Thursday, August 20, 2009

Auto Destructive Rag

To the everlasting shame of National Public Radio my interest in offbeat English humor began with their early 1970's broadcasts of the Goon Show. Lately I've been listening to the Goon-inspired I'm Sorry I'll Read That Again, a BBC radio show starring John Cleese and no one else familiar to Americans.

One of the hallmarks of the avant-garde in music is the presence of parodies. This is a tradition extending from Punkt contrapunkt (1958) to Einstein on the Fritz (1989). But I'm drawing a blank for avant-garde music parodies in the last two decades. I guess the a.g. is really dead and gone this time.

I was amused by a song in one particular ISIRTA episode (Series 6/11, March 23, 1969) This was a time (as we are reminded recently by the nostalgia industry) of Abbey Road, Woodstock and the Moon Landing. All of those were fictitious events, of course, mere government hoaxes.

But in 1969 The Avant Garde was alive. This is proven by a song called "Auto Destructive Rag". Lavishly orchestrated and Tom Lehrer-esque, only the strangest among us would find it amusing. I liked it.

The singer and composer is uncredited - probably Bill Oddie. You can listen to this clip or read my transcription of the lyrics if you want an even duller, more avant-garde, experience.



And now, here is an urgent reptile joke. What changes color and goes "I say, I say, I say"?

I don't know. What does change color and goes "I say, I say, I say"?

A musical chameleon!

And now, an educational, meaningful song. Nowadays we have Auto Destructive Art - (Look it up.) - and twelve-tone music. Will these, in a few years time, be looked back on as the good old days. (Who cares?)

(Music)

[THE AUTO DESTRUCTIVE RAG]

Some like jazz
Some like swing
I don't like
Anything
Unless it's got the feeling of tomorrow.

Make it wild
Make it weird
Preferably
With a beard
If it's soft and sweet it went out long ago.

I like music pure and cold and hard
(Like it is)(?)
I'm a member of the avant ga-ga-garde

So......
Play me a tune that has nothing to do with a Melody.
Play me a tune that has nothing to do with a tune.

Give me a suite
with no
rhythm or beat
and no harmony.

Open the thing
and dismember the strings
with a spoon.

Take a good old-fashioned geetar
And plug it in the mains.

Bash it
Beat it
Try to
Eat it
Play me a suite with the brains

Oh....
Play to me soon
and don't
bother to tune
up your
Instruments

Oh gimme, oh gimme
That Auto Destructive Rag.

Give me a tune
that has something
to do with
Reality

Play me some bump
[....]
on a stick
Ah ah - ohohoh

Twentieth century's
full of adventures
in
Melody

I wanna dance
to the
sound of a man
being sick.

Bwehh.

Bring it all back!

Everybody's hummin'
A catchy twelve-tone song
No bars
No key
Absolutely
Free.
Come on.
Sing along.

[imitates operatic soprano]
oh OH oh.
Ohoh oh.
Oh oh oh Oh oh.
Ah.

Come on, you're not singing.

Ohhhh
Don't you like
Doin' that
Come on
And do with that
Melody

Oh gimme, oh gimme
That Auto Destructive Rag.

[over break]
Oh, that's terrible.

Oh they're playing our tune.

The sounds are all around us
It's the music of today [Ahh!]
Scratch it
Scrape it
Wreck it
Rape it
Everybody can play.

[Break]

Ah...
Oh...
Play me a tune
that has
nothing to do
with a Melody.
Oh gimme, oh gimme
That Auto Destructive ...
Oh gimme, oh gimme
That Auto Destructive ...
Gimme!
Gimme
That Auto Destructive ...

Yoko. Oh! No!!!!!!!!!

Gimme that Auto Destructive Raaaaaaaag.
Da da daa dada dah...

[Applause]
[Announcer]
And now it's serial time.

[Fanfare]
Here's adventure. Here's romance.
Here's a paper and pencil
See if you can do any better.
Yes.

Reach For the Sky - Part Two (The link to listen to the Goon Show "First Albert Memorial to the Moon" should still work.)
Ice Cream Wishes (Mixed Meters meets the work of Yoko Ono while eating sweet, frozen dairy fat.)
The DOcker Award for Mainstream Avant Garde (BBC related video of nothing much.)

I think "Musical Chameleon" is a pun on "Music Hall Comedian" - but not being British I'm obviously not qualified to speculate.

Rag Tags: . . . . . .

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the lyrics -- just heard this on the re-run.

In case you still take care of this blog, I'll inform you that, yes, Bill Oddie did write and perform it. He wrote and performed all their songs -- more than a hundred. About five of them are available for purchase. That's how the world is.