'enery the Eighth, I am, I am.
I got married to the widow next door,
She's been married seven times before.
And, every one's been a 'enery...”
I CAN'T GET THAT DAMN SONG OUT OF MY HEAD ever since they announced this week's topic – Henry VIII – on the Writer's Collection. I'm a student of history. My head should be full of historical images. But no, I'm stuck in the land of doggerel. You know where this is going to end up, don't you?
They're Coming To Take Me Away, Ha Haaa – Monster Mash – The Purple People Eater. These are not the titles of serious art. Disco Duck – Tie Me Kangaroo Down Sport – Beep Beep. Dear God, I still remember many of the lyrics. At the very least I could sing along without hesitation. In fact, I typed the lyrics to Henry the Eighth without looking them up and am absolutely certain that they are correct, although I cannot remember what I ate for dinner last night.
Imagine the offices of a major record label in Los Angeles. Surely, no one in Nashville or Motown would have done the deed. A gaggle of lithesome twenty-something fillies wearing mini-skirts (remember, this is the 1950s) with hemlines rising well to the north of Modesty are smoking dope and dancing in the aisles between their desks. (Did I mention that I visited a few record labels during my ad biz days?) The recording engineers are getting wasted at the corner bar or snorting lines of coke in the break room.
The boss is getting so desperate he might even call an agent (the bottom feeders of the music industry). All his talent, including the one-hit wonders so prevalent in those days, are touring, and the scouts haven't sent anyone new by for several days. Payola payments to the DJ's are coming due (you couldn't get airtime in the 50s without paying it, and without airtime you can't sell records) and he needs inventory, something new to sell.
Our music producer goes for a walk on Hollywood Boulevard, a tourist mecca like no other. Forget the glitz and glamor, this thoroughfare is the stalking grounds of peddlers, pimps, and prostitutes. Forget Julia Roberts, most of the women are men in drag or diseased rejects from tawdry strip clubs. Tourists weave their way through the idling degenerates, distracting their children with the stars embedded in the sidewalk to honor stars that most of them never heard of.
Outside the Hollywood Magic Shop, our record executive is almost knocked off his feet by a beatnik (Google it) landing after a bad trip. Our man is about to kick the reprobate aside when he notices the pendant the man is wearing on a leather thong (not that kind of thong) around his neck. It looks like a purple monster with one eye and one horn swallowing Adlai Stevenson (again, Google it). He rips it from the beatnik's neck and tosses some coins to the man as he turns to charge back to his office.
With a few calls he finds a down-on-his-luck songwriter and gives him twenty minutes to come up with the lyrics. A few more calls is all it takes to assemble a group of session men – musicians who are hired temporarily to back up the regular talent at recording sessions – and he creates a fictional band.
Now it's his turn to be creative. Naming singing groups is the prerogative of the record executive. What will it be? Sam the Sham and the Pharaohs? Boris Pickett and the Crypt Kickers? Dweezil and Moon Unit Zappa? No wait, can't use that. They're the children of Frank Zappa. Chuck Wagon and the Wheels? Damn, he's good at this.
If you must know, it was Sheb Wooley who recorded Flying Purple People Eater, and I'm sure it was a serious effort, in no way resembling the sophomoric fantasy that I have spun here.
Really, I should have been able to come up with something serious befitting the theme. I wonder... how would Henry VIII have reacted if a group of minstrels known as Herman's Hermits had shown up in his court performing I'm Henry the Eighth I Am?