. That don’t, I mean. There are definitely words sprinkled in here and there, but unless I’m writing in my head, or praying, or thinking about a conversation, it’s mostly it’s sensations, patterns, images, and image-blobs, and I have to deliberately turn them into words. 

ANYWAY, there is one exception, and that’s miles and miles and miles of stupid song lyrics I have memorized and can call to mind at a moment’s notice. I may not know how many children I have, what their names are, or where I was supposed to pick them up half an hour agao, but if you ask, I can instantly tell you:

Then all Palyatchee finds the guy he’s seekin’
Cheek-to-cheekin’ with his wife,
He grabs a knife
And stabs the louse
Who stole his spouse
And then he stabs the lady and himself.
‘Tain’t very

Useful! Steve Greydanus asked about this on social media the other day: You are in a random group of 10 people taken prisoner by gunmen. At gunpoint, you must pick a song NO ONE IN THE GROUP BUT YOU can sing with no mistakes. Succeed and you go free. What do you sing?

Well, let’s start with “Pal-yat-chee” by Spike Jones

Full lyrics:

When we wuz in the city, we wuz a-wond’rin’ where to go.
A sign spelled out PAL-YAT-CHEE up in lights above a show.
We thought ‘twould be a Western till the stage lit up with lights,
An’ ninety seven people sung without a horse in sight.
We couldn’t understand ’em ’cause they spoke a furrin tongue,
But we can give you some i-dee of what we thank they sung:

Ridi, Pagliaccio, Sul tuo amore’in fronto!

All at once there’s a fat guy in a clown suit.
Ain’t Haller-ween, that’s for shore.
Then this here feller, this Punchy Neller,
Begins to beller — Like we all was deef.
“Ha ha ha ha ha!”
That was PAL-YAT-CHEE an’ he sung:

Invest in a tuba an’ somthin’ or other ’bout Cuba,
He sung about a lady who weighed two hundred and eighty.
When she takes a powder, he just starts chirpin’ louder
And he don’t do a gol-durn thing ‘cept to stand up there an’ sing.

When we listen to PAL-YAT-CHEE, we get itchy an’ scratchy.
This shore is top corn, so we go and buy some popcorn.
We hate to go back, but we can’t git our dough back.
There ain’t no use complainin’, ’cause outside it’s a-rainin’. [ooga! ooga!]

Seven hours later, we’re still in the dern the-a-ter,
Takin’ turns at nappin’, a-waitin’ for sumpin’ to happen.
PAL-YAT-CHEE he ain’t hurryin’, but the folks on stage are flurryin’
And it sounds like Kat-chee-tur-ry-in’s Saber Dance.

Then ol’ PAL-YAT-CHEE finds the guy he’s seekin’
Cheek-to-cheekin’ with his wife, he grabs a knife
And stabs the louse who stole his spouse,
An’ then he stabs the lady and himself – tain’t very sanitary.
They all collapse, but ol’ PAL-YAT-CHEE sets up,
Then he gets up, sings “I’m dyin’,
I am dyin’, I am dyin’.” We start cryin’
‘Cause to tell the truth, we’re dyin’ too.

As the footlights fade out
we see PAL-YAT-CHEE laid out.
But the dagger never caused it.
was plumb

I could probably also come up with long sections from “Carmen,” including the very important passage that goes:

“Carmen, darling, please marry me.
Oh, be my little bumble bee.
You’re the honey that’ll sweeten our lives.”
“Instead of children we’ll both have hives.”
They’ll both have hives!
“I can not marry you, my Don,
‘Cause I’m in love with another one.
He fights the bull in the arena.”
“I could do that if I ate Farina”

“Oh, no, you couldn’t”
“Oh, yes, I could”
“Oh, no, you couldn’t”
“Oh, yes, I could”
“Oh, no, you couldn’t”
“Oh, yes, I could”
“Oh, no, you couldn’t”
“Oh, yes, I could.”

How about a change of pace? I have here right in my hippocampus the full lyrics for the anti-World War I song “Stay Down Here Where You Belong” by Irving Berlin

I chose the clip below because this song is so stupid, Irving Berlin was apparently horribly embarrassed at having written it, and Groucho used to follow him around at parties, singing it just to annoy him. AND IT IS A VERY STUPID SONG. Thank goodness I know it instead of my bank password. 

Down below, down below
Caught the devil talking to his son
Who wanted to go
Up above, up above.
He cried, “It’s getting too warm for me down here and so
I’m going way up where I can have a little fun,”
The Devil slowly smiled and then he answered his son:
“Stay down here where you belong
The folks above us don’t know right from wrong.
To please their kings, they’ve all gone off to war
And not one of them knows what they’re fighting for.
Way up above they say that I’m a devil and I’m bad.
Kings up there are bigger devils than your dad.
They’re breaking the hearts of mothers, making butchers out of brothers.
You’ll find more hell up there than there is down below.”

