December 5, 2008

"One toke over the line."

Orin Kerr -- for some reason -- is looking for the cheesiest Lawrence Welk clip on YouTube. He challenges his readers with a truly profoundly cheesy video -- which you can see over there -- and then a reader comes up with this:



The original version of the song was by Brewer & Shipley, and here you can see them playing it live -- and talking about that Lawrence Welk version (as well as how they got on Spiro Agnew's enemies list (or something)):



Everyone knew this was a drug song, and it's impossible to believe that the people on the Welk show didn't know. Welk says -- with a "straight" face -- "there you've heard a modern spiritual by Gail and Dale" -- Jesus and Mary do appear prominently in the song -- but there is a limit to how dumb functioning human beings can be. The show was populated by musicians. They may have been sublimely square musicians, but they were musicians.

35 comments:

Robert Cook said...

Gail becomes so animated as the song progresses, even pumping her fist with the beat, that one might wonder if she was a toke or two over the line herself.

I can believe Welk and others on the show were oblivious to the meaning of the lyrics, but one has to wonder: didn't they wonder if their audience would be puzzled by this strange word "toke" that was repeated frequently and prominently in the lyrics?

Although I was never a fan of country-rock or its related variants, (always hated the Grateful Dead), I always liked this catchy song.

peter hoh said...

When introducing the song, the accordion player looks like he knows something ain't right, but he didn't want to be the one to say anything.

peter hoh said...

I am reminded of an enthusiastic Bible thumper I worked with in the early 80s. He really liked this song by the Doobie Brothers.

rcocean said...

Very Funny. Maybe Welk was trying to get the young under 65 crowd.

The Welk version shows the weakness of drug songs and almost rock songs - the constant repetition and the "see spot run" simplicity of the lyrics.

You need a good beat and some great voices to make Rock music bearable.

Original George said...

There used to be a great mash up which synched Lawrence Welk's band playing a Lou Reed song. Appears not to be available on-line anymore.

Here's Welk dressed up as a hippie.

Laugh if you want, but Welk was massively successful. His show was on TV for 28 years! An incredible personal life story and business success, too.

He was the Jerry Garcia of the Geritol Generation.

Freder Frederson said...

I think the Mary they are referring to is Mary Jane, not Jesus' Mom.

mcg said...

I am reminded of an enthusiastic Bible thumper I worked with in the early 80s. He really liked this song by the Doobie Brothers.

It was redone, hip-hop style, by the Christian band DC Talk as "Jesus is Still Alright With Me."

Ralph said...

Welk probably heard it as "one toe over the line."
I used to watch the show with my grandmother. I wonder how many of the performers had uncapped teeth.

peter hoh said...

Hippie Welk is one of the trippiest things I've seen in a long time.

Ann Althouse said...

Hippie Welk... that was great. It was specifically the Sonny Bono look, you know.

I think they knew young people would watch it for a laugh. I'm now convinced the marijuana reference was a deliberate nod to the younger viewers -- an attempt to make the stoners giggle hysterically.

peter hoh said...

Can you imagine knowing that the song was about marijuana and watching this with your grandma, who was tapping her toe and humming along?

veni vidi vici said...

Don't even pretend to yourselves that at least some of Welk's band weren't getting high outside the rehearsal hall or wherever. They probably had other (nighttime) gigs as well.

The idea that many of the bandmembers weren't laughing their asses off about this is naive. And Welk, being a titan of show business, undoubtedly knew (and shared the joke, if not a toke) himself.

Joe said...

I hold out for the holy grail: a clip of the Welk Orchestra playing "Two Hits and the Joint Turned Brown."

Trooper York said...

Lawrence Welk was a musician for more than sixty years and was a lot hipper than you dirty hippies are giving him credit for. He knew all about drugs because he was good friends with several jazz musicians.

Like Louie Armstrong and his band. I know it was always fashionable to mock him but you could only wish to be as successful and talented as he was for so many years. Some of the shows that featured the great American song book are classics.

Trooper York said...

Welk has a lot of similarities with his contemporary Jack Webb of Dragnet fame. He was mocked by the boomers as well for his laconic law and order style. But in the fifties he was the coolest. He was a jazz freak and owned clubs that all the big time junkie jazz guys like Bird played. He was married to the great song bird Julie London and was a part of the whole jazz life style.
Of course the stupid dirty hippie boomer jerk offs think they invented music, drugs and being cool.

The sad thing is they still believe it.

laura said...

Welk and hippies...the mere mention of those words together and I'm transported back to my grandmother's house in Indiana. Trooper, she loved Welk and hated the hippies, too.

Original George said...

Ah, Here is Lawrence Welk's band playing the Lou Reed song "Sister Ray."

Cookin!

Trooper York said...

