Musical Dreck to Commie Propaganda

Soviet UnionI don’t know how other people dream. I figure it is like most of my dreams that are just some other reality—kind of a jumble of stories. But sometimes, my dreams become like puzzles. When I was in college, before a math or physics exam, my mind would be a chaotic stream of ideas. It was like my brain was a computer trying various permutations. These nights were not, to say the least, restful. But I suspect they were useful.

Last night, about in the middle of it, a song from the musical Camelot came into my mind, “What Do the Simple Folk Do?”[1] When I was a kid, I loved musicals. I still find it a bizarre though interesting art form. But many of the lyrics now just embarrass me. Or worse. In “What Do the Simple Folk Do?” the king and queen wonder why the poor are happy when they, the rich and powerful, are not. It has really charming lines like this:

What else do the simple folk do?
They must have a system or two
They obviously outshine us at turning tears to mirth
Have tricks a royal highness is minus from birth

I’ll admit, though, it’s a damned catchy tune:

So this song was going around in my head and my brain kept changing the lyrics. But not normal lyrics; more like the lyrics from one suffering from Tourette Syndrome. Nonetheless, I still managed to rhyme, although when I awoke at various times, I found that they were mostly slant rhymes, and not ones that I thought worked particularly well.

All of that was fine, but all morning, I’ve had “What Do the Simple Folk Do?” going through my head. I did not want that song going through my head. A solution to my problem came via Sam Knight, who tweeted, “I can confirm that the DC Health Exchange hotline at least hasn’t bungled the hold music. Very pleasant.” So I thought, “What would a conservative comment that the music was?” And then it hit me: “Soviet Union National Anthem.” And I found this great version by the Red Army Choir with both Russian and English lyrics:

It’s a beautiful tune and it totally wiped out “What Do the Simple Folk Do?” Am I allowed to note that the melody is a hell of a lot better than our National Anthem? It does have the advantage of having been written about 200 years later. It is also easier to sing and thus less prone to have some American Idol winner screech it out at every sporting event I am unfortunate enough to attend. Although I suspect they could ruin it too.

Enjoy comrade!


[1] When I was a kid, I actually saw Richard Burton recreate this role in a road show at the Curren Theater in San Francisco. The bored performance that you see in that video clip was maintained for the full two hours of the show. I don’t hold it against him. I think he was a truly depressed and self-loathing person. I also don’t think he was a great actor, but he could have been. If you ever get a chance, watch him in Dr Faustus. It was a vanity project for him, but still he couldn’t manage to put much into it. I would have loved to have had the opportunity to get drunk with him, though.

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