The Holy Tango Basement Tapes

Recently, the Holy Tango of Literature made the news, with my Maya Angelou pastiche “Yoga Alumnae” being quoted in a remembrance of Ms. Angelou in the Washington Post (although its anagrammatic premise was left as an exercise for the reader). The Holy Tango, as most of you know, asked the question, “What if poets and playwrights wrote works whose titles were anagrams of their names?”, and then there was a musical spin-off, the Holy Tango Basement Tapes, which asked the very similar (but much more effortful to follow through with) question, “What if musical acts wrote works whose titles were anagrams of their names?”

Well, imagine my surprise when I learned today that the band Interpol has volunteered to help out with the Holy Tango Basement Tapes by releasing an album entitled “El Pintor” (Spanish for “The Painter”), joining a very elite group of musical anagrammaticists that includes The Cure (with their song “Cut Here”) and Brian Eno, sort of (his song “King’s Lead Hat” is an anagram of Talking Heads). Anyway, in honor of this event, I thought I’d post a convenient zip file of the various Holy Tango songs I’ve managed to finish recording over the years. The songs are:

Prince, “Pincer”
Elvis Costello, “It Loves Cellos”
Paul Simon, “Up on Islam”
Britney Spears, “Presbyterians” (featuring Tate Evans)
Joni Mitchell, “Mitch in Jell-O”
Pet Shop Boys, “The Bossy Pop”

Lyrics after the jump if you want to really get into it. Still unrecorded: Patsy Cline’s “Tiny Places.” Someday, I promise.


I remember when I met you, baby, lying on the sand
You sidled over to me, put a death grip on my hand
You might have a sharp tongue, baby, you might be a crab
But if you want to pinch me, here’s something to grab

Get out your pincer, baby, grab a little skin
Yeah, use your pincer, honey, show me where you’ve been
I want your pincer, baby, digging in my leg
I need your pincer, honey, please don’t make me beg

I’m glad you’re not a hermit ’cause I want to know you well
You know that I am dying to get underneath your shell
I really want to eat you though I should not eat you raw
But at least I am not bound by Jewish dietary law

I love your pincer, baby, I hope you understand
I need your pincer, honey, I’m at your command
Don’t hide your pincer, baby, no matter where we are
Just take your pincer, lover, and leave a little scar

I know you had a hard life on the ocean floor
But you don’t have to go back there anymore
I’ll watch your back, I’ll watch your whole physique
The only way I’m gonna melt butter on you is if we’re about to freak, yeah

If you’re in hot water, baby, I will set you free
‘Cause if you get too steamed, then you won’t want to be with me
You can’t crawl in here expecting me not to react
You’re the Cancer that I want to get, and that’s a fact

Gimme your pincer, baby, I can’t wait no more
Get out your pincer, mama, and clamp me to the floor
I want your pincer, baby, it’s the only thing I need
Your sexy pincer, lover, come on, make me bleed


It Loves Cellos

Dr. Frankenstein has got a patient who’s deceased
And the people in the village are not happy in the least
He’s setting up the Tesla coils and hooking up the lightning rods
And he doesn’t give much thought to any consequence of playing God

His beast awakes, it starts to rise
It shakes the long sleep from its eyes
And it would have killed its creator, but the Victrola was playing Brahms
It loves cellos, it loves cellos
And they can make it calm
Oh, it loves cellos and they can make it calm

The monster broke a mirror ’cause it didn’t like its face
And it didn’t want to learn how to rejoin the human race
So now it roams the countryside and everyone’s afraid
Putting up defenses that are never gonna make the grade

The bolted door, the crucifix
The sad result it all predicts
But if you took music lessons, there’s a way to stay alive
It loves cellos, it loves cellos
And that’s how you can survive
Oh, it loves cellos and that’s how you can survive

And it didn’t want to go on a murderous rampage
But then it went on a murderous rampage
And everybody found themselves on the same page
Burning inside with a righteous rage

And suddenly the people are a vigilante mob
And the doctor shuts his window as he’s choking back a sob
They’re carrying their pitchforks and waving their rakes
And they don’t want to hear how the monster maybe made a few mistakes

It tries to hide, it tries to run
It can’t pretend that it never had fun
And when they cornered it on the precipice, it was humming under its breath
It loves cellos, it loves cellos
But it longs for the peace of death
It said, “Hello, I’m home again, death”


Up on Islam

Well, the mullah imam, he rolled out of bed, and he started the indoctrination
How the decadent West could be repossessed by subtle infiltration
So all the faithful came running and signed up for the cause
And they’re not gonna be working within the laws, whoa

