The Singing Organ-Grinder’s top 10 pig songs

Sincerity meets spam.

Pork brings out the best in people (even in the Philippines), and I’m farming out most of this to Rol@My Top Ten. Normally I find his selections absolutely fascinating but alarmingly modern, but you have to admit the genius of Green Jelly’s “Three little pigs”:

Check out the rest. I’d get rid of the Beatles (who made this one mistake), Elvis Costello and Morrissey (who can’t do anything right, ever). In their place I’d like to suggest a couple of things I’ve sung at least once:

  • Even the wicked wolf agrees that “Los tres cochinitos,” the three little piggies, from the Mexican series Cri-Cri is adorable (starts ca. 01:50):

  • “I know an old lady who swallowed a fly.” It’s called a hog here, which is a misprint. Etymology:

    p – 1 = o
    i – 1 = h
    g – 1 = f

    So, “I’ll hof, and I’ll pof, and I’ll blow your house down.” Pof comes from qog, a misspelling of cog in the sense of a small Scots barrel used for milking ewes and cows, as in “Gin ye, fan the cow flings, the cog cast awa’” from “The rock and the wee pickle tow,” a Scots spinning song by Alexander Ross, schoolmaster at Lochlee.

    Why a wolf would be using such devices and secret code is unclear.

  • A number whose name I dare not print, which I wrote in Low Saxon dialect with KV at a time when rural isolation and suicide was in the news. It’s about a farmer who eschews towns and travels for the company of his own fat pig. Despite painting a positive picture of home entertainment -Britain is not the only nation of animal-lovers- it was banned by The Man.
  • An instrumental number, based on a transcription of the panpipe playing of an itinerant French castrator and tinker (you used roughly the same tools to redo pans as to undo pigs) in rural Galicia in the early 20th century. It will sound familiar (though infinitely more sophisticated) to anyone who has heard the pipes of the few remaining ambulant knife-grinders in Barcelona and other Spanish cities, their wheel driven by a belt run off their moped.
  • “I love little pussy” is not obviously about a pig, but it reminds me of the time in Hungary when I saw a large sow corner and eat a cat. I have often told my good friend Victor Orbán that he should welcome Muslims because they will drive down labour costs without increasing pork prices, but he will keep going on about Turks at the gates of Vienna in 1683. We Ulstermen would never hold a grudge like that.

  • Here, here, here is pig and pork,” a vicious late 17th century Irish sectarian ballad, doesn’t really count, but who’s counting? Everyone knows Swift, but there’s lots of other fine and/or lively post-Restoration Dublin- and Belfast-based satire. One extraordinary example I’ve found is particularly apposite to my trade – a parody of an anti-revolutionary libel trial, of which more anon. Here’s a straightforward vocal recording, but my version is closer to some vile porcine Detroit hiphop I found in a remainder bin in a Paris record store, once upon a time.

More animal songs here.

Dear Customs@HMRC

Which EU import tariff is applicable to non-EU kazoos?

So … does the EU view kazoos as a section 92 class 5 or class 8 instrument? Or are they neither, and does footnote (c) apply, making them Tricycles, scooters, pedal cars and similar wheeled toys; dolls’ carriages; dolls; other toys; reduced-size (‘scale’) models and similar recreational models, working or not; puzzles of all kinds : Toy musical instruments and apparatus? If the latter, then they’re zero-rated, and we already have a TAFTA in kazoos, instead of the traditional titfer. This is incredibly exciting, and revolutionary, and might one day cause an update in the already brilliant OED entry:

1884 in Lisbon (Dakota) Star 31 Oct., A kazoo is an instrument invented to give pleasure and satisfaction to the small boy.
1895 Montgomery Ward Catal. 245/3 Kazoos, the great musical wonder,..anyone can play it; imitates fowls, animals, bagpipes, etc.
1926 P. Whiteman & M. M. McBride Jazz ix. 201 Did you ever see a kazoo? Of course you must have—a small worthless-looking piece of tin. A kazoo stuck into a mute will give a buzzy sound that comes handy in certain pieces.
1927 Bulletin 24 Aug., A new musical atrocity is reported to be coming to Scotland. It is the Gazoo. This instrument of ear-torture is simply an adaptation of the primitive ‘comb and tissue paper’.
1956 J. Latimer Sinners & Shrouds ix. 83 ‘A neglected instrument, the kazoo,’ he was saying. ‘A cock’s challenge in Red McKenzie’s hands, raucous and lewd, a braggart, a bully, a flap-wing lover.’
1965 G. Melly Owning-up xi. 135 A kind of sub-jazz in which kazoos, tea-chest and broom-handle basses..and empty suitcases replaced the more conventional musical instruments.
1966 T. Pynchon Crying of Lot 49 i. 10 The Fort Wayne Settecento Ensemble’s variorum recording of the Vivaldi Kazoo Concerto.
1970 Peace News 8 May 8/4, I think the time has come for us to make our own music… To beat on pots and pans, blow kazoos and our combs wrapped in wax paper.
1972 Guardian 29 May 5/5 The unusual cigar-shaped instrument, the kazoo—a cheap toy which makes a vibrant noise when blown—can help unmusical children to sing in tune.

