shepquest

MY BOOKS ABOUT JEAN SHEPHERD

SHEP'S ARMY: BUMMERS, BLISTERS, AND BOONDOGGLES, Opus Books. Nearly three dozen of Shepherd's army stories never before in print introduced and transcribed. Foreword by Keith Olbermann. (published August 2013)

EXCELSIOR, YOU FATHEAD! THE ART AND ENIGMA OF JEAN SHEPHERD, Applause Books (published March, 2005)

Archives by Subject

JEAN SHEPHERD—Existentialism, Lincoln, Shep, Our Current Dilemma

*   *   *   *   *

My Country ‘Tis of Thee….

Friends, Americans, country-persons, I come to thee with (I hope), impertinence and profundity to expound on four subjects that, in my mind, are in some important (enigmatic?) way interrelated: 1. Existentialism; 2. Abraham Lincoln; 3. Jean Shepherd; 4. Our Current National Dilemma.

*   *   *   *   *

1.

EXISTENTIALISM

I’m not an expert on existentialism, but I’ve read, heard, and contemplated it a bit. (And for decades I had a hard-bound copy of J. P. Sartre’s over 800-page opus, Being and Nothingness. I admit to never getting around to reading it.) But I’ve read a lot of existentialism’s American adherent, Norman Mailer.

These days one reads and hears from considered experts, such phrases as: “Facing an existential threat.” I believe they mostly misunderstand and trivialize the word, seeming to use it as a synonym for “very serious.” That is not what it means.

Merriam Webster Dictionary: “Existence in an unfathomable universe and the plight of the individual who must assume ultimate responsibility for acts of free will without any certain knowledge of what is right or wrong or good or bad….”

On a website: “The belief is that people are searching to find out who and what they are throughout life as they make choices based on their experiences, beliefs, and outlook. And personal choices become unique without the necessity of an objective form of truth. An existentialist believes that a person should be forced to choose and be responsible without the help of laws, ethnic rules, or traditions….

For me, an existential situation is one in which the individual encounters a conflict within one’s beliefs and very soul, a potential corruption of moral compass—one’s ethical essence as a human being. Often there is a conflict regarding two or more: truth, honor, courage, practicality, convenience, politics, money.

*   *   *   *   *

2.

ABRAHAM LINCOLN

Cropped photo:

a purported image of Lincoln, bareheaded,

about to give his “Gettysburg Address.”

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure.”

In our parochial, Judeo-Christian sense, slavery debased our idealistic national moral ideals. It was a sickness in our national soul. The decision of presidential-hopeful Lincoln: hold the immoral nation together or at some point, take a chance by declaring that slaves must be freed–a civil war might ensue. A crisis in which many individual citizens had to make a difficult, sometimes conflicting choice between easy immorality and more difficult morality—an existential crisis.

*   *   *   *   *

3.

JEAN PARKER SHEPHERD

Slightly cropped, iconic, F. W. McDarrah Photo

A true part of himself: his broadcast persona, in its close observation and self-examination, exemplified and promoted listeners’ potential for self-actualization—to advance our ever-evolving human selves in the fields of observation, careful deliberation, and truth-telling.

This wondrous, multi-faceted country of ours that Jean Shepherd loved with all its seemingly irreconcilable differences and inexplicable essence, is especially evident in the short-circuited masterpiece that was part of his radio-career-long legacy–nearly two-dozen episodes of TV’s Jean Shepherd’s America.

Yet, in the parts of himself he held secret (because it didn’t conform to his idea of a free-spirited individual?), he withheld the very fact of his having female companions and four consecutive wives, (regarding at least two of whom he committed adultery.) And there are his two children–whom he went so far as to deny their existence. Besides, it’s said there were unwarranted times he was a very unpleasant fellow.

A true story it’s said, is that when Shepherd was about the age of high-school graduation his father told him that he was abandoning his family to run off with the much younger blond secretary at the office. Shepherd’s TV producer Fred Barzyk, who quoted Shepherd as saying that he was his father’s son, said about Shep: “There was an arrested childhood there that I still think comes from his father’s [leaving the family] that really destroyed him. He needed to get it out. If you believe like I do, every artist has some really major handicap that forces them to throw all their energy into another direction so that they can get everything out.”

