http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/ente ... 206419.cmsI am Indian, and I understand what goes into the head of the music consumer of the old country. What always interests me is how different the Indian mind is compared to Japan, Korea etc. They like Suzi Quattro and Sam Fox (Uk - large breasts) they are considered risque, but only enticingly so because at least they performed there.
But for music lovers, he represents a niche genre: comedy rock. Yes, believe it or not, there is a kind of rock dedicated to make the listener laugh out loud rather than headbang. And it has a Grammy category all to itself: Best Comedy Album.
Satire & Eccentricity
Of course, it is not unknown to see humour in rock music. But, in most cases, it is couched in satire or eccentricity. A Queen album was seldom complete without a number that made people smile (even if in puzzlement), be it Bicycle Race (" You say black, I say white/ You say bark, I say bite/ You say shark, I say, hey man/ Jaws was never my scene/ And I don't like Star Wars" ) or even the legendary Bohemian Rhapsody (" I see a little silhouette of a man/ Scaramouche, scaramouche / Will you do the fandango/ Thunderbolt and lightning/ very very frightening me/ Galileo, Galileo" ). Classic rockers like Dire Straits also took time out to put their tongues firmly in their cheeks with numbers like My Parties (" Don't talk to me about the ozone layer/ Don't talk to me about the polar bear" ) and Heavy Fuel (" Last night I slept sober/ Man I felt bad/ Worst hangover I have ever had" ), which mocked lifestyles and attitudes. And, of course, the likes of Bob Dylan were forever ready to cock a cynical, ironical snook at the powers that be (" The reason for fighting I never got straight/ But I learned to accept it/ Accept it with pride/ For you don't count the dead/ When God's on your side" ).
Even the Fab Four weren't averse to dabbling with some humour. The group that gave the world serene numbers like Yesterday and Get Back, showed its slightly goofier side in Octopus Garden, singing about how it would like to be "under the sea/ in an octopus garden" , and in Yellow Submarine, in which a man tells the group about his life in the "land of submarines" where "every one of us has all we need/ Sky of blue and sea green/ In our yellow submarine" . Intellectuals scrabbled around, looking for hidden meanings; mainstream fans just giggled.
Chuck Berry, granddaddy of rock, threw in more than the odd double entendre in his only song to hit #1 on the US charts, My Ding-a-Ling . Moralists winced as Berry went on about him and his 'ding-a-ling' (" Once I was swimming across turtle creek/ Man them turtles snapping at my feet / It sure was hard swimming across that thing/ With both hands holding my ding a ling a ling" ). Sting waxed cynical about his broken heart (" You don't wanna ever see me again/ Your brother's gonna kill me/ And he's six foot ten) with Police in I Can't Stand Losing You, Don Henley took time out for some sniping (" I was flying down from London/ And I saw Jesus on the plane/ Or maybe it was Elvis/ You know, they kinda look the same" ) in If Dirt Were Dollars and even the dinosaurs of rock, The Rolling Stones, turned to humour to mock Dubya in My Sweet Neocon with Mick Jagger sneering "It's getting very scary/ Yes, I'm frightened out of my wits/ There's bombers in my bedroom/ Yeah and it's giving me the shits" ). ZZ Top and Jethro Tull were also notable for churning out numbers that had a smile hidden in them. Remember Ian Anderson singing "Where the hell was Biggles when you needed him last Saturday?/ And where were all the sportsmen who always pulled you though?/ They're all resting down in Cornwall/ Writing up their memoirs for a paperback edition of the Boy Scout Manual" in Thick As A Brick?
And Just Laugh Out Loud
The real clowns of rock & roll are, of course, the comedy rockers. Unlike other acts who occasionally sprinkle humour in their generally more sober work, these ladies and gents are out and out laugh riots. From spoofs to silliness to sarcasm, they have it all in dollops. And quite often, the music ain't too bad either. Check out Spinal Tap, who had an album called Break Like The Wind, christened their website Tapster and sang about Christmas With The Devil (" There's a demon in my belly/ And a gremlin in my brain/ There's someone up the chimney hole/ And Satan is his name" ). Then there is the great Frank Zappa
, a superb musician and never short of a laugh. Just hear him singing "Oh god I am the American dream/ But now I smell like Vaseline/ And I'm a miserable sonofabitch/ Am I a boy or a lady... I don't know which"
in Bobby Brown.
The ones who parody hits needn't worry about melody - they have the tune readymade and just gotta tweak the lyrics. So fans had MJ to thank for the beat and rhythm of Eat It, even as they laughed to Weird Al Yankovic singing: "How come you're always such a fussy young man?/ Don't want no Captain Crunch, don't want no Raisin Bran/ Well, don't you know that other kids are starving in Japan/ So eat it, just eat it... " Other notables in the clowns' gallery include Monty Python, The Presidents Of The United States of America and The Dead Milkmen. The award for funniest name for a comedy rock outfit will go to Dread Zeppeling, though their music isn't much to write home about.
It may be tough to get comedy rock in Indian music stores - Want a blank stare from a shop assistant?
Ask for Frank Zappa! - but comedy rock has its fair share of followers and hits. Just search online. If laughter is the best medicine, rock & roll could well be your doc!