Strange Lyrics in Later Verses of Popular Christmas Carols


A lot of people sing the first verse and chorus of popular Christmas carols and then move on.  But if you stick around to later verses you can find some interesting attempts by the lyricist to fit in large concepts and unique rhyme schemes.  Here are some of my favorites.

Carol: “Cherry Tree Carol”

Lyric: And Mary gathered cherries / While Joseph stood around.

The whole song is rather bizarre, but I like to think of this part as if it were a stage direction.

“What was Joseph doing while all this was happening?”
“I don’t know, he just stood around.”


 

Carol: “Deck The Hall”

Lyric: Troll the ancient Yule tide carol

The redefining of “troll” in Internet culture makes this sound like a rather rude thing to do, but even before that it brought to mind of creatures under bridges eating billy goats, not sing festive tunes.


 

Carol: “Do You Hear What I hear?”

Lyric: A Child, a Child shivers in the cold–
Let us bring him silver and gold,
Let us bring him silver and gold.

Or maybe a blanket or something that actually insulates rather than metals that would be rather chilly on a cold night.


 

Carol: God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen

Lyric: This holy tide of Christmas all others doth deface.

The words “doth deface” sound so Metal.


 

Carol: “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing”

Lyric: Hail, the incarnate deity

I can’t hear the words “Hail, the incarnate deity” without hearing them in the voices of the aliens from Toy Story.


 

Carol: “In the Bleak Midwinter”

Lyric: Cherubim and seraphim thronged the air

A choir director really wanted us to emphasize the word “thronged” while singing and now I can never get past what a strange word that is or the imagery of a throng of cherubim and seraphim hanging out in the air.


Carol: “Little Drummer Boy”

Lyric: The ox and lamb kept time, pa rum pum pum pum

Once again my mind fills in the details and I get an image of the ox and lamb wearing berets in a smokey jazz club and saying “dig!”


 

Carol: “Silent Night”

Lyric: Shepherds quake, at the sight.

THERE ARE REPORTS OF JUDEA BEING HIT BY A SHEPHERD QUAKE, ESTIMATED AT 5.7 ON THE RICHTER SCALE.

 

 

Song of the Week: “Malukayi” by Mbonwana Star (feat. Konono No.1)


Every year the editor of the excellent MP3 blog Said the Gramophone publishes a list of 100 Best Songs of the Year.  The list is diverse, and not every song is going to resonate with everyone, but I always discover something new I missed over the course of the year.

One of the songs from this year’s list is “Malukayi” by Mbonwana Star (feat. Konono No.1).  The seven-piece band is from the Democratic Republic of Congo and they combine percussion with chant-like vocals and electronic sounds.  It’s pretty brilliant.

My own list of favorite songs of the year is coming soon.  If there’s a song you think should be on the best of 2015 list let me know in the comments!

Book Reviews: Brothas Be, Yo Like George, Ain’t That Funkin’ Kinda Hard on You? by George Clinton


Author: George Clinton
TitleBrothas Be, Yo Like George, Ain’t That Funkin’ Kinda Hard on You?
Publication Info: New York : Atria Books, 2014
Summary/Review:

The memoirs of George Clinton, the talented songwriter and band leader and creator of P-Funk, starts with a story of band members and their costumes having trouble getting to a show in Richmond in 1978.  This is coincidental in that I saw George Clinton and the P-Funk All-Stars play in Richmond in the 1990s, although that was at University of Richmond which felt incongruous since it’s about as far from Richmond’s black community as one can get.

Clinton traces his story back to coming of age in New Jersey and from his barbershop pulling together the singers and musicians of the area to create The Parliaments, a 50’s-style doo-wop group that evolved into a Motown-style soul act.  Inspired by the likes of James Brown and Sly and the Family Stone, as well as psychedelic blues rock acts like Cream and Jimi Hendrix, Clinton creates the blueprint for P-Funk.  Two bands with largely the same personnel would alternate recordings with two takes on funk: Funkadelic inspired by the psychedelic rock and Parliament taking the soul/R&B approach.  With a revolving roster of performers, a whole new mythology of P-Funk, stunning stage shows, and an innovative approach to music, Clinton would dominate the 1970s music scene.  The volume of music released not just by Parliament and Funkadelic, but many of the offshoot bands like Bootsy’s Rubber Band, is remarkable, and they all toured together on a tireless schedule of concerts.