His WOR General Manager, Herb Saltzman told me, “If I had to give you one summation of him as I saw him—a deeply unhappy guy…Once you broke him down and got him to relax, you would hear it….”

Broadcaster, Larry Josephson, who had known Shep for decades, told me, “…I was disappointed because he didn’t live up to his image—but most people don’t. One of my rules—and most people’s rules—you don’t want to meet your hero. They very rarely live up to your image of them.”

Did this deep and fundamental wound so unalterably cause this lifelong flaw? Did it cause him to be what he was—the sometimes ugly, the good, the great, the unique genius of him? Some Shepherd enthusiasts don’t want to hear about it—despite his having said, “I mean, anyone who looks at life with a cold, unprejudiced agate eye of truth must realize that life is basically in extremely bad taste.”

It’s the undeniable, fundamental enigma I can’t fully incorporate into my understanding. I don’t understand. I don’t understand. It seems, indeed, an existential conundrum. I do not understand. In those senses he debased his moral compass, and, because of the many ways he entertained and encouraged our better/higher selves, we enthusiasts have to live with it.

U. S. Poet Laureate Billy Collins told me: “I had to get my Shepherd fix. He actually made you feel that you weren’t alone….I think he had the best influence on my sensibility. And I think it helped me kind of pursue that sense of being different, being an individual.” On a Shepherd website, its “Tribute Message Boards” contains six large volumes full of important, positive reactions to Shepherd: remembrances, anecdotes, and thanks from Shepherd enthusiasts regarding the individual good deeds he did for them. Some through listening on the radio and some from direct contact with him. One fan of his remembers how she was trying to survive adolescence and that through listening to him, Shepherd gave her a sense that she belonged to a sympathetic group who understood him as she did. She comments, “He saved my life.”

If we denied all honor and enthusiasm for all those artists, writers (and especially politicians), who have ever grievously failed our ideals of perfection, we’d have few if any heroes left–and therein lies the existential conundrum.

Dear fellow fatheads, it is a Shepherd enigma I incorporate into my intense enthusiasm.

*   *   *   *   *

4.

0UR CURRENT NATIONAL DILEMMA

“This wondrous, multi-faceted country of ours.”

The crisis for some: secure your political job and avoid being “primary-ed,” or honor America’s ideals and act on your conscience.

*   *   *   *   *

Folks, for me, all of the foregoing are

conundrums and existential threats.

As some might say of our national past

and our present circumstances,

“God help us all.”

____________________________________________________

JEAN SHEPHERD–EXCELSIOR, YOU FATHEAD! THE BANNER TRIBUTE

 

“Excelsior, you fathead!” is the silly, ironic, contradictory saying all Shepherd enthusiasts know and love. It perfectly expresses Shepherd’s bemused take on illusions vs. reality. No wonder that I chose it as the main title of my Shepherd tribute book.

See the entire Longfellow poem in my book, in front, just after the dedication. See my extended take on the phrase in the book, pages 214-217.

Others chose “Excelsior” for their own glorious reasons.

*   *   *

I’ve explained its usage in the book and at many other times, including at the Friends of Old Time Radio National Convention on October 20, 2005 at the Holiday Inn North Newark, when I shared a Jean Shepherd two-person panel with radio broadcaster/Shepherd Promoter, Max Schmid, soon after the book’s publication.

I was proud to drape a large Excelsior, You Fathead! banner

over the front of the table where Max and I pronounced

all sorts of Shep-profundities during our panel discussion.

I’ve been proud to display that banner prominently in our last two houses

in my own personal Shep Shrines.

Below, hanging out in my current Shep Shrine.

(Photo by: Allison Morgan Bergmann)

Mostly I’ve been proud that stalwart Shep enthusiast Jackie Lannin

made the banner and gave it to me to cherish forever!

EXCELSIOR, JACKIE!

 

ARTSY–HENRY MOORE, PEGGY, HENRY, AND ME

I am Two-Degrees-of Separation from Henry Moore.

He’s my favorite sculptor (along with Michelangelo).

In New York’s American Museum of Natural History, as Exhibit Designer (1967-2001), my best friend and confidant was the Exhibit Editor, Peggy Cooper. We would talk of art and literature, and sometimes during lunch hours, would go to art exhibits around town. When the Museum began work on its permanent Mollusk Hall (a very small hall no longer permanent), she suggested that a marvelous centerpiece might be one of Henry Moore’s small statues of a standing woman with lower dress formed from a cast of a seashell (about 7 or 8 inches tall on a small base). She got permission to pursue this, and, contacting Henry Moore, received an invitation to visit him at his home/studio in England. She met with him and he showed her around his studio. He picked a casting of his sculpture from a crowded shelf and gave it to her for the Mollusk Hall.

See Far Right Middle Shelf in Moore’s Studio

When the Designer of the Hall, Henry Gardiner, using a photo-cutout of the shell sculpture mounted on board in his mockup of the hall, completed his design work, knowing that I was an avid admirer of Moore, he gave me the photo. I’ve had it in a prominent place in several of our house studios for decades. Now it seems to have gone missing

All I have left is my memory of the mockup and of being

only two degree

from one the 20th century’s great artists.

See close up below of piece on the studio shelf.

(I’m almost positive that this is the piece given by Moore.)

______________________________________________________________

ARTSY–DICK HIGGINS & FLUXUS EVENTS

Looking back on my youthful, burgeoning interests in the art world,  I see that the encouragement of radio monologist Jean Shepherd significantly opened my mind to deeper observation and contemplation. It allowed me to explore–to quest, to wonder, to accept. To be open to the unexpected and what at first seems inexplicable.

*   *   *   *   *

Dick Higgins at about the time

I had my unique event with him,

around 1964.

We were both born in 1938,

so we would have been in our

mid 20s. He was immersed–and 

I would have just begun to encounter the surface of

such manifestations as underground film and Fluxus.

*   *   *   *   *

Intermedia, Fluxus and Something Else Press

Selected Writings by Dick Higgins–  by Steve Clay (editor), Ken Friedman (editor):

Dick Higgins and his Something Else Press epitomized the riotous art of the ‘60s.

There are few art-world figures as influential―and as little known―as Dick Higgins (1938–98), cofounder of Fluxus, “polyartist,” poet, scholar, theorist, composer, performer and, not least, the publisher of the legendary Something Else Press. In 1965 he restored the term “intermedia” to the English language, giving it new dimension to recognize the dissolution of boundaries between traditional modes of art-making and the open field for new forms that cannot be compartmentalized. His own contributions to intermedia are many―as a participant and instigator of happenings, as writer and composer straddling traditional and vanguard forms, among others―but it was Something Else Press (1963–74) that redefined how “the book” could inhabit that energized, in-between space.

 

Something Else Press also published for the first time in America, the complete edition of Gertrude Stein’s The Making Of Americans; works by Merce Cunningham; John Cage; and Richard Meltzer’s The Aesthetics Of Rock.

*   *   *   *   *

I think of Dick Higgins as akin to

Leonardo da Vinci–

both had such wide interests and accomplishments—

sort of like ARTSY FARTSY masters.

For decades I cherished a New Yorker cartoon, but now it’s displaced somewhere in my voluminous files. It shows da Vinci’s studio—unfinished “Mona Lisa” on an easel, flying machine model in one corner, many other inventions scattered around. A visitor says to da Vinci, “Leonardo, don’t you think you’re spreading yourself too thin?”

da VINCI BOOK PAGE and HIGGINS DIAGRAM.

*   *   *   *   *

One evening–maybe in 1964–I attended some sort of Fluxus-type happening on the north side of Canal Street in an empty upstairs room where I and couple of dozen other attendees sat on folding chairs while staffers entwined around us, string attached to the walls, as though we were being trapped in a spider’s web. Afterward, each attendee was given a small cardboard box filled with shards of broken wallboard (I suppose we were to contemplate the uniqueness and esthetics of each arbitrary shape and maybe muse on the social ramifications of these remnants of now-lost habitations). We were offered for sale, signed Ay-O finger boxes. I still have my two. On top of each is a slit in the paper cover through which one can stick a finger, deflowering it, encountering a soft, malleable foam–in which one may (pleasantly?!) snuggle one’s digit.

