1845

Sep 27, 2019
Originally published on September 27, 2019 1:34 pm

In this music parody, house musician Jonathan Coulton rewrote songs with the word "America" or "American" in their titles to make them about people, places and things that happened the same year Texas became an American state.

Heard on Matthew McConaughey: Commerce And Vanity.

Copyright 2019 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

JONATHAN COULTON: This is NPR's ASK ME ANOTHER coming to you from Austin, Texas. I'm Jonathan Coulton. Here's your host - Ophira Eisenberg.

(CHEERING)

OPHIRA EISENBERG, HOST:

Thank you, Jonathan. Before the break, we met our contestants Wendi and Christine. Our next game is called 1845, which is what I say to casting directors when they ask what ages can I play.

(LAUGHTER)

EISENBERG: Let's check in with our contestants. So Wendi, in 2007 you wrote an open letter to Procter & Gamble about the ridiculous message that appears on the inside of the flap of their Always pads at the time. Now, it was published in McSweeney's. It went viral. Many well-known actors performed it as a piece. So tell us about this letter.

WENDI AARONS: Yeah, it went viral before Facebook and Twitter existed. People were mailing it to each other.

EISENBERG: Are you kidding me?

AARONS: No. And just this past year it kind of took on a new life, and it was performed in London at the Letters Live show, and then Uzo Aduba from "Orange Is The New Black" performed it.

EISENBERG: Yeah.

AARONS: And Alison Brie from "GLOW" performed it at some big gala in LA. It's just bizarre. I guess, like, maxi pads have a long life.

EISENBERG: Yeah.

(LAUGHTER)

EISENBERG: What was the little inspirational message that was on the inside of the flap?

AARONS: Have a happy period.

EISENBERG: Aw.

(LAUGHTER)

AARONS: I mean...

EISENBERG: They couldn't run that by one woman, anywhere?

AARONS: One woman, yeah.

(LAUGHTER)

EISENBERG: Christine, I love this. You told my producer that you really love smells.

CHRISTINE WALEN: I do.

EISENBERG: I mean, I love smells, but I get the impression that you really love smells. So what is one of your favorites?

WALEN: It's kind of a nostalgic smell, but it's the smell of a hot tape fresh out of the VCR.

EISENBERG: I mean, I'm trying to think of what that - so it's kind of like a plastic-y (ph) burn?

WALEN: Yeah, it's nothing good.

EISENBERG: It's nothing good.

(LAUGHTER)

WALEN: No.

EISENBERG: And where does that take you in your brain?

WALEN: Childhood movies.

EISENBERG: Childhood movies.

WALEN: Yeah.

EISENBERG: Is there any particular movie that you think of?

WALEN: Yeah, like "NeverEnding Story."

EISENBERG: "NeverEnding Story."

WALEN: Yeah.

(CHEERING)

EISENBERG: All right, your next game is a music parody about the year Texas became a state. Wendi, stay in the lead and you're in the final round. Christine, you need to get more points or you must secede from this show.

(LAUGHTER)

COULTON: Texas became the 28th U.S. state in 1845, and we wondered what else was going on in America that year? Turns out at least seven other things.

(LAUGHTER)

COULTON: In this game, we rewrote songs with the word America or American in the title to make them about people, places and things with a connection to 1845. We're totally running out of ideas.

(LAUGHTER)

COULTON: Ring in and tell me what I'm singing about, and if you get that right, for a bonus point you can name the original song or the artist who made it famous. Here we go.

(Singing) Three strikes, you're out. The Knickerbocker Club just wrote the rules about playing this American game.

(SOUNDBITE OF BELL)

COULTON: Wendi.

AARONS: Baseball.

COULTON: Baseball. That's right.

AARONS: And Tom Petty, "American Girl."

COULTON: Yeah, well done.

(CHEERING)

COULTON: Straight to the bonus point - I like that. It's very aggressive.

AARONS: I don't have any time to spare; I'm wearing tunics now.

(LAUGHTER)

COULTON: Here's your next one.

(Singing) Henry, I said as I packed his bag for Massachusetts. Don't you need more for two years in the woods? He's going to write about living the simple life. I bet he still sends his laundry home.

(SOUNDBITE OF BELL)

COULTON: Wendi.

AARONS: Henry David Thoreau, Walden Woods.

COULTON: Yeah, left for Walden Pond in 1845. That's right.

AARONS: And his mother did his laundry and brought him sandwiches. I just read that on the Internet.

COULTON: Yeah, me too.

AARONS: And Simon and Garfunkel.

COULTON: Simon Garfunkel, "America" - that's right.

(CHEERING)

COULTON: (Singing) The president said no. Senate disagreed. President said no. House did not concede. Oh, John Tyler used his right. Legislators pulled their voting might. They clapped back successfully for the first time in their history. Hey, Tyler, they did not concede. The president said no. Congress disagreed.

(SOUNDBITE OF BELL)

COULTON: Wendi.

AARONS: Veto, presidential veto.

COULTON: Yes, we'll accept that. Veto - the first veto was overridden in 1845.

AARONS: And that was "American Woman."

COULTON: That's right. "American Woman" by Guess Who or Lenny Kravitz...

AARONS: Lenny Kravitz.

COULTON: ...Depending on who you ask.

(CHEERING)

COULTON: (Singing) This guy made my favorite pie. Yeah, John Chapman worked the map. Man, that guy must have been spry. He planted trees in every place he passed by. Now he's dead, and all the tart-makers cry because he's their favorite fruit tree ally.

(SOUNDBITE OF BELL)

COULTON: Christine.

WALEN: Johnny Appleseed.

COULTON: Johnny Appleseed is the answer. Died in March 1845.

EISENBERG: Aw.

COULTON: For a bonus point, can you name the original song or artist?

WALEN: "American Pie."

COULTON: That's right. Don McLean.

(CHEERING)

COULTON: Here we go.

(Singing) Seminoles really didn't appreciate when we made it the 27th state. Peninsula by the Gulf of Mexico. If you like peaches and oranges, you should go.

(SOUNDBITE OF BELL)

COULTON: Christine.

WALEN: Florida.

COULTON: Florida. That's correct. For a bonus point, can you name the song or artist?

WALEN: No.

COULTON: No. Don't feel bad. It's "American Idiot" by Green Day.

WALEN: Oh.

(LAUGHTER)

COULTON: This is your last clue.

(Singing) Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered weak and weary, there's a tap on my chamber door - whoa - and a bird saying nevermore. Whoa. Now I really miss my girlfriend Lenore.

(SOUNDBITE OF BELL)

COULTON: Christine.

WALEN: Edgar Allan Poe.

COULTON: Edgar Allan Poe. That's "The Raven." That's right. Published in 1845.

EISENBERG: Poe was so Raven.

(LAUGHTER)

COULTON: That's a good one. For a bonus point, can you name the song or artist?

WALEN: Is that The Go-Go's?

COULTON: It is not The Go-Go's. It is Kim Wilde, "Kids In America." Ophira, how did our contestants do?

EISENBERG: Great game. And after two games, Wendi is moving on to our final round.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.