So you better be up on Islam, ’cause Islam’s gonna come down on you
Said you better bone up on Islam and hope your knowledge sees you through
They’re gonna get all of us praying to Allah and there’s nothing we can do
So you better be up on Islam, ’cause Islam’s gonna come down on you

Well, the terrorist troops are in a lot of little groups and they’re resistant to infiltration
And the president’s more concerned with starting a war than the security of the nation
They’re on their way, but no one knows from where
They’re taking their time and they’re taking care
And I may not know their hiding place, but I know that they’ve got plans
So I bought myself a copy of the Koran, whoa

‘Cause you gotta be up on Islam, ’cause Islam’s gonna come down on you
Said you better bone up on Islam and hope your knowledge sees you through
You’ll be wearing a veil if you’re female and there’s nothing you can do
So you better be up on Islam, ’cause Islam’s gonna come down on you
Said you better be up on Islam, ’cause Islam’s gonna come down on you



Ooh, baby, they study at the school of John Knox
(Presbyterians, ooh, they’re Presbyterians)
And they don’t think it’s a sin to have a whiskey on the rocks
(Presbyterians, ooh, they’re Presbyterians)
When they say the Lord’s Prayer, they ask him to forgive their debts
And when they get baptized, they don’t have to get their whole body wet
And I know their beliefs may sound mysterious
But they are just Presbyterians

Ooh, they believe in the doctrine of predestination
And their elders are elected by the congregation
They’re sure that someday Christ will once again arrive
They’ve been ordaining female ministers since 1965
And I’m not joking, I am serious
About Presbyterians

Let me tell you now, praying to saints
What Presbyterians do
And they don’t think that it’s true
That every word in the Bible
Is factually reliable
They say that you’ve got to read it in context
And as far as they know
Nobody goes
To limbo
Or to purgatory
They think it’s just a story
And they don’t hate
That we separate
Church and state
They know that life is complex

Ooh, well, in the ’80s they were strongly opposed to apartheid
And unlike Unitarians, they think god is tripartite
And you know they take communion, but they call it the Lord’s Supper instead
And they don’t presume to know say where the Jews or Muslims go when they’re dead
And these are just some examples of my experience
With Presbyterians


Mitch in Jell-O

The g-string flew over his head and landed on his shoulder
And Mitch looked down and shrugged and thought, I must be getting older
It wasn’t long ago such things would make my heart a neon light
But there’s no electricity making me shine tonight

I want something new, I want wrestling
I want to be in the mood, I want to be in the ring
Knee-deep in gelatin with you
Only you

Mitch took a bus to the all-night store and bought a cart of Jell-O
He thought, I don’t care what this looks like, I’ll be the eccentric fellow
That the checkout clerk can laugh about as he trades stories with his friends
But I am never gonna walk that narrow path again

I want something new, I want wrestling
I want a wading pool, I want a messy thing
Knee-deep in gelatin with you
It’s true

The manager thought he was crazy, but the money changed his mind
And the girl was only too happy for a break from the daily bump and grind
So she put on her g-string as he put on his unitard
Oh, following your dreams is really not that hard

Do you want something new, do you want anything
Do you want to be in the mood, do you want to be in that ring
Like Mitch in Jell-O, are you where you want to be
With me?


The Bossy Pop

It tries to make you move your hips from side to side against your will
It plucks the flowers from the wall, and tells them all, you can’t stand still
It tells you, jump to the left
It tells you, turn to the right
Now throw your arms in the air, and while they’re there, just keep them up all night
But don’t knuckle under, honey,
You don’t have to dance till you drop
Why don’t you just stop obeying the bossy pop?

It tries to make you sing along, expressing thoughts not your intent
It tries to make you nod your head, as if you’ve said you give consent
It adds a thump to the bass
That underscores every beat
See all the tricks that it tries to get you rising up out of your seat and up onto your feet
But don’t give it the satisfaction, dear,
No one’s making you spin like a top
Why don’t you just stop obeying the bossy pop?

And then when the beat gets twice as slow,
And the lights get nice and low,
And you see dry ice, you know
That there’s a plan underway to get you under its sway

It tries to tell us that our capacity for ecstasy is large
And it wants us to let that joy inside — oh yeah? Well, who died and left it in charge?
Look at them sweating and laughing,
Look at them falling in love
Thank goodness both you and I know it’s a lie that we can rise above
I don’t even know why I came here, really
I thought it was some sort of shop
I certainly didn’t stop because of the bossy pop.
Oh, no, not the bossy pop!

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