Yuck My Yum

I heard the phrase “Don’t yuck my yum” on a radio show a few years ago, and it really captured how I feel about a lot of things. I’ve always liked quirky offbeat stuff: Doctor Who, anime cartoons like Speed Racer, Battle of the Planets, and Tranzor Z, and a wide range of music in various styles that aren’t exactly popular: Frank Zappa, Belle and Sebastian, Herb Alpert, and Elvis Costello, to name just a few.

When I started working on music for my latest collection of songs, I had that phrase in my head, and I was thinking it would be fun to record a song called “Yuck My Yum” in a style that might sound a little passé to contemporary ears but that some people would nonetheless enjoy. I’ve always loved the sound of trumpets in songs, especially tracks like Herb Alpert and The Tijuana Brass’s rendition of “A Taste of Honey,” which I can also admit has the vibe of a 70s game show.

But that’s the whole point of the song–and of the EP as a whole. It’s okay to like something weird. And it’s also okay to not like it, as long as you don’t make someone else feel bad for liking it.

Of course, there’s also the line about Damian Smith breaking all of my toys. Damian is actually an extremely gifted plein air artist, but when I knew him, we were very young, and he did have a tendency to break my toys once in a while. Not out of malice or anything. He just got a little carried away sometimes. I suppose I could have said “Damian Smith broke some of my toys,” but it wouldn’t have had the same effect. Also worth noting, Damian was, as I recall, a big Tranzor Z fan.

Oh, and I’m pretty proud of the fact that I rhymed Miyazaki with roller hockey. There really was a contingent of kids who played roller hockey in my neighborhood when I was growing up, and I never joined in the fun. Technically, I wasn’t watching the films of Hayao Miyazaki at the time, but had I known about them, I probably would have.

Polly the Glot

A while back, I mentioned that when I was in grade school, I always looked forward to reading Doctor Who Magazine. One of the coolest things about that magazine was the comic strip version of the Doctor’s adventures. As much as I loved the TV show, it had fallen on somewhat hard times by the mid-80’s in terms of production value and writing. But since the comic strip wasn’t beholden to budgetary considerations, it could go anywhere and do anything. So the Doctor got a shape-shifting alien named Frobisher (who usually took the form of a talking penguin) as a companion and his adventures took him to increasingly phantasmagorical settings.

Screen Shot 2018-06-22 at 10.03.52 AMOne of my favorite stories from this series was “Once Upon a Time Lord,” which included a pair of frames captioned “Frobisher eats a worm” and “Frobisher wishes he hadn’t.” But it was another story titled “Polly the Glot,” in which the Doctor and Frobisher team up with their friend Ivan Asimoff to free a giant space-faring creature named Polly. The track I recorded, also titled “Polly the Glot,” is an instrumental that’s meant to sound like a giant squid or jellyfish floating through space. I particularly like the electric piano break in the middle.

 

A Longish Preamble to My New Song

Between the ages of ten and thirteen, I went to a Catholic school just beyond the city limits of Philadelphia. You knew you were leaving Philadelphia because you had to cross a bridge that spanned a set of railroad tracks and ended at the top of a steep hill that descended into the wilds of suburbia. The school sat at the top of the hill, right next to the railroad tracks.

The school didn’t have a schoolyard per se. But it did have a church, and the church had a parking lot, and that’s where we were sent to play at lunchtime regardless of weather or time of year.

Worth noting is the fact that the church was a long block away from the school, and that the long block ran parallel to the train tracks. What this means in practical terms is that the church parking lot where we played every day at lunchtime was right next to a set of train tracks. Other than a low dirt hill and some shrubbery, nothing stood between us and the tracks — not to mention the trains that roared by every twenty minutes or so.

Also worth noting is that the church parking lot was built on the same hill that the school and the church were built on. Again, if we’re thinking about this in practical terms — or at least geographical terms — it means that if the parking lot was level (which it was), then there would be a steep drop at one end.

So at one end of the parking lot there was a set of heavily trafficked railroad tracks, and at the other end was a twenty-foot drop. Between these boundaries ran a horde of ten-to-thirteen-year-olds who liked to set things on fire and believed that everything they saw on pro-wrestling was not only real but should be emulated. Amidst all of this, there was one person (me) who just wanted to be left alone to read The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and the latest issue of Doctor Who Monthly.

There was also a lamp.

SchoolyardDiagram-01

It turns out that I didn’t get much reading done, largely because I was trying to navigate the Scylla and Charybdis of the church parking lot while also trying to avoid the hordes of preteen boys who wanted to use me as a prop in their efforts at staging the latest wrestling moves they’d seen on television. Also, my interest in reading and a tendency to make references to things like “Scylla and Charybdis” did not endear me to anyone in my age bracket. Or anyone outside of my age bracket, come to think of it.

The upshot of all of this is that I ended up getting pounded quite a bit, and once went home with a concussion when my skull slammed against the blacktop. At the time, I thought everyone hated me. I felt like an outsider, and that made me miserable. The books I read and the TV shows I liked to watch gave me a bit of an escape, but what I really needed was someone to tell me to forget about all of the kids who made me feel like I didn’t belong — to tell me they could all go to hell. To tell me, in essence, to fuck ’em.

And that’s where this song comes in…