Saturday, October 01, 2016

Rest rudely in Peace, Oscar Brand!

My favourite garage sale finds are almost always things I've never heard about before. In particular, there was a sale in East Van a few years ago where they had a bunch of Oscar Brand LPs, selling for 25 cents each. I had never heard of Oscar Brand at that point - though he was born in Canada, and hosted shows on the CBC - but I bought about five of them, because the covers looked like this:

...and what a find that was, every bit the equal of my other favourite 25 cent find, Spike Jones playing Hank Williams, dug out of a Hospital Auxiliary thrift store in Maple Ridge. I soon fell in love with some of the songs. I had actually heard "Blinded by Turds" as covered live by the Meat Puppets on a DVD, under the title "Wonderful Song," but there's no cover of it to equal Brand's (not sure if it's an original of his or a true folk tune but Brand's version is definitive, by me.) And there are tons of other gems, perfect for singing in the shower, or even worse in public to embarrass your girlfriend, like "Good Ship Venus", which borrows a bit from a song my father taught me as the "North Atlantic Squadron," in the line about circumcising the skipper (tho' I believe father's version went, "the cabin boy, the cabin boy, the dirty little nipper/ he filled his bum with bubble gum and vulcanised the skipper"). In addition to his western songs, Brand has a couple of equally fun albums of rude sea shanties too (if you don't offend easily with comedic references to male-on-male anal sex, check this one out, another favourite of mine to sing to myself, about how "backside rules the navy").

There was even, in that garage sale score, one album I sent to Jello Biafra, by way of apologizing for a fucked up interview I did, because there was a song about "Guantanamo Bay" with a chorus about blowing it up, long before it was used as a site for practising torture on brown folks (61 people STILL are in detention at Gitmo, as of this writing). Hope Jello listened to it!

Rude or not, politically unacceptable or not, I eat this stuff up. When it comes to funny novelty music, given a choice between an Oscar Brand album, a Shel Silverstein, a Tom Lehrer, and a Flanders & Swann, I'll pick Oscar Brand every time. If anyone finds Oscar Brand Goes to College, I need it still! And Bawdy Hootenanny. I have about ten of his albums now, and am particularly pleased that when they come into record stores, they tend to sell for $5 or less, since apparently no one but me loves them, locally. I do not mind that at all, but having about ten of them, I can safely tell other people about how fun these are, now - tho' like I say, you must be able to rise above some stuff that, nevermind being rude and sex-themed, is in no way politically progressive and is occasionally homophobic, racist, or unflattering to women (and men!).

Sadly, I'm writing about this now because Mr. Brand died this week of pneumonia. I never feel bad when people die in their 90's - 96 is a ripe old age for anyone to make it to - so rather than being all mournful, I'll just say "thanks, Oscar, for all the fun music" - always gleeful and cheerful and celebratory, and almost always rude.

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