October 10th, 2005

Tom Lehrer is Smug

the too personal

The moral of the story, presented first for a change, is sometimes it's OK to keep a private thing private.

laurenhat and I went to an a cappella benefit concert at the Somerville on Friday night, mostly to see a group her coworker was in. I was reminded of how I enjoy groups that don't take themselves too seriously. Cover songs are always fun, original story songs work well if you have a decent songwriter handy, but I get all itchy and cranky once the original love songs start marching out of a group. You know, the songs with lyrics that are obviously way too personal for anyone's good. You'll know you're encountering one of these ultra-personal songs if and when "the party at Jimmy's" is mentioned with no context, but confident in the presumption that if you knew their love like they knew their love, you'd know exactly which of Jimmy's parties is the one in question. When Jimmy's party is mentioned, I tend to sit politely and fiddle with my ticket stub and space out, imagining that I'm eating a delicious prime rib dinner with the horseradish and the au jus and the baked potato is cooked just right, and...

Ok, so I was hungry.

The solo opening act was one of the members of Five O'Clock Shadow, and he was an affable fellow with a tiny mischievious streak in him. I kept waiting for that streak to really manifest itself, but alas. His stage banter included jokes about the unpronouncable names of coffee blends ("Ethiopian Ybleuhguleharalhck") before launching into a pedestrian gotta-have-my-fix song about coffee, which could have been a funny mispronounced word song. (Hymns to caffeine are so overdone, people, seriously. Welcome to Seattle 1992!)

Then the fellow announced that he had been considering one of two songs with which to finish his set: One was simply "a funny song" and the other was "a bit more personal." He explained, in a cadence that began to break haltingly, that this song was the one he wrote for his wife on the occasion of their wedding, and that he sang it to her, and it was Their Wedding Song, and it's extremely personal and that he hoped -- he just hoped -- that he could make it all the way through without crying.

Guess which song he picked.

The first verse included flowery cliche -- the breezes of the ocean waves, the morning sun warming and waking them up together, thanking one's chosen deity for bringing them together -- that I was almost certain that The Big Turn was just around the corner. You know, where the song, so earnestly and sincerely talked up, turns into hilarious parody. Where he starts singing about loving her in spite of her faults: the horns growing out of her head, her foul repulsive stench, the way she laughs like a dying donkey, her hatred for all things bright and beautiful, her superfluous third, fourth and fifth nipples...

Didn't happen.

The entire song went along as planned. And I'm sure this song was meant with the most sincere love possible, and it's obvious they love each other very much. I'm also sure that were she wearing socks at the wedding when he sang it to her for the First Time in front of God and everybody that those socks would've been charmed right off. Unfortunately, in the eyes and ears of the audience, this was a Pet Name song. A musical version of those digusting pet names you know that you and yours have given each other. Do you call each other bedroom names in public? Well, okay, maybe so (I know who you are.) But for others, well, perhaps "noodle pants" is a name best kept to yourselves. So it went with this ultra-mushy, ultra-cliche love song which, frankly, was embarrassing to hear. Still, Lauren and I kept quiet during it and tried not to cringe too outwardly. We were the Good Ones.

There was a woman across the row from us in the theatre who, by the fourth or fifth time the Lord had been thanked for "letting me have you", was doubled over with convulsive laughter. She got the giggles something fierce from this experience, and just could not stop. I hoped the singer hadn't noticed, but there came an agonizing moment when the song ended. The silence between the last guitar chords and the audience's dutiful applause was shattered by a high-pitched chortling laugh. She couldn't keep it in. I simultaneously laughed inwardly (glad it wasn't me!) and felt bad for the guy.

But still. Some pet names are best kept to yourselves.