One update they might want to consider anyway is some reference to

marching bands in Northumberland , Durham and North Yorkshire . These bands comprise children aged 8-18, predominantly female, playing music ranging from hymn tunes, through marches to popular hit songs, on modified kazoos, with the backing of military style drums and led by majorettes. The first bands in the early 1920s were started by adults, and only slightly later was the idea extended to children.

Elizabeth Bird’s thesis, Jazz Bands of the North East of England (1974), looks

at the history of the bands in the early 1920s and ’30s, to establish when and where they were started, in what circumstances and what social function they fulfilled. It also describes the present bands and similarly analyses their role in the community. The work is based on the oral testimony of informants, and additional information gathered from newspaper articles and letters.

Part One of the study concentrates on the 1920s and ’30s, and describes both the adult and later juvenile bands. Part Two focusses on the 1960s and ’70s, with chapters on general organisation, characteristics of band personnel, the appeal and functions of the bands for children, the role of the adult in the band, sex roles, the military ideal and the North East.

The appendices contain a sample questionnaire given to band members aged eleven and upwards, an account of ” The Hazlerigg Affair ” (relating to an outbreak of hysterical symptoms among jazz band members at a gala in 1972) and a list of known bands for 1973-1974. Two newspaper articles are also included.

But let’s get functional. How much would you pay retail for a multicolour kazoo displaying a small picture of a pig or an organ-grinder? 2 rupees is convenient for mummy & daddy, but 2.50 gives a solid margin; vanilla shangshaite is 1-2 in Hispania, where taxes are not necessarily all that taxing, or 2 in Inglandia.

You can of course make one for yourself out of bog roll and stick a picture of Miguel Blesa on it, but, though immensely satisfying, it won’t sound as good.

Yet more disastrous animals

Introducing my bovine concertina-playing twins, Salt-N-Pepa, and a porcine donations box.

Every real man should at least once (a) be a woman, and (b) try to conclude to his advantage a commercial transaction in the centre of Naples, which is where from a street vendor I bought these authentic Roman salt and pepper dispensers. Price: 1 euro, but if you look below, you will see that the holes are too big. My cows are seated on Thackeray’s Vanity Fair.

The piggy at the foot of the page is for Paypal tips and is for those who have enjoyed my performances and want to make an extra contribution. My rubber piggy is a revelatory element at markets: some children put money in him, and I like them very much, while others try to run off with him or break him open, and they will be bankers and politicians, and I love them too, obviously.

Someone asked me the other day what street entertainers will do in a cash-less economy, where piggy banks are no longer required. The answer is that they will be modified to take electronic payments, and grunt happily when the transaction goes through or bite you if your credit is insufficient. Like this:

… but better.

¿Qué color le pongo a mi Piaggio Ape 50 furgón?

Con una canción sobre los ladrones de sandías y un rediseño del güeb.

Who’ll write me a drinking song?

MG posted this C15th verse the other day, and D suggested but didn’t provide music:

Bring us in good ale, and bring us in good ale,
Fore our blessed Lady sak, bring us in good ale.

Bring us in no browne bred, for that is made of brane;
Nor bring us in no whit bred, for therein is no game:
But bring us in good ale. 5

Bring us in no befe, for ther is many bones;
But bring us in good ale, for that goth downe at ones,
And bring us in good ale.

Bring us in no bacon, for that is passing fat;
But bring us in good ale, and give us inought of that, 10
And bring us in good ale.

Bring us in no mutton, for that is ofte lene;
Nor bring us in no tripes, for they be seldom clene:
But bring us in good ale.

Bring us in no egges, for there ar many shelles; 15
But bring us in good ale, and give us nothing elles,
And bring us in good ale.

Bring us in no butter, for therein ar many heres;
Nor bring us in no pigges flesh, for that will mak us bores:
But bring us in good ale. 20

Bring us in no podinges, for therein is all gotes blod;
Nor bring us in no venison, for that is not for our good:
But bring us in good ale.

Bring us in no capon’s flesh, for that is ofte der;
Nor bring us in no dokes flesh, for they slobber in the mer: 25
But bring us in good ale.

4 game: some editors emend to gane = gain
7 ones: once
18 heres: hairs
19 bores: boars
21 podinges: puddings
21 gotes: goats’
25 dokes: ducks’
25 slobber: “To feed in a slabbering or slovenly manner” (OED)
25 mer: lake, pond, pool