Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Simple Times, Stupid Music

The thing is, I like old stuff. I’m not someone who goes around only looking at the popular culture of previous generations with my mind focused on now and how all the not-now things are different and therefore bad. But there’s a certain era of music that I don’t really understand, and its the same one that gave us that “You say potato” song and that “Roly Poly” song from Pillow Talk. At this point in American culture, adults seem to have found entertainment in the kind of songs that today are sung by babies and perhaps children on bus trips who want test how close they can push their driver into taking the entire vehicle over a guardrail. I mean, what other purpose could “One Hundred Bottles of Beer on the Wall” possibly serve?

Not long ago — but long enough, and you’ll shortly realize why — I was standing in a Borders and was subjected to one of these songs: Cab Calloway’s “Everybody Eats When They Come Over to My House.” I’m not saying it’s managerial decisions like this one that caused Borders to cease, but I’m willing to bet it didn’t help.

(And no, I do not know why the background image for the song is a butt. The other version I found was actually more offensive.)

Listen, if you like, or just check out the lyrics, but I’m boggled as to how this was okay for adults to enjoy. I’m actually further confused about whether ol’ Cab meant for, like, half of his food rhymes to sound sexual, though it’s hard to imagine he didn’t think about the implications of that opening pair of lines, “Have a banana, Hannah / Try the salami, Tommy.” And then the thing that seems strangest to me is Calloway’s seeming inability to find actual human people’s names that rhyme with food, which caused him to invite to his dinner party people named Mandrake, Irvy, Mendel, Fagel and Nashville. (Maybe everyone eats at your house because all the party guests suck?)

If this sort of thing gets to you to — and it should, thinking humans! — please examine below the lyrics to “Everybody Eats When They Have Come Over to My House,” which I wanted to highlighted in a matter that reflects my frustrations but I could not figure out how to do that on the new Blogger:
Have a banana, Hannah
Try the salami, Tommy
Get with the gravy, Davy
Everybody eats when they come to my house
Try a tomato, Plato
Here’s cacciatori, Dory
Taste of bologna, Tony
Everybody eats when they come to my house
I've fixed your favorite dishes
Hopin' this good food fills ya
Work my hands to the bone in the kitchen alone
You better eat if it kills ya
Pass me a pancake, Mandrake
 a derby, Irvy
Lookin the fendel, Mendel
Everybody eats when they come to my house
Hannah, Davy, Tommy, Dora, Mandrake
Everybody eats when they come to my house
Pasta fazoula, Tallulah
Oh, do have a bagel, Fagel
Now don't be so bashful, Nashville
Everybody eats when they come to my house
Hey, this is a party, Marty
Well, you get the cherry, Jerry
Now look, don't be so picky, Mickey
Cause everybody eats when they come to my house
All of my friends are welcome
Don't make me coax you, moax you
Eat the tables, the chairs, the napkins — who cares?
You gotta eat if it chokes ya
Oh, do have a knish, Nisha
Pass him the latke, Matke
Chili con carne for Barney
Everybody eats when they come to my house
Face, Buster, share, chops, fump
Everybody eats when they come to my house
Everybody eats when they come to my house
Also, moax you? Also, I feel real bad for the guy nicknamed “Taste of Bologna” Tony.

Also, neither here nor there, really, but no one pronounces it “poh-tah-toh.”


  1. The odd names could just mean Calloway had the ability to predict two of the best films of the 1960s and 1970s: Mandrake is obviously Col. Mandrake from "Dr. Strangelove" and Nashville is a tip of the cap to Altman's classic of the same name. (Sure, it's a city and not a person's name, but he couldn't get everything right, could he?)

    As for "Let's Call the Whole Thing Off" (whence poh-tah-toh comes), it's a Gershwin song (not that they couldn't do any wrong), and was introduced by Fred and Ginger. So I've got a soft spot for that one.

    Plus, supposedly (thanks Wikipedia) the pronunciation difference were both about regional dialects and class. I think one of those still exists today.

  2. Was it the page for the song itself? Because I saw that. I just have never seen any confirmation that yes, someone besides someone singing this song has ever actually pronounced it poh-tah-toh. It seems like if anyone would, it would be the people who say toh-mah-toh. But they don't. And the fact that they don't is especially confusing, though I guess not more than any other English weirdness.

  3. This post (and that song!) cracked me up. Your ability to exude humor and sarcasm in your writing is incredible, Drew.

    (Uhh...I feel like I'm supposed to come up with a rhyme about eating "stew, Drew" into that last sentence, but I'm not feeling clever enough at the moment :). )

  4. Well, given in "Let's Call the Whole Thing Off" they end up not calling it off, perhaps the point is all the dual variations are ridiculous (as are most of the plot contrivances that keep Fred and Ginger from falling in love in all of their movies).

    Plus the one that kills me in the song is "er-sters." Nobody calls oysters er-sters. But I'll clam up now.

  5. I mean, ANYTHING to get that pretty lady to hook up with that spidery-limbed dancing freak.

  6. Devon: Thanks! I like votes of confidence from longtime fans. Personally, I'm most familiar with the Drewski/brewski rhymed, but I'm not a snob; I like stew.