Whenever I am over a relative’s house on a holiday and I get the clicker I find something like Lawrence Welk or Bonanza or Gunsmoke and I end up watching it with all the young kids who are mesmerized by it. I explain to them the idea of the great American song book and songs you can sing the words to instead of screaming and grunting or cursing or using the n word for ho's and such.

My little nephew who is four came over to me and told me he wanted to Wii.

I told to go wee in his pants if he didn't want to learn about real music.

Guitar hero my ass.

Zeb Quinn said...

Welk knew what was going on. So did the musicians.

rhhardin said...

It's not up to Gospel standards as to singing in tune.

I remember being amazed by country gospel from the Mull Singing Convention on the radio; I think the Cooke family singers were one such group on there but fail to turn up any YouTube to prove it.

The harmonies and rhythm are the same however.

Original George said...

rh--

You are referring to the blind preacher the Rev. J. Bazzell Mull, are you not?

(He had been legally blind since the age of 11 months, after an accidental fall into a fireplace had damaged his eyesight. He memorized verses from the Bible as someone read them aloud.)

Where is Lady Mull, these a'days?

Celia Hayes said...

When we finally came home from a prolonged series of military tours in Europe, my then-early-teenaged daughter discovered Lawrence Welk on one of the cable channels, and could hardly believe that the show was for real, a genuine artifact of the times, and not an elaborate put-on by some comedy troop with a taste for musical parody. She had seen Spinal Tap, quite a few times, and might be forgiven for thinking such, I think.

Jeff with one 'f' said...

The irony of baby boomers mocking Lawrence Welk while still getting starry-eyed over the aging dregs of the 60s like Bob Dylan and or the Rolling Stones is truly nauseating.

Methadras said...

Gail Farell was hot as hell back then. I wonder what she looks like now. Hold on a moment and let me see . . . . . . . Oh dear. Not bad, but the years have taken a little bit of a toll. A shallow assessment, I agree.

OSweet said...

Note in pre-tune intro, the accordion player coughs oddly.

Either Freudian slip, or, more likely, completely intentional.

Mortimer Brezny said...

Ann never front pages me. But as soon as I go post under a different fake name over on Volokh in an Orin Kerr thread, Ann front pages me. Jesus.

Ann Althouse said...

Ha.

I have frontpaged you twice, Mortimer, but you haven't been posting so much lately.

veni vidi vici said...

if Ann front paged Mort, he would turn into a racist.

veni vidi vici said...

Where is Lady Mull, these a'days?"

Kintyre, perhaps?

veni vidi vici said...

Trooper @ 5:05 pm. Perfection!

Synova said...

Aarrghh...

It seemed to me, and my teenaged self, that the church ladies viewed every song as a song about drugs. Even John Denver and his balloon. I figured it was irrelevant when I was 15 and I think I was right about that. Was an "uptown girl" a prostitute? So Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds was LSD, the horror!

The funny thing about One Toke Over the Line, is that, despite the commentary by the song-writers, is that it actually works pretty good as a gospel song. Sure, the doctrine sort of sucks, but toe or toke, the idea that a person has transgressed but is hoping for redemption... and of *course* the train and train station symbolism is and always is death.

I watched Lawrence Welk as a kid and liked it, but we only got one television station and I liked the news, too.

My dad used to make fun of the black guy who tap-danced. He'd go, "Watch... he's going to swing his arms and everyone will start clapping." And it always happened just like that.

My dad didn't care for accordions either.

Skyler said...

My favorite person in the world, my late maternal grandmother, absolutely loved that show. She also thought the Portuguese discovered the new world and were the first to go into outer space, but that's a different story. She also said the Azores had streets paved in gold. Oh well. I never knew if she was serious about these things . . .

Anyway, it seems to me that the Lawrence Welk troupe certainly knew what the song writer's intent was. It is and was common for christian singers to try to appropriate symbols and songs of the "hip" movement to work in favor of their gospel mission.

Well, that's what I remember from growing up in the home town of Pat Robertson and the 700 Club. Most of the public school teachers wore their little "200" lapel pins. Fellow students frequently did similar acts of trying to appropriate the symbols and status of the sex and drugs culture to fit into the message of the fundamentalist christian, "Rock Church" evangelical mission.

rhhardin said...

Here they are, The Singing Cookes. Some of the songs link to an audio sample.

This one is typical of their best work.

p.t. fogger said...

When I had to sleep over at Grandma's place when Mom & Pop were out of town, I would get subjected to Lawrence Welk. I didn't mind it in small doses, because it was so corny it was interesting.

If floored me when I learned that Welk wasn't a foreigner at all -- that he was born in one of the Dakotas, I think, in a German-speaking community and did not learn English until well into his teens or early 20's.

NiceDealz.com said...

I only know this song because in 'Fear and Loathin in Las Vegas' they have that playing on the radio of their convertible when Johny Depp starts to trip out and says "Dont stop here man, this is bat country" :P