September 19, 2006

Unplayable 45s I won't throw out: #5 in a series.

Let's look at this obscurity from 1967:

Unplayable 45

"The Eggplant That Ate Chicago" was written by Norman Greenbaum, who had a big hit a few years later with "Spirit in the Sky," a song we heard all the time at The Halfway Inn in East Quad, all those many years ago (in 1970). But back before I went to college, when I was playing 45s on a record player that closed up like a tiny suitcase, I liked this Dr. West's Medicine Show & Junk Band song. It fit in with the Jim Kweskin & the Jug Band and Lovin' Spoonful kinds of things that I was quite fond of. Boy, Dr. West's Medicine Show & Junk Band... that is such a thoroughly hippie name for a group that it makes me feel all bad inside for a thousand amorphous reasons. Ah, snap out of it! Let's look at the lyrics:
You'd better watch out for the eggplant that ate Chicago,
For he may eat your city soon.
You'd better watch out for the eggplant that ate Chicago,
If he's still hungry, the whole country's doomed.

He came from outer space, lookin' for somethin' to eat.
He landed in Chicago. He thought Chicago was a treat.
(It was sweet, it was just like sugar.)

Norman then, Norman later:



A YouTube search for Norman came up empty, but so what? It gives us a chance to listen to the Jim Kweskin Jug Band: here.

Have a good evening listening to some old hippie music.

UPDATE: Well, apparently my YouTube search skills suck, but Sippican comes to the rescue. Here's "Spirit in the Sky."

Yeesh! That's a primative music video.
I've never been a sinner
I've never sinned
I've got a friend in Jesus

It was really early Christian rock.

40 comments:

sonicfrog said...

I always think of the Concord Airliner when I hear that song.... damned Mastercard commercial!

JorgXMcKie said...

Which? The Eggplant, or Spirit?

;->=

I think it is incredible that Greenbaum wrote both. Very funny.

Spirt in the Sky is currently being used in some commercial featuring a football team. That intro is very distinct, isn't it?

Jim H said...

You can still hear Spirit in the Sky all of the time if you watch televised sports. I'm pretty sure Norman Greenbaum didn't have high school football in mind when he wrote the song, but Nike recently set an extended inspirational commercial to it.

Norman's doing alright for someone who had one hit thirty-six years ago.

Ann Althouse said...

I like the way he doesn't even update his website. It's all retro-website. In my view, Norman can do whatever he wants. (And so, to digress, can Willie Nelson). I'm glad Norman is still raking it in for that song that made us all stop what we were doing and thing about going to Heaven.

SippicanCottage said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Pat Patterson said...

I can't hear The Kweskin Band without remembering how Maria and Geoff got involved with The Lyman Family cult and basically damaged their careers in the early 70's. Have to admit the music just about transcends the results.

Kathy said...

It was really early Christian rock.

I don't think I could describe Spirit in the Sky as Christian. Just referencing Jesus doesn't necessarily make it Christian, and the lyrics take a decidedly less than mainstream Christian direction with their theology, but maybe I missed something.

Ann Althouse said...

I have all the old Kweskin albums on vinyl and have listened to them hundreds of times. I listened to them when I was in high school (back when Vanguard albums cost more than other labels, it took some commitment). And I brought them all to college and got my friends to care about them, which wasn't hard if you could get them to listen. So infectious!

Ann Althouse said...

Kathy: I don't know, but I think bringing up Jesus repeatedly is pretty Christian. I remember wondering at the time if he was serious or if it was some kind of joke, just like I wondered if the Byrds were serious when they sang "I Like the Christian Live" and "Jesus Is Just Alright With Me."

Rob said...

I once saw Greenbaum quoted as follows: "I've got a friend in Moses just didn't sound right."
Its interesting how many Jewish artists used Christian themes and borrowed from gospel. (Bridge Over Troubled Water, anyone?) Somehow, I don't think we will see Christian artists borrowing from Islamic music. Unless Cat Stevens counts, somehow.

Doug said...

I think the first time I heard Spirit in the Sky, it was a remake by a British band called Doctor and the Medics. It was an ok cover, was a bit overproduced sounding compared to the original. The video was pretty good though.

Ann Althouse said...

Oh, it's the Jewish-sounding name... Well, when Dylan did his Christian songs, he meant it, didn't he?

Simon Kenton said...

Dylan did mean it. When he lapsed after 3 years, he commented that that, after all, was as long as Christ ministered.

The other one I could never tell about - satire or straight - was "Drop Kick Me Jesus Through the Goalposts of Light." I came down on the side of satire. (Sort of like low-case dave's posts - can't tell how they're meant, wouldn't want to know, but whatever 'the intention of the artist,' lcd ... is ... satire.)

J. Peden said...

If you elect a Democrat President, sas, Norman is going to be the next Supreme Court appointee. That guy has potential.

Seriously, any of you interested in more than the white response to the pre-white attempted takeover of all music by the blacks, should search for Rollye James on your am. dial. She knows that stuff, and is otherwise brilliant.

Finally, I object strenuously to any implication that any 45 is not playable. [Then I wonder why I get seasick in my living room.]

JorgXMcKie said...

That Kweskin Band song dates from the 1920's, I think, and is about smoking dope.

Ann Althouse said...

Jorg: Yeah, it's a Fats Waller song. Listen to song.

Drew W said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Drew W said...

Sort of OT, but if Norman Greenbaum can get a Supreme Court nomination (when he so obviously should be heading the FAA), then I can publicly cringe at the fact that John Hall, lead singer of undistinguished ‘70s pop band Orleans (“Still The One,” “Dance With Me”) is running as a Democrat in New York’s 19th congressional district. I don't live in his district, but if I did, I’d never vote for someone whose mediocre band I had to sit through not once, but twice in the 1970s. The first time was in a high school auditorium in New Canaan, Connecticut and the second time was at (I think) the Boston Garden, opening up for Jackson Browne. Both experiences were of such extraordinary tedium that they’re permanently seared . . . seared in my memory. (If one of the guys from Aztec Two-Step -- Hall’s contemporaries, and certainly equals in merit -- ran for Congress, I’d sooner vote for one of them, since I only had to sit through Aztec Two-Step once.)

Freeman Hunt said...

Is it just me or does he look like he could have been Jason Lee's father based on the Norman then picture? Or better yet, based on this other then picture.

Maxine Weiss said...

Ray Coniff, Les Brown, Johnny Ray, Kay Starr, Mario Lanza, Louis Prima, Gene Krupa, Glenn Gray, Stan Kenton,

Eddie Fisher?

He was big!

Peace, Maxine

J. Peden said...

"John Hall, lead singer of undistinguished ‘70s pop band Orleans (“Still The One,” “Dance With Me”)" drew w

Yeah, don't vote for that "highjacker", or his minions. He stole the selections.

Rob said...

Much discussion of Mr. Greenbaum, his Jewish background, and the song itself can be found on this web site:
http://www.jewhoo.com/editor/profiles/normangreenbaum.html

Quite interesting, and discusses "Eggplant" as well.

J. Peden said...

Freeman, I think you are right. We must worry that some serious duplicity is at band.

Jim C. said...

There was a best-of Dr. West's CD that came out a few years ago. I have it. It has such oddities as "How Lou Sin Ate" and the kazoo version of "Eleanor Rigby".

Ann Althouse said...

I haven't thought about "How Lou Sin Ate" in decades, but, reminded of it, I realize I know all the words. "Lou Sin was a Chinese man who at one time was straight." 60s novelty drug songs... there's a category.

Ann Althouse said...

J. Peden: The 45s in this series are unplayable because of terrible scratching and worse..

Hamsun56 said...

Great song, can't help smiling when I hear it. Liked the way it was used in the film, Miami Blues.

Impacted Wisdom Truth said...

It was really early Christian rock.

Nope.

The song is meant as a slam against the so-called "Jesus People" of the late 1960s:

"Never been a sinner I never sinned
I got a friend in Jesus
So you know that when I die
He's gonna set me up with
The spirit in the sky"

Greenbaum apparently thought the "Jesus People" were a self-righteous bunch that thought they were not sinners, unlike the Bible which assures us that all of us are sinners.

For some actual early Christian Rock, I recommend checking out the website of Larry Norman.

Larry wrote some of the early classics, such as I Wish We'd All Been Ready, a song about the Rapture.

Larry had a social conscience as well. Check out the lyrics to The Great American Novel.

I saw Larry in the early 80s in Grand Rapids, Michigan in concert. Most enjoyable. Lately he is in declining health, but still performs occasionally.

Ann Althouse said...

When we listened to the song back in 1970, we thought he was mocking Christianity, but we needed to think that to enjoy enjoying the song, which we did. But it was possible to doubt that and to think he really meant it. I say it was really early in the development of Christian rock because it was back at a time when you had to be ironic about such things. Later, the posing went the other way, but you can still wonder how sincere the actual artists are.

knoxgirl said...

Norman later reminds me of "Patches O"Houlihan"

Drew W said...

I always thought "Spirit In The Sky" was about as sincerely Christian as the the Doobie Brothers were when they sang "Jesus Is Just Alright" or the Byrds singing "The Christian Life" (or singing "Jesus Is Just Alright" for that matter). That is to say, not much.

(knoxgirl: "Patches O'Houlihan." Wasn't he that spokesdog for Budweiser?)

knoxgirl said...

oh lord, Spuds Mackenzie. I haven't thought of him in years...

Omnibus Driver said...

Dear Lord! I just got back from a trip down South where I heard "Spirit in the Sky" on the radio, and was plagued by a week-long earworm as a result. Thanks for the reinfestation. (Now I'll NEVER get that song out of my head!)

howzerdo said...

What about Turn! Turn! Turn! ? Pretty hard to argue that isn't intentionally religious (though not necessarily Christian, of course).

I agree about Willie Nelson, btw.

Joan said...

"Spirit in the Sky" is one of those songs that has an incredible hook and infectious melody, but the lyrics are deplorable. I can't stand listening to it, it's so... stupid. (There, I said it.) Of course it's ironic -- no really religious person would say "I've never sinned" -- but it's so ham-handed in its irony that it just makes me grit my teeth whilst changing the radio dial.

Maybe I'd feel differently if I grew up with it, but I didn't. I heard a lot of this era music from my older brothers and sisters, but I didn't adopt all of it all as personal favorites.

Derve said...

Speaking of questions, wanting to know yet not wanting to be offensive: Was your father Jewish? I read the personal stories and pictures you share here, and who you admired growing up, and I wondered if this was a something that influenced you.

Ann Althouse said...

Was my father Jewish? What is this, a George Allen press conference? What in all my postings made my father seem Jewish? Was it the way he and my mother sat around every night drinking martinis?

Derve said...

It was just a question, no need to read offense into it. You shared about your early life; I wondered.

Derve said...

And it was nothing you wrote about him, it was more what you've written about the younger you that made me wonder.

No judgment tone -- positive or negative, just an honest question. I shouldn't have asked, we all choose to share what background details we like on our own blogs.

Kathy said...

Oh, it's the Jewish-sounding name...

Nope, I had no idea what his religious affiliation was. I was merely responding to the lyrics of the song, which are remarkably different from mainstream Christian theology. As others have noted, Christians would not, for instance, say, "I've never sinned." I know the song sounds religious, and it may have even been meant as sincerely religious, but it isn't Christian.