erik lundegaard


Monday May 27, 2024

Gone With the Draft

A few weeks back my friend David G. recommended a podcast “A History of Rock Music in 500 Songs,” and now I'm recommending it to you. 

David is deep into music—plays it, knows it, lives it—so I kind of knew it was going to be good, and the podcast host, Andrew Hickey, gives us some deep dives. Put it this way: it's a long time before we get to Elvis. I love the ur-rock portion of it all—Benny Goodman, Big Joe Turner, Louis Jordan, Bob Wills—while Hickey brings in economic forces I didn't know about: a musician's strike in the 1940s that helped push vocalists front and center; the late '40s invention of 45s that rendered a lot of '40s artists and their old 78s if not irrelevant at least forgotten. Hickey keeps saying, “The first of anything is messy,” and truer words. 

The frequent talk about boogie-woogie music—which Hickey, from Manchester, England, pronounces with an extended “ou” sound that's pretty charming—got me thinking about the Andrew Sisters' “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy.” That's not part of this, or it doesn't make up its own individual episode; I just began to listen to it. And I realized a few things. One is that I'd been mishearing the lyrics; the other was a damn good pun I missed because I'd been mishearing the lyrics:

This is how I thought the song went, with mistakes highlighted:

He was the top man in his band
But then his number came up and he was caught in the draft
He's in the army now
Blowing reveille
He's the boogie woogie bugle boy of Company B

One night I thought, “Odd that they rhyme 'man' and 'band' but leave the next line rhymeless.” But that's wrong. It wasn't band, it was ... class. Top man in his class. Not a complete rhyme with “draft”; more assonance than rhyme. But cool.

And still wrong. Because it was a complete rhyme: “craft” to go with “draft.” He was the top man at his craft. And he wasn't caught in the draft, he was gone with the draft. There. Phew. Finally. 

And then the other shoe dropped:

Gone with ... the draft

Man, what a great pun—playing off the biggest novel and movie from the previous few years. I mean, it's almost perfect.

I also like the general notion in the song of a hep cat who's into boogie woogie and suddenly finds him as the bugler in this man's army. And maybe bringing some hepness to this man's army. And just when we needed it.

Posted at 10:06 AM on Monday May 27, 2024 in category Music