An Evening Wasted With Tom Lehrer

  1. Poisoning Pigeons In The Park
  2. Bright College Days
  3. A Christmas Carol
  4. The Elements
  5. Oedipus Rex
  6. In Old Mexico
  7. Clementine
  8. It Makes A Fellow Proud To Be A Soldier
  9. She's My Girl
  10. The Masochism Tango
  11. We Will All Go Together When We Go


[music] Poisoning Pigeons In The Park

I'd like to take you now on wings of song, as it were, and try and help you forget perhaps for a while your drab, wretched lives. Here's a song all about spring-time in general, and in particular, about one of the many delightful pastimes the coming of spring affords us all.

Spring is here, a-suh-puh-ring is here.
Life is skittles and life is beer.
I think the loveliest time of the year is the spring.
I do, don't you? 'Course you do.
But there's one thing that makes spring complete for me,
And makes ev'ry Sunday a treat for me.

All the world seems in tune
On a spring afternoon,
When we're poisoning pigeons in the park.
Ev'ry Sunday you'll see
My sweetheart and me,
As we poison the pigeons in the park.

When they see us coming, the birdies all try an' hide,
But they still go for peanuts when coated with cyanide.
The sun's shining bright,
Ev'rything seems all right,
When we're poisoning pigeons in the park.

Lalaalaalalaladoodiedieedoodoodoo

We've gained notoriety,
And caused much anxiety
In the Audubon Society
With our games.
They call it impiety,
And lack of propriety,
And quite a variety
Of unpleasant names.
But it's not against any religion
To want to dispose of a pigeon.

So if Sunday you're free,
Why don't you come with me,
And we'll poison the pigeons in the park.
And maybe we'll do
In a squirrel or two,
While we're poisoning pigeons in the park.

We'll murder them all amid laughter and merriment.
Except for the few we take home to experiment.
My pulse will be quickenin'
With each drop of strychnine
We feed to a pigeon.
It just takes a smidgin!
To poison a pigeon in the park.

[music] Bright College Days

<applause>
Thank you. For my first encore I'd like to turn to a type of song that people like myself find ourselves subjected to with increasing frequency as time goes on, and that is the college alma mater. You'll find yourself at a reunion of grads, and old undergrads, and eh... somebody will start croaking out one of these things and everyone will gradually join in - each in his own key, of course - until the place is just soggy with nostalgia. Well, a typical such song might be called Bright College Days, and might go like this.

Bright college days, oh, carefree days that fly,
To thee we sing with our glasses raised on high.
Let's drink a toast as each of us recalls
Ivy-covered professors in ivy-covered halls.

Turn on the spigot,
Pour the beer and swig it,
And gaudeamus igit-ur.

Here's to parties we tossed,
To the games that we lost,
We shall claim that we won them some day.

To the girls young and sweet,
To the spacious back seat
Of our roommate's beat up Chevrolet.

To the beer and benzedrine,
To the way that the dean
Tried so hard to be pals with us all.

To excuses we fibbed,
To the papers we cribbed
From the genius who lived down the hall.

To the tables down at Morey's (wherever that may be)
Let us drink a toast to all we love the best.
We will sleep through all the lectures,
And cheat on the exams,
And we'll pass, and be forgotten with the rest.

Oh, soon we'll be out amid the cold world's strife.
Soon we'll be sliding down the razor blade of life.

<laughter>
Ready?
<laughter>

But as we go our sordid sep'rate ways,
We shall ne'er forget thee, thou golden college days.

Hearts full of youth,
Hearts full of truth,
Six parts gin to one part vermouth.

A Christmas Carol

One very familiar type of song is the Christmas carol. Although it is perhaps a bit out of season at this time. However, I'm informed by my "disk jockey" friends - of whom I have none, that in order to get a song popular by Christmas time, you have to start plugging it well in advance. So here goes. It has always seemed to me after all. That Christmas, with its spirit of giving, offers us all a wonderful opportunity each year to reflect on what we all most sincerely and deeply believe in. I refer of course, to money. And yet none of the Christmas carols that you hear on the radio or in the street, even attempt to capture the true spirit of Christmas as we celebrate it in the United States. That is to say the commercial spirit. So I should like to offer the following Christmas carol for next year, as being perhaps a bit more appropriate.

