Tag Archives: They Might Be Giants

Phil Collins’s “welcome to the jungle” song anticipated by They Might Be Giants

I recently discovered the relatively obscure They Might Be Giants song (not included on any of their studio albums) “Welcome To The Jungle.”

While it’s obviously a nod to the much more famous Guns N’ Roses song of the same name, it doesn’t have much in common with it musically.  I guess Their “ju-u-u-u-u-u-u-u-ungle” recalls Axl’s “kn-n-n-n-n-n-n-n-n-n-n-nees,” but that’s about it. The much more obvious musical allusion, I thought, was to Phil Collins’s soundtrack music for the Disney Tarzan film — particularly “Two Worlds,” which opens the film and serves as a “welcome to the jungle” for the infant Tarzan, his parents, and the viewer.

At around the 0:35 mark, “Welcome To The Jungle” suddenly changes styles and sounds an awful lot like the Phil Collins song — and at the same time the lyrics suddenly become decidedly more Phil-Collinsy (“Now you will be with me / put your hand in my hand …” — it could almost be a reference to one of his other songs for Tarzan). I figured this just had to be deliberate — and of course, a playful nod to Tarzan in a song called “Welcome To The Jungle” is just the sort of thing I would expect from Them.

However, “Welcome To The Jungle” was released in 1992, seven years before Tarzan came out. And while it would be completely natural for the Johns to allude to a popular Disney movie, the idea that a not-at-all-jokey Phil Collins song would secretly be an homage to an obscure TMBG track is a lot harder to swallow.

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I did a search for Phil Collins and TMBG to see if there was any indication that Phil might (inexplicably) be a fan of Theirs. All I found was this comment by TMBG’s John Linnell on “You’ll Be In My Heart” — also from Tarzan:

Defending the music of Mr. Collins can be a fruitless, time-wasting effort. In the simplest terms, throughout his career I’ve been silently praying that the earth would open up and swallow him and all his works. So the pleasure I took in this ballad from the Tarzan soundtrack took me completely off guard. Something about the third and fourth chords against the melody in the chorus seems to transcend the cheap sentimentality in his music that I have found so offensive in the past. Either he made some radical breakthrough in his songwriting or I’ve gone soft in the head. Or both.

So I take it they’re not exactly good friends.

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Songs which can be sung simultaneously

From time to time (and increasingly often these days, it seems) I’ll be listening to a song and find that a completely different song is running through my head — and that, against all odds, it works — that, with a few adjustments to the tempo and the key, the two songs sound good sung simultaneously.

To see what I mean, try this. Play “Look Out (Here Comes Tomorrow)” by the Monkees,

and while it’s playing, try to sing “Country Roads” by John Denver.

You’ll have to sing it quite a bit faster than John Denver does, and it can be a challenge to keep to the tune and not be distracted by what the Monkees are singing, but after a few tries you should be able to get it. (You should be singing “Country roads / take me home / to the place / where I was born” in sync with “I see / all kinds of sorrow / wish I / only loved one.”) If I had any musical talent I’d record the combination myself, but I don’t, so you’ll just have to try it yourself.

Here’s another you can try: “Climbing the Walls” by They Might Be Giants

and “Moonshadow” by Cat Stevens.

I find that for both of these mixes, the two songs go together lyrically as well as melodically.

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The old savanna calling

In my “One After 909” post, I showed that the titular number is 11/11 (that is, 1), which comes after 10/11 (that is, .909), and that moving over twice from 11/11 brings us to 9/11. I also mentioned, but didn’t discuss in any detail, the fact that the song ends with “Oh, Danny Boy, the old savanna calling.”

That the song ends with the word “calling” is significant, since 911 is also a phone number. A reference to a phone call also appears, together with the “move over once, move over twice” pattern, in another Beatles song, “She Came In Through the Bathroom Window,” which includes the line “Sunday’s on the phone to Monday, Tuesday’s on the phone to me.” (9/11 was a Tuesday.)

But in this post, instead of focusing on “calling,” I want to look at the significance of “the old savanna.” The original version of “Danny Boy” doesn’t say anything about a savanna; the first line is “Oh, Danny boy, the pipes, the pipes are calling” (meaning, presumably, the bagpipes calling Danny off to war). But in the Beatles’ version, it’s not pipes but a savanna. This made me think of Magritte’s famous “this is not a pipe” painting:

As it happens, there’s another Magritte painting with the same concept, only it uses an apple (sorry, a non-apple) instead of a pipe.

The apple, of course, is a symbol of New York. It also occurs in several other Magritte paintings, including this one, which also includes shapes evocative of the Twin Towers.

The same apple appears in the Magritte painting below, which is called “The Son of Man” after a biblical figure who appears in the Book of Daniel.

So by conspicuously not being a pipe, the Beatles’ “savanna” leads us to Magritte and the Big Apple, a connection which is reinforced by the use of the name Danny. But there’s more to it than that. A savanna is, as I mentioned before, a kind of plain (sounds like “plane”). More specifically, the savanna is the natural habitat of the lion (or, in Arabic, osama). “The old savanna calling,” then, could refer to a phone call from a lion — or, as it says in the They Might Be Giants song “The Guitar,” “Hush my darling, be still my darling, the lion’s on the phone.”

