"Monkeys and Pirates Are Funny" Song Notes
"Is It Weird?" I wrote this song (aka "The Lord of the Rings Song") in late 2003, just after the release of my last CD. That's a shame, because it would have been much more timely if it had been included on it. You may recall that in late 2003, the nation was gripped by LOTR-mania, with the last part of the trilogy about to be released in theaters, the first two already selling briskly on DVD, and Oscar buzz stirring up for the final chapter. It's natural for a satirist to make fun of such a situation, and I guess the cult of fanaticism that rose up among some LOTR devotees made me think of religious fervor. One of my favorite things is to introduce this song as being about "some people's religious beliefs," and to watch the audience grow more and more uncomfortable as the first verse progresses. Then, when I sing "Oh, my lord ... OF THE RINGS," there is an audible sigh of relief as they realize I'm not being sacrilegious after all. It's awesome.
"Mr. Bright Guy" This was the last song written for this album, having been put together just days before the concert at which it was recorded. I love "Mr. Brightside" by The Killers and wanted to do a parody just so I could play it on the piano. (That's been the impetus behind several of my parodies, actually.) The chorus begins with the word "jealousy," and it's positioned in such a way that many listeners think that, not "Mr. Brightside," is the title of the song. So I toyed with "jealousy" and came up with "Jeopardy," and thought briefly of making up a story where I appeared on "Jeopardy!" before I remembered that "Weird Al" Yankovic already did that. I had pretty much abandoned the idea when it occurred to me, out of the blue, to sing about Ken Jennings, the Utah fellow who won 74 games straight in 2004. The song's references to the Final Jeopardy question that finally defeated him are accurate, by the way.
"Those Were the Days" This is my absolute favorite song of everything I've ever written. I'm very proud of the music, which is original but which (I think) evokes what it's meant to evoke: an old-timey song that you might have heard on the radio in the 1940s. I remember where I was when I conceived the idea for the song: I was lying in bed in a hotel room in Monticello, Utah, where the next day I was playing keyboards for a band that was touring the county fair circuit. But what thought process led to the idea, I don't remember. The lines "I remember the thong/That you wore to our prom" came to me instantly, and the rest I wrote over the next couple days.
"Megan the Vegan" I recall meeting someone who claimed to be a vegan, yet who was rather noticeably overweight. I thought: He seems awfully fat for a vegan. "Fat for a Vegan" struck me as a good idea for a song, and eventually it evolved into this, an old-style love song about a trend that didn't exist when old-style songs were "in." I tinkered with some of the specifics of the music for a long time, and even put the song away altogether, before finally settling on the arrangement heard here.
"Winter's Chill" In 2004, some friends threw a Christmas party at which everyone in attendance was expected to perform some sort of talent. It could be goofy or genuine, depending on one's skills, but you had to do SOMETHING. I thought it would be fun to write a song for the occasion, and this was the rare instance (for me) that the music came before the words. If you play a lot of major-seventh chords, it sounds like Christmas music. So while noodling around with major-sevenths, I thought: "It's Christmastime once again/I go caroling with family and friends." That led naturally to the idea of HATING Christmas caroling because it's too cold to be outside, and the song progressed from there. I tried to sing it in that syrupy Christmas voice like Robert Goulet or something.
"Why Do You Hate America?" On a "Simpsons" episode in early 2004, the Simpsons visited a county fair where a country band played a song with this same idea: If you're against the war in Iraq, you must hate America and all of its symbols. It was just a verse, heard in passing, but I thought it was a great idea so I wrote my own version. The idea isn't to mock conservatism, but ULTRA-conservatism. Anytime someone is fanatic or extreme, regardless of which direction they're going, it's ripe for parody.
"That's a Moore-ay" An acquaintance of mine wrote a parody of "That's Amore" about something extremely local to Utah Valley, and I was impressed with how clever and fun it was. For some reason, that translated into wanting to do my OWN parody of "That's Amore," even though "That's Amore" is not exactly a current popular song or particularly fun to play on the piano or anything like that. But that's what I wanted to do, and by gum, I did it. It makes a nice companion to "Why Do You Hate America?," because it further obscures what my real political opinions are.