Christmas time is here, by golly,
Disapproval would be folly,
Deck the halls with hunks of holly,
Fill the cup and don't say "when."
Kill the turkeys, ducks and chickens,
Mix the punch, drag out the Dickens,
Even though the prospect sickens,
Brother, here we go again.

On Christmas Day you can't get sore,
Your fellow man you must adore,
There's time to rob him all the more
The other three hundred and sixty-four.

Relations, sparing no expense'll
Send some useless old utensil,
Or a matching pen and pencil.
"Just the thing I need! How nice!"
It doesn't matter how sincere it
Is, nor how heartfelt the spirit,
Sentiment will not endear it,
What's important is the price.

Hark the Herald Tribune sings,
Advertising wondrous things.
God rest ye merry, merchants,
May you make the Yuletide pay.
Angels we have heard on high
Tell us to go out and buy!

So let the raucous sleigh bells jingle,
Hail our dear old friend Kris Kringle,
Driving his reindeer across the sky.
Don't stand underneath when they fly by.

Actually I did rather well myself, this last Christmas. The nicest present I received was a gift certificate "good at any hospital for a lobotomy". Rather thoughtful.

[music] The Elements

Now, if I may digress momentarily from the main stream of this evenings symposium, I'd like to sing a song which is completely pointless but which is something I picked up during my career as a scientist. This may prove useful to somebody some day perhaps, in a somewhat bizarre set of circumstances. It's simply the names of the chemical elements set to a possibly recognizable tune.

There's antimony, arsenic, aluminum, selenium,
And hydrogen and oxygen and nitrogen and rhenium,
And nickel, neodymium, neptunium, germanium,
And iron, americium, ruthenium, uranium,
Europium, zirconium, lutetium, vanadium,
And lanthanum and osmium and astatine and radium,
And gold and protactinium and indium and gallium,
<gasp>
And iodine and thorium and thulium and thallium.

There's yttrium, ytterbium, actinium, rubidium,
And boron, gadolinium, niobium, iridium,
And strontium and silicon and silver and samarium,
And bismuth, bromine, lithium, beryllium, and barium.

Isn't that interesting?
<laughter>
I knew you would.
I hope you're all taking notes, because there's going to be a short quiz next period.

There's holmium and helium and hafnium and erbium,
And phosphorus and francium and fluorine and terbium,
And manganese and mercury, molybdenum, magnesium,
Dysprosium and scandium and cerium and cesium.
And lead, praseodymium, and platinum, plutonium,
Palladium, promethium, potassium, polonium,
And tantalum, technetium, titanium, tellurium,
<gasp>
And cadmium and calcium and chromium and curium.

There's sulfur, californium, and fermium, berkelium,
And also mendelevium, einsteinium, nobelium,
And argon, krypton, neon, radon, xenon, zinc, and rhodium,
And chlorine, carbon, cobalt, copper, tungsten, tin, and sodium.

These are the only ones of which the news has come to Ha'vard,
And there may be many others, but they haven't been discavard.

Now, may I have the next slide please?
Got carried away there.

Oedipus Rex

It seems that most of the songs that you hear these days on the radio played by the disc-jockeys, apart from Rock-n-Roll and other childrens' records, tend to be motion-picture title-songs. Apparently producers feel that we will not attend their movies unless we have the titles well drilled into our heads in advance. Of course, we don't go anyway, but at least this way they make back on the song some of what they've lost on the picture. With the rise of the motion-picture title-song, we've had such hits in the past few years as The Ten Commandments Mambo, Brothers Karamazov Cha-Cha, Incredible Shrinking Man, I Love You. I'm sure you're all familiar with these, but a few years ago a motion picture version appeared of Sophocles' immortal tragedy Oedipus Rex. This picture played only in the so-called art theaters, and it was not a financial success. And I maintain that the reason it was not a financial success...
<laughter>
(You're away ahead of me.) ...was, that it did not have a title tune, which the people could hum and which would make them actually eager to attend this particular play. So, I have attempted to supply this need and here then is the prospective title song from Oedipus Rex.

