Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Now, now, NOW!





(From a short-lived mid-00s site called ABSURDITO (http://absurdito.blogspot.ca/2004/06/birds-schoolchildren-song.html comes this startling revelation about the most annoying song I've ever heard. Then some comments. Then some more.)


'The Birds' schoolchildren song

For years I've wondered exactly what the words are to the song sung by the children in that famous scene in Alfred Hitchcock's film, The Birds when Tippi Hedren arrives at the Bodega Bay School and sits outside smoking a cigarette while the birds gather in the schoolyard behind her (while the kids sing the song inside the schoolhouse). 

Finally, today, I've found the actual lyrics as sung in the film. Other lyrics I've found on the internet were shorter. It turns out that The Birds screenwriter Evan Hunter extended the song with new lyrics (and has been receiving royalties ever since!). 

I took these lyrics from the actual shooting script of the film, which can be found at: http://www.screentalk.biz/hitchcock.htm 
The following begins with the script's description of the action, and then I omit all other scene descriptions and present only the song's words: 






EXT. BODEGA BAY – DAY – LONG SHOT

Melanie’s car turns and goes up School Road.

EXT. SCHOOL – DAY – MED. SHOT

Closer shot of the car coming to a stop outside school.
Inside the school, we HEAR the children SINGING.


CHILDREN (O.S.)
I married my wife in the month of June. Ristle-tee, rostle-tee, Mo, mo mo!
I carried her off in a silver spoon. Ristle-tee, rostle-tee, hey bombosity, knickety-knackety, retro-quo-quality, willoby-wallaby, Mo, mo, mo!
She combed her hair but once a year. Ristle-tee, rostle-tee, Mo, mo, mo! 
With every rake, she shed a tear. Ristle-tee, rostle-tee, hey bombosity, knickety-knackety, retro-quo-quality, willoby-wallaby, Mo, mo, mo!
She swept the floor but once a year. Ristle-tee, rostle-tee, Mo, mo, mo!
She swore her broom was much too dear. Ristle-tee, rostle-tee, hey bombosity, knickety-knackety, retro-quo-quality, willoby-wallaby, Mo, mo, mo!
She churned the butter in Dad’s old boot. Ristle-tee, rostle-tee, Mo, mo, mo!
And for a dasher she used her foot. Ristle-tee, rostle-tee, hey bombosity, knickety-knackety, retro-quo-quality, willoby-wallaby, Mo, mo, mo!




The butter came out a grizzle-y-grey. Ristle-tee, rostle-tee, Mo, mo, mo! 
The cheese took legs and ran away! Ristle-tee, rostle-tee, hey bombosity, knickety-knackety, retro-quo-quality, willoby-wallaby, Mo, mo, mo!
I brought my wife a horse one day. Ristle-tee, rostle-tee, Mo, mo, mo! She let the critter get away. Ristle-tee, rostle-tee, hey bombosity, knickety-knackety, retro-quo-quality, willoby-wallaby, Mo, mo, mo!
I asked my wife to wash the floor. Ristle-tee, rostle-tee, Mo, mo, mo! She gave me my hat and showed me the door! Ristle-tee, rostle-tee, hey bombosity, knickety-knackety, retro-quo-quality, (the song slows – it is near the end) willoby-wallaby, Mmmmmmmo, Mmmmmmmo, MO!






Though the above is in the shooting script for the film, in the film the children shuffle around the lines to the song and change a few words. The changed words sound like they changed the unrhythmic "hey bombosity" to "hey donny dostle-tee". Also, "I carried her off in a silver spoon" appears to have changed to "I brought her off by the light of the moon." And "Mo, mo, mo!" sure sounds more like, "Now, now, now!" 

Finally, I *SWEAR* that, instead of the word "butter" (in the first stanza) the kids sing "poison"!! This would certainly be keeping with Hitchcock's macabre humor. So, I've taken the liberty to make these changes to the updated version below. 

So here are the above lyrics modified as sung in the film:







The poison it came out a grizzle-y-grey. Ristle-tee, rostle-tee, Now, now, now! 
The cheese it took legs and ran away! Ristle-tee, rostle-tee, hey donny dostle-tee, knickety-knackety, retro-quo-quality, willoby-wallaby, Now, now, now!

