Saturday, May 19, 2018

A Sloshed, Smashed Sing-Along!

I'm taking a break here from the Newsday TV Books of 1974 (a break, he says, as if he's even started on May yet) to hearken back to a more recent time, when I lived on the coastal border of North and South Carolina in my twenties.
(Sweet Jesus Henry Winkler, I'm nostalgitatin' on the 90's! I told you to brain me with that pick-axe I gave you if I ever did that again!)
This time it's a coffeehouse in Myrtle Beach I'm thinking of, where my buddy Mike and I used to play as "The Martyrs." (Seriously, have you found that pick-axe yet?) We weren't really The Martyrs--that was our late-80's basement band along with Mike's brother Jim and his best pal Chris. I guess we just couldn't be bothered to come up with a name for our duo, despite our erstwhile fondness for coming up with new band names for no reason. The whole fascinating story of the Martyrs can be found on a blog of Mike's (with my personal reminiscences here).

The coffeehouse was called Ibby's (later becoming Nocturna) and sat very near the old Myrtle Beach Pavilion amusement park. Mike played guitar and sang, I just sang. We did originals and covers, tried to work in a lot of harmony. Here's a poster I made for one of our gigs. That's a photo of me as a Halloween hobo in the mid-seventies, duplicated on a copier at work.
We did a song by the Ass Ponys? I'll take my word for it. (Look at that, January in Myrtle Beach--I bet we had upwards of five people at that show!) Anyway, this joint was frequented by AA and Narcotics Anonymous types. I don't think we were trying to offend anyone when we wrote our own words to the classic drinking song "Little Brown Jug," but we also kinda didn't really care.

The song is sort of a hillbilly's ode to booze. You may recall the Glenn Miller instrumental, or the version Alfalfa warbled (or maybe even this old theater sing-along cartoon, which I suggest you watch if you don't know how the song goes--it's funny stuff). We passed lyric sheets out to the audience, which we also used to perform from--who the hell can remember 25 verses? I'd like to think some still exist out there.

The original opening verse sets the tone:
My wife and I, we live alone
In a little log hut we call our own
She likes gin and I like rum
Together we have lots of fun

The chorus, you'll remember, goes like this (go ahead, sing along, no one is judging!): 
Ha ha ha, you and me
Little brown jug upon my knee
Ha ha ha, you and me
Little brown jug, how I love thee

These may not be the exact words written by Joseph Eastburn Winner in 1869, but you get the idea. 

Mike and I took it upon ourselves to pad the song to the brink of insanity. We originally intended to repeat the chorus after each verse, but even we couldn't take it, so that plan was abandoned for consecutive verses. Here are my favorites, some of which I can't even remember if I wrote or Mike did. I'll denote which I believe it to be, and Mike can correct me in the comments as necessary.

I love my wife, her name is Gert
I spilled my beer all down her shirt
I drunk my fill and then some more
Then I sucked dry the blouse she wore
(I wrote that.)

My best friend Gus can be a pain
For breakfast he drank all my grain
I made a still from a cuckoo clock
Now I can't wait for twelve o'clock
(That's me, rhyming "clock" with "clock." Idiot.)

My sister Ida came to stay
She'll drink me under any day
I should have passed on that last shot
Now I don't feel so good a lot
(Not sure who wrote that. The last line is a Martin-Short-as-Jerry-Lewis reference, I think.)

I chase my vodka with some juice
I goosed the Widow Smith's caboose
And when my wife learned all the facts
She chased me with the kindling ax
 (Mine. I really did always chase with juice. Now I use decaffeinated iced tea and seltzer water. Lots of seltzer water. I'm not a kid anymore.)

Oh, I'm a liquor matador
The bulls are beers that I adore
I wave my cape and they attack
And now my liver's blue and black
(Mike's verse. You can see the difference in our styles. He was always a little more poetic in his songwriting, while I tended to tell stories.)

I can count and I can add
I was once a clever lad
A pint plus a fifth plus a shot plus a jug
Equals my face on the rug

I like the way my buddy Hank
Drinks moonshine from an old fish tank
He gulps it down and never spills
But boy he gets green 'round the gills

Yes, I brew hops and I brew barley
I have named my liver Charley
The doctor said to me in town
That it was an unnatural brown
(Mike's. I think your liver is supposed to be brown. Just saying.)

The town mortician's name is Burke
He mixes pleasure with his work
Sits and drinks formaldehyde
And wonders why he's gone cross-eyed

My dear dead grandpaw made me save
A jug to pour on his fresh grave
I poured it on to quench his thirst
But ran it through my kidneys first
(Mine. Old joke.)

Oh, I have stumbled, I have knelt
I drunk more whisky than a Celt
My pal Jack Daniel stayed too long
And now I sing a chunky song
(Don't know, but the Celt part sounds like Mike.)

I like the dainty way my maw
Drinks all her spirits through a straw
I do the same, except I chose
A foot-long piece of garden hose

I drink for fun, I drink for sport
I drink an ounce, a pint, a quart
Sometimes my legs and feet go numb
But I'm not one who's worrisome
(Mike's. That just made me LOL, as the children say.)

I went to the Empire State
The rooftop view was really great
But I sure got some icy glares
When I fell down ninety flights of stairs

Oh monkey see and monkey do
I seen them monkeys in the zoo
Half in the bag, I laughed with glee
And they laughed just as hard at me

They say no matter where the place
You'll find a wretched drunk disgrace
I've heard one lives 'round here and yet
Somehow we two have never met
(Another old joke retooled by me.)

I like my vodka in the spring
In summer, wine is just the thing
In fall, I drink vermouth in bed
By winter I'll be gone and dead
(Mike's... or mine, I seriously can't remember.)

I wrote one verse each for me and my roommates (that was Mike and our pal Brian). They go like this:
A fella I know well named Mike
Cannot decide what booze he likes
He samples every one each day
But passes out 'fore he can say

A guy I know whose name is Paul
Is nice but dumber than a wall
He always gulps tequila down
Afraid that poor li'l worm might drown
In fact, I was not a big tequila fan (despite having drunk my fair share). I once shared the worm with some gal at a party (eh heh HEE!), and did so by biting the little bugger in two. The half left in my fingers squirted up my nose, and it was as if someone had stuck the nozzle of Clorox Clean-up into my nostril and sprayed--Jesus it burned like hell...

Ol' Brian fell into a vat
Of beer and drowned and that was that
If that sounds cruel, consider this
He got out twice to take a piss
I was very proud of how I contorted that creaky story-joke into a simple verse to suit Brian, who in fact is the author of "Fearless Brewing," a delightful guide to making your own beer. He once used a couple of Mad Dog 20/20 empties (yes, we were just that poor and undiscriminating) when he ran out of regular beer bottles. He left them in his closet, and later, while he was at work, Mike and I were watching TV and BOOM! One exploded and startled the fuck out of us. Good thing Brian stashed them away--imagine if one of us had been hit by shrapnel and killed. It would surely be the quickest death attributable to Mad Dog 20/20.

I don't really have an ending for this, so I'm gonna see if I can dig up an old set list or something related and scan it. This will happen, um, later.
Footnote: The wife and I are trying to eat better, and that includes laying off the booze. Haven't touched it in at least a month, and it's been many months since we drank more often than once every few weeks. To which twenty-five-year-old me says: