Songs Of The Day 11/7/2014: Bill Cosby - "Yes Yes Yes" vs. Christopher Guest - "Positively Wall Street"


Song Wars! Let's wrap up this week of head-to-head song battles. Congress took the funding away. Tomorrow we're just going to go back to normal, non-competitive song exhibition like a bunch of wussy pacifists. I keep forgetting I'm supposed to run and hide from potential conflicts.

But we'll squeeze one more contest in, and maybe today I can get the poll to work. [No, you can't. -- Ed.] Today's Song War subject is: Comedians Harnessing the Pop Zeitgeist. Not the current zeitgeist, of course; I'd open myself up to a lot of litigation. No, we're reaching all the way back to the '70s when your parents were conceived. Freshness is my middle name.

The first entrant is Bill Cosby from his collection of musical parodies actually titled Bill Cosby Is Not Himself These Days, Rat Own Rat Own Rat Own. "Yes Yes Yes" calls up the mini-genre of low-slung spoken word over relaxed R&B tracks, most popularly recreated by Barry White, although I think there's a good argument that this work sounds slightly more like Isaac Hayes. "Yes Yes Yes" almost became a pop hit but stalled at #46 on the U.S. pop charts. It did reach #11 on the R&B charts, however, which is strange because I don't recall '76 being such a slow year for R&B that this song found room to be almost famous. Hey-O! The song takes on the deteriorating state of American marriage, one of Cosby's patented tropes of his stand-up career and a topic of passing interest to historians of the era. Don't get me started on key parties.

In the other locker room is Christopher Guest, whose gift for comic musical narrative stretches way beyond This Is Spinal Tap. "Positively Wall Street" is from the stage show National Lampoon's Lemmings, a send-up of Woodstock which ends in mass suicide. (This was much funnier before Jonestown.) Why look, there's John Belushi and Chevy Chase! Approximately two years before they were introduced to Saturday Night Live they were deeply involved in the National Lampoon yuks franchises of the time, including the Radio Hour and this. Guest plays a photocopy of Bob Dylan, who was conspicuously not at Woodstock, and Belushi finds a nice way to circumvent that history for the sake of comedy. The joke in "Positively Wall Street," for those of you unfamiliar with the era, was that Dylan temporarily tried to be a country crooner on his album Nashville Skyline, especially on the hit "Lay Lady Lay," and in doing so changed his familiar barker voice quite heavily, although the nasality remained intact. There, I've explained the joke to you, and now it's hilarious.

That's it for Song Wars Week. Now we move on to reparations and treaties. Hope you packed a lunch.

Post a Comment

Popular Recent Posts