I was shampooing the carpets on Saturday afternoon (don’t ask) and out of nowhere I remembered a snippet from a song that was a hit when I was a little kid. It was just a fragment—one line of a lyric and a piece of the hook. I couldn’t dislodge it from my head. It kept pinging around and around. It was an unlikely hit in that it was about cannibalism. And not in a funny way—real cannibalism.
I thought my mind might be playing a trick on me and that my subconscious was making the whole thing up so I consulted our old friend the internet and sure enough; in 1971 there was a song called Timothy by The Buoys that reached #13 on the Billboard Top 100 list. Does anyone remember this?
I looked up the lyrics and they’re HORRIFYING! I wondered how something as dark as this could be played on the radio at all, much less become a hit. The Wikipedia entry claims that the songwriter intentionally wrote something so heinous that he was certain it would be banned from radio, believing that there‘s no such thing as bad publicity. It turned out he was right! To everyone’s surprise, including the songwriter, it became a hit.
Take a look at this mess. And stick with it through to its gruesome conclusion.
Trapped in a mine that had caved in
And everyone knows the only ones left
Were Joe and me and Tim
When they broke through to pull us free
The only ones left to tell the tale
Were Joe and me
Timothy, Timothy, where on earth did you go?
Timothy, Timothy, God why don’t I know?
Hungry as hell no food to eat
And Joe said that he would sell his soul
For just a piece of meat
Water enough to drink for two
And Joe said to me, “I’ll have a swig
And then there’s some for you.”
Timothy, Timothy, Joe was looking at you
Timothy, Timothy, God what did we do?
I must have blacked out just around then
‘Cause the very next thing that I could see
Was the light of the day again
My stomach was full as it could be
And nobody ever got around
To finding Timothy
Sweet Mother of Jesus! Upon further research, I found out that this was written by none other than RUPERT HOLMES! This is the same guy that gave the world Escape (The Piña Colada Song) in 1979. It’s a ridiculous song about two bored lovers who try to cheat on each other via the personnel ads only do discover that they’ve answered each others’ ad. I’d be pissed if I found out she was stepping out on me (even though I was doing the exact same thing).
If you like Piña Coladas
and getting caught in the rain…
I dare not quote more for fear of starting an ear worm chain reaction that could take down the world financial markets.
This means that one man is solely responsible for writing not one, but TWO of the worst songs ever recorded! You might think that I’m disparaging Mr. Holmes but I’m NOT.
Rupert, if you’re out there, you are THE MAN! Where are you? We want MORE!
Holy shit…I remember that song. Might have a little PTSD just remembering it tonight. Didn’t it come about the same time as Alive–about the plane crash in the Andes that also resulted in *gulp* the same culinary actions?
ack. i’ve spent over 30 years forgetting this song… damn your carpets, damn, damn, damn…rupert holmes must be evil incarnate. oh, not for “Timothy”, but the Pina Colada song…aaaaaargh!
Never heard that song. It is a bit… unappetizing. Nick Cave has a song or two about cannibalism as well.
Do yourself a favour and youtube the Escape song. You’ve never seen a ‘rock star’ look so much like an accountant.
HIF: You might be right about that. That’s a hell of a thing to draw inspiration from.Daisy: Welcome to “inside my head.” It’s not for the faint.AFM: It’s okay for Nick Cave to write about cannibals. He has panache. Rupert? Not so much.TH: I just did. Awful. It matches the song.
All the great country songs embrace the darker sides to life. (e.g. Nelson’s Red Headed Strangetr or the entire Cash Catalogue)….and I second the Nick Cave reference who I whole-heartedly recommend to anyone. He’s one of our best poets of Dylanesque stature today, IISSM (is that a legit contraction for ‘If I Say So Myself’?) As far as pop music goes, I’ll have to think on that and get back up with ye.
Wasn’t born in 1971 … Wow that song … wow.
So rattle off my previous response before realizing that in my shoulder bag sits a CD that I plan on listening when I get to the office: The Executioner’s Last Songs by The Pine Valley Cosmonauts (a supergroup put together by Jon Langford of Mekons fame to benefit for the Illinois Death Penalty Moratorium Project). And playing in my ears is a cover performed by Waco Bros. and Mekon’s vets of The Advert’s “Gary Gilmore’s Eyes”: about a man who gets a murderer’s eyes transplanted into his head…..that’s pretty Twilight Zone-ish!
The ear worm has burrowed lightning-quick and is now well and truly ensconced and laying eggs in my warm brain.How’s that for gross?
JZ: These are all artists whose dark material is legitimate. To write a dark song specifically to get it banned on the radio is sophomoric. Boo on you, Rupert.Sid: Are you bragging on your age? I love listening to Mozart and that stuff is a couple of hundred years ago.Leah: I’m so sorry. It was not my intention. May it pass soon…
i don’t remember that song, sugar, and for that i am eternally grateful. BUT, i must thank YOU for the reminding me of the bounciest tribute to infidelity ever written! *must listen to nutrat fateh ali khan and eddie vedder right now!* (think soundtrack from dead man walking) xoxox ;~D
After stating at dinner on Sunday night that I didn’t want to hear anything about cannibalism ever again(we have interesting discussions around the Cat Family table), I’ve heard about it pretty much constantly including seeing it on True Blood Sunday night. Yuck.I do not want to hear anything about my winning the largest lottery in US history. Hey, it could work.
Awww, sweet. Now I have to go find Alice Cooper’s Millie and Billy.