I’ve mentioned the 9/11 references in “The Guitar” in a previous post. In addition to the phone reference (the number the lion is calling is of course 911, and the music video cuts to footage of buildings collapsing right after the word “phone”), it contains the line, “In the spaceship, the silver spaceship, the lion takes control.” The lion hijacks a spaceship rather than an airplane because this song is from the 1992 album Apollo 18, which has a space travel theme. (The year most closely associated with space travel is, naturally, 2001.) Here’s the album cover.

The reader will perhaps already have noticed the significance of the number 18 (9/11 = .8181818…) and the similarity of the words Apollo and apple. The name Apollo also resembles Apollyon, which in fact is an anagram of “Apollo NY.” This connection is reinforced by the giant squid on the cover. It brings to mind that other giant cephalopod, the North Pacific Giant Octopus. The standard scientific name for this species is currently Enteroctopus dofleini, but dated synonyms include Polypus apollyon, Octopus dofleini apollyon, and Octopus apollyon. Apollyon is the angel of the abyss, which is probably why the name was chosen for a deep-sea creature; as such, it would actually be more appropriate for the giant squid, which frequents much deeper waters than the octopus. What’s the big deal about Apollyon? Well, you see, the name appears in the Bible only once — in Revelation 9:11.

Aside from the apple/Apollyon connections, the Apollo 18 is clearly meant as a reference to the lunar missions of NASA’s Apollo program. The use of the number 18 in connection with the moon is significant, because the 18th tarot trump is called “The Moon” and features two towers.

If we move over once, move over twice, from XVIII to XVI, we find an image even more obviously evocative of 9/11.

A well-established occult tradition, derived from mapping the 22 Major Arcana to the 22 Hebrew letters and their astrological correspondences as given in the Sefer Yezirah, associates Arcanum XVI with the planet Mars. Nostradamus’s 9/11 quatrain (quoted here) mentions Mars, and Tuesday is also the day of Mars (diēs Mārtis). In most English-language decks, Arcanum XVI is called simple “The Tower,” but in the Tarot de Marseille its title is, oddly, “La Maison Diev” — that is, the house of God. If the god in question is Mars then the Tower represents the House of War or Dar al-Harb, the Islamist term for the infidel world. Another old name for this trump is “Sagitta,” the arrow, which brings us back to Apollo.

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Exploiting the anticipated rhyme

People will sometimes set their audience up to anticipate a particular rhyme and then fail to deliver. This is usually done in a pretty unsubtle way for comic effect either by cutely not cussing (“Ra ra ree, kick ’em in the knee! Ra ra rass, kick ’em in the other knee!”) or by pretending to be too dumb to think of the obvious rhyme (“I’m a poet and I didn’t realize it”). This can be entertainingly clever at times, but it’s not exactly poetry. But can the basic idea be used in a subtler, more poetic way?

Moving up the scale just a little bit, we have this line from the They Might Be Giants song “Kiss Me, Son of God”:

Now you’re the only one here who can tell me if it’s true
That you love me and I love me

Still pretty unsubtle, but it’s a step up from “Roses are red / violets are blue / Some poems rhyme / But this one doesn’t.” It doesn’t subvert the rhyme just for the sake of subverting the rhyme; instead, the dissonant unexpected non-rhyme is used to express an dissonant unexpected thought. However, it’s so heavy-handed that it still registers as a gag, not poetry.

But consider this example, from the Moxy Früvous song “Down from Above”:

Your mother made you cry
When she told you about the womb
And how people die
Watching over you when you were young
Smiling when you learned to crawl
You don’t know her at all

This one is subtle enough that you probably don’t consciously notice the subverted rhymes at all. I think they’re there, though, and are at work at a subconscious level to make the verse more satisfying. When the second line ends with “womb,” it sets you up to expect the usual rhyme, “tomb.” That rhyme is not forthcoming; but the third line, while rhyming with the first, also contains the idea of the tomb that the second line prepared you to subconsciously expect.

There’s something similar at work in the next two lines, though I can’t properly call it a subverted rhyme. “Watching over you when you were…” makes you anticipate “small” at least as much as “young.” “Young” is the word they actually use, but the word “small” has still been primed in your mind, making the next two lines, which rhyme with “small,” more satisfying.

The song is hardly great poetry, but at least it is poetry, not a gag, and demonstrates the legitimately poetic possibilities of this technique of creating anticipations and then subverting them. And, unlike the previous examples, this one doesn’t dissonantly fail to rhyme. On the contrarty, its subverted expectations serve to bind the poem more tightly together.

Finally, here’s an example of my own — just some doggerel I slapped together as an experiment:

The lily and the gentle dove
Remind me of the one I fear.
Yes, I allude to you, my dear,
For I do fear to fall in love.

