Songs Of The Day 8/24/2014: Les Crane - "Desiderata" vs. National Lampoon - "Deteriorata"



We all had different ways of handling the Age Of Aquarius which, according to astrological legend and that aunt of yours nobody else in the family acknowledges, launched in the '60s. Scamps at the outliers of fiscal and societal boundaries opined the event would best be met with increases in social consciousness, empathy and meaningful exchanges of wares and plants. Still others, perhaps more closely located to major urban areas with bookstores and dry goods, thought those folks were full of shit and could stand a poke in the ribs. Fortunately they all had recording studio access.

"Desiderata" was written by Max Ehrmann in the 1920s. It's a bit of prose with some not-bad instructions for day-to-day personality curation and survival: "Listen to others, even the dull and the ignorant; they too have their story." "Take kindly the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth." "You are a child of the universe." Maxims like that. Better than a sack full of feathers, right?

The poem was gangbuster fodder for Gen-Hippie and first got into record shops via Leonard Nimoy. But it cried out for a beat, so Les Crane -- a broadcaster of major stature who invented "Top 40" and was just as influential to talk radio -- cobbled together a narration of his own. It hit the Top 10 in 1971 because homilies and Reader's Digest were kind of our thing back then.

Crane's good deed could not, of course, go unpunished, which is why National Lampoon came up with their more practical response, "Deteriorata." The words were written by Tony Hendra, who played Spinal Tap manager Ian Faith, and whose musical genius has been flung on this blog before. Voice actor Norman Rose, nicknamed "The Voice Of God," handled narration, and the singer is a nascent Melissa Manchester of "Don't Cry Out Loud" fame. Dr. Demento jumped all over "Deteriorata" for his radio broadcast. Les Crane said he preferred it to his original, which made him "gag."

Here are the two lyrics on one page in case you want to get a jump start on your Comparative Theology class.


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