Monday, August 13, 2012

Werewolves of London Again

I’ve spoken about the Harvey canon before and, at least in my mind, such a thing exists:  a list of books, movies and songs that are essentially Harvey.  Someday, I may attempt to compile the canon.

One song I hope would make the cut is “Werewolves of London.”  You just can’t get much better lyrics than:  I saw a werewolf drinking a pina colada at Trader Vic's/ And his hair was perfect.”

This summer NPR’s All Things Considered is running an occasional feature called "Mom and Dad's Record Collection" – in which the host interviews people about a favorite song of their parents.  Well, one day the guest was Christina Pappas.  She said that her father’s absolutely favorite song of all time was “Werewolves of London.”  She generally hated all her father’s music, but she especially hated  “Werewolves of London.”  When she was young, she would, in her words, “go on these very long, elaborate rants about this song, and how it's what's wrong with the world today; and, you know, if our parents are listening to songs with this kind of nonsensical lyrics, then how could we ever hope to inherit a better world from them?”

Well, that sort of thing just fueled the fire, and every time she would get into his car, or go visit his house, he would start playing the song.  But things went from bad to worse when he got a cellphone.  By that time, he was a truck driver, and he would call her any time of day when he was on the road. And, without introduction, he would blast the song into the phone as soon as she answered.   The thing is, once the joke was over, they’d end up chatting, and it was nice for her to be able to have these regular conversations with her father.  But the intro was always “Werewolves of London.”  When she wasn’t there, he’d leave the song on her answering machine.

When Christina got engaged, her father was adamant that the father-daughter dance must be to “Werewolves of London.”  She absolutely refused.  This was her wedding, after all, and what song could be less appropriate for a wedding?  Ultimately, her father relented and he agreed that he’d dance to whatever song she chose. She decided on “What a Wonderful World.”  It was all set, but as the wedding approached, again in her words, “just probably the week before the wedding, as my husband and I were finalizing the music that we were going to play, and I kept thinking in my mind about that first dance with my father. And I couldn't see us dancing to ‘What a Wonderful World.’ And the only song I could ever see myself dancing with - with my father, was ‘Werewolves of London.’”

So at the wedding – and I’ll let Christina take over here:  “As my dad and I are standing in, you know, the center of the dance floor, kind of waiting for the song to - queued up, once that opening line - that opening - kind of baseline to the song started playing, my dad froze. And he looked at me, and I just smiled and said, ‘this is the only song we could ever dance to.’”

His eyes misted over, and, for only the second time in her life, Christina saw her tough old truck driving father cry.

A story worthy of “This American Life.”  


James R said...

Myk invented the Harvey Canon, just as he invented Christmas carol rehearsals and shuffleboard paddle pitching. When he first announced it many years ago, the concept struck an immediate chord with me.

It is not just books, movies and songs. And it isn't any of those. We haven't yet written many. But it is the camaraderie of experiencing those, and other things, together. To me the greatest reflection of the mythical canon is games. Sometimes I sense the loss of the subtle, but distinctive way the gaming canon manifests itself. But I rejoiced this past weekend when I realized the spirit is still blooming in the younger generation.

Others play to win, we play to create… and to create fun—of course, rules and a goal are necessary parts. Last Sunday, Martin tossed reasoned care about winning aside in a spirited croquet match. As poison, he twice chipped his ball over a wicket in an attempt to hit a well positioned opponent. Twice he made successful jumps, but missed the opponent. Appropriately, he ultimately won. But everyone won as he made the game imaginatively fun.

The second point about the canon is that it is ethereal. If you examine it too closely, it may disappear. If its position as canon is too closely measured, you lose its momentum. We never want to lose momentum.

Big Myk said...

The philosopher John Searle has said: "In my experience there never was, in fact, a fixed 'canon'; there was rather a certain set of tentative judgments about what had importance and quality. Such judgments are always subject to revision, and in fact they were constantly being revised."