Calling All Catamounts

Guten tag, Valley Cats!

Y.P.R. solicits your alumni updates, yearbook scribblings, and passed-notes to high-school crushes along with the usual reviews, parodies, deleted chapters, etc., for this month's Book Club selection: Sam Lipsyte's Home Land.


The Way We Live Now

BTdingbat3.gifIncoming! March 7, 2005
by your humble coëditor, Josh Abraham, over at The Black Table.

& Recently . . .

Ars Short Storica: A Guide for Aspiring Writers of Short Fiction by Seth Fried

A Day in the Life of The New Yorker’s Fiction Editorial Board, if It Were a Person by Binky Tabby

Foreword by Jeffrey Oliver

Pop Stars in Hotel Rooms: An Occasional Series by Steve Finbow

How to Get a New York City Straphanger to Bankroll Your Alternative Lifestyle by Tony Antoniadis

Disquieting Modern Trends: Offspring Edition by Will Layman & Chris Osmond


Polish Fact

Local long-form name:
Rzeczpospolita Polska
(The Republic of Poland)

Learn a Foreign Tongue!

Habla Español!
Los talentos de Andy Richter se pierden totalmente en "Quintuplets."
Andy Richter's talents are completely wasted on "Quintuplets."

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Friday, November 21, 2003   |    Fiction

The Songwriter

by Christian McNeil

The following was excerpted from the last will and testament of Mark Auger, who died October 29 in Portland, Maine, of injuries sustained in a potato gun accident:

...but the most important matter of this will, much more important than the distribution of my meager property, is the notion of credit where credit is due. Let be hereby known that in my early years, I was a lyricist for many beloved children's songs. You will understand from my opus why I had been reluctant to claim this credit for much of my lifetime -- all of my life since childhood. But the prospect of death makes me seek some way to preserve at least the memory of my name along with my lifework. My songs have become fantastically successful, and if my name could live on, sharing in any small part of that fame, I would be satisfied beyond the grave.

Towards that end, I have established a small trust of a few hundred dollars to finance a vigorous investigation to confirm these following claims:

My first success, "Jingle Bells, Batman Smells," was composed during music class at Johnson Elementary on December 12, 1966. Its lyrics are well known to the English-speaking world:

Jingle bells, Batman smells
Robin laid an egg
Batmobile lost a wheel
And Joker got away. Hey!

Witnesses included my good friends Charlie Warren, Dean Ward, and Steve Lavoie, all of whom are still residents of Standish and will testify that I was, indeed, the lyricist. Another witness was Donna Levasseur, who tattled on me to Mrs. Watson (now deceased). Within a few weeks, the song had gained popularity in towns as far away as North Conway and Lewiston. The earliest printed reference I've found is from the June 30, 1967, issue of The Weekly World News. It reported that an anonymous prank caller (suspected to be a bitter former lover) sang the lyrics to Adam West. The song has been sung in hundreds of thousands of schoolyards since then, but you will not find any credible references to it prior to mine.

At about the same time I came up with a variation to another holiday favorite, "Noël, You Smell," but this wasn't a very original idea and lots of others have claimed authorship of similar lyrics before me.

A second big hit came to me on February 19, 1967, at Donna Levasseur's eighth birthday party, when I added, “You live in a zoo / you smell like a monkey / and you look like one too,” to the finale of “Happy Birthday.” This one ruined Donna's birthday and her parents, who still live on Oak Hill Road, remember the incident well. As far as we can tell, it gained its popularity when Steve Lavoie wrote the lyrics on a birthday card to his uncle, who played a clown on a children's television program in Florida. The show was called "Curly's Circus", and it featured the song a few days later when a chimpanzee lip-synched the lyrics in a birthday tribute to Curly. The program was broadcast live, and no known tape exists; however, many lifelong Ft. Lauderdale residents recall this episode well.

At the time, I was completely unaware that my songs had found an audience beyond Standish. I continued to write new lyrics, but most of them lacked the wide appeal that a national hit required. As I recall, they generally drew upon personal experience, focusing on teachers or bus drivers who smelled a certain way.

My swan song was my biggest hit. Its erotic theme hinted at the advancing maturity that would devastate my career as a songwriter. Its tune is derived from Arabian traditionals, inspired by the music that would conventionally be used in snake-charming:

There's a place in France
Where the naked ladies dance.
There's a hole in the wall
Where the men see it all.

The thought of such a place thrilled us, but also caused the singers to repress their boisterousness. The first boys to hear it outside Johnson Elementary School didn't have the pleasure until early July 1968, when I taught it to the other boys in our bunk at Boy Scout camp. When summer ended, the Scouts took the song home to all corners of the state. I know of several men my age from away who first learned the song from local kids in Old Orchard Beach or Bar Harbor while their family was on summer vacation. One camper from Aroostook County translated a French version that subsequently spread throughout Québec; not fluent in French, I cannot remember its title, or the translator kid's name.

Nonetheless, I am confident that investigators will confirm these claims. The final item of my will: I insist that my heirs will not attempt to collect any royalties or profit from my songs in any way. They were written for good of the schoolchildren everywhere, and I hereby release them into the public domain. Posthumous adulation is the only payment I will accept.

Mark Auger

Christian McNeil, from Steep Falls, Maine, is a lifeguard and freelance economist currently living in Portland, Oregon. He is uninsured and welcomes offers for full-time employment.