The wheels come off in the 1980s, and while Clinton has some success as a solo artist and with new versions of the P-Funk All-Stars, much of the later part of the book is consumed by descriptions of Clinton’s drug abuse exploits and endless legal squabbles.  And yet, Clinton becomes something of a respected elder statesman of funk, writing and producing for the early Red Hot Chili Peppers whom he saw as the white band that would bring funk to the mainstream.  He also had a great influence on hip-hop, encouraging sampling of P-Funk sounds, and working with young rappers.

Clinton is one of the great musicians of the 20th-century, and this book is at its best when he’s talking about creating the sounds of funk, his love of music, and the talented musicians he worked with.  This book is at it’s worst when Clinton describes smoking another vial of crack or belabor his legal vendettas.  If you like funk or are interested in music and how it’s created, this book is worth a read.
Favorite Passages:

“Even without the music, I loved living in Newark, in part because I was royalty. All you had to do was look at the signs. One of the main drags in Newark was called Clinton Avenue, and there was a whole area called Clinton Hills. They were all named after the early American politician George Clinton, who had been the governor of New York and the vice president under Thomas Jefferson and James Madison. Some days the world seemed to revolve around me, a George Clinton who could go walking down a street named for him in an area named for him.”

On dropping acid for the first time in Harvard Square, which I believe should be on a Cambridge historic plaque: “The next day we went over to Harvard Square and all of us took some. That was a Noah’s Ark day, rain so hard you couldn’t even see your hand in front of your face, and the gutters were filling up with water, making little rivers in the street. We dropped acid and stood looking at the rain: sometimes it seemed to slow down, sometimes each individual drop came into perfect, sharp focus. And then, all of a sudden, everyone started taking off their clothes and wading in the rivers the streets had become. There were students, but there were faculty members, too. There were couples and there were single girls. There were fat people and skinny people and every other kind: older white women naked there in the water, with polka-dot freckles on their titties, and dozens of cute little girls getting bare-ass naked. Everyone was in the water, flopping around like fish, just feeling it.”

“Somewhere along the way it became clear to me that we had a strong young group of players who were, to us, what the Funk Brothers were to Motown, and because we were so deep into psychedelic rock we started adding the -delic to it. The result was Funkadelic. I think I had the idea for the name first, but you’ll probably get a debate from two or three others. Everyone knew that it felt right, though. White rock groups had done the blues, and we wanted to head back in the other direction, to be a black rock group playing the loudest, funkiest combination of psychedelic rock and thunderous R&B.”

“In truth, underneath the image, I was a much more reserved, centered, circumspect person. In fact, that’s why I was able to carry off those crazy looks. It was freedom generated by misdirection, and it allowed me to focus on my real self, the identity I was nurturing away from any kind of spotlight.”

“For that matter, the two bands could continue to function as separate entities, where Parliament was a group of singers backed by a band and Funkadelic was a band backing a group of singers.”

“When you parody something, you have to pay attention. When you pay attention, you’re taking something seriously. So isn’t parody the most serious form of imitation?”

“Funkadelic had always been a hybrid of other things—at first, of the original Parliaments and the psychedelic rock that was happening all around it—and the second wave of musicians reaffirmed my belief in the way to grow. Absorb youth and you will be absorbed by youth. Take on new influences without fear and you need not fear what is new. Change the people around you by changing the people around you.”

“I never wanted that responsibility, not the responsibility of a political spokesperson like Malcolm X or Martin Luther King, and not even the responsibility of a musical spokesperson like Bob Marley. He was almost like a Dalai Lama. Critics and fans were thrusting him into that position even before he knew he was in it. We went the other way, played so crazy that nobody wanted to be connected to us at that level.”

“So in my mind, the concept of Mothership Connection wasn’t just Star Trek in the ghetto, but pirate radio coming in from outer space. It’s not thought of in that way as much, at least anymore, but that’s at the heart of the album.”

“When I got money, I didn’t think about jewelry or cars or houses. I thought about experiences. Again, some of them were sex, and some were drugs, but most of them were rock and roll. I kept studios running all the time. I cut tracks with all the artists I knew and shaped them into songs, which in turn were shaped into records. What did I need with possessions? I had a spaceship and that was going to be enough for a long while.”

“Maybe funk itself was a form of evolution. Maybe if you refused to participate in it, you were holding yourself back. We had already created and deployed Star Child, an agent of interplanetary funk. Did he have the secret for improving the species, funkateer by funkateer? There had always been a strain of self-actualization in our music, though it had also always been sharpened by humor and irony and dirty jokes.”

“When people start out in groups, everybody imagines making it, but no one thinks hard about what that means. Does it mean being a star, staying in the top hotels, headlining arenas? Or is it enough to be able to do what almost no one in the world does, and sustain a career as a professional musician? The mere fact of surviving in this industry is a huge victory. But survivors forget that the alternative is annihilation. They think that the choice is between a good career and a great one. They reach for stardom. And those unrealistic expectations are compounded by creative ability, or the lack of ability. People don’t have a clear idea of what they can and can’t do as artists. I knew my limits. I knew what I couldn’t do. I couldn’t play an instrument. I couldn’t sing as well as some and I couldn’t arrange as well as some others. But I could see the whole picture from altitude, and that let me land the planes.”

“Living things find nourishment where they can. The point of music is to take what exists and to make it matter again, in your own style, with your own stamp. To talk about “original” and “unoriginal” is as unoriginal as talking about genres or categories. You never want to be in a bag, let alone someone else’s bag. Music is music, and bands become what they are. They play because they want to, and audiences sense that and listen because they want to.”

“The grace note with Public Enemy is that I had something to do with their name. For years, I didn’t know that it was my voice saying “Public Enemy” on their record. They had sampled from “Undisco Kidd” and slowed the vocals down.”

Recommended books: My Song: A Memoir by Harry Belafonte and Life by Keith Richards
Rating: ***

Beer Review: Rising Tide Ishmael


Beer: Ishmael
Brewer: Rising Tide Brewing Company
Source: Draft
Rating: (6.8 of 10)
Comments: This beer pours out with a deep amber color and a thin head.  The aroma is a sweet, bready caramel with a mild flavor that follows the nose. Medium mouthfeel, no lace, no head leftover.  A plain ordinary beer.  I like it.

By same brewer:

Beer Review: Lagunitas Brown Shugga Ale


Beer: Brown Shugga Ale
Brewer:  Lagunitas Brewing Company
Source: Draft in a tulip glass
Rating: **** (8.1 of 10)
Comments:  This beer pours out a pleasant dark amber color with a pinky-width head.  The aroma is sweet with hints of grass and spice.  The flavor is complex – juicy fruit, brown sugar, and a touch of bitter hops. Oh and the presence of alcohol is noted.  There’s some lovely lacing and a medium mouthfeel.  Brown Shugga is a nice treat!

 

Beer Review: Harpoon EHOP Collaboration


Beer: EHOP Collaboration
Brewer: Harpoon Brewery / Deschutes Brewery
Source: 22 oz. bottle
Rating: *** (7.5 of 10)
Comments: Boston’s Harpoon collaborates with Oregon’s Deschutes on a beer celebrating that both breweries are employee-owned.  They celebrate their Employee Stock Ownership Plan (ESOP) with this Employee Hops Ownership Plan (EHOP).  And the workers controlling the means of production is a treat for us all!  The beer pours out a copper color with a thick head. The scent is caramel with a malty sweet flavor with hints of spice.  A good solid beer and addition Harpoon’s 100 Barrel Series (which means it’s a limited edition, so try it soon).

 

38 Things About Me and Star Wars


38 years ago in May 1977, Star Wars made its debut changing film and cultural history.  I’ve never been a Star Wars superfan, but I liked the movies as a child and grew up alongside the franchise.  With The Force Awakens premiering this week, here are 38 random thoughts about me and Star Wars.

