Category Archives: Yohan John

Results: Theme Song

James Boo

Don – Are Diwano Mujhe Pehchano

In what is possibly the most tiger-centric gangster entrance in all of film history, a blazing Amitabh Bachchan in his prime, playing a street singer posing as a mob Kingpin, proves that intimidation and charm can be two sides of the same rupee. His eyes, hips, and oversized bowtie are in full effect as he courts the criminal underworld, daring even the most sternly goateed man to doubt his authenticity:

Who am I, who am I, who am who am who am I?

I am Don, I am Don, I am I am I am Don!

Strings swirl, horns blaze, and an insistent start-stop shuffle puts a dance floor under three and a half minutes of bombastic affirmation. Our hero spins and gestures his way through the South Asian, Latin American and Western influences that characterizes the seamless mosaic of Don’s cinematic score, reassuring the villains of his infamous name and reassuring the audience of his unmatchable Bollywood talent. A theme song with more volumes of purpose cannot be found; the flowers polka-dotting Amitabh’s wescot on their own are enough to say this much.


Nicotina Chevrolet

Velvet Mafia

Pop Quiz – Who/what is the Velvet Mafia?

(a) an underground organization of criminal crooners, led by the Velvet Fog, Mel Torme
(b) an elite group of gays rumored to be responsible for everythingfrom entertainment trends to British politics to the inability of Ab Fab’s Patsy & Edina to achieve professional success, and unofficially headed by David Geffen
(c) a New York City glam rock band headed by a 6’6″ bald drag queen who lived and died in bizzare circumstances
(d) a gay porn

Okay, when you’re ready, scroll down and grade your quiz.

If your answer was (a), you get 0 points.  You are wrong.*
If your answer was (b) you get 90 points.  Your response can be verified by Wikipedia and the urban slang dictionary, which is good enough for me.  The term in this context is mostly a joke, which is why you don’t get the full 100 points.**
If your answer was (c) or (d) you get 100 points.  You are correct!

*Unless you know something I don’t, and there really is such an organization, in which case you get 1,000 points.
**Unless there really is such an organization, and you can convince them to make Not Without Your Daughter posthumously famous, in which case you get 10,000 points.

So this wasn’t your standard multiple choice.  Sometimes there is more than one answer.  And this was the case with this week’s Iron Clef theme.  How can someone pick just one theme song?  There are so many excellent theme songs, from Nerf Herder’s Buffy the Vampire Slayer theme song to the theme song for It’s the Gary Shandling Show (“this is the theme to Gary’s show, the opening theme to Gary’s show, Gary called me up and asked if I could write his theme song…”).  And that’s just in the TV genre!  Then you’ve got film, video games…it boggles the mind.  After a week of soul searching, I finally narrowed down my entry to the Velvet Mafia Theme Song.  But as there are two amazing velvet mafia theme songs, I can narrow no further.

The first is the theme song/intro for the NYC band from answer (c), headed by the previously mentioned giant bald queen, Dean Johnson.  In this song, Dean sings of his willingness to sell himself to the alleged gay mafia from answer (b) in order to achieve professional success “If you wanna cross the bridge, you gotta pay the toll. If you wanna make it big, you gotta play with trolls. So pardon me while I go steppin’ out to Fire Island with David Geffen…” Since Dean was actually a manwhore, and was not exaggerating his willingness to get pounded for personal gain, one must only guess that he either never had the opportunity to meet the powerful queers and make his offer, or they reneged on the deal.  Either way, the Velvet Mafia may never have made it to the mainstream, but in the NYC queercore scene, they were legendary.

Like the Velvet Mafia, the Bay Area based band Mon Cousin Belge is a band with great talent, hypnotic songs, and magnetic stage presence. Also like the Velvet Mafia, MCB is gayer than a handbag full of rainbows.  So when they were offered the opportunity to have one of their songs featured as the theme song for a gay porn made by Falcon Studios, they naturally agreed.  The result is, I would venture to bet, the best porn music ever.  As thanks, the pornmakers played fairy godfather and lent their film equipment and some clips from their movie so that Mon Cousin Belge could make a music video of their very own for the Velvet Mafia Theme Song, also known as “Going Down.”

So which is the real Velvet Mafia Theme Song?  Only the gay mafia knowsfor sure.