My Finger Boxes.

I believe it was then that Dick Higgins (a person I had not heard of at the time) announced that he was going to lead an event (somewhere south of 14th Street?), and invited people to gather at some hour or other on a sidewalk location I can’t remember. I arrived and waited with Higgins. We waited and were not joined by anyone. Embarrassed for him, I commented that it was too bad no one else had shown up. He responded to the effect, “That’s okay, the important thing is to do it.”

And we did, walking along, he offering occasional obscure comments about our surroundings, I not understanding. Bewildered, embarrassed, I could think of nothing to say. Though I’ll always cherish that I alone participated in a meeting/happening/performance by Dick Higgins. I wonder if he remembered me. Had he given a name to our unequal but joint enactment?

The ARTSY FARTIEST guys I ever heard of:

da Vinci & Higgins.

______________________________________________________________________

ARTSY FARTSY–ARS LONGA, VITA BREVIS

 

ARS & VITA, etc. (Latin translation from the Greek)

This morning, reading the New York Times (having already looked at the Arts section), while leaning over to put something on a nearby counter, I accidentally knocked to the hardwood floor 29” below, my favorite cup, half full of black-no-sugar coffee.

The coffee spilled and has been sopped up.

The cup did not break!

I’m 81, and, as of now, I still carry on.

The cup depicts a condensed 15,000-year history of art—

which is still carrying on–both the cup and the art.

V I T A    B R E V I S,    A R S    L O N G A

(It’s no longer Greek to me.)

__________________________________________________________________

ARTSY—AESTHETICS OF ROCK & OTHER FOLDEROL

FLUXUS: First sentence in the Museum of Modern Art’s

exhibition catalog: “Fluxus had its antecedents

in those enlightened, earlier twentieth-century artists

who wanted to release art

from the moribund constraints of formalism.”

 

The Aesthetics Of Rock by Richard Meltzer, intro by Greil Marcus to a later edition–excerpted. 

This infamous book has enjoyed a lively underground reputation since its first publication in 1970. Richard Meltzer (a.k.a. R. Meltzer) took his training as a young philosopher and applied it with unalloyed enthusiasm to the lyrics, sound, and culture of rock and roll. Never before had anyone noticed the relationship between the philosophy of Heidegger and a tune by Little Anthony and the Imperials, heard the cries of agony in the Shangri Las’ “Remember (Walkin’ in the Sand)”, or transcribed every “papa-ooma-mow-mow” in the Trashmen’s “Surfin’ Bird.” From Dionne Warwick to Plato, Jim Morrison to Bert Brecht, Conway Twitty to Miguel de Unamuno, Meltzer subverts high and low culture in his search for meaning, emotion, and codes in popular music. At once an earnest investigation and a crypto put-on, the book can be read for its nuggets of information and insights or for its humor.

*

RICHARD MELTZER

(Who in later days, quoted in an interview,

claims that all rock that has come after early

Dylan and the Beatles’ “Sergeant Pepper,”

has been a mere commercial travesty.)

*

Using his knowledge and fascination with the history and machinations of philosophy, and his knowledge and fascination with the then-short history of rock ‘n’ roll, wouldn’t you know that the book’s first three pages are the complete lyrics of the mind-scrambling Trashmen song, “Surfin’ Bird,” and coupled with his playful wit, Meltzer has created an elaborately fantabulous construct—a bizarre, mind-machine (such as the self-destructing machine sculpture by Jean Tinguely—he who had signed the “New Realists” manifesto of 1960) that is itself entertaining and informative, sort of like a musical/philosophical ARTSY FARTSY, both silly, significant, infuriating, fascinating, or, as an Amazon Customer Reviewer put it, “…whether the author is a brilliant satirist or a drug-addled lunatic,” and, as the introduction to a later reprint put it, “…I’m most of all convinced that the book is not as joke…” The volume was first published by Something Else Press founded by Dick Higgins*

Born 1938, the same year I was–but he’s now left us, a seminal figure in Happenings, the concrete poetry movement, and a co-founder of the Fluxus movement in the early 1960’s, whose publishing enterprise helped establish and perpetuate a serious mindset.

