No. 297: "Rene and Georgette Magritte with Their Dog After the War," by Paul Simon (1983)
No. 295: "Lydia the Tattooed Lady," by Groucho Marx (1939)
This post is part of a countdown series on songs that have stuck in my head and are part of my iTunes "hit parade" of most-played tracks. See all the posts here.
I felt discombobulated today, what with having to warn friends that I caught a Facebook virus (I'd almost — almost — rather admit to having bedbugs) and looking out at yet another snowstorm doing strange things to the urban landscape. So I was already in the mood to listen to two songs that are all about planting odd images in the listener's mind.
First is Paul Simon's "Rene and Georgette Magritte with Their Dog After the War," which puts me in sort of a trance until it ends with Simon repeating the title as he moves from a singing to speaking voice. I always feel sad when he does that, as if he's interrupting a dream and sending me back to reality. (Then again, all pop songs kind of end that way, if not as gently.)
The song, of course, is about Surrealist painter Rene Magritte (image from The Magritte Site). Simon reportedly was inspired by a photo of the painter and his wife to write a song that incongruously depicts the couple as fans of '50s doo-wop groups "like the Penguins, the Moonglows, the Orioles, and the Five Satins." He also puts Rene and Georgette in several dreamlike situations (complete lyrics here):
Side by side
They fell asleep
Decades gliding by like Indians
Time is cheap
When they wake up they will find
All their personal belongings
Next is one of several silly ditties made famous by Groucho Marx. "Lydia the Tattooed Lady" is about a circus performer with an impossible amount of ink covering her body. (Unless she has some secret compartments, as Harpo does in this scene.) Think of any person or event of historical importance, and Lydia's got it going on somewhere. The song would be ruined, of course, by any attempt to actually show Lydia with her colorful tats and gyrating muscles, so it's another good test of your imagination. The full lyrics are here, but here's a sample:
Lydia oh Lydia, that encyclopidia,
Oh Lydia the Queen of Tattoo.
On her back is the Battle of Waterloo.
Beside it the wreck of the Hesperus, too.
And proudly above waves the Red, White, and Blue,
You can learn a lot from Lydia.
Here is the original performance from the movie At the Circus. It appears on several compilation albums such as this one.
Do you have any favorite songs with strange or impossible imagery?