From the Bible to the popular song,
There's one theme that we find right along.
Of all ideals they hail as good,
The most sublime is Motherhood.

There was a man, oh, who it seems,
Once carried this ideal to extremes.
He loved his mother and she loved him,
And yet his story is rather grim.

There once lived a man named Oedipus Rex.
You may have heard about his odd complex.
His name appears in Freud's index
'Cause he loved his mother.

His rivals used to say quite a bit,
That as a monarch he was most unfit.
But still in all they had to admit
That he loved his mother.

Yes he loved his mother like no other.
His daughter was his sister and his son was his brother.
One thing on which you can depend is,
He sure knew who a boy's best friend is!

When he found what he had done,
He tore his eyes out one by one.
A tragic end to a loyal son
Who loved his mother.

So be sweet and kind to Mother,
Now and then have a chat.
Buy her candy or some flowers or a brand new hat.
But maybe you had better let it go at that!

Or you may find yourself with a quite complex complex,
And you may end up like Oedipus.
I'd rather marry a duck-billed platypus,
Than end up like old Oedipus Rex.

The out-patients are out in force tonight, I see.

[music] In Old Mexico

Now, I'm sure you're all aware that this week is national gall-bladder week. So as sort of an educational feature at this point I thought I would acquaint you with some of the results of my recent researches into the career of the late doctor Samuel Gall, inventor of the gall-bladder. Which certainly ranks as one of the more important technological advances since the invention of the joy-buzzer and the dribble-glass. Doctor Gall's faith in his invention was so dramatically vindicated last year, as you no doubt recall, when, for the first time in history, in a nation-wide poll the gall-bladder was voted among the top ten organs. His educational career began interestingly enough in agricultural school, where he majored in animal husbandry, until they caught him at it one day. Whereupon he switched to the field of medicine in which field he also won renown as the inventor of gargling. Which prior to that time had been practiced only furtively by a remote tribe in the Andes who passed the secret down from father to son as part of their oral tradition. He soon became a specialist, specializing in diseases of the rich. He was therefore able to retire at an early age. To the land we all dream about, sunny Mexico of course. The last part of which is completely irrelevant, as with the whole thing I guess, except, it's a rather sneaky way of getting into this next type of popular song which is one of those things about that magic, and romantic land south of the border.

When it's fiesta time in Guadalajara,
Then I long to be back once again
In Old Mexico.
Where we lived for today,
Never giving a thought to tomara.
To the strumming of guitars,
In a hundred grubby bars
I would whisper "Te amo."

The mariachis would serenade,
And they would not shut up till they were paid.
We ate, we drank, and we were merry,
And we got typhoid and dysentery.

But best of all, we went to the Plaza de Toros.
Now whenever I start feeling morose,
I revive by recalling that scene.
And names like Belmonte, Dominguin, and Manolete,
If I live to a hundred and eighty,
I shall never forget what they mean.

(For there is surely nothing more beautiful in this
world than the sight of a lone man facing singlehandedly
a half a ton of angry pot roast!)

Out came the matador,
Who must have been potted or
Slightly insane, but who looked rather bored.
Then the picadors of course,
Each one on his horse,
I shouted "Ole!" ev'ry time one was gored.

I cheered at the bandilleros' display,
As they stuck the bull in their own clever way,
For I hadn't had so much fun since the day
My brother's dog Rover
Got run over.

(Rover was killed by a Pontiac. And it was done with
such grace and artistry that the witnesses awarded the
driver both ears and the tail - but I digress.)

The moment had come,
I swallowed my gum,
We knew there'd be blood on the sand pretty soon.
The crowd held its breath,
Hoping that death
Would brighten an otherwise dull afternoon.

At last, the matador did what we wanted him to.
He raised his sword and his aim was true.
In that moment of truth I suddenly knew
That someone had stolen my wallet.

