Checking Facebook this morning, I saw a photo of an old friend from Middle School (we used to call him Nkima, and I realised I couldn't remember why, but I assume it was because he looked like this monkey in the Tarzan cartoon). This in turn prompted me to start singing one of the songs that I had written when I was 10 or 11 that me, him and my little group of friends used to sing together. I wrote quite a few comedy songs, which were mainly stream of consciousness rubbish, or unpardonably racist (I sang one of those to general shock in one of the live Collings and Herrin podcasts) or about my cat. I can date this one to being from between 1977 and 1978 as Nkima (that's not his actual name) and me were only close friends for those years, before things drifted apart due to which sets we got put in, or whatever reason childhood alliances change. Though my other best friend at the time was Phil Fry (who I saw at the weekend, so some friendships do endure). I think it was this triumverate that also referred to ourselves as the Hair Bear Bunch after the popular cartoon of the time, where I was Hair Bear, Phil was Square Bear and Nkima was Bubi (thus being in the enviable position of having two nicknames based on cartoon animals). But I may be wrong because I also have a memory of another Richard being Square Bear, so maybe Phil was Bubi and Nkima just stuck being a monkey from a different cartoon.
This is all by the by.
As with many of my childhood musical compositions I could remember all the words to the song that sprung to mind. It was a blues riff, possibly influenced by the Pharoah's song in Joseph and the Technicoloured Dreamcoat (and this might be one of the occasions you want to check out the audio version of this blog as I will sing it for you there) and began
"I was walking down the street
Carrying some meat,
Someone trod upon my feet,
So I kicked them up the seat!
This sets a certain comic tone which is rather undercut by the incongruous chorus (and remember this is composed by a boy of 10 or 11 who knows little of love or loss), which plaintively goes, "Please come back to me!"
I sang this to my wife, who really laughed at this strange juxtaposition. Who was it who had left the 10 year old Richard Herring so callously, and why did he think that singing about taking revenge on an inconsiderate pedestrian would woo them back? And why was he carrying meat and what kind of meat? It asked more questions than it answered. I hoped that the second verse might shed some light for my delighted spouse.
"I was sitting by the telly
Watching Fonzerelli" (this is of course the full surname of the Fonz from Happy Days who would appear in much of my comedic output for the next 35 years)
"Eating bright green jelly" (and again a recurring trope in my later work, odd to see it here in this piece of juvenilia)
"But boy it was so smelly,
Please come back to me. Please come back to me. Please come back to me"
Again the cheeriness of the nonsensical rhymes of the verse means you are still surprised by the darkness and reiteration of the chorus. But if the young Richard Herring does insist on eating luminous, malodorous puddings, it is hardly surprising that whoever it is who he wants to come back left him in the first place.
My wife was so delighted by this and the image of the tiny me singing it and sharing it with his friends ("Hey Nkima, Square Bear, Bubi, gather round. I've come up with another classic. Listen up!") that she was laughing at it all day and asking me to sing it again. She loved it so much that I thought that if we ever did break up and I was trying to win her back I could sing this song to her and it might actually work. Let's hope it's never needed, but it's nice to have it in the arsenal.
I have to say that every time I thought of the earnest chorus combined with the childish verse it did make me laugh too. Later, in the bath, my wife bemoaned that fact that there were only two verses, though I told her that that was not a problem, as the young Richard Herring had clearly beneltoned the writing of this song. It's not hard to add to and I improvised
"I was sitting in the bath
Having a laugh
Someone turned me into a calf
So I cut them in half
Oh yeah..." (and the skill is to leave the chorus for as long as possible so the anticipation of the inevitable is even more enjoyable) "Please come back to me."
I have to say that my adult efforts at verse writing were not as successful as the childlike wonder that had created the originals, but it's better to approach this stuff from innocence. Now I know what it is like to be deserted and so it's hard for me to come up with suitably inappropriate lyrics to segue into the heart-rending wail of despair.
I don't know which song (if any) I got the line "please come back to me" from or why I didn't carry on with my song-writing into adult life (I came up with some pretty good tunes for these songs - not so much this one which is just a blues riff- I presume I appropriated most of them, but can't always see where from). It was a tie of pure invention and unfettered imagination. And it hadn't really struck me before how funny this song was due to its inappropriate denouement. Maybe I can turn it into a hit in my 40s. I'd love to see this song covered by a serious artist.
You'll all be singing it in the playground tomorrow.
Another name added to the RHLSTP line-up. Dara O'Briain and Ross Noble will be my guests on the 14th October. Book tickets here.
In fact here's all the latest news in my September newsletter.