January 30th, 2010


“The Captain, he’s been a-drinkin’, oh!”

Originally published at Big Ugly Man Doll. Please leave any comments there.

Music, they say, can soothe the savage beast, and nowhere is this more evident than in the crib and nursery.  The fussiest babies – and here I can speak with complete authority – can often be quieted through the calming magic of music.  Whether it’s an adult singing to them, a CD played softly, or a lullaby mobile gently spinning a tinkling, twinkling star, music is a nearly universal panacea for the pandemonium of parenthood. 

And if that shit doesn’t work, you can turn it up loud enough that you can’t hear the screaming monsters in the back seat.  As part of my ongoing public service announcements (which are part of my parole), I offer some advice on choosing music that (A) will keep your kids occupied for more than fifteen seconds and (B) won’t have you reaching for the black-market valium you picked up last week. 

The Wiggles.  The best part of any kids’ song is that the tune can be adapted in your head to mean something totally different, and the BEST kids’ music is written with the parent’s needs in mind.  The Wiggles, an entirely too wholesome act from Down Under, does this pretty well.  Such songs as Crunchy Munchy Honey Cakes and Hot Potato remind us that cooking is fun; Dingo Tango and Here Comes A Bear remind us that life can be very, very scary.  Then there are the ones that are obviously for grownups:  

  • Let’s Have A Barbie On The Beach – Why yes, let’s! 
  • The Captain’s Wavy Walk  (“The Captain, he’s been a-drinkin’, oh!”)
  • We’re Playing A Trick On The Captain (While He’s Passed Out Drunk)
  • We’re Dancing With Wags The Dog (‘nuff said)
  • Wake Up Jeff (The Police Are Here!)

 And last but never least in any Wiggles countdown:  Hey There, Shaky Shaky!   (“Hey there! I wanna shake with you!”)  Let’s face it, this is a kid’s song based on a bad pickup line in a bar. 

 There are some more traditional songs that can be adapted to learning lessons as well.  Wheels on the Bus is a favorite:

 The Baby on the Bus says,
“Waa waa waa,”
“Waa waa waa,”
“Waa waa waa!,”
The Baby on the Bus says,
“Waa waa waa!”
And all the other parents on the Bus give its mommy dirty looks.


 The Driver on the Bus says,
“Move to the back,”
“Move to the back,”
“Move to the back!”
The Driver on the Bus says,
“Move to the back!”
And Rosa Parks says, “No.”

But one of the all-time best set of songs for kids and their parents came from a Disney show called Bear in the Big Blue House.  The songs have a kind of demented brilliance that’s hard to resist, even long after all my kids have quit watching the show and requesting the music in the car.  From the back seat, over the dulcet tones of the Sex Pistols or Barenaked Ladies, we’d hear the imperious request: “Excuse me, Boo Yang please!”  I’m still not sure if the Boo was for Bear or Big or Blue, but Yang meant songs, and Boo Yang it was. 

Songs like Take Time to Smell the Cheese (“Life is so much betta / when you smell the Feta”) and What’s That Smell? could get us miles without hearing them whine.  (Although “Smells like breakfast – hey, it’s you!” seemed pretty scary; did that 7-foot-tall bear just tell me I smelled like his breakfast?  Run!)  Then there are the Welcome to the Blue House, Good Morning, and Goodbye Songs, all delivered in an operatic boom that we still shout at the kids (GOOD MORNING, GOOD MORNING, GOOD MORNING TO EVERYONE!) even though they’re long past wanting to hear it.  The song Clean Up the House is great for reminding everyone to help clean (“Let’s take it upstairs!”  “Oh, geez, Dad, let’s not…”) and I still remind them to “Brush Brush Bree, Brush Brush Broo!” when going to bed.  Mostly out of sheer bloodyminded spite on my part.  I had to listen to those songs for hours.  They should suffer in turn.

My favorite Boo Yang, though, may have been Shadow’s Lullaby.  It’s a great song, lilting, lyrical, and haunting, that describes how safe you are sleeping tonight because the “Shadows are watching over this house.”   Yesssssssss, that’s the nice, supernatural stalker image I want running through my head as I try to fall asleep.  Can we sleep with all the lights on again, please, at least until I can get Dancing With Wags The Dog back in my head?

And since that was too creepy, we will close with the cautionary tales of They Might Be Giants, who did a kid’s album a few years ago.  From the people who brought us Triangle Man and Birdhouse In Your Soul, my kids are bopping to the strains of: 

  • NO!  (which means, and we repeat a LOT in this house, no.  And that’s final.)
  • I Am Not Your Broom (nor your maid, damn it.)
  • Violin(ce) - and don’t think we won’t resort to it if you can’t behave! 
  • Don’t Cross the Street (into oncoming traffic)

 At least from TMBG, we expect it’s going to be weird.  My favorite from the NO! album is Where Do They Make Balloons, and is it the same factory that makes condoms? 

 Music.  It’s not just for breakfast anymore.