Now it's fiesta time in Akron, Ohio,
But it's back to old Guadalajara I'm longing to go.
Far away from the strikes of the A.F. of L. and C.I.O.
How I wish I could get back
To the land of the wetback,
And forget the Alamo,
In Old Mexico. Ole!

Clementine

I should like to consider the folk song, and expand briefly on a theory I have held for some time, to the effect that the reason most folk songs are so atrocious is that they were written by the people. If professional songwriters had written them instead, things might have turned out considerably differently. For example, consider the old favorite, with which, I'm sure, you're all familiar, "Clementine", you know:

In a cavern, in a canyon,
dadada dadadada...

A song with no recognizable merit whatsoever, and imagine what might have happened if, for example, Cole Porter had tried writing this song. The first verse might have come out like this:

In a cavern, in a canyon,
Excava-ha-ha-hating for a mine,
Far away from the boom-boom-boom of the city
She was so pretty, what a pity, Clementine.

Oh Clementine, can't you tell from the howls of me
This love of mine calls to you from the bowels of me.
Are you discerning the returning
Of this churning, burning, yearning for you-oo-oo... ah-ah...

Well, supposing at this point that Mozart (or one of that crowd) had tried writing a verse, the next one might have come out as a baritone aria from an Italian opera, somewhat along these lines:

Era legera e come un fairy
E suo shoes numero nine,
Herring bo-ho-ho-hoxes senza to-ho-ho-hopses,
Sandalae per Clementina si, per Clementina si,
Per Clementina sandalae, per Clementina sandalae, per Clementine.
Clehementina, Clehementina, Clehe-he-mentina...

Herring boxes senza topses sandalae per Clementina,
Herring boxes senza topses sandalae per Clementina,
Che sciagura Clementina, che sciagura Clementina, cara Clementina, cara
Clementina-na-na-na-na-na-na-na!

Supposing at this rather dramatic juncture in the narrative, one of our modern "cool school" of composers had tried writing a verse, the next one might have come out like this:

Drove those ducklings to the water
Yeah brach! doddley doo doo uh ah!
Ev'ry morning like 9am
Ooh pah! de do de do do do, biddley da!
Got hung up on a splinter, got a-hung up on a splinter
Cloo ge mop! Huh huh!
Do de do de do do do
Fell into the foamy brine, dig that crazy Clementine, man!

To end on a happy note, one can always count on Gilbert and Sullivan for a rousing finale, full of words and music and signifying nothing.

That I missed her depressed her young sister named Esther,
This mister to pester she tried.
Now her pestering sister's a festering blister,
You're best to resist her, say I.

The mister resisted, the sister persisted,
I kissed her, all loyalty slipped.
When she said I could have her, her sister's cadaver
Must surely have turned in its crypt.
Yes, yes, yes, yes!

But I love she and she loves me.
Enraptured are the both of we.
Yes I love she and she loves I
And will through all eternity!

See what I mean?

It Makes A Fellow Proud To Be A Soldier

I have only comparatively recently emerged from the United States army so that I am now of course in the radio-active reserve and, the usual jokes about the army aside, one of the many fine things one has to admit is the way that the army has carried the American democratic ideal to its logical conclusion in the sense that not only do they prohibit discrimination on the grounds of race, creed, and color, but also on the grounds of ability. Be that as it may, some of you may recall the publicity a few years ago about the army's search for an official army song to be the counterpart of the navy's Anchors Away and the airforce's Up In The Air Junior Birdman songs. I was in basic training at the time and I recall our platoon sergeant, who was an unfrocked marine. Actually, the change of service had come as quite a blow to him because it meant that he had to memorize a new serial number which took up most of his time. At any rate I recall this sergeant's informing me and my "room-mates" of this rather deplorable fact the army didn't have any official, excuse me, didn't have no official song and suggested that we work on this in our copious free time. Well, I submitted the following song which is called It Makes A Fellow Proud To Be A Soldier which, I think, demonstrates the proper spirit you'll agree. However, the fact that it did not win the contest, I can ascribe only to blatant favoratism on the part of the judges.