What do you think? It’s not Shakespeare or anything, but I think it works. First you expect the second line to end with “love,” then the third line, and then the fourth line finally delivers. As in good music, the dissonance is followed by a pleasing resolution. And as in “Kiss Me, Son of God,” the form reflects the content, as the second line uses the unexpected non-rhyme to express an unexpected feeling.

I intend to spend some more time tinkering with this technique, and I would be grateful to any commenters who can point me to other examples of this kind of thing in poetry.

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Move over once, move over twice: 9/11 prophecies

This is a collection of poems, song lyrics, etc., which were written prior to September 11, 2001, and which can be interpreted as prophecies of the terrorist attacks that took place on that day. Most of these were identified by William John, but some of them are my own.

(Update: See here for more of these, also from William John.)

Nostradamus:

Quatrain 10.72 from Nostradamus’s Centuries reads as follows:

L’an mil neuf cens nonante neuf sept mois,
Du ciel viendra vn grand Roy d’effraieur.
Resusciter le grand Roy d’Angolmois.
Avant apres Mars regner par bon heur.

“In the year 1999, seventh month, from the sky will come a great king of terror….” It’s very evocative of 9/11, but the date just isn’t quite right. Several people have noticed that “sept mois,” while literally referring to the seventh month, July, also suggests September, abbreviated as Sept. — but the year is still wrong. William John, though, has pointed out that we get from sept (July) to Sept. (September) by adding two. If we do the same for the year, adding two to 1999, we get 2001 — a perfect match. This is, as we shall see, an important pattern. Several other 9/11 prophecies also require adding two — and, like Nostradamus’s quatrain, they contain internal hints (like Nostradamus’s ambiguous sept) that adding two is necessary.

The Beatles:

The Beatles song “She Came In Through the Bathroom Window” contains the following lines:

Didn’t anybody tell her?
Didn’t anybody see?
Sunday’s on the phone to Monday,
Tuesday’s on the phone to me

Sunday plus two days is Tuesday, so the Sunday-Monday-Tuesday sequence fits the add-two pattern established by Nostradamus. September 11, 2001, was a Tuesday. “On the phone” is also a hint, since 911 is the emergency phone number in the U.S. Furthermore, the word Monday sounds like monde (world), implying, “The world hears Sunday, but I hear Tuesday” (because I know to add two).

Another Beatles song that fits the add-two pattern is “One After 909”:

My baby says she’s trav’ling on the one after 909
I said move over honey I’m travelling on that line
I said move over once, move over twice
Come on baby don’t be cold as ice
I said I’m trav’ling on the one after 909

If you start at 909 and “move over once, move over twice,” you end up at 911. This one’s not quite perfect, though, because we’re actually starting at the one after 909 — i.e., 910 — so moving over twice takes us to 912. It’s still highly suggestive, though.

The Beatles song “I Am the Walrus” also alludes to 9/11 — “stupid bloody Tuesday” — but it doesn’t require adding two.

The Rolling Stones:

“Ruby Tuesday” might be the same as “stupid bloody Tuesday,” rubies being blood-red, and the line “Still I’m gonna miss you” could refer to the way the prophecies tend to “miss” the day in question, requiring the reader to add two.

Cat Stevens:

“Tuesday’s Dead” fits right in with “stupid bloody Tuesday” and the others. Cat Stevens also recorded a song called “Sun/C79”; add two, according to the prophetic formula, and Sun. 7/9 becomes Tues. 9/11 (not sure what to do with the C; maybe it’s the Muslim crescent?).

They Might Be Giants:

In the song “The Guitar,” first they sing, “In the spaceship, the silver spaceship, the lion takes control.” This sounds like a hijacking, and the name Osama means “lion” in Arabic. Later in the song, we hear, “The lion’s on the phone.” Just as in the Beatles’ “She Came in Through the Bathroom Window,” the phrase “on the phone” is an allusion to 9/11 by way of the emergency phone number 911. The music video cuts to footage of buildings collapsing right after they sing “on the phone.” This song is from the album Apollo 18. Apollo suggests Apollyon, the demon mentioned in Revelation 9:11, and 18 plus two (move over once, move over twice) gives us 20 — that is 9 + 11.

Also of interest is the TMBG album “Mink Car,” which was released on September 11, 2001, and which begins with the word “Bangs!” — that is, explosions, plural. The lyrics to “Bangs” also include the line “Blow my mind, your royal flyness” — an echo of Nostradamus’s king of terror who comes from the sky.

Osama, by the way, though it means “lion” in Arabic, also happens to mean “king” in Japanese. (Actually, o means “king,” and sama is an honorific suffix, like san only more so.) The Japanese, of course, were the ones who pioneered the tactic of crashing airplanes into enemy targets.

U2:

If 9/11 is “stupid bloody Tuesday,” and if the add-two rule means Sunday can refer to Tuesday, then of course the song “Sunday Bloody Sunday” comes to mind. I can’t find any internal hints about adding two, though, unless it’s the name of the band itself. Just as Nostradamus’s sept uses the seventh month to allude to the ninth, the name “U2” — that is, a double U — uses the 21st letter to allude to the 23rd. Move over once, move over twice.

If you can think of anything else to add to this list, leave a comment.

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