"Darth Says It Best" Some friends of mine conceived this parody in 2000. I happened to be in the room when they wrote it, and I contributed a few lines. These friends later performed the song at a Garrens Comedy Troupe show, to mixed reaction. It was filed away in my memory for a long time afterward, until I dusted it off, rewrote some of the lyrics, and started performing it. I would gladly give credit to the specific friends whose idea it was, except I don't remember exactly whom to credit, and I'm not in touch with any of them anymore. Dave, Dan, maybe Leif? Jesse, perhaps? Mack? Some combination of those? Anyway, thanks, guys.
"Literature Corner" Occasionally I sift through the piles of "Snide Remarks" columns that clutter the Internet in search of something I can read during my live show. That's where I found this, a column from May 2002.
"Everyone I Know (Is in Love) (Except Me)" (from "Musical! The Musical") The title came to me first, an expression of a very simple feeling that most of us have felt at some point, and particularly one that the protagonist in a traditional musical might feel. The specific concept -- comparing love to an air-borne illness -- came to me later, I'm not sure how. Are some of the lyrics mildly suggestive or fraught with innuendo? Not as much as they could have been, let me tell you.
"I Can't Stand to Fly" Another example of wanting to parody a song solely because I enjoyed playing it on the piano. In addition, I like the way the guy from Five for Fighting sings the original version, all high and goofy-like. The first line, "I can't stand to fly," very naturally suggested a song about commercial air travel.
"Vincent Van Gogh" Don McLean also did "American Pie," which is a more familiar tune, though "Vincent (Starry, Starry Night") is fairly well-known, too. Do you like the "Holland days"/Hollandaise pun? I sure do.
"Back to the Fair" I mentioned earlier that I toured a number of county fairs in the summer of 2004 with a band. They were called The Quinn Brothers, and they were friends of mine from ComedySportz and they needed a keyboard player. I became uncomfortably familiar with county fairs that summer (and the following summer, when I toured again, this time as a solo act), and the idea for this song nestled in my head for a while. Then I heard Coldplay's "The Scientist" and, yet again, wanted to write a parody just so I could play it on the piano, and the two ideas were joined together. I originally played the song at its correct tempo throughout, but it didn't go over very well. The song is much more fun (and hence a little funnier) when played at the jaunty pace heard here.
"You Make Me Want to Be Good" This one has a very basic idea: A guy sings about how he's cleaned up his act since falling in love, and the joke is how much his act really needed cleaning up. (Secondary, subtextual joke: Now he has no personality at all.) I like the music a lot; it's very fun to play, very Ben Folds-ian in its strict left-hand rhythm and syncopated right-hand shenanigans. Ideally, the part where I sing "ba-ba-da" instead of lyrics would be filled in by a horn section (like in Ben Folds' "Army").
"UVSC" In 1995 or so, the Garrens performed a parody of "Under the Sea" (from "The Little Mermaid") called "UVSC," referring to Utah Valley State College, the institution just up the road from BYU that is often viewed as BYU's younger, dumber brother, the place you go when you can't get into BYU. The song was written by Howard Tayler, the Garrens' sound guy and occasional contributor. I was not in the group at the time, but I saw it performed and thought it was delightful. Years later, I e-mailed Howard to see if he would grant me permission to use it in my show, only to find that Howard didn't have the lyrics written down anywhere and couldn't remember any of them, either. (If I had been in the group at the time, believe me, the lyrics would have been preserved. I'm an excellent historian.) I checked with everyone who had been in the cast, including those who had performed it, and they all said the same thing: Yes, it was really funny. No, I don't remember any of the words. All I could recall was "there is more leeway down by the freeway," and none of the other Garrens were of any assistance beyond that. So I wrote the song from scratch: All the words in this version, apart from the line I just quoted, are my own. But the idea was Howard's, and I owe him for that, because it's always a great success when I perform it in Utah.
"The General Authorities Song 2005" This is the latest update to a song I first wrote in 1996. As explained in the spoken introduction, it's simply the names of all the general authorities in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, set to music. Since men are called and released from their positions with some frequency, the song requires regular updating. This version is current as of October 2005.
"Why Do You Hate America? (studio version)" My pal Mike Masse did the recording, mixing and mastering, and played all of the instruments except piano. This version was heard on the Dr. Demento Show in November 2004.