  1. I was 4-years-old when I first saw Star Wars.  It’s possibly the first movie I ever watched in a movie theater.  The earliest I can remember, at least.
  2. I watched the movie with my sister and father at the Strand Theatre in Oak Bluffs, Massachusetts (on Martha’s Vineyard).  The seats slid back and forth to allow the user to adjust the seat back to upright or slanted position. My sister and I slid back and forth in the seats a lot, to my father’s annoyance.
  3. I most likely fell asleep during the movie since for years afterwards I thought our heroes escaped from the trash compactor and then got medals.
  4. R2-D2 was, and remains, my favorite character.
  5. It would be another 6 years before I saw the movie again, something that’s hard to believe when movies these days are readily available on video, cable tv, and streaming on the internet shortly after release.
  6. I watched it on HBO at my grandparents’ apartment in Brooklyn.  The image was very fuzzy because my grandparents didn’t actually subscribe to cable tv, but somehow picked up HBO from their neighbors.
  7. In the intervening years, what I knew about Star Wars was informed by a picture book that had an audio cassette accompaniment.  I’m pretty sure that this audio cassette include scenes & characters cut from the film that were later restored in the Special Edition.
  8. I had a large number of Kenner Star Wars action figures and toys that I played with often, accumulating a large well-loved collection over the next 7 or so years.
  9. I made up my own stories with the action figures, many involving Luke & Han having to work with Darth Vader against a common foe.
  10. We also had a 45 of the disco version of the Star Wars theme by Meco.
  11. My mother got really good at singing the Star Wars theme by clucking like a chicken.  She only does it for family members, so don’t ask her.
  12. Because the movie was called Star Wars when I first saw it (and for 20 years after), I still call it Star Wars even if it’s more fashionable to call it A New Hope or Star Wars IV.  I liked that for the original trilogy at least there were no roman numerals and wish they’d stuck to that.
  13. I saw the Empire Strikes Back at the Ridgeway Theatre in Stamford, Connecticut.
  14. I missed most of the scenes where Luke was training with Yoda because I had to go to the bathroom.
  15. During the climactic duel between Luke and Vader, the film melted and we had to wait for the projectionist to restore it to the screen.  Twice.
  16. I was certain that Darth Vader was lying about being Luke’s father and clung to this belief for three years until Yoda confirmed it in Return of the Jedi.
  17. I saw Return of the Jedi the New Canaan Playhouse in Connecticut.  I had recently touched poison ivy and my body and face were covered with rashes and calamine lotion.  Watching this movie was the first time in days where I was so pleasantly distracted I forgot that I itched.
  18. Return of the Jedi was the first Star Wars film I saw multiple times in the theaters (and after Raiders of the Lost Ark, one of the first films to see again and again, period.  It was a novelty back then).
  19. I loved the Ewoks, and while it’s unfashionable to admit it, I still do.
  20. The Ewoks tv movies were terrible, however, and oddly disturbing to my young mind.
  21. I saved up proof-of-purchase tabs from Kenner products to mail in for a free (+ shipping & handling) action figure of the Emperor.  It took a lot longer than the promised 4-6 weeks to arrive.  I checked the mailbox every day for months suffering crushing disappointment every day until it arrived.
  22. There was a time in the late 80s and early 90s when Star Wars kind of disappeared from the cultural consciousness.  I was part of this and didn’t pay much attention to it during that time.
  23. Before moving to Virginia and starting college in 1991, I sold all my Star Wars toys at a tag sale.  The action figures went for 25 cents each.  I hope they’re still around getting loving care and someone is playing with them.
  24. My freshman year of college someone rented Star Wars and we all watched it over and over again.  I’d only seen it maybe 3 times in my whole life, so it was weird to see it several times in one weekend.  I also noticed things about it I’d never noticed about it as a child. Like, Luke Skywalker is super whiny.
  25. In 1997, I enjoyed seeing the Special Editions as they were released to movie theaters over a period of months. I thought the Star Wars Special Edition was a fun alternate take, although it shouldn’t replace the original theatrical run, the changes to Empire Strikes Back were mostly cosmetic, and the changes to Return of the Jedi were too cornball for a film that could use more gravitas.
  26. Unpopular opinion: I don’t really care if Han or Greedo shot first
  27. I saw The Phantom Menace while visiting my friend Vicki in Bowling Green, Ohio.  Like many, I thought it was dumb and disappointing.  I haven’t seen it again.
  28. I mean really though – Jar Jar Binks, the “Yipee!” kid, and endless podracing!  What were they thinking.  Natalie Portman was good though.
  29. My favorite memory of the movie is seeing two shirtless, shoeless dudebros from Cape Cod riding the MBTA Red Line who were planning “to smoke a bong and watch The Phantom Menace.”  At every stop one guy would ask the other if this was their stop and the other one would say “No, my brother, it’s Davis!”  They did get off Davis.  Hope they enjoyed the movie.
  30. A year later I went camping with some friends in Western Massachusetts and some creepy guys in an adjacent tent site where watching The Phantom Menace in their tent.
  31. Speaking of bad Star Wars movies, my wife Susan informed me that there was a Star Wars Holiday Special that frightened her as a child.  I’d never heard of it before, but ordered a bootleg off Ebay.  It’s just as bad as you’ve been told.  But whoever taped it initially did so from a television broadcast in Baltimore so it has all the 1978 commercials in it, which is pretty cool.
  32. I saw Attack of the Clones with Susan at the AMC Loews Boston Common Theatres. The first time we tried to watch it, we had to be evacuated due to a fire alarm just after the opening credits.  I remember watching the fire fighters casually riding the escalator on the way to investigating the fire.
  33. Attack of the Clones was better, but still disappointing. I really hated all the monsters in the pit, and Yoda acting like Robert Duval in Apocalypse Now.
  34. Saw Revenge of the Sith at the same place, and with the same feeling of “this is okay, but could be better.” It is the only one of the prequel trilogy films that I watched a second time.
  35. I’ve read all the novel adaptations of the Star Wars films.  I found the writers of the prequel trilogy actually did a better job with plot, dialogue and characterization than appeared in the film, and wish these books had somehow been adapted into the movies rather than the other way around.
  36. I also read Timothy Zahn’s Heir to the Empire trilogy and The Hand of Thrawn books which are excellent stories with some interesting new characters, although I think they would actually adapt poorly to film, so I’m glad they’re going a different route with the new trilogy.
  37. My children don’t like watching movies, so I still haven’t been able to convince them to watch any Star Wars films, but when I do I’m going to try Machete Order.
  38. If things go to plan I will see The Force Awakens while vacationing with my in-laws in Myrtle Beach after Christmas.  I love that I always seem to be in a different city and state when I see these movies.

