Song Of The Day 2/7/2015: Soupy Sales - "Muck-Arty-Park"

Alt-Motown: I thought I’d end this week of non-R&B songs from Motown on a note of pure bafflement. You’ve earned it. Soupy Sales will be familiar to most kids who grew up in the dawn of the color TV generation, even if you only caught him on What’s My Line?. He seemed to favor red sweaters and shirts with impossibly wide collars, which these days is something we get over once we graduate from college.

Sales was a TV pioneer in the ‘60s. He hosted a children’s television show that was a direct conceptual antecedent to Pee-Wee’s Playhouse with a curiously large amount of adult viewers thanks to its special little subversive moments. Faced with some screen time to fill on New Year’s Day in 1965, Sales encouraged children to go through their half-awake parents’ wallets and take all the “green pieces of paper with pictures of guys in beards. Put them in an envelope and send them to me at Soupy Sales, Channel 5, New York, New York. And you know what I’m going to send you? A post card from Puerto Rico!” I can get behind this. Sales was suspended for it. I’d be remiss if I didn’t also mention that Sales took the slapstick art of throwing pies in faces to epic levels.

Sales started his show in Detroit, so I’m supposing he had built-in connections to Motown, who released his comedy album A Bag of Soup in 1969. It is not considered essential. (“Much of this is nauseating,” says All-Music Guide.) A Bag of Soup featured the single “Muck-Arty-Park,” written by Motown staff men Ron Miller and Tom Baird, an especially strange parody of the already-odd Richard Harris joint “MacArthur Park.” It’s a jab at the San Francisco hippie scene, though I don’t quite comprehend Miller’s and Baird’s talking points. Of special note is the bridge in which Sales goes off on a mini-tangent that makes no sense whatsoever: “In second grade is where the lies begin! With Mama’s little dearie taken in! He’s told that nice guys always win! And that King Kong did not die for our sins! The band then inexplicably breaks into "Hold That Tiger." Take that, counter-culture!

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