My husband, Jason Pomerantz, has asked if he could write about an interesting experience he recently had….
When I was very young I was a big fan of The Electric Company. This was a wonderful show that ran on public television in the United States from 1971 to 1977. It was produced by Children’s Television Workshop and was aimed at kids slightly older than those who watched Sesame Street. It tried to be hipper than Big Bird’s show since the six and seven year olds it was intended for were much cooler than their four and five year old younger siblings. The songs were faster, the humor was more pointed. And, it had Spiderman! I loved it.
One thing I particularly enjoyed was a series of cartoons The Electric Company often ran that featured catchy songs about letter combinations. There was “LY”, “The Hound Song”, “Silent E” and “Snore, Sniff and Sneeze”. My favorite was “N’T”. Even though my birthdays were measured in the single digits, I think I appreciated the barely suppressed satire just perceptible beneath the animation and lyrics like:
Grouches all agree,
we get a glow saying ‘No’,
‘n’, apostrophe ‘t’ .
Flash forward eight or nine years. I’m a young teenager, thirteen or fourteen years old, and I’ve become of fan of song parodies. People like Alan Sherman, famous in the sixties for “Hello Mudda, Hello Fadda, Here I am at Camp Granada”. Or Weird Al Yankovic, best know for his satires of the first generation of MTV videos, like Michael Jackson’s “Beat It”, which became “Eat It”.
One of the most talented of the musical satirists I loved was Tom Lehrer. Lehrer grew to fame on the TV program”That Was The Week That Was”, a sketch show which ran in the mid 1960’s. His songs included “Who’s Next?”, “Wernher Von Braun”, and “Lobachevsky”. They featured bouncy, catchy piano melodies and they were all sung in Lehrer’s unmistakable voice: mischievous, cynical, and filled with an enthusiastic, devilish joy.
We grow and change as we get older. But there’s something fundamental at our cores that stays consistent. I realized this several days ago when my twelve year old son emailed Lisa and me a link to a song he had found. I was reading on the couch at the time and Lisa was working at her laptop at the dining room table. She clicked the link my son had sent and her computer began to play music. I was absorbed in my book so, at first, I paid no attention. But something struck me and I walked over to listen. The song was “Elements“. It’s all about the elements of the periodic table, and it’s very funny. It sounded familiar to me, and after a while I realized it was by Tom Lehrer. Someone had taken it upon themselves to animate it and had posted it on YouTube.
After it was over, I went to my own computer to see if I could find more Tom Lehrer videos. I was eager to hear music I hadn’t thought much about for twenty-five years. I typed his name into YouTube and… It was then I got a shock!
Many of the songs I knew as a teenager were available, but there was more. There was “LY“, “The Hound Song“, “Silent E“, “Snore, Sniff and Sneeze” – even “N’T“! The songs from the Electric Company I barely remembered from, not twenty-five, but more than thirty years ago. I suddenly realized that those songs I had loved so much in my early childhood had been by Tom Lehrer! I watched several and they were as funny and wonderful as I remembered them.
As teenagers we like to pride ourselves on our new maturity. We throw away our toys and turn our backs on childish concerns. But, I suddenly realized, we don’t change as much as we think. The music I loved when I was six was by the same artist I loved when I was fourteen. One I had never quite outgrown, even at forty.
Had listening to Tom Lehrer on the Electric Company in my formative years melded my taste, carving patterns in my mind that continue to influence me? Or had the patterns already been there, present at birth, waiting to be filled by any Tom Lehrer style tunes? Nurture versus nature, environment versus genes, who knows? Most likely, genes and environment are in a perpetual dance, influencing each other in complex, subtle ways, making us who we are.
I still don’t know why Spiderman never talked though…
This article was posted on Friday, November 10th, 2006 at 11:18 pm and is filed under Electric Company, Mama Lisa, Movies, TV & The Internet, YouTube. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.
8 Responses to “The Electric Company and Tom Lehrer”
Leave a Reply