Yohan John

M*A*S*H – Suicide Is Painless

What is the purpose of Iron Clef? Is it to prove one’s ability to remember corny, bizarre, obscure songs? Is it to establish one’s pop culture credentials? Or is it just an excuse to share good music? Perhaps all of the above…

At some point a few months ago I downloaded several theme songs from “classic” television shows. Remember Gimme a Break? All In the Family? The Fall Guy? Mr. Rogers? I haz it. These songs are interesting, and induce nostalgia and cringing in equal measure, but I want to choose a theme song that’s just plain good.

M*A*S*H was one of the greatest television shows ever made. Funny, profound, warm, and true. The theme music for the TV show was without lyrics. I heard the original song relatively recently, when I saw the movie (on which the TV show was based). Here’s an excerpt from the lyrics.

The game of life is hard to play
I’m gonna lose it anyway
The losing card I’ll someday lay
so this is all I have to say.

That suicide is painless
It brings on many changes
and I can take or leave it if I please.

No wonder the TV show left the words out!

[Also: Manic Street Preachers did a cover of this song.]

Just vote for the one that’s still stuck in your head.

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Results: Puberty

Yohan John

The Who – Pictures of Lily

It’s my second turn at Iron Clef, and this time there’s voting! Oh, the peer pressure! Sounds a lot like … adolescence! To be very honest, my own adolescence was pretty laid back. In my lazy little home town, I was more or less unaware of the trials and tribulations of adolescence in urban India. My only notion of what being a teenager was supposed to be like came from Archie comics and The Wonder Years. My entry for Iron Clef this week is the song that first popped into my head when Alex mentioned the topic to me. The scribes and historians describe “Pictures of Lily” as a tribute to the Sin of Onan – masturbation. I probably wouldn’t have interpreted the lyrics that way myself, but it sounds reasonable. At any rate, if masturbation isn’t irrevocably linked with adolescence the world over, then I don’t know what is. The Who’s Pete Townshend has always struck me as an adolescent who never grew up. Only someone completely up his own arse could write a rock opera like Tommy. And yet he also wrote My Generation – the quintessential anthem of confused, stuttering, angry, independent youth. Proof that even a wanker can be a genius (and vice versa).

Here’s a little factoid that amuses me: The American writer and poet Dorothy Parker named her parrot Onan. (I hope its obvious why!)

Th McCaffrey

The Queers – Ursula Finally Has Tits

Ah, puberty. The gooey-est period of time in a person’s life. At first I thought I would try to find a song that expressed the spiritual changes a young girl or boy might go through during puberty. Perhaps a coming of age song: Neil Young’s ‘Sugar Mountain?’ Or something else just as poetic and nostalgic. Then I thought, no, there’s only one thing (ok, two) that could adequately sum up why all the angst and zits and gangly limbs and dead brain cells and boners in math class (or was that just me?) and door-slamming and warm beer and skipping school and ruined underwear were worth it: Boobies.

I don’t know if it was because I was stoned through my entire pubescent existence and forgot if anything was even heartwarming at all, but I do know that what I remember the most is boobies. So, boobies it is. Boobies: The other reason(s) besides teenage angst to be loud, immature and full of beer.

The Queers were loud, immature and full of beer. Puberty made me loud, immature and full of beer. And now, in my late twenties, I remain loud, immature and full of beer (oh, and zitty). The Queers’ ‘Ursula Finally Has Tits’ is about a young female punk rocker named Ursula who finally gets her tits and the boys get all excited and drink more beer.

Crass? Sure. Immature? Of course. But what else is the average fourteen-year-old heterosexual male going to get excited about? Besides, the only thing as exciting as boobies back then was rock and roll, and you remember why you got into that in the first place? Don’t you…? Boobies.

Svenllama Lisa Xu

Big Star – Thirteen

Huge thanks to Lisa for pinch hitting for Svenllama!
Early adolescence is such an awkward and unfortunate time. Exaggerated misery being another one of its noted hallmarks, I could be remembering that period of my life inaccurately, but really, what’s not to like about junior high? It’s cliquey as hell, no one listens to the same music as you do, the math teacher hates you, you hate your parents, and you go to the Friday night dance alone. High school is another thing altogether, but at least you’re easing out of puberty by then.