All of the above inspiring me: after beginning to read a paperback copy borrowed from the library, for the first time in decades I needed to be possessed, befuddled, and enlightened by my very own copy of a book–I needed to purchase for its ARTSY significance, a first (or near-first) edition of The Aesthetics of Rock, published by Something Else Press. For reasons too uninteresting to elucidate, choosing between a paperback first (undoubtedly published simultaneously with the hard cover first) I chose a dust-jacket-less hardback, formerly a library book, with its attendant stickers, stamps, and previous borrowers’ DNA–both physiological and mental. 

The Aesthetics of Rock

is exceedingly deep

and nearly impenetrable

This unique copy of the book in my hand

encompases the mystical essence of all the previous borrowers–

who may have been confounded or enriched or both.

Maybe these New Mexico library borrowers

suffered some (temporary?) psychotic befuddlement.

(Certainly understandable.) 

*

* (Regarding Higgins–see, to come, other ARTSY FOLDEROL.)

ARTSY—“Surfin’ Bird—Bird is the Word” Part 2

ADDENDUM—Papa Oom Mow Mow

In Susan Sontag’s radically revisionist book

on art description and interpretation,

Against Interpretation, in the first sentence

of her first chapter (strangely titled

“Against Interpretation”), she writes:

“The earliest experience of art must have been that it was

incantatory, magical; art was an instrument of ritual.”

Sontag goes on: “And as the human will is capable

of an indefinite number of stances,

there are an indefinite number of possible styles

for works of art.”

(Is she right? I don’t know.)

.

Upon posting my first comments on “Surfin’ Bird,” I’ve been informed that several other, possibly deranged persons, have been compelled to exhibit in print and in vocal-and-bodily-form their ObsessionAndFascinatedExpression regarding chaotically squawking poultry:

.

Rock critic Richard Meltzer, in his book The Aesthetics of Rock,

as a kind of foreword, chose to display the complete lyrics

of “Surfin’ Bird” in all its 3 absurdist pages of glory.

*

Pee Wee Herman, luminary and cultural hero for many of us

perpetual children enthralled by his “Pee Wee’s Playhouse,”

expressed his “Surfin’ Bird” persona in the movie, “Back to the Beach.”

*

Family Guy danced his marvelous aberration of the “Bird”

(sometimes referred to as a “song.”)

on his eponymous TV extravaganza.

*

*

I must admit that one of my favorite songs (though admittedly a parody) starts:

“Who put the bomp in the bomp bah bomp bah bomp
Who put the ram in the rama lama ding dong.”

*

The Glories of Our Human Species Know No Limits.

(No No Limits?)

When I Question Our Sanity,

Our Sanity, in Response, Merely Cackles.

____________________________________________________

JEAN SHEPHERD –some major public sources

Shepquest and Additional, Major Shep Sources

For possible use in my ARTSY FARTSY book, if ever published,I wrote up a list

as most books do in their first pages (but more extended than usual):

“Other Works By The Same Author.” Here it is:

BOOKS, ESSAYS & MANUSCRIPTS

by

EUGENE B. BERGMANN

*

PUBLISHED BOOKS

Excelsior, You Fathead: The Art and Enigma of Jean Shepherd (Applause Books, 2005).

Shep’s Army: Bummers, Blisters, & Boondoggles, previously unpublished

audios chosen, transcribed, arranged, edited (Opus Books 2013).

*   *   *

BOOK MANUSCRIPTS

Shepherd’s Kid Stories

(Previously unpublished broadcast audios chosen, transcribed, arranged, edited).

Shepherd’s Travel Narratives

(Previously unpublished broadcast audios chosen, transcribed, arranged, edited).

*   *   *

PUBLISHED ESSAYS ON JEAN SHEPHERD

Foreword in book: A Christmas Story: Behind the Scenes of a Holiday Classic (2013).

“BLOG: Jean Shepherd, A Unique Comic Voice” in book: iPod & iTunes Garage (2005).

