Saturday, 5 November 2011

Best song parody ever


Parodies of pop song hits were a rich source of hilarity when I was a kid. It's embarrassing to reveal what we considered falling-down-funny in the 1940s and '50s, but in the name of candor and honest chronicling, I'm compelled to do it. Here's just one example, unusual because it's clean enough for a family blog. In 1951 Nat "King" Cole's record of Too Young was a #1 hit. Its opening line, "They tried to tell us we're too young," was on everyone's lips, only in our 71st Street version it went, "They tried to sell us egg foo young." It wasn't a fully worked-out parody, consisting of just this one line, which was as far as it needed to go. We were all so convulsed with laughter, doubled over holding our bellies or rolling around on the sidewalk gasping for breath, that additional lyrics were both unnecessary and impossible.


It wasn't until many years later that I learned that our song parodies were thin comedic gruel when compared to the best.


One of the big pop hits of early 1932 was Lawd, You Made the Night Too Long, a melodramatic lament with music by Victor Young, lyrics by Sam Lewis. Here's the Bing Crosby portion of the April, 1932 record made with the Boswell Sisters and the Don Redman band:




Soon thereafter, a young nightclub comedian named Milton Berle wrote and performed a parody of Lawd which, for me, takes the prize as the best song parody ever written. Try singing it while Der Bingle warbles the original. A Lower East Side accent out of the early twentieth century (if you can manage it) will help immeasurably in producing the desired effect.

You made the coat and vest fit the best,
You made the lining nice and strong,
But Sam, you made the pants too long!




You made the peak lapel look so swell,
So who am I to say you're wrong?
But Sam, you made the pants too long!

They got a belt and they got suspenders,
So what can I lose?
But what good are belts and what good suspenders
When my cuffs hang over my shoes?

I feel a winter breeze up and down my knees,
My fly is where my tie belongs,
'Cause Sam, you made the pants too long!

In addition to being a consummate wisecracking, knockabout comedian, as well as television's first superstar, Berle was a composer-lyricist of some talent. He wrote such hits as I'd Give a Million Tomorrows and Lucky, Lucky, Lucky Me. He also penned the lyrics for the curtain-raising patter-song delivered weekly by the "merry Texaco-men" on his Texaco Star Theatre TV show. But with Sam, You Made the Pants Too Long Berle surpassed himself. In fact Sam surpassed Lawd, becoming well-known not as a parody but as a comic song in its own right, recorded famously by Barbra Streisand (with cleaned-up lyrics replacing the "fly-tie" line) in the 1970s.

Sam is probably the only instance of a song parody living on long after the original has been largely forgotten.



3 comments:

  1. Uncle Miltie, known for his humor - the
    complete package !

    ReplyDelete
  2. I always thought it was "I feel a winter breeze, right through my BVDs,"

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  3. My Dad was a young teen in The Bronx back in early 50s. Thirty years forward in the 80s when we had TV offer about song collections, every time Too Young came on, my dad will sing it with the Egg foo young line...

    ReplyDelete