Putting a little Spike in your life

Published 1:26 pm Friday, January 21, 2011

Last week in this space, we discussed the topic of how to talk to old people.

This week, the theme is “How to listen to popular music,” especially if you speak to old people.

In his weekly column in this space on Wednesday, Lynn Roberts continued the dialogue with his observation how young people in music represent the current musical culture of which he had difficulties understanding. Those of us who grew up with the golden age of radio find it impossible to relate to today’s golden age of rock.

Email newsletter signup

Yes, Lynn, we are all in the process of growing older, and that inspires us to be joyous that young people today will someday be the old people of tomorrow. (Point finger, cover mouth and snicker).

As we grow older, nostalgia invades our memories, that our times were better. As teenagers, we had our musical culture too, now long faded, imbedded in fond memories.

Today’s teens relate to hard rock, loud amplified distorted guitars, thrashing and crashing drummers, shouting, mumbling vocalists who never give consideration to sing a soft ballad. What they call music, us old folks call “noise.”

Yet even that got me thinking when in last Saturday’s magazine, American Profile, appeared in The Post-Searchlight, in the question and answer spot, Philip Rappenecker of Sperry, Iowa, wanted to know whatever happened to Spike Jones?

Now, I don’t know Mr. Rappenecker, but I betcha he’s no teenager. Anybody who was a 1950s fan of Spike Jones, is A1 in my book.

I loved Spike Jones. His group of City Slickers was a composite of very talented musicians who excelled in musical satire and parady. Spike never met a cowbell he wouldn’t check out for its musical tonality. Interspersed in the music were gunshots, fog horns, sneezes, gargling, screaming, cop whistles, kazoos, glazondos, bells, gongs, car crashes etc. … all blending into the zanyness.

Today’s so-called rock is mighty loud, but so was Spike. How many moms today constantly berate their teenagers to turn down their “music” or to be remindful as to the volume level of what’s coming through their earphones that when they become old like Lynn and myself, that their ability to hear may be questionable.

At my house in the 1950s, mom was always reminding me to tone it down as I played my Spike Jones records. She just didn’t understand the artistic antics of Spike Jones playing classical music on cowbells. The band has some great hits: “Cocktails for Two,” “All I Want For Christmas is my Two Front Teeth,” “Der Fuehrer’s Face” (a parody on Adolf Hitler). The band murdered the classics, and even had their version of the opera Carmine, my favorite.

My eighth-grade class took a field trip to New York City for a matinee performance of the opera Carmine. The performance was made special for students, and between acts, they raised the curtain so we could all watch the magic of how they changed sets.

Before heading out to NYC, our teacher back grounded us in the classical music and the story, so that even though it was in Spanish, we could follow along.

Sometime later, Spike comes out with his version of Carmine. There’s a lead opera character, Don Jose, an Army officer, who sings in Spike’s version:

“Oh, I’m the famous Don Schmozay

“Army life is good I say,”

Than a chorus comes in and sings:

“But oh how he hates to march,

“Cause somebody soaked his shorts in starch.”

You gotta love this stuff.

To my knowledge, nobody does musical satire today. I went on line this week to a music channel called Pandora, called up the zany musical antics of Spike Jones, listened and laughed and laughed and laughed.

Now that’s how old people should listen to music. Joyously.

Let’s do something rash. Go ahead. Call up the local radio stations and ask them to play some Spike Jones. Betcha Kevin Dowdy or Coley Voyles never heard of him.