I, Libertine from Hoax to Best-selling Paperback” in fanzine: Paperback Parade (2006).

“Ettore and Jean Bugatti” in Pur Sang: quarterly of American Bugatti Club (2010).

All commentaries in the nine Shepherd’s syndicated radio CD sets (circa 2007+).

*   *   *

BLOG POSTS

(On E. B. Bergmann’s site http://www.shepquest.wordpress.com),

over six-hundred illustrated essays on Jean Shepherd.

Artsy Fartsy: Over 170 illustrated essays on multiple art subjects

(Selected essays arranged in completed book-manuscript form).

*   *   *

A PLAY ABOUT JEAN SHEPHERD

“Excelsior!, You Fathead!” One-man play, 3/17-18/2007 Bay Shore Authors’ Playhouse.

.

*   *   *   *   *

Other people and their public sources deserve

prominent mention and hearty thanks.

*   *   *   *   *

Jim Clavin’s  www.flicklives.com,

Continuously updated site with an enormous quantity and quality of info

on every aspect of Shepherd’s life and works.

.

*   *   *   *   *

Max Schmid, whose broadcasts (Much on WBAIFM) of audios and promotion

of Shepherd for decades has brought pleasure to so many Shep enthusiasts.

His Schmidco company has for sale loads of Shep audios and

Shep videos, etc. (www.sheptapes.com.

 

*   *   *   *   *

Brassfiglagee website (http://shepcast.blogspot.com/) has many hundreds

of Shep audios. There are several other sites that also provide many Shep audios.

.

*   *   *   *   *

Jim Sadur’s Jean Shepherd Page

http://www.keyflux.com/shep

.

 *   *   *   *   *

Bob Kaye’s Jean Shepherd Page.

http://www.bobkaye.com/Shep.html

.

*   *   *   *   *

Jean Shepherd Project

Jeff Beauchamp’s no-long-extant “Jean Shepherd Project,” gave free

to all who asked, numerous CDs with hundreds of Shepherd broadcasts.

___________________________________________________________

 

ARTSY FARTSY—Mr. Branch & Me

It was a pleasant Fall evening. The night when the entire Northeast was afflicted by very strong winds. (Damn that Climate Change!) On that evening of Wednesday, October 16, 2019, a bit after seven P. M., as usual, Allison and I were seated on our living room loveseat backed up to our front window. And at that moment we were flung into violent contact with Mr. Branch.

We heard a frightening KABOOM! behind us right outside our window.

Lightning? Out-of-control car crashing into our house?

*

From our front yard tree, a giant broken-off branch had landed outside, sprawling from the window and over to the end of our attached garage. It had broken off and brought to driveway the pole that held our American flag. It also put a mere two small dents in the hood of our car. Yikes! But virtuously no harm to the house (except for a small dormer incursion).

*

I love trees—I look at them all the time,

but seldom do I have this much personal interaction with them.

*

A short distance from Mr. Branch’s fall from tree, he could have broken our window, breaking a major artwork by a known ceramicist, and doing grave damage to the small version of A Christmas Story leg lamp that stands there year ‘round. And shards of glass could have impaled us as we watched Jeopardy (Oh, the irony of such a name!)

It was indeed, a dark and stormy night.

Moreover—and it’s indeed, a major moreover–directly behind Mr. Branch, our converted garage holds, majestically, my Shep Shrine (no damage done).

Shep Shrine.

*

I have very conflicted feelings about the whole near-tragic affair,

but I do know I’ll miss Mr. Branch when he’s gone.

Our son Drew, in his enthusiasm for the job, has already arrived,

he with his new chainsaw in hand,

both awaiting to make intimate acquaintance with Mr. Branch.

This ‘ll learn ya, Mr. Branch!

________________________________________________________________

ARTSY—“Surfin’ Bird—Bird is the Word”

 

(Above, some night thoughts.)

*

I can’t begin to imagine how a rock ‘n’ roll hater

such as radio monologist Jean Shepherd

(who loved opera and modern jazz)

would have responded to

“Surfin’ Bird.”