The heart of every man in our platoon must swell with pride,
For the nation's youth, the cream of which is marching at his side.
For the fascinating rules and regulations that we share,
And the quaint and curious costumes that we're called upon to wear.

Now Al joined up to do his part defending you and me.
He wants to fight and bleed and kill and die for liberty.
With the hell of war he's come to grips,
Policing up the filter tips,
It makes a fella proud to be a soldier!

When Pete was only in the seventh grade, he stabbed a cop.
He's real R.A. material and he was glad to swap
His switchblade and his old zip gun
For a bayonet and a new M-1.
It makes a fella proud to be a soldier!

After Johnny got through basic training, he
Was a soldier through and through when he was done.
It's effects were so well rooted,
That the next day he saluted
A Good Humor man, an usher, and a nun.

Now Fred's an intellectual, brings a book to every meal.
He likes the deep philosophers, like Norman Vincent Peale.
He thinks the army's just the thing,
Because he finds it broadening.
It makes a fella proud to be a soldier!

Now Ed flunked out of second grade, and never finished school.
He doesn't know a shelter half from an entrenching tool.
But he's going to be a big success.
He heads his class at OCS.
It makes a fella proud to be a soldier!

Our old mess sergeant's taste buds had been shot off in the war.
But his savory collations add to our esprit de corps.
To think of all the marvelous ways
They're using plastics nowadays.
It makes a fella proud to be a soldier!

Our lieutenant is the up-and-coming type.
Played with soldiers as a boy you just can bet.
It is written in the stars
He will get his captain's bars,
But he hasn't got enough box tops yet.

Our captain has a handicap to cope with, sad to tell.
He's from Georgia, and he doesn't speak the language very well.
He used to be, so rumor has, the Dean of Men at Alcatraz.
It makes a fella proud to be,
When as a kid I vowed to be,
One ought to be allowed to be
A soldier. (At ease!)

[music] She's My Girl

And now to the love song. I'm sure you're familiar with love songs on the order of He's Just My Bill, my man, my Joe, my Max, and so on where the girl who sings them tells you that, although the man she loves is anti-social, alcoholic, physically repulsive, or just plain unsanitary, nevertheless she is his because he is hers, or something like that. But as far as I know there has never been a popular song from the analogous male point of view, that is to say, of a man who finds himself in love with, or in this case married to, a girl who has nothing whatsoever to recommend her. I have attempted to fill this need. The song is called She's My Girl.

Sharks gotta swim, and bats gotta fly,
I gotta love one woman till I die.
To Ed or Dick or Bob
She may be just a slob,
But to me, well,
She's my girl.

In winter the bedroom is one large ice cube,
And she squeezes the toothpaste from the middle of the tube.
Her hairs in the sink
Have driven me to drink,
But she's my girl, she's my girl, she's my girl,
And I love her.

The girl that I lament for,
The girl my money's spent for,
The girl my back is bent for,
The girl I owe the rent for,
The girl I gave up Lent for
Is the girl that heaven meant for me.

So though for breakfast she makes coffee that tastes like shampoo,
I come home for dinner and get peanut butter stew,
Or if I'm in luck,
It's broiled hockey puck,
But, oh well, what the hell,
She's my girl,
And I love her.

[music] The Masochism Tango

Another familiar type of lovesong is the passionate or firy variety, usually in tango tempo, in which the singer exhorts his partner to haunt him and taunt him and, if at all possible, to consume him with a kiss of fire. This particular illustration of this genre is called The Masochism Tango.

I ache for the touch of your lips, Dear,
But much more for the touch of your whips, Dear.
You can raise welts
Like nobody else,
As we dance to the Masochism Tango.

Let our love be a flame, not an ember,
Say it's me that you want to dismember.
Blacken my eye,
Set fire to my tie,
As we dance to the Masochism Tango.

