“The Alfabet Song” is track 17 on the CD Songs for Well-Behaved Children, written and recorded by Barry Louis Polisar. My brother and I received this album as a gift when it first came out; I recently purchased it on CD when for my own children and those of my friends. The lyrics are delightfully naughty:
A is for armpit, acne, and alchemy.
Au naturel and alcohol, albatross and atrophy.
Athlete’s foot and atom bomb,asthma and autopsy.
B is for bombshell, bacteria, and me.
C is for cantankerous, canker sore, and candy.
D is for dumbbell, doody balls, and dandy.
E is for egghead, ego, and electrocute.
F is for a dirty word, Filet O’Fish and Fu Manchu.
G is for grotesque, gross, and genocide.
H is for hernia, hemorrhoids, and high rise.
I is for idiot, imbecile, and Iroquois.
J is for jugular vein, junkie, and joy.
K is for kangaroo, kick, and kootie.
L is for lavatory, lick, and loony.
M is for mayonnaise, mayhem, and misogynist.
N is for nonsense, nudity, and nit.
Oh, O is for oatmeal, Oreos, and oleo.
P is for politics, pat, and Edgar Allen Poe.
Q is for quadruple and R is for rude.
S is for shiftless and T is for two.
Oh, U is for underwear and V is for villainy.
W is too hard and so is X, Y, and Z.
Autopsy. A dirty word. Genocide. Junkie. Misogynist. Shiftless. I mean it when I say they don’t make ’em like they did in 1979. Not even the artist makes ’em like he used to–he’s been recording new stuff and rerecording old stuff, and although the production quality has improved (by his own assessment–we emailed once or twice, not lately and not about this song) he has cleaned up the lyrics. It makes me sad. F is for follicle. U is for ululate. Fun words to spell and say, but they lack that certain indescribable something that I like to think of as subversiveness.
I wonder what motivated this change? Was it to increase the number of elementary schools that would let him perform there? (I doubt many principals appreciated having the word “mayhem” introduced to their student body.) Was it a nod in the general direction of the political correctness movement? Was it because he first wrote the song when he was an arrogant punk kid in his early twenties, and changed his mind about what he thought children should know when his first kid turned five? I believe Matt Groening apologized years later–after his kid was born–for Bart Simpson’s language. Considering that the Little Fella repeats every word he hears, I can sympathize with this concern. But the ornery streak in me doesn’t mind if my children throw words like “cantankerous” and “alchemy” around. “Alchemy” is worth like 18 points in Scrabble, and that’s before the 50-point bonus or any special tile assessment.
Polisar has all the old stuff for sale as archival recordings at his website: http://www.barrylou.com/originalCDs.html. I should probably stock up on them now before all the other rabid fans get them. I have this feeling that children’s recording artists who sing the lyrics “tie a rope around his mouth and lock him in a box” are few and far between.