I've not figured it out, either.

Those of you who are a bit more up-to-speed with the details of my offline life, such as it is, are aware my sister married a very nice guy from a very nice Irish family.

The thing of it is that his Irish family is suffused with Serious Musicians. There is a joke within their family that if you point out to Cousin X that he is a plumber, you'll get a reply to the effect that "I do plumbing, I am a musician."

Which is fine.

The problem is that these guys (and gals) belong to that curious strain of Irish musicians who are of the conviction that Irish music is the only music that exists, everything else is sheer, torturous* cacophony. As someone new to to this rather elitist (and, very curiously so) mindset, I was struck by how hermetic their minds were against any and all other sorts of music.

This all got my brain going and in the deeper and less accessed recesses of my mind, I dimly recalled something I had heard from one of my old LPs and, digging further online I eventually came up with the following gem, which will hit a familiar nerve to those who, in their youth, staggered into a pub with a name like O'Herlihy's or McKerrick's during Open Microphone Night's wee hours.

The song is "an ancient Irish ballad, which was written a few years ago" by Tom Lehrer. He goes on to explain that:
This type of song also has, what is known technically in music as, a "modal tune," which means -- for the benefit of any layman who may have wandered in this evening -- that I play a wrong note every now and then.
Furthermore, Lehrer asserted it wasn't really a genuine folk ballad because
This song though does differ strikingly from the genuine folk ballad in that in this song the words which are supposed to rhyme - actually do. [...]I do not direct these remarks against the vast army of [Irish music fans], but merely against that peculiar hard core who seem to equate authenticity with artistic merit and illiteracy with charm.
Furthermore, it:
[...]is replete with all the accoutrements of this art form. In particular, it has a sort of idiotic refrain, in this case "ricketty-ticketty-tin" which you'll notice cropping up from time to time, running through, I might add, interminable verses. The large number of verses being a feature expressly designed to please the true devotees.

* My theory is that these guys -- and I am adressing only the diehards, the true believers -- are under the assumption that the English -- probably on Cromwell's orders -- listened to everything (rap, country & western, opera, Peruvian boating shanties, flamenco, bel canto, Art Song, Broadway's Greatest Hits) save Irish music and therefore there are strong afterlife advantages to listening to the one thing the Brits couldn't stomach.


Poppy Buxom said…
We had two Tom Lehrer records when I was growing up. Also a book of the sheet music. With illustrations.

The one for "I hold your hand in mine" was particularly gruesome.
Stomper Girl said…
Tom Lehrer is a very clever man.
shula said…
Let it ride, Joke. There's no telling them otherwise.

In certain circles of Melbourne, I am still known as Shula O'brien.
BreadBox said…
Ahhhh... Tom Lehrer....
I love the last lines of that song:

And when at last the police came by,
Rickety tickety tin,
And when at last the police came by,
Here little pranks she did not deny,
For to do so she would have had to lie,
And lying she knew was a sin, a sin,
and lying she knew was a sin.

It's right up there with the earlier line about occasional pieces of skin:-)

Last I heard, he was still teaching calculus and music (separate classes) at UC Santa Cruz....
He's a really cool guy. Allowed a friend of mine to use a new song of his in his talks a few years ago.

Major Bedhead said…
We had a couple of Tom Lehrer records when I was a kid. I think we also had sheet music - my mother was a big fan. I loved his Christmas Carol and the Masochism Tango was a big hit on the Dr. Demento show.

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