Friday, February 04, 2005

Songs That Were Funny When I Was a Kid, Part II: On Top of Old Smokey

I still don't know the real lyrics to "On Top of Old Smokey." I only know the elementary school playground variants.

There's this one, a mischievous yet essentially benign classic for generations:

On top of old smokey
All covered with sand
I shot my poor teacher
With a red rubber band

I shot her with glory
I shot her with pride
Oh how could I miss her
She's forty feet wide


Tempered with a bit of self-effacement (assuming the second verse laments the narrator's having missed her, rather than a rhetorical flourish emphasizing how easy it was to hit her), the humor here goes no farther than a cruel but obviously exaggerated fat joke. But honestly, I think I learned this one from reading Russell Baker's memoir, Growing Up. This rubber band stuff was in vogue in like the thirties or something.

By the eighties, the rhymes I was actually learning on the playground were, shall we say, a tad grittier:

On top of old smokey
All covered with blood
I shot my poor teacher
With a .44 slug

I went to her funeral
I spit on her grave
Everybody threw flowers
I threw a grenade

It blew up the city
It blew up the town
It blew my poor teacher
Right out of the ground

I read in the paper
She wasn't quite dead
So I took my bazooka
And blew off her head


Who knows, perhaps it was informed by the Rambo ethos of the time period. Who says violence is bad for kids? This was one of the funniest things I'd ever heard in fourth grade or so. But looking back, I have to admit it does seem a little on the excessive side.

1 comment:

riley said...

i need to know the last par that starts with debie stop it your embaressing me