Sunday, July 21, 2013

parodies of my past

I've been on a mini-jag about parodies recently, so -- what the-hey-- let me mention a couple parodies that schoolmates wrote years ago.

The first mention goes to Matt Ruff -- I am not changinmg the name since he is a public figure. Matt is a novelist whom I knew in high school. Maybe that's too strong. Matt and I were mutually aware of each other's existence. We were in at least one class together -- a creative writing class taught by Frank McCourt (who would go on to win a Pulitzer prize for his memoir, Angela's Ashes. I doubt that Matt would remember me.

Anyway, many of the school's clubs published annual or semi-annual magazines (I was on the staff of The Straphanger, which was published by the school's subway club). One of the magazines -- I think it only published one issue -- was a creative writing compilation called The Mag Bag because it was distributed as loose sheets of paper in a plastic bag. What I mean is, if you bought a copy, you got a clear plastic bag with a stack of paper in it.

That one issue contained a few (song parodies that Matt wrote. All of the parodies were of Billy Joel songs. I remember one of them, a parody of "Don't Ask Me Why," was titled "Don't Ask Me Why." I remember nothing alse about it. There was at least one that I recall nothing about. The one that I have some real memory of was "Only The Smart Die Young," which was a parody of "Only The Good Die Young." By way of background, this was Stuyvesant High School, and the conceit at the school was that we were the smartest kids out there. Admission was granted via exam, and we, the students, were told from day one that we were the best. I wish I could remember all of the words to "Only the Smart..." but -- 30-plus years later, some elude me. I do remember the following:

Come out Virginia, don't let me wait.
You Stuyvesant girls start much too late
Ah, but sooner or later it comes down to fate.
I might as well be the one.

Well, they showed you a classroom and told you to learn
[something something] or you're gonna burn

You might have heard that I run with a neanderthal crowd.
We ain't too pretty, we ain't too proud.
We might be cheating a bit too loud.

She never cared for me
But did she ever fix a grade for me?

They say there's a college for those who will wait.
Some say it's better but I say it ain't

You got a nice black gown and a party on your graduation.
You have a brand new school, and a golden rule.
But Virginia they didn't give you quite enough education.
You didn't count on me.
You were counting on your SAT.

You get the picture. It was really a well-done parody.

I'm not quite sure what would be an appropriate video to accompany the post above, since Matt never did record this song (to the mest of my knowledge). So, what the heck, here's a video of Frank McCourt (mentioned above), sharing his memories of me.

The second song parody I want to mention was from my college years. Every year the Student Association would have a talent show. I had a friend, Steve, whom I had known since high school, who liked to put together a song-and-dance routine centerred on a song parody. During our sophomore year he (and the two others he got to perform with him) won first prize. But they had some kind of dispute over how to divvy up the cash prize. One of his coperformers thought it should be split evenly. He, having written and choreographed the routine, felt that he should get the lion's share. I have no idea how it all turned out in the end.

At any rate, during our junior or senior year (I forget which), Steve asked me to be part of his act. It was three of us in costumes (I was the milk carton), singing  a medley of "You Give Lunch a Bad Name" and "Living on Bayer." These were parodies of the Bon Jovi songs "You Give Lunch a Bad Name" and "Living on a Prayer." These parodies were about the food in the cafeteria. The parodies were very well-written, though I can't remember any lines. Unfortunately the sound system wasn't loud enough, so wehen we went on I couldn't hear the background music, and that threw us off. We recovered, but that false start cost us points and we didn't win.

At least there was no prize money to fight over.


  1. Eh. Doesn't compare to The Game of Pac Man.


  2. I see that you've got up some Weird Al earlier -- I was a big Weird Al fan as a kid (and now my kids are fans), and that's what got me thinking about writing parodies as I got older. I'm no good at writing tunes, so it makes it easy to hang my lyrics on someone else's tune

    Of course, my favorite Weird Al songs aren't parodies of specific songs, but of types of songs (One More Minute is pretty much my favorite)

    meep (and your CAPTCHA is a bear)