9th birthday, belated


9 years and 11 days ago I published my first post on this blog.  Blogging was already going out style when I started and these days if someone is known as a blogger they’re more likely to be a paid columnist than an enthusiastic amateur.  I’ve always maintained that I am the number one audience for this blog and it’s still the way it works, both as an outlet for my need to write and to go back to read and remember things.  Still, I’m a little envious of the bloggers who are able to get communities of like-minded folks to discuss things on their blog posts.  I’ve never been good at the whole socializing thing in real life so I guess I’m wallflower her too.  Nevertheless if you ever have a moment to share a comment or the blog or tweet me (@othemts) about something on this blog, I’d appreciate it.

As I begin the 10th year of this blog, I have some ideas of things I’d like to write about (assuming I find the time and discipline to write about all the things I’d like to write about).

  • A series on urban development issues – making cities better through improved and increased housing, public transportation, and bicycle facilities.
  • Music discoveries – where I listen to a lot of music by an artist or band I don’t know very well and write about what I learn.
  • Movie reviews – I don’t watch movies much anymore.  I’m thinking of doing “30 Days of Movies” or something like that.

Of course book reviews, beer reviews, photographs, and commentary on important issues will continue.

And don’t forget my other blogs!

Hooray for blogging, and hooray for another year.

Previously:

Photopost: A Visit to the MFA, part five


On another solo visit to the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, I completed touring the Art of Europe galleries, traveling through 17th-century Dutch and Flemish, gaudy 18th-century French decorative art, 19th-century art deemed worthy by the Academy, and finally Impressionism and post-Impressionism.

Then I took the guided tour of the Art of the Americas wing, learning more about old favorites and some new surprises. I’ll probably work my way more methodically through those galleries on my next visit. Before departing I stopped in the Made in the Americas exhibition which was mostly decorative arts and textiles and seemed less interesting than similar exhibits at the Peabody Essex Museum. And I finished with the delightful Musical Instruments collection. I wish I could hear a concert on those instruments.

Previous visits: