As I said in an earlier post there are a surprising number of song writers or performers using the library as a real or metaphorical context for their art and not all of it obviously in desperation. Not the numbers you find in books or films obviously but enough for someone presumably librarians, (else why do it) to produce a couple of blogs helpfully listing around 40 titles and another offering the top 10 titles featuring librarians which even included brief audio samples. There are too as you will see in a future post notable examples from A-list performers such as Greenday and Jimmy Buffet as well as examples from musical theatre but these are more than outnumbered by performers from the Z-list and all of those are simply overwhelmed by performers who would struggle to make a list even if you used the 50,000 characters of the Chinese alphabet. We’ll look at a few of those first.
The exploring and checking for lyrics about libraries brings you inevitably into contact with YouTube where there are a lot of titles that remind you that you are starting to disturb the sludge at the bottom of the barrel unearthing strange musical creatures that really should not see the light of day again at least not in my hearing.
There is for example a wide range of material written for kids of all ages encouraging them to use their public library on albums packed full of jolly positive messages for young minds such as eat your greens, don’t talk to strangers and never mess with a dinosaur unless he is purple, called Barney and he is telling you how wonderful your public library is. So different to my younger days when libraries featured messages such as “sit down” “shut up” and “no you can’t!”
You may have been fortunate enough to come across the album from Tom Knight entitled “Library Boogie” at least you will be fortunate if you are looking for a way to entertain your 4 year old for about 5 minutes before you give in to their unbearable grizzling and let them watch Chugginton or Despicable Me2 again. Tom’s website suggests that his work is “a vibrant collection of original songs and skits, with variety enough to keep even the very youngest children waiting to see what will happen next” I guess the raw material for libraries was a bit less promising than some of his other subjects then as the lyrics don’t leave a lot of scope for wondering what’s coming next
“Readin’ a book, that’s what I’m talkin’ about (Oh yeah)
Get a library card and then you can check it out
(check it out, check it out, check it out)”
And you can take it home it’s not very hard
All you need is your library card”
“My own card I just got
In my pocket it’s burning hot…
In to the door I roll
I almost lose control”
Steady now! And he confesses to a funky bass beat that “My library has me burning for learning….”He has clearly been scarred, though, by an unfortunate youthful experience in a library when he must have been found indulging in illicit snacking before libraries became a lot more relaxed about that sort of thing. “Grab a book and take a seat. No you’re not allowed to eat” he sings and keeps coming back to the theme “Cookies for the kids as long as they don’t eat inside the library”
Ticklefish, a band that were created “so that everyone could enjoy fun upbeat rock-n-roll/pop music without going bonkers by drowning in the ‘mush’ that usually defines kids music” obviously want to avoid the more prosaic stuff and concentrate instead on the library as the gateway to information and unlike Dave Taylor they have fewer reservations about eating in the library. They assure their audience that when their “brain gets hungry”
Information can taste delicious
I munch on knowledge all day long
It makes my brain feel really strong. Oh yeah!
Which does leave you wondering if they should have checked those mushrooms they had for lunch a bit more carefully? And there is much more like this including songs produced and performed by and in conjunction with dedicated and passionate library staff and of course wonderful in their intentions if not necessarily in the execution. I can’t help thinking though that despite the junior demographic at which they are aimed they all sound either twee or prosaic or both as if they are entrants in a hastily arranged and ill-advised jingle competition for The Chartered Institute of Library and information Professionals (CILIP) or its American equivalent the American Library Association (ALA); either that or they were na advertising copy writer project for a 16 year old on work experience when he or she might have been better employed as a plumber.
Finally I suppose we should have expected someone to have a go at setting the Dewey Decimal System to music, as another kid orientated group the Hipwaders have with their Dewey Decimal System. After all if Tom Lehrer can famously and brilliantly do this with the Periodic Table of the Elements why not. Well for a start because there are only 10 classes in Dewey which doesn’t offer much scope for musical invention unlike the 117 in the Periodic Table and if you try to expand it you have to do it in multiples of 10 so the kids would have rampaged through the library with boredom before you can even reach the social sciences and they are only in the 300’s. The second reason is quite simply because it just isn’t funny enough, and thirdly, because Lehrer was a comic genius who is unlikely to be bettered and who retired from music long before anyone tried to tempt him to have a go at Dewey.
Even a musical trip through Dewey, though, is less bewildering than Frank Zappa’s “Library Card” which consists of a recitation of the rules on the back of a library card set to typically Zappaesque anti-music for 7 minutes! Even for someone who started out on the most remote outer fringes of popular music in the ‘60’s with an album entitled Weasels Ripped my Flesh and continued to drift further out until his death this is… well just bizarre. I wonder what Suzy Creamcheese would make of it?
Nothing however is as bad as the execrable attempt to get hip with the Dewey Decimal Rap. It doesn’t have an attribution which is perhaps just as well. Rap is nearly right just lacking the first letter which would be a whole lot more accurate to describe it. If you buy me a pint I’ll tell you what I really think but lets just say that it is appallingly produced badly performed, totally moronic patronising drivel. Probably someone’s idea of what a teacher thinks might persuade hip kids to use their library. Even sadder is the fact that I also found a recent library blog saying that it was one of the better attempts at this sort of thing. No it isn’t! And perhaps you need to find a new career if you think it is. But who am I to judge? Find it for yourself on YouTube if you must and make up your own mind. But don’t say you weren’t warned and I accept absolutely no responsibility for any psychological damage up to and including losing the will to ever go near a library or librarian again that might occur after viewing and listening.
If you want to see how it could be done you might like to check out Library Rap by MC Poindexter & The Study Crew, also available on YouTube, a very silly and rather odd diversion in the TV show Slider showing MC with his the swaggering homies in tow knocking down everyone and everything in their path as they rather threateningly take advantage of their local library where the librarian
“checks us out from behind big glasses
we walk right by and wiggle our asses“
Of course as this is prime time TV it is all done very tastefully and with its tongue firmly in its cheek as the guys issue one final menacing threat
“I give you one warning ‘cos there’ll be no repeats
Keep outta my face while I’m reading my Keats”
 Barney is a purple dinosaur from the US children’s show Barney and Friends. The Library is a song in the episode Honk! Honk! A Goose is on the Loose. It only gets more bizarre so check it out for yourself if you must