On rare occasions, I hear a song played on a “light rock” TV station that catches my special attention. I pursue the thing to YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9Gc4QTqslN4&list=RD9Gc4QTqslN4&index=1.

I don’t know which is better/worse, the printed lyrics or the video performance. Is it absurd in a bad way or an outrageously good way? I don’t know whether I’m captivated because it’s beyond belief or whether, in some unfathomable way, I am entertained by it. Let’s just say I’m, well, inexplicably astounded.

*

“Surfin’ Bird—Bird is the Word,” by The Trashmen,

“…a garage and surf rock group from Minneapolis that formed in 1962.

Their 1963 “Surfin Bird” hit reached number 4 on the Billboard Hot 100….”

Below are the total lyrics.

A well a everybody’s heard about the bird

B-b-b bird, bird, bird, b-bird’s the word

A well a bird, bird, bird, well the bird is the word

A well a bird, bird, bird, b-bird’s the word

 

A well a bird, bird, bird, well the bird is the word

A well a bird, bird, b-bird’s the word

A well a bird, bird, bird, b-bird’s the word

A well a bird, bird, bird, well the bird is the word

A well a bird, bird, b-bird’s the word

A well a everybody’s heard about the bird
Bird, bird, bird, b-bird’s the word
A well a bird, bird, bird, b-bird’s the word
A well a bird, bird, bird, b-bird’s the word
A well a bird, bird, b-bird’s the word

A well a bird, bird, bird, b-bird’s the word
A well a bird, bird, bird, b-bird’s the word
A well a bird, bird, bird, b-bird’s the word
A well a bird, bird, bird, b-bird’s the word

A well a don’t you know about the bird?
Well, everybody’s talking about the bird!
A well a bird, bird, b-bird’s the word
A well a bird

Surfin’ bird

B-b-b aah, aah

Pa pa pa pa, pa pa pa pa, pa pa pa pa, pa pa pa pa
Pa pa pa pa, pa pa pa pa, pa pa pa pa
Papa, ooma mow mow
Papa, ooma mow mow

Papa ooma mow mow, papa ooma mow mow
Papa ooma mow mow, papa ooma mow mow
Ooma mow mow, papa ooma mow mow
Papa ooma mow mow, papa ooma mow mow

Papa ooma mow mow, papa ooma mow mow
Oom oom oom oom, ooma mow mow
Papa ooma mow mow, papa oom oom oom
Oom ooma mow mow, papa ooma mow mow

Ooma mow mow, papa ooma mow mow
Papa a mow mow, papa ooma mow mow
Papa ooma mow mow, ooma mow mow
Papa ooma mow mow, ooma mow mow

Papa oom oom oom oom, ooma mow mow
Oom oom oom oom, ooma mow mow
Ooma mow mow, papa ooma mow mow
Papa ooma mow mow, ooma mow mow

Well a don’t you know about the bird?
Well, everybody knows that the bird is the word!
A well a bird, bird, b-bird’s the word

A well a ooma mow mow
Papa ooma mow mow
Papa ooma mow mow
Papa ooma mow mow
Papa ooma mow mow
Papa ooma mow mow
Papa ooma mow mow

*

Ain’t too many other groups doin’ this sort of thing way back in the early 1960s. But, through further questing, I found that the “words” to a large extent were taken from a song by a black male group, The Rivingtons. Their background accompaniment singing (a more melodic, easily acceptable form of their song than The Trashmen’s borrowing) is not really “background” to the main song–for me, in audio terms, they are equal, side by side: “Papa Oom Mow Mow” (1962) described as “a novelty nonsensical doo-wop song.” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EQrQjNNZCAo

The Trashmen took the strong, bizarre, accompanying

papa oom mow mow Rivingtons lyric

and turned it into a manic,

singularly, imperishably,

interminable,

feral, bestial,

comedic prance and squawk.

*

Quest-for-the-day: listen to The Trashmen and The Rivingtons surrealistic gibberish a couple of times one after the other. It’s worthwhile and you will be amply (no pun intended) rewarded—that is, if the exercise doesn’t drive you absolutely nuts.

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MONTHLY ARCHIVES

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