Jacob Haller (jwgh) wrote,
Jacob Haller

on writing dumb songs

It's more involved than you think!

I'm going to head up to Boston shortly, so thought I might as well fill up the rest of my time talking about how I wrote 'T for T. Rex', which I think will be interesting to me if nobody else.

As is often the case, I got the idea as I was falling asleep. Jimmie Rodger's 'Blue Yodel #1' (aka 'T For Texas') went through my head with 'T. Rex' instead of 'Texas'. I got a phone call around midnight, woke up, remembered the line, thought it was funny and thought, hey, I could do that for the whole song!

So I had to begin with the lyrics to 'T For Texas'. They are:
T for Texas, T for Tennessee [x2]
T for Thelma, that gal that made a wreck out of me.

If you don't want me mama, you sure don't have to stall [x2]
'Cause I can get more women than a passenger train can haul.

I'm gonna buy me a pistol just as long as I'm tall [x2]
I'm gonna shoot poor Thelma just to see her jump and fall.

I'm going where the water drinks like cherry wine [x2]
'Cause the Georgia water tastes like turpentine.

I'm gonna buy me a shotgun with a great long shiny barrel [x2]
I'm gonna shoot that rounder that stole away my gal.

Rather drink muddy water, sleep in a hollow log [x2]
Than to be in Atlanta treated like a dirty dog.

I also had a list of dinosaur-related terms that I got from some website. After fooling around with the first verse:
T for T. Rex, T for [????]
T for [???], the [???]
I realized that that was going to be pretty hard and went back to bed.

Over the rest of the night, I remembered the term 'Theropod' and realized that it more or less rhymed with 'dog'. (This is arguably more cheating than Jimmie Rodgers himself indulged in in his song, depending on how you feel about rhyming 'barrel' with 'gal'.) Theropods were around in the late Triassic, so that gave me the rest of the second verse.

Onwards. The 'If you don't want me mama' verse is probably a little too obvious, but it's not like I was aiming for an extremely nuanced, complex satire, so after trying a few different dinosaur names in that verse I stuck in 'Apatosaurus' and left it at that. Verse #3 was complete.

I didn't see much that could be done with the 'water drinks like cherry wine' verse, so I figured I'd finish verse #1 and do a verse about guns and call it a song. Returning to verse #1, I decided to try:
T for T. Rex, T for Tarbosaur.
Then I tried to figure out what else 'T' stood for and what that person or thing did that rhymed with 'Tarbosaur'. In keeping with the original song, it seemed like it should be relationship-related somehow.

Finally I thought that instead of being Thelma, it should be someone she left me for. ('For' rhymes with 'Tarbosaur!') This led to me trying to think of names that began with 'T', but that wasn't all that helpful. I was quite relieved when 'time traveller' came to me -- two 'T's, and it made the presence of dinosaurs make sense, sort of.

That makes the gun-related verse easier to figure out, because for some reason when time travel is discussed people always bring up the possibility of killing your own grandfather as a potential problem. (It never seems to be your grandmother or any other blood relative. Also, whether it is your maternal or paternal grandfather isn't specified. There is also a lot of concern expressed about being your own father or grandfather [I guess if you think about it the former implies the latter], but I decided to leave that alone.) So, yeah, if you're willing to accept that 'Theropod' almost rhymes with 'dog' then perhaps you'll also forgive the attempt to rhyme 'tall' with 'grandpaw'. Also, you will maybe not worry too much about whether Thelma is supposed to be the singer's grandmother or not.

And there's your song. Not a very original song, or a particularly good song, or even a song that is especially worth recording (since if you've heard the original Jimmie Rodgers song then you know exactly what this one is supposed to sound like, and if you haven't heard the original then you won't understand what the point is), but a song nonetheless.

Tags: self-analysis, writing

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