She let the critter get away. Ristle-tee, rostle-tee, hey donny dostle-tee, knickety-knackety, retro-quo-quality, willoby-wallaby, Now, now, now!

I asked my wife to wash the floor. Ristle-tee, rostle-tee, Now, now, now! 
She gave me my hat and she showed me the door! Ristle-tee, rostle-tee, hey donny dostle-tee, knickety-knackety, retro-quo-quality, Now, now, now!

I married my wife in the month of June. Ristle-tee, rostle-tee, Now, now, now!
I brought her off by the light of the moon. Ristle-tee, rostle-tee, hey donny dostle-tee, knickety-knackety, retro-quo-quality, willoby-wallaby, Now, now, now!

She combed her hair but once a year. Ristle-tee, rostle-tee, hey donny dostle-tee, knickety-knackety, retro-quo-quality, willoby-wallaby, Now, now, now!









Blogger's observations. The Birds is one of my favorite Hitchcock films (the other one being Psycho, which I'll have to devote a whole post to), mainly for the cheap thrills. You don't have to figure anything out in this movie. There is no intrigue; there are no plot twists; indeed, there is no plot. The birds come; they see; they conquer. Based on a short story (Daphne du Maurier?) which is in turn based on a true incident, nothing is ever explained here, much as in life. Terror and confusion hopelessly intermingle to bring a formerly happy and innocent community to its knees.

The song the schoolchildren endlessly sing (which drives me bananas with its nonsensical monotony) reminds me a lot of a song we "took", or rather sang, in about Grade 5. It was bad, but not quite THIS bad. It was called The Wee Cooper o' Fife (and doesn't that sound more Irish than Scottish?), and here is the part I can remember, spelled phonetically:

There was a wee cooper who lived in Fife
Nickety-nackety noo, noo, noo
And he has taken a comely wife
Hey willie-wallacky, hoo John Dougal a rain co-rushity roo roo roo.

Oh she wadna bake and she wadna brew
Nickety-nackety noo, noo, noo
For the spoilin' o' her comely hue
Hey willie-wallacky, etc.




Nobody knew what it meant. Nobody explained anything to kids in those days (or now, probably). This was right around the time of the Canadian Centennial, when we had to learn all sorts of daft folk songs that were supposed to be Canadian. Canadian meant Scottish, English and Irish. So we didn't know what a cooper was (a barrel-maker, it turns out), where Fife is (? Isn't that something you blow into?), what a comely hue was supposed to be, and what all that other shit meant, if it meant anything at all.

Though I thought we had every Burl Ives recording ever bleated, we didn't have a recording of him singing "that song". I've dug up the lyrics, and it's definitely the same one:

She wouldna wash, nor she wouldna wring (nickety-nackety, etc. etc. etc.)
For the spoilin' o' her gowden ring
She wouldna card, nor she wouldna spin
For the shamin' o' her gentle kin

So the wee cooper went to his woodpack
And laid a sheepskin on his wife's back
"Now, I wouldna thrash ye for your gentle kin,
But I would thrash me ain sheepskin."




"Oh, I will bake and I will brew,
And nae mair think o' my comely hue!
"And I will wash and I will wring,
And nae mair think o' my gowden ring!

"And I will card and I will spin
And nae mair think o' my gentle kin!"
So ye what has gotten a gentle wife,
Just ye send for the wee cooper o' Fife!




Charming, isn't it? This song (which may or may not be a somewhat simplified version of the song in The Birds) is all about domestic violence and a wife cowed into submission by her husband's threats of physical harm. Good, clean, wholesome fun.

This is the only Burl Ives version I could find on YouTube. WARNING: may be hazardous to your mental health if you loathe marionettes as much as I do. But for some reason, when I was a kid, they were everywhere, from the execrable Howdy Doody to Supercar, one of the better action-adventure series of the '60s. Except for that goddamn chimp.

ADDENDUM. Why I hated that goddamn chimp from Supercar, followed by an image of his death mask.









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