At your command
Before you here I stand,
My heart is in my hand. Ecch!
It's here that I must be.
My heart entreats,
Just hear those savage beats,
And go put on your cleats
And come and trample me.
Your heart is hard as stone or mahogany,
That's why I'm in such exquisite agony.

My soul is on fire,
It's aflame with desire,
Which is why I perspire
When we tango.

You caught my nose
In your left castanet, Love,
I can feel the pain yet, Love,
Ev'ry time I hear drums.
And I envy the rose
That you held in your teeth, Love,
With the thorns underneath, Love,
Sticking into your gums.

Your eyes cast a spell that bewitches.
The last time I needed twenty stitches
To sew up the gash
That you made with your lash,
As we danced to the Masochism Tango.

Bash in my brain,
And make me scream with pain,
Then kick me once again,
And say we'll never part.
I know too well
I'm underneath your spell,
So, Darling, if you smell
Something burning, it's my heart.
Excuse me!

Take your cigarette from its holder,
And burn your initials in my shoulder.
Fracture my spine,
And swear that you're mine,
As we dance to the Masochism Tango.

[music] We Will All Go Together When We Go

I am reminded at this point of a fellow I used to know who's name was Henry, only to give you an idea of what an individualist he was he spelt it HEN3RY. The 3 was silent, you see. Henry was financially independent having inherited his father's tar-and-feather business and was therefore able to devote his full time to such intellectual pursuits as writing. I particularly remember a heart-warming novel of his about a young necropheliac who finally achieved his boy-hood ambition by becoming coroner.
<moderate laughter>
The rest of you can look it up when you get home. In addition to writing he indulged in a good deal of philosophizing. Like so many contemporary philosophers he especially enjoyed giving helpful advice to people who were happier than he was. One particular bit of advice which I recall, which is the reason I bring up this whole, dreary story is something he said once before they took him away to the Massachussetts state home for the bewilderd. He said: "Life is like a sewer: what you get out of it depends on what you put into it." It's always seems to me that this is precisely the sort of dynamic, positive thinking that we so desperately need in these trying times of crisis and universal broo-ha-ha, and so with this in mind I have here a modern positive dynamic uplifting song in the tradition of the great old revival hymns. This one might more accurately be termed a survival hymn.

When you attend a funeral,
It is sad to think that sooner or
Later those you love will do the same for you.
And you may have thought it tragic,
Not to mention other adjec-
Tives, to think of all the weeping they will do.
But don't you worry.
No more ashes, no more sackcloth.
And an armband made of black cloth
Will some day never more adorn a sleeve.
For if the bomb that drops on you
Gets your friends and neighbors too,
There'll be nobody left behind to grieve.

And we will all go together when we go.
What a comforting fact that is to know.
Universal bereavement,
An inspiring achievement,
Yes, we all will go together when we go.

We will all go together when we go.
All suffuse with an incandescent glow.
No one will have the endurance
To collect on his insurance,
Lloyd's of London will be loaded when they go.

Oh we will all fry together when we fry.
We'll be french fried potatoes by and by.
There will be no more misery
When the world is our rotisserie,
Yes, we will all fry together when we fry.

Down by the old maelstrom,
There'll be a storm before the calm.

And we will all bake together when we bake.
There'll be nobody present at the wake.
With complete participation
In that grand incineration,
Nearly three billion hunks of well-done steak.

Oh we will all char together when we char.
And let there be no moaning of the bar.
Just sing out a Te Deum
When you see that I.C.B.M.,
And the party will be "come as you are."

Oh we will all burn together when we burn.
There'll be no need to stand and wait your turn.
When it's time for the fallout
And Saint Peter calls us all out,
We'll just drop our agendas and adjourn.

You will all go directly to your respective Valhallas.
Go directly, do not pass Go, do not collect two hundred dolla's.

And we will all go together when we go.
Ev'ry Hottenhot and ev'ry Eskimo.
When the air becomes uranious,
And we will all go simultaneous.
Yes we all will go together
When we all go together,
Yes we all will go together when we go.

Back to Bright Tom Lehrer Days. This page was last updated on Jan 21, 2006.