Several years ago through eBay I bought colored-vinyl versions of The
Beatles 1962-1966 (The Red Album) and The Beatles 1967-1970
(The Blue Album) from a major fan named Ed.
After I paid, he asked if I would be interested in some bootlegs he had
that featured sessions recorded while The Beatles were working on their
amazing albums--he was willing to transfer them to CD free of charge.
I mentioned in my thank you e-mail that I was old enough to have seen the Beatles when they first appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show
1964. He replied it was "an honor" to meet someone who saw the
Beatles live (Ed was born in 1966). This made me think
that although those who watched the Beatles that night were part of a huge
television audience--almost 74 million1--it's a set whose
numbers have decreased tremendously in the 45 years that have passed.
That realization, Ed's comment and generous offer to send the CDs, and the
about-the-same-time coincidence of having dinner with a man named Bill
who saw the Beatles perform in Milwaukee in the fall of 1964
started a chain of events that led me to write two articles. The
first, "A Day in the Center of Beatlemania," is about the band's
September 4, 1964, appearance at the Arena in Milwaukee. The seed for the second--this one--was planted
after Ed's CDs
arrived. These were interesting for their roughness and for the
insights they provided into the experimentation that produced musical
passages such as the unusual Paul McCartney organ part that opens and
becomes the backbone of "Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds."
On one I was hearing works in progress ranging from the acoustic
beginning of "All Together Now" to John Lennon performing an early
version of "Good Morning, Good Morning" when out of the blue comes Pete
Drake, his talking guitar, and the sliding-steel-words: "I'm just a
guitar, everybody picks on me." The track is from the bootleg
Through Many Years that
focuses on George Harrison and Ringo
Starr.2 Ed had combined various bootlegs on each of the CDs he sent.
I had not heard this clever tune until that moment even though I've
played guitar myself for decades and remember Drake's prominence in
Nashville--my oldest brother Forry was a country music fan and liked
the steel guitarist. I also recalled Drake had played on Bob
Dylan albums and was featured on Harrison's first effort after the
breakup of The Beatles.
Hearing Drake's "I'm Just A Guitar, Everybody Picks On Me" made me
think of other witty titles such as "Love Is Just A Four-Letter Word,"
"Dropkick Me Jesus Through The Goalposts Of Life," and "If I Said You
Have A Beautiful Body Would You Hold It Against Me?" It
struck me that an article about such songs would be fun to write and
possibly of interest to others--including editors--so I did some
research, asked friends and relatives, and eventually identified the 21
that will be covered in chronological order here, at least one from every decade beginning with the 30s.
I've found other lists of witty songs on the Web but they either
alone or songs that haven't truly entered the music mainstream, two
criteria I applied.
In considering them, some took me to places suggested by the lyrics
one reason or another as you'll see, and I enjoyed these unexpected
byroads and back alleys. I hope you'll take the time to
read the lyrics and listen to the songs.
(Links to versions on YouTube are included for all but one, and it's available on a CD.)
Levels of creativity, fun, and cleverness are high, and the pair of songs by the Spice Girls and Big
& Rich that conclude the list reassure that the good guys are winning the culture wars.