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The raving thoughts of a misanthropic academic

October 25, 2008

Song of the week: Mr. Booze

Watch the video below, and you will see that the Pax Plena song of the week pretty much sums up our Christian Legal Society organization in six minutes.

Just kidding. 

But it does mark the denouement of the Rat Pack, Bing Crosby, and arguably the golden era of American music.

Taken from the 1964 hit film Robin and the 7 Hoods, Mr. Booze features the talent of Bing Crosby, Sammy Davis Jr., Dean Martin, and Frank Sinatra. The group appears in the film as a gaggle of South Chicago racketeers (not unlike Barack Obama) who are trying to prevent muscle man Peter Falk (yes, that Peter Falk) from invading their turf during Prohibition.

The film was released to mix reviews, although it earned Academy Award nominations for Best Music Song and Best Music Score. But in recent years, the film has recovered its artistic acclaim for its contribution to music history, and its special place as Bing Crosby's last musical role.

The song itself is a hilarious spoof of a 1920s era revival meeting; replete with testifying sinners, a sanctimonious minister (Bing Crosby), and a church full of hand-waving, tambourine-playing congregants. The dust Bing slaps off the Bible at the beginning of the clip is priceless. Take care to listen to the low note sung around the 6:00 mark.

The video of the performance appears below. Lyrics follow after the jump. Enjoy!



Mister Booze
Bing Crosby 

Booze, Mister Booze (Mister Booze), Mister Booze
Mister B double O, Z Eeee, (That sure spells booze),
You will wind up wearing tattered shoes if you mess with Mister Booze.
(Don't mess with Mister Booze, don't mess with Mister Booze.)

Don't mess with B, double o, Z, E, if you've been so sick you thought you'd died. You'll feel better once you testify.(Testify, Testify)

[I want to testify, I want to testify]
Well, then cleanse yourself, my child, cleanse yourself. Brothers and sisters, I happen to know this poor unfortunate soul, and the fight she is waging against sin. That old devil hooch has turned her into the unsightly person you see before you. Give us your testimony, my child.
[Well, it all began with Daddy] (Yeah?)
[He said drink helped him stay alive] (Yeah?)
[Do you know how old he was when he died?] (No)
[He was only twenty-five] (No! No!)
[That's why I gotta come clean] (why?)
[Because I'm already seventeen]

Who's to blame? (Who's to blame?) What his name?
(We know his name.  His name is)
Mister Booze, Mister Booze, Mister B, double O, Z, E,
Don't ever choose, any game you play with him, you lose.

If your head feels like it's ten foot wide, You'll feel better once you testify

(testify, testify, testify)

[I want to testify, You got to let me come testify!]
Well, come forward, dear brother, come forward.You see here, ladies and gentlemen, a man who just last year was the United States Olympic heavyweight wrestling champion. Now here he is, just a shadow of his former self, wasted in health, ravaged by sin. Give us your testimony, dear brother.

[I was cruel and I was mean] (He was mean!)
[I was a pickpocket!] (A no-good pickpocket!)
[And then sin got me] Gin got him...oh, a little bit of that too.
[Sin and Gin got me in its clutches, and that's why I need forgiving] (Why?)
['Cause now my hands shake so much, Reverend, I can't even make a living] (Get out!)
That's a shame! (What a shame!)
Who's to blame? (Who's to blame? His name is)
Mister Booze, Mister Booze, Mister B, double O, Z., E. (You must refuse!)

[I wanna testify!]
You don't have to. [Oh, but I wanna!] But you don't have to.
(Oh let him testify.)
Very well, then let us lead you on the path of righteousness. Not long ago, brothers and sisters,
This helpless soul was the foremost brain surgeon in this grand and glorious country. Success was smiling down upon him. Well, go ahead and tell us your story, oh downtrodden one.
[I use spirits for medicinal purposes only] (Yeah)
[I manufactured it for medicinal purposes only.] (yeah?)
[Then I started drinking what I manufactured and I drank myself out of a hell of a business for medicinal purposes only.] (That's right!)

Alcohol makes a big man small and can lead to life of crime.

Demon rum makes a gent a bum, and you cash in before your time.

Bootleg gin puts you in a spin till you don't even know your name.

You're a public disgrace, flat on your face, and there's only one guy to blame.

(Oh Mister Booze, Mister Booze, Mister B, double O, Z, E, don't ever choose)
(Don't you wind up swearing platitudes if you're mad with Mister Booze)
(Don't mess, mess with Mr. Booze.)

Don't mess with B, double O. Z, E, cause that spells booze. And you gotta lose with Mi-ister Booze. 

(Oh Yeah).
Don't mess around with Mister Booze.

(Don't with Mister Booze, Don't with Mister Booze.)
(What's his name now, Oh Mister Booze),
(Don't mess with Mister Booze), Oh Mister Booze, (Don't mess with Mister Booze.)
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October 1, 2008

Song of the Week: Ashokan Farewell

With the throes of 2L well upon me, I have scarce had time to listen to my iPod at all, let alone branch out to pass along new music recommendations. But this Pax Plena Song of the Week falls under the increasingly rare category of new music discoveries made by yours truly.

Composed by American folks musician Jay Ungar, and performed by Scottish Violinist Aly Bain, Ashokan Farewell made its debut on to the American music scene during the early 1990s in a PBS Mini-series called The Civil War. The song is written in the style of a Scottish air so it boasts a breezy, wistful melody that make it both enchanting and soaring at the same time. Listening to the piece, it is not difficult to imagine an evening stroll along the banks of the Ashokan Reservoir in upstate NY (the song's namesake), or a foggy overlook from the Scottish Highlands.

The story of the song is also intriguing. In a lengthy back and forth on his personal website, composer Jay Ungar describes the emotion he felt upon the song's completion:
I composed Ashokan Farewell in 1982 shortly after our Fiddle & Dance Camps had come to an end for the season. I was feeling a great sense of loss and longing for the music, the dancing and the community of people that had developed at Ashokan that summer. The transition from living at a secluded woodland camp with a small group of people who needed little excuse to celebrate the joy of living, back to life as usual, with traffic, newscasts, telephones and impersonal relationships, had been difficult. By the time the tune took form, I was in tears. I kept it to myself for months, unable to fully understand the emotions that welled up whenever I played it. I had no idea that this simple tune could effect others in the same way.

[Link]
It is exactly this sense of melancholy that makes the song so powerful. Ungar describes his loss of community at the summer's conclusion, but it is easy to substitute this with a personal sense of plaintiveness. Even while Jay mourns the passing of summer, one could readily long for a lost love, a missed opportunity, or a change of pace all the same. Simply put, the emotions conjured by the music may be person specific, but the nature of the music itself is universal.  Given the change invariably brought about through the on set of fall (See my thoughts on fall and change here, here, here, and here), I felt it was a timely selection. 


In all, it is an absolutely stunning piece, and well-deserving of the title Pax Plena Song of the Week. A video of Ungar and Bain performing the song appears below as filmed in the Transatlantic Sessions by the BBC. Enjoy!

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