5 years ago Jonathan Coulton (that's me) started a project called Thing a Week, in which I released newly recorded song every Friday for a year. I'm replaying it in real time here with all the songs and the text from the original posts.
Not many people know this, but when Leonard Nimoy did the Bigfoot episode of “In Search Of…” he and the creature hooked up one night and had this crazy fling. These kinds of things never end well, but Bigfoot in particular is a bit of a cad anyway (being mostly wild animal). As you might imagine, Leonard Nimoy came out of the experience somewhat worse for wear.
I’m almost sure that I have stolen this melody from somewhere, or maybe parts of it from lots of places, it sounds very familiar to me. And the bassline – hello? Blue Bayou? At first this was just a “bigfoot broke my heart” song, but I wasn’t getting a lot of traction. It wasn’t until I realized that it was Leonard Nimoy talking that it came together for me. There are just a couple of subtle references to Spock in there, and bigfoot’s name is never mentioned, so if you’re haven’t read this explanation you are either confused, or blissfully unaware that it’s about Bigfoot and Leonard Nimoy. Godspeed.
PRESENT DAY JOCO SAYS: Ah, a classic Thursday desperation song. Never in a million years would I have TRIED to write this song, rather I only would have ALLOWED it to happen in the absence of any other alternative.
Not that it’s so terrible. I actually think this one deserved a better place in JoCo history than it got. I like the melody, it’s simple but pretty solidly built. There are some nice moments in the lyrics, in particular I love the “bag of suet” joke, and I love the entirety of the third verse. In terms of solving the puzzle (describing a love affair between Bigfoot and Leonard Nimoy without mentioning either one) it succeeds very well. Here are the problems:
Arrangement - pfft. Not a lot there. It starts from style parody, which is always a dangerous game, especially when you veer away from the style and just start throwing stuff at the wall without caring if it sticks. The terrible chorus guitar in the choruses and those background vocals just don’t make sense to me, and they’re there only because I didn’t come up with anything else to fill the space. At the end of the day I really just copped a bassline.
Subtlety - almost nobody who hears this song figures out that it’s about Bigfoot and Leonard Nimoy. It’s too clever by half. I can’t imagine what you would think of this song if you didn’t know what it was about. It would just seem bizarre, unfunny, and not very interesting.
Goofballism - obviously I am trapped by this a lot. It’s rare to come across a song that is completely goofy and still emotionally stirring enough to matter to someone. Many would say that’s my wheelhouse, and in fact I just wrote myself a new bio in which I claimed that it was. I frequently try for that combination, and it feels wonderful when I hit it right, but the truth is I fail more often than not. When you write about goofy things, you’re giving all the other songs in the world a head start. I failed to back this one up with much of anything, and I think that’s why it fails to achieve liftoff.
To be clear, I am not anti-goofball. There’s nothing wrong with funny music, I don’t care what you say. I listened to Weird Al’s latest album Alpocalypse and was reminded that while there’s a ton of funny music out there, only a small fraction of it is done really well. Weird Al is the undisputed champion, and he elevates the genre like nobody else because he’s got a great musical brain and has honed the hell out of his craft.
It doesn’t matter what kind of music you’re doing, death metal or novelty songs, it has to be honest and it has to be great.