One of my students has been following me on twitter and checking out the recent comics. He wondered when I was going to do Frank Sinatra, because I said last Sunday, "Next up, something with Sinatra."
Two things here: first, he misunderstood the tag line joke about what comes next when watching movies with my mother as a "coming soon" ad; second, the young man enjoys Sinatra in a way that few people younger than me, who aren't Michael Buble, do.
And then instead of Sinatra, I ran a One Dimension parody today (which mistakenly loaded last night on the blog). So I started thinking about something: How is it that I choose the songs that I parody?
Not an easy answer.
There are basically two types of songs to choose from: the standards that everyone knows (or at least you hope they know, recognize or are otherwise familiar with), such as Bing Crosby, the Beatles, and Broadway showtunes. And then there are the songs with constant airplay on the radio, generally crossing over into the Top 40 so there's more exposure to the audience, and to me. Yes, I listen mostly to Top 40 than to edgy stations. I also listen to country music sometimes, but unless it crosses over, then there's less of a chance that people will recognize the tune without me spelling it out. If I have to link to a video so that the reader can say, "oh, that song, then it doesn't work.
A couple of times I've picked a song because it was catchy -- and played often -- so I starting putting my own words to the song. It helps if there's a rhyme or a near-rhyme that suggests some topic in Algebra or Geometry that I can work with. It also helps if that topic isn't slope because I seem to hit that one more than others. A couple of times I've picked a song that was overplayed on the radio and I just wanted to do something -- anything! -- with it. See: File It Under Wood, for example.
Sometimes I can only squeeze out one verse and I wait a while for a breakthrough. Other times entire songs pour out of me that I have to trim down. (I had some extra couplets for the 700th comic.) And sometimes the songs go through my head so much that I can't (or don't) remember if I've used them already or not, or if I only meant to use them.
In particular, check out Slope-Intercept Form and This Comic Brought to You By the Letter B.
I could try to make the case that I was expanding my original idea, but I'd forgotten it entirely. And, truth be told, those weren't the first parodies I'd written to Let It Be, but that was a long time ago, and a little political in nature, and I shy away from that here. It's also one of the first songs I ever learned -- I heard it a lot when I was a kid -- and it's a simple tune. It's perfect for inclusion in a comic like this.
Have I used obscure songs? I'm guessing I have. A Canadian friend was unfamiliar with Brandy, which became a recent song about Tangent. And, of course, what might have been a magnum opus, my dedication to the end of summer and to all hard-working teachers returning to school, Star Teachers, to the tune of the 80s anime TV show, Star Blazers. If you listen to its opening, its quite catchy -- there's a video of a high school orchestra performing it (without words) -- and I had it in mind before I started writing. And then my problem was that I had this long, long song and I had to illustrate it! So crafty reuse of material occurred, and I think I introduced (or elevated) a new character or two in that one.
Did I ever get too obscure? Almost. I have a favorite Irish band, Celtic Cross -- Warning: music will start playing if you click that link., but they're a local band, playing around the Northeast U.S. mainly, although the lead singer did perform the National Anthem before a Steelers game two seasons ago. I had a great idea for St. Patrick's Day to make a mathy version of one of the songs and mathy versions of the band and . . . what the hell was I thinking? I would have loved it, and everyone else would've scratched their collective heads, however many that might've been at the time. So I scrapped that idea -- I don't even remember what the idea was anymore.
That's about it. If there's anything else you'd like to know, just comment and ask. Or just tell me your favorite (or least favorite). If you just want to see more of the parodies, you can check out my Music and Song tags -- they almost entirely overlap -- to find all the songs I've used. I may have to do the same, just to refresh my memory. And then maybe check out Sinatra's catalogue of work.