Apparently I was on an Irving Berlin kick at some especially malleable stage in my development, because I also have firmly memorized:

“I’m Down In Honolulu Looking Them Over.” This is one of those songs that always gets a grave warning from historical archivists about how it may include references now considered culturally insensitive. 

You know my Uncle Jeremiah,
Who disappeared a month ago;
We got a letter from Hawaii,
And I declare my uncle’s there.
The atmosphere set him on fire,
It simply went right to his head;
What do you think he wrote
In his little note?
This is what he said.

I’m down in Honolulu looking them over,
i’m down in Honolulu living in clover,
Try and guess the way they dress.
No matter what you think it is, it’s even less.
Their language
Is hard to understand because it’s so tricky,
I’ve got them teaching me to say “wicky wicky.”
I don’t know what it means
But it’s the best that ever was,
And if it means just what I think it does,
I’ll be in Honolulu looking over them for a long, long time.

Well, “In the Bath” by Flanders and Swann has the special charm of including cultural and historical references that I can’t be offended by because I don’t understand them all. But I still have them memorized. 

Oh, I find much simple pleasure when I’ve had a tiring day,
In the bath,
In the bath

Where the noise of gently sponging seems to blend with my top A,
In the bath,
In the bath

To the skirl of pipes vibrating in the boiler room below,
I sing a pot pourri of all the songs I used to know,
And the water thunders in and gurgles down the overflow,
In the bath,
In the bath

Then the loathing for my fellows rises steaming from my brain,
In the bath,
In the bath

And condenses to the milk of human kindness once again,
In the bath,
In the bath

Oh, the tingling of the scrubbing brush, the flannel’s soft caress,
To wield a lordly loofah is a joy I can’t express,
How truly it is spoken one is next to godliness,
In the bath,
In the bath

Then there comes that dreadful moment when the water’s running cold,
In the bath,
In the bath

When the soap is lost forever and you’re feeling tired and old,
In the bath,
In the bath

It’s time to pull the plug out,
Time to mop the bathroom floor.
The towel is in the cupboard,
And the cupboard is next door.
It’s started running hot, let’s have another hour or more,
In the bath,
In the bath

I can see the one salvation of the poor old human race,
In the bath,
In the bath

Let the nations of the world all meet together, face to face,
In the bath,
In the bath

With Verwoerd, and Kenyatta, and all those other chaps,
Nkrumah, Nabbaro, we’ll get some peace perhaps,
Provided Swann and Flanders get the end without the taps,
In the bath,
In the bath

My final entry is one I can’t explain at all. Here it is:

“Meine Mutter Schmiert die Butter”

Now your turn! What do you know perfectly by heart, that would probably baffle a random group of 25 people? There is absolutely nothing at stake here. I just want to talk about something that doesn’t matter for a while. 

Image via Wikimedia commons (Creative Commons)

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24 thoughts on “‘Tain’t very sanitary: Some songs I know by heart for no reason at all”

  1. There’s probably more tucked away in the dusty corners of my brain, but the first to crawl out was a Nick at Nite promo for The Brady Bunch:

    I wanna be a Brady!
    I wanna Charleston in the living room
    And sack race in the yard
    I’d cruise around in the Brady wheels
    Life would not be haa-ard
    I wanna be a Brady!
    I wanna mow the AstroTurf
    And see-saw all night long
    I’d star on local talent shows
    By singing groovy soo-ongs
    I wanna be a Brady!

    …Sometimes I still kinda wanna Charleston in the living room, to be honest.

    1. Hah! I’ll bet your post is sparking a virtual singalong: “I think I’ll go for a walk outside now. The summer sun’s calling my name. I hear you now. I just can’t stay inside all day. Gotta get out. Get me some of those rays.” I like to think we’re all doing the dance moves too. 😉 Or maybe there’s lots of Sha na na ing and thigh slapping followed by “Autumn turns to winter and winter turns to Spring”

  2. From fifth grade straight through sophomore year of college, I was in at least one school choral group every year, sometimes as many as three…yet I would probably take none of the dozens of songs (some on the obscure side) I sang there and instead go for the VeggieTales silly song “I Love My Lips.” Usta!

  3. “Passengers will please refrain from flushing toilets while the train is in the station, Baby I love you!
    We encourage constipation while the train is in the station, Moonlight always makes me think of you.”

  4. The horses run around,
    Their feet are on the ground,
    Who will wind the clock while I’m away…

    Go get the axe, there’s a hair on baby’s chest,
    A boy’s best friend is his mother!!

    While looking out a window, a second story window, I slipped and sprained my eyebrow on the pavement.

    Go get the alcohol, Billy wants a rub,
    Grandma’s teeth will soon fit baby!!

