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Jingle Bells, Batman Smells...
by Asa Butcher
2007-12-18 09:23:36
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Does anybody know who first coined the alternative playground lyrics to James Lord Pierpont's classic Christmas song? How many of you have sung 'Jingle bells, Batman smells, Robin laid an egg; The Batmobile lost its wheel, And the Joker got away!' at some point in your life? Come on, be honest. 'Tis the season for carolling and commercial Xmas songs, but today I want to focus upon the former of the two in honour of the 300th anniversary of Charles Wesley's birth.

Who is Charles Wesley? Well, he published the words of over 5,500 hymns, writing the words for a further 2,000, many of which are still popular, including one of my Christmas favourites "Hark! the Herald Angels Sing". I am one of those numerous atheists that will happily indulge in carolling, singing about the birth of Christ, Three Kings, shepherds and all those other Nativity essentials, because they are such good fun.

As a child I attended a Church of England primary school so we always had a Christmas service in the local church where the class would sing "Away in a manger" (albeit almost castrato) and then we would have the Nativity Play, in which I was always chosen to play Joseph. Throughout the service there would be all the Christmas carol classics and everybody would belt them out with a religious vigour. After we left primary school my family only went to church for weddings, christenings, funerals and Christmas, until one year the Christmas Eve service was downright depressing.

"In the bleak midwinter" kicked off the proceedings followed by burning incense, doom and gloom parables and a miserable bastard of a reverend, so we vowed never to return. Instead my parents began hosting their own Christmas Carol party on December 24th inviting everybody for carolling, mince pies, mulled wine and a lot of laughs. Occasionally our organ-playing uncle would attend providing us with a proper musical accompaniment rather than the cassette - we'd always finish ahead of the King's College Choir.

The freedom of being able to sing the alternative parody lyrics of the carols was fantastic, such as 'We three Kings of Orient are, one in a taxi, one in a car, one on scooter, blowing its hooter, wearing a pink-lace bra!' Mum taught us her schooldays words to 'While shepherds washed their socks by night' and we would all try to hold the long note in 'Gloria, Hosanna in excelsis!' in the carol "Ding Dong Merrily on High". There was always the fun of shouting the words to "Silent Night" or changing the emphasis of its lyric from 'Christ our saviour is born!' to 'Christ! Our saviour is born!'

I have never undertaken door-to-door carolling namely because I am tone deaf and would feel guilty inflicting my choral inabilities on strangers, so singing has remained a private practice among trusted friends and family, who are also cursed with a lack of vocal skills - it is still "Away in a manger" that separates the pre-pubescent from the adolescents. I am never failed to be impressed by the majesty professional choirs are able to give the carol "Once in Royal David’s City" and the euphoria of "O come, all ye faithful" - sometimes we are all grateful for the King's College Choir cassette disguising our inadequacies.

Now I spend every other Christmas in Finland I miss out on my family's traditional Christmas Eve carolling and it just isn't the same singing alone at home, even though a few glasses of mulled wine shed any inhibitions. I believe all of the classic carols have been translated from English to Finnish, yet I can't bring myself to sing 'Kuule, laulu enkelten' instead of 'Hark! the Herald Angels Sing'. However, aside from all the fun and religious overtones of carols, the best part is that they are a great alternative for the often-repeated Slade's "Merry Xmas Everybody" and Mud's "Lonely This Christmas".

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Emanuel Paparella2007-12-18 13:44:05
Indeed, before there were three kings bearing gifts (the Epiphany) there was a gift bestowed on Christmas and it was for everyone, atheists, agnostics, uncle Scrooges, bastard reverends and Saturnalia revelers not excluded. So, it is most meaningful and appropriate for everybody to be joyful. Merry Christmas to the whole Ovi team!

Sand2007-12-18 14:37:00
And of course there is the infamous "Jesus is a cross-eyed bear" and Walt Kelly's "Shepherds wash their socks at night." and "Deck us all with Boston Charlie" and Good King Sauerkraut looked on his feet uneven".

Asa2007-12-18 17:48:33
I must admit I am intrigued to the words to Good King Sauerkraut!

Sand2007-12-18 18:13:00
I couldn't find the King Sauerkraut song on a primary search. I'll keep looking.

Here's the other one.

Deck us all with Boston Charlie,
Walla Walla, Wash., an' Kalamazoo!
Nora's freezin' on the trolley,
Swaller dollar cauliflower alley-garoo!

Don't we know archaic barrel
Lullaby Lilla Boy, Louisville Lou?
Trolley Molly don't love Harold,
Boola boola Pensacoola hullabaloo!

Bark us all bow-wows of folly,
Polly wolly cracker 'n' too-da-loo!
Donkey Bonny brays a carol,
Antelope Cantaloupe, 'lope with you!

Hunky Dory's pop is lolly gaggin' on the wagon,
Willy, folly go through!
Chollie's collie barks at Barrow,
Harum scarum five alarm bung-a-loo!

Dunk us all in bowls of barley,
Hinky dinky dink an' polly voo!
Chilly Filly's name is Chollie,
Chollie Filly's jolly chilly view halloo!

Bark us all bow-wows of folly,
Double-bubble, toyland trouble! Woof, woof, woof!
Tizzy seas on melon collie!
Dibble-dabble, scribble-scrabble! Goof, goof, goof!

Sand2007-12-18 20:03:07
Research seems to indicate that Walt Kelly only wrote the two lines:
Good King Sauerkraut
Looked on his feets uneven

I have a few free hours tomorrow so I'll try to finish it.

Asa2007-12-18 20:53:30
I'd love to hear that sung after each caroller has drunk a few glasses of mulled wine!

Emanuel Paparella2007-12-19 16:11:58
Word is out that the most favorite caroll of parents is Silent Night. If that is so, those parents must all be abstemious or Puritan. That is no way to celebrate and be merry, as the same Jesus, the reason for the season, well taught us at the marriage of Cana.

Sand2007-12-19 18:48:02
This is a first try. It's not sufficiently insane but it will have to do for now.

Good King Sauerkraut
Looked on his feets uneven.
“Hey !” he called his crazy page,
“Isn’t your name Steven?”
“No”, the boy, full of joy
Replied while jumping rope.
“My name. I claim is Suzy Q
Because my nose is turning blue
And, my king, if I were you
I’d learn to cope with kooky feets
By walking on fresh cooked beets
In vegetable stew,
As Christmas time, although sublime,
Gives much that I’d eschew.”

“I could rage,” the king exclaimed
While drool ran down his chin.
“But at my age it’s just not sage
So I’ll just not begin.”
But his voice caught,
He was distraught
At his spit-wet vesture.
Waved his hand,
Dropped his demand,
And sent his page
With one command
To bring in Christmas dinner
Which satisfies
With French fries
The special man -
The inner.

Asa2007-12-19 21:26:31
Totally bizarre! Thanks!

Perhaps we should consider publishing a selection of these crazy carols next Xmas!

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