Wednesday, August 29, 2007


Scene I:
A street corner in Minneapolis about 8:00 AM in late August. A hobo walks down the street toward me. The first thing I notice is the smile gaping in his soiled visage. Not the usual glazed smile of the inebriated and insane, but a real genuine, hearty, roguish smile paired with a set of glinting baby blues. Curving over the top of the smile is a thick mustache that manages to be bushy and yet at the same time curl up rakishly at the corners---reminiscent, perhaps, of more muscular incarnation of the famed whiskers of DalĂ­. This singular lip-mane is matched by a lustrous black mullet that falls in Jacobean fashion, cascading abundantly down both sides of the shoulders. This man is wearing a dirty loose-fitting, red shirt, tucked into a pair of close-fitting black jeans that cover the tops of a pair of scuffed patent-leather loafers with gold-colored accents.

Scene II:
A flashback. Two weeks ago I sit on a couch with my brother, visiting from New York. He shows me the website of a band called dark dark dark. I wonder if it's an allusion to Milton or Eliot. Or if Eliot is alluding to Milton. My brother clicks on a demo song and the eerie sounds of a squeeze box begin to emanate from the computer, punctuated at regular intervals with percussion that sounds oddly like breaking glass. (Apparently this band was playing in Mpls the night we got back from Nauvoo, but we didn't go.)

It must be time for me to list my top five pirate songs. I am not picking actual authentic pirate tunes (that would be too obscure). Instead, these are pirate-related songs found floating around in today's cultural flotsam. Here are my picks of the top five:

1) Iron Maiden's Rime of the Ancient Mariner, based on Coleridge's poem of the same title is first because it has the distinction of being the rocking-est song on the list, and also the one with the most and longest face-melting guitar solos. Also the best use of an electric guitar to imitate the creaking of the decks on board ship.

2) The Decemberists' Mariner's Revenge. A Poe-esque tale of revenge and filial devotion set to a pirate-y tune performed mainly on accordion and tambourine.

3) Disney's Yo Ho (A Pirate's Life for Me) from Peter Pan. "You'll love the life of a thief, you'll relish the life of a crook. / There isn't a boy who won't enjoy a-working for Captain Hook."

4) Henry H. Russel's, Ocean Wave is the tune set to Hannah Cornaby's 'Who's on the Lord's Side?' in the current LDS Hymnal. Russel apparently wrote a lot of swashbucklin' type tunes, judging by their titles.

5) They Might Be Giants' With the Dark is not musically very buccaneer-like. However, it makes the list because it has this line: "I'm growing tired of all my nautical dreams / I'm growing tired of all my nautical themes / bustin' my pirate hump / rocking my peg leg stump / my mind naturally turns / to taxidermy, to taxidermy, yeah!"

What be yer picks, me hearties?

1 comment:

Cabeza said...

I was totally going to say "Who's on the Lord's Side, Who?" It is the most swashbuckling of the hymns.

And I'm also a fan of "Yo-Ho" and "With the Dark." Good calls both.

I've always had pirate-esque associations with Kansas' "Carry On My Wayward Son" as well. Perhaps because of this stanza:

"On a stormy sea of moving emotion
Tossed about I'm like a ship on the ocean
I set a course for winds of fortune
But I hear the voices say [Chorus]"

In fact, Kansas seems to explore nautical themes more often than most bands (funny, since their namesake is a land-locked state...). Take a look at "Point Of Know Return," for instance.

And in searching for more, I came across Ray Stevens' "Pirate Song" that I knew as a child. Find a recording if you haven't heard it.

All in all, I don't know that I know many pirate songs. I kept thinking of nautical ones that aren't necessarily piratey, like the Kansas ones, or "Sloop John B" or Crosby, Stills, and Nash's "Southern Cross." That's all I have to offer.