    1. I WAS LITERALLY JUST ABOUT TO POST THIS SONG. I have never in my whole life encountered someone else who knows it!!!

    2. Mine was slightly different though…it included a verse that went “peeping through the knothole of grandpa’s wooden leg.”

      1. Oooh, I don’t know that one…

        My dad used to sing it to us. I think it was an old boy scout camp song or something. Really fun to sing at the top of your lungs around a campfire. 🙂

  5. Anyone else grow up with Allan Sherman records? I know every word of Harvey & Sheila, the Mexican Hat Dance, Hungarian Goulash, and SO MUCH MORE.

    R for Reboot

  6. We had a Spike Jones CD when the kids were growing up. We had them all by heart. Although until now they haven’t figured prominently in my mental play list. Maybe this will start them going. There was also a My Old Flame with a Peter Lorre voice, and a soap operatic dialogue between John and Mary with a background of Tchaikovsky’s None But the Lonely Heart. Loved that one.

  7. I can sing all of “Joseph and the amazing technicolor dreamcoat” musical. People might know some of that though. However, some of the more obscure songs from that might do.

  8. Not one of you guys will know it as it is a Mexican ranchera. The name is Jacinto Cenobio, and it’s the one song my dad and I sing together when I visit them at our hometown. Being the fifth of 7 children, I must have “my” song with my dad.

    1. You’re right. I don’t know it. But I read Mexican ranchera and my mind jumps to, “Out in the west Texas town of El Paso, I fell in love with a Mexican girl. Nighttime would find me in Rosa’s cantina. Music would play and Felina would whirl.”

  9. Oh my goodness! We are right up my alley! For the time being, I’ll assume we’re putting aside television jingles and American Pie, because, you know, who doesn’t know them, I know lots of songs word for word. But Bruce Springsteen’s early stuff, anything by Johnny Cash, and Van the Man Morrisahhhhn, I can tell you when the artist takes an audible breath. Here’s one I was belting out the other day much to the delight of my children:

    Your Mamma’s yappin’ in the back seat
    Tell her to push over and move them big feet
    Every Monday morning I gotta drive her down to the unemployment agency
    Well this morning I ain’t fighting tell her I give up
    Tell her she wins if she’ll just shut up
    But it’s the last time that she’s gonna be ridin’ with me
    You can tell her there’s a hot sun beatin’ on the black top
    She keeps talkin’ she’ll be walkin’ that last block
    She can take a subway back to the ghetto tonight
    Well I got some beer and the highway’s free
    And I got you, and baby you’ve got me
    Hey, hey, hey what you say Sherry Darlin’
    Now there’s girls melting on the beach
    And they’re so fine but so out of reach
    ‘Cause I’m stuck in traffic down here on fifty third street
    Now Sherry my love for you is real
    But I didn’t count on this package deal
    And baby this car just ain’t big enough for her and me
    So you can tell her there’s a hot sun beatin’ on the black top
    She keeps talkin’ she’ll be walkin’ that last block
    She can take a subway back to the ghetto tonight
    Well I got some beer and the highway’s free
    And I got you, and baby you’ve got me
    Hey, hey, hey what you say Sherry Darlin’
    Well let there be sunlight, let there be rain
    Let the brokenhearted love again
    Sherry we can run with our arms open wide before the tide
    To all the girls down at Sacred Heart
    And all you operators back in the park
    Say hey, hey, hey what you say Sherry Darlin’
    Ho, ho, ho, say, hey, hey, what you say Sherry Darlin’, oh come on
    Say hey, hey, hey, what you say Sherry Darlin’

    I copied the lyrics from a website, but when I sing it, I put on my best Jersey accent, which slurs a couple of the words together.

  10. We once had a John Lithgow CD in which he sings all these old big band songs he grew up listening to. I loved being able to sing “A, You’re Adorable” to my kids, but I could live without having “Everybody Eats When they Come To My House” running through my head, or “You’ve Gotta Have Skin.” Ugh. The good news is, we were able to later use the CD to scare a raccoon out of our crawlspace, so there’s that.

    1. You’ve gotta have skin!
      All you really need is skin.
      Skin’s the thing that if you’ve got it outside,
      It helps keep your insides in!

      (I could keep going, but I’ll stop 😉)

  11. The voice in my head is such a pain in the butt, I wish I could get rid of ninety percent of it! But can anyone tell me what it’s like to see things in your head? Do you literally see it, only you know it’s just imaginary? Because I can’t visualize things at all. I can get a sense of an image, but not an image. It’s a real hindrance in life, and I feel I’m missing out on something magical. I couldn’t read Lord of the rings because of all the visual detail that I was unable to picture in my mind. I just learned there is a name for this condition: aphantasia. At least I dont feel terminally unique anymore.

  12. I fear that when I am old and all else has fled from my brain I will still remember the words to the Bosco song. (“I hate Bosco, it’s full of TNT. My mother puts it in my milk to try and poison me….”)

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