Thursday, November 21, 2013

The Music They Play in Hell

To say that popular music has changed over the last century is only profound on the level of “Most humans have two elbows” and “That fat dog is fat.” But even knowing that, it can still feel jarring to hear a chart-topper from some past decade and then to realize just how much mainstream tastes have shifted. Even the biggest proponent of “Well, it was a different time and place” and “You have to consider the context” must sometimes stop in his tracks and let loose with a “Holy shit, people listened to this?”

I first heard “If I Knew You Were Coming” back when I was a little kid and my brother received a series of vintage sports bloopers tapes for Christmas. Every goddamn one of them used the song, and even as kids we could tell that the song sucked. It became a game: racing for the remote to fast-forward through the sequence just so we could hear as little of the song as possible. Here (hear), listen why:


This version, sung by Eileen Barton, hit number one on the Billboard charts back in 1950. Today, I can’t imagine another use for this song other than something you’d try hard not to hear.

Pressing questions:
  • Was this a song that dumb teenagers made popular, much to the annoyance of grown-ups who could tell that it was actually annoying? Or was it an actual mainstream hit?
  • Is this something people danced to? If so, how did they dance to this — just bobbing around on their heels with a big dumb grin on their face that says “No, this is fun”?
  • Did people actually play this song when guests arrived? Was it like the “Happy Birthday” song of having friends over?
  • Is it awkward that she talks about how she would have hired a band when she clearly is being backed by band?
  • Is the lyric “I don’t know where you came from / Because I don’t know where you’ve been” more or less stupid than Billy Corgan’s “What I choose is my choice”?
  • Does she sound like Tress MacNeille to anyone else but me? Or does she just sound like Lindsey Naegle?
  • The subtext is that the cake would have been poisoned, right?

“Hotchadoo, hotchadoo, hotchadoo.” [Dances off stage.]

EDIT: The sexual implications of “If I knew you were coming” and spreading mats have just been brought to my attention. Ew.

3 comments:

  1. Anonymous4:23 PM

    Man, I KNOW I've heard this before, and I'm almost positive it was a Looney Tunes short (I can't be bothered to find out which one). I've learned "I Caught a Baby Bumblee" through those, which I'm sure in terms of maddeningness takes... wait for it... the cake.

    I still hold "Achey Breaky Heart" is the worst chart-topper ever written, though.

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  2. I wonder if our grandchildren will say the same thing about "Who Let the Dogs Out?"

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  3. Anonymous5:29 PM

    yeah right this isnt bad how do they play this youll probably just hear screams

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