try an’ hide

April 21, 2008

When I was around 12, I found a stash of records belonging to my aunt that had somehow ended up in our attic. My aunt was bit younger and cooler than my Dad. As well as a couple of Beatles albums (my folks only listened to classical) there was a working copy of ‘An Evening (wasted) With Tom Lehrer’.

Tom Lehrer soon became my idol. By day, he was a Harvard maths professor. (I liked maths.) By night he turned into a comic singer. (I liked comic songs – at that time my burning ambition was to write for an outfit called The Barron Knights.) I put the record on our ‘music centre’ and listened to it over and over again, eventually becoming immune to the scratch that made it jump at the same place in ‘She’s My Girl’ every time.

There was a cheery song about nuclear war, called ‘We Will All Go Together When We Go’, an inspiring ode to ‘Bright College Days’ (including the inimitable lyric “Soon we’ll be out amid the cold world’s strife / Soon we’ll be sliding down the razor blade of life”) and the awe-inspiring (at that age, anyway) ‘Masochism Tango’.

But my favourite was always ‘Poisoning Pigeons in the Park’. Anyone who can rhyme “cyanide” with “try an’ hide” is alright in my book.

The reason I bring all this up is that the Googleblog has just informed me that Mr Lehrer recently turned 80. I somehow doubt that in all that time he ever achieved the ambition stated on the record sleeve: “If, after hearing my songs, just one human being is inspired to say something nasty to a friend, or perhaps strike a loved one, it will all have been worth the while.” But, Tom Lehrer, we salute you nonetheless.