Wednesday, March 21, 2007

These Names Underlined

I've received an email from Justin — who I don't know but don't hold that against him — that inquired why my blog came up in the results of a Google search for "adolpha zantziger lyrics." It's the number two hit. I gather then that most people then haven't heard Soul Coughing's song "Adolpha Zantziger," which isn't a surprise, really. From what I can tell, "Adolpha Zantziger" was only released on the disc Contest 7'' along with "Circles" and "Monster Man" — both of which had previously been on the 1998 album El Oso and with the former being pretty well known among those listening to alt rock radio in the late 90s.

Anyway, "Adolpha Zantziger" is odd, even for a Soul Coughing track. It basically consists of lead singer Mike Doughty speaking nine unusual names over some sampled background music. He doesn't speak the names very clearly, so that coupled with the rarity of the Contest 7'' disc and the relative weirdness of the song itself make for a low probability that anyone had bothered to transcribe the lyrics, thus my blog's appearance in the Google search results.

Being unable to answer this curious Soul Coughing fan's letter, I decided to listen to the song and try my best to figure out what the lyrics are.

Here goes nothing.
Adolpha Zantziger
Shakir Shawlday
George Washerman
Hortense Mackoway

Oh why these names underlined?
She is bewildering
Why these name underlined?
She is bewildering

Kadeem Leona Chang

Why these names underlined?
She is bewildering

DaRae Vedonkovich
Onella Vonderschal
Horace Vandiver
Petula Valvenol

Why these names underlined?
She is bewildering
Why these names underlined?
She is bewildering
Why these names underlined?
She is bewildering
I guess that doesn't make much for allowing the uninitiated to appreciate what amounts to a pretty cool little B-side, but at least any one trying to find these lyrics has a chance at stumbling here and reading my go at it. (Given Soul Coughing's cult popularity, I'd wager Justin and I aren't the only ones wondering.) It's even harder to interpolate meaning, but whenever I hear the song I always think of Doughty thumbing through an address book or someone else's phone book and noticing that certain names were inexplicably underlined. And then, of course, writing a song about it.

The names themselves could mean something, I suppose, though the only Google results I could get for any of them — at least with my spelling, anyway — was Horace Vandiver. The reference to "Leona Chang" stands out to me because Doughty speaks a very similar name, "Leon Yang," in the more popular Soul Coughing song "Is Chicago / Is Not Chicago." Justin guessed in his email that the lyrics could have also said "the jewel of alvanon" and "hortence mackaly," and for all I know he could be right. Mike Doughty, who has since dropped his band and now performs as a solo act, is a smart, poetic guy, and I'd like to think he'd pick names for a reason. As a songwriter, however, he could have just picked them for how they sound together. If you go back and speak the eight names grouped into two groups — that is, ignoring Leona — and speak them out loud, you'll notice they do sound good.

As far as I know, this is the only writing on the internet about this song in particular. Hopefully others will have better luck than I did. If you can find "Adolpha Zantziger," it merits a listen, at least to further this small project.

For the record, the last time I attempted to blog about hard-to-understand Soul Coughing lyrics was immediately following a period of a very particular kind of intoxication. I gave this one my sober best.

3 comments:

  1. That's not "Leon Yang" he's saying in "Is Chicago"... it's "Pyongyang" (the capital of N. Korea).

    Doughty's ticking off names of various cities who are "in the room," i.e. being represented in a boardroom meeting in the Chrysler Building as the plane hits it. Palmyra is a small city in Pennsylvania, Poulsbo is near Seattle, etc.

    Nice post, all the same!

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  2. Dr.Light9:08 PM

    ha! i think you got it! thanks!!

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  3. Anonymous2:18 PM

    Palmyra is also a city in New York, FYI...

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