In any case, “Thirteen”, Big Star’s gentle paean to the first pangs of blossoming love and youthful rebellion, is probably the only song that would ever make anyone want to be thirteen again. Its sweetly tender riff and yearning harmonies wrench an enormous amount of poignancy out of such expressions of romantic hesitance as, “Maybe Friday I can/Get tickets for the dance.” Recorded in 1972 by young men reared on the British Invasion of the ’60s, it’s a nostalgic picture of rock’s adolescence, too – a reminder of a time when rock took itself seriously as an idealistic force. “Thirteen” is a metaphor for music as an entreaty, a supplication as emotionally honest (and maybe as doomed) as the efforts of a 13-year-old trying to woo a girl with talk of breaking the rules and how very important the Rolling Stones are. Its beauty suggests that buried beneath all of the painful awkwardness, there perhaps may have been something worth remembering from going through puberty after all.

For all of these reasons, it was also the perfect song for Elliott Smith to cover. Both versions are great, though, and will melt your heart just like they would.ve in junior high.

Sweet Pineapples! Now you can

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Results: Birds

Aaron Azlant


Marissa Nadler – Feathers

Briefly made indie-famous by her cover of Radiohead’s “No Surprises,” Marissa Nadler writes dependably melancholic folk that emphasizes her delicate, finger-picked guitar parts and remarkable voice, equally operatic and ethereal. The title of her most recent LP, the excellent Songs III: Bird on the Water, is already enough to guarantee 11 possible candidates for this week’s topic, although just to be sure, I went ahead and picked the one titled “Feathers.” Between its careening
cello part, its multi-tracked chorus of Nadler’s insistently whispering flora” and its sweeping lamentation (bitterly addressed to a lost lover), this track makes an ideal segue into the cover of “Famous Blue Raincoat” that follows it on the album. Baroque arrangements and anachronism for its own sake are de rigueur in contemporary folk — I personally hold to a “thee” quota — but Nadler is never tedious and her album is full of beguiling songs just like this one.

David Boyk


If the best thing ever on TV isn’t The Wire, it’s The Singing Detective, Dennis Potter’s 1986 BBC miniseries, starring Michael “The Fake Dumbledore” Gambon as a delusional, self-hating, sexually fucked-up mystery writer with a bad case of psoriasis. It’s too hard to sum up everything that’s going on in this segment, which is an early climax in the series, but basically he’s hallucinating that he’s back in the pub in his North England hometown, watching his father do bird impressions. It’s pretty sad when you watch it on YouTube, but rent the DVDs and get your heart broken.


C-H-I-C-K-E-N Spells Chicken

I guess there’s sort of a disease theme here, because this other song comes from the medicine shows that used to travel around and get suckers to buy patent medicines.
They’d roll into town, set up a stage, and have a band or a dog that knew tricks or whatever, and then you’d walk out with a few bottles of some sort of dangerous concoction, which might end up giving you jake leg. They had some good tunes, though. And they were educational – it’s true, C-H-I-C-K-E-N does spell chicken. In those days, musical genres hadn’t gotten all sorted out and segregated yet, and there was a lot of back and forth between white and black music. Some of this, like this song, was more on the racist, minstrel end, but you can come to your own conclusions about that.

Yohan John


The Trashmen – “Surfin’ Bird (Bird Is The Word)”

There are lots of obvious bird songs. The ones that flew off the top of my head (like birds) included “Bird Dog”, “Norwegian Wood (This Bird has Flown)” and even the theme song from “Harvey Birdman – Attorney At Law”. But I decided to go with this song, because in terms of birdy impact, this song has more bird per word, so to speak.

Some people find it hard to make out lyrics, so here’s a sample:

A-well-a everybody’s heard about the bird
B-b-b-bird, bird, bird, b-bird’s the word
[A-well-a bird, bird, bird, the bird is the word
A-well-a bird, bird, bird, well the bird is the word] 4x
A-well-a bird, bird, b-bird’s the word
A-well-a don’t you know about the bird?
Well, everybody knows that the bird is the word!
A-well-a bird, bird, b-bird’s the word
A-well-a…

And so on (with feeling).

I first heard this song in a lecture. Our quirky professor’s presentation began with a slide that informed us that this piece of pleasing insanity was an amalgamation of two songs by the doo-wop group The Rivingtons — one called “The Bird’s The Word” and the other called “Papa-oom-mow-mow.” “Papa-oom-mow-mow” in turn, was a doo-wop parody. So the song “Surfin’ Bird” (consisting largely of bird-brained repetitions of the two songs’ titles) is a parody of a parody.

The song sounds almost proto-punk. Years before The Who, or The Stooges. But the best part, of course, is that it’s funnier than avian flu.

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