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097 – And Your Bird Can Sing – The Mild Thankful Hogs

 
Original version recorded April 26 1966
Ukulele version recorded January 28th 2010

P.Wiggly – Vocals
E.B. Burnished Bratten-Smythe – Guitar
Hamm Strinng – Bass
Pig “Skins” McGraw Drums

with
Ira Seigel – Ukulele
David Barratt – Other stuff

Written by John Lennon
Credited to Lennon and McCartney

Produced and arranged by David Barratt at The Abattoir Of Good Taste, Brooklyn and 45th floor Hogg Heaven Studios,  Manhattan.
Essay – Sean Redmond


ABOUT THE SONG

I’m typing this with aching fingertips. The opening riffs of “And Your Bird Can Sing” just make you want to grab your guitar and play, even if you should really be writing. The melody is tossed out so exuberantly over a bare handful of chords that you can keep trying to catch the feeling of these notes without wearing out the fun of playing them.

Joe Walsh supposedly worked at getting it perfect for years before finding out that it’s played by George and Paul together. By the time you’ve put the Telecaster down because, no, really, you’ve got to write that thing… well, you can feel the cut of the strings into your fingers with every letter you type.

While the Beatles were pushing into the terra incognita of pop songs that lasted 3 minutes and more here is this quirky little tune that barely makes it past the two minute mark. It isn’t the two minutes of “Tell Me Why” or “All My Loving,” though. “And Your Bird Can Sing” bursts out with a guitar line that goes too fast and ends too soon; the choruses don’t quite line up with the bridge; the whole song is kind of lopsided and when it’s done—if it’s the first time you’ve ever heard it—I’m not sure if you know what just happened.

Of course what had happened was that The Beatles were refining a formula. Both “Bird” and “Nowhere Man” were written in the key of D and played in E. The bass line is pretty much the same in both. I can see Paul now figuring out his part on John’s “Nowhere Man” and thinking  “Hey THIS is just too good to waste”. Try playing the lead from “Man” over “Bird” or vice-versa and you’ll find that the work perfectly. 

It is often said that Lennon wrote the song in response to Mick Jagger boasting about his pop-star girlfriend or "bird” Marianne Faithful. I like this idea but really I think this song is all about the noise it makes.

I like to think that “And Your Bird Can Sing” is the track “You Won’t See Me” wanted to be when it grew up. “You Won’t See Me” is a classic beneath-the-balcony serenade you’d sing if you could drag a few friends, a drum kit, and a piano out into the lane. It’s all about how we lost the time that was so hard to find, how I can’t go on if you won’t see me, and even a little bit bitter—“I’ve had enough / now act your age”—but with John’s  beautifully pop bouquet of ooooooh-la-la-la’s and Paul’s upbeat bass line you still want to shout up to the girl “Look at the poor guy Pick up the phone!”

In “And Your Bird Can Sing” the girl, maybe the same one, is up there again on her balcony with her pet parrot (or budgie, there are only so many species that fit the lyric “And your bird is green”), and she’s not listening still.  

I know you’re thinking, “Isn’t this just like Catullus, with Lesbia and her sparrow?”

Sort of, but no. Lesbia’s “Sparrow, my girl’s delight” was a distraction to her and a rival to the poet. This green bird isn’t like Catullus’s, you wouldn’t enjoy being in its place in her lap.  This green bird sums up the short-sightedness of someone who thinks she’s got what she wants, she’s heard every sound there is, she’s seen the seven wonders and her bird can sing. It’s not that she won’t see him. 

She can’t. 

She can’t see the forest for the birds. 

The up-tempo joy of this song might seem out of place. Lesbia’s sparrow was playing in one poem and dead in the next and “And Your Bird Can Sing” also looks to the time “when your bird is broken.” The Beatles were taking their first steps with Buddhism, though, so the broken bird is the just the falling away of what’s been overvalued. This song isn’t trying to get this message through to her—that’s her journey. Without that burden of ego you can play guitar all night. If you can keep our eyes and ears open, you may still be standing when it all falls away and sight returns. “Will it get you down? / You may be awoken. I’ll be ‘round, I’ll be round.”

Some purists will say that since Paul admitted the guitar part was inspired by Vivaldi’s Mandolin Concerto, (you know the one, it’s always on the CD with The Four Seasons) it’s an abomination to adapt it for a different kind of tiny guitar.

They should be slapped that’s so ridiculous. The tiny guitar simply rocks on this track. 

They’ve let themselves go and taken a lilting delight in this song that begs us not to let the birds get us down. 

The Ukulele Version is performed by the matured and deep fried “The Mild Thankful Hogs”. 

For many years they were a staple part of the musical diet of America, but fashions change, and for many years have been performing on the Chitlin’ Circuit despite their Rabbi’s pleadings.

Their revolutionary stage clothing inspired Lady Gaga’s dress at the 2010 MTV Video Music Awards. P.Wiggly, singer and leader of the band, was quoted as saying. 

“I’m a bit fed up about the meat dress, I have to say.” 

“When I was playing Berlin clubs late fifties I stole a butcher’s van with all the meat hanging up. I stuck it on some cloth and had a shirt made, which was basically a flesh shirt. I must admit though,’ he concedes graciously, ‘her garment was a bloody sight better tailored than the one I made, but at least my one was washable.”


ABOUT THE ARTIST

The Mild Thankful Hogs have always played it very close to the vest (when they’ve played it at all), enabling them to end up roughly where they are today. 

Or maybe over a smidge, but not too much — people are watching.   

What counts is that the M.T.H. as an ensemble, have always been able to harmonize and play guitar until the cows come home — at which point the cows themselves often join in. It’s that simple really.  A barnyard of blues.  And none too soon.

Born out of a swollen gland suffered long ago, the "Polite Grateful Porcines"  exploded on the scene in 1964 with the seminal "Meet The Hogs" — and it took forever to fully clean up the scene afterwards.  In fact to this day, the sonic stains remain and remind us of that mess so long ago.  

Soon enough was "A Hog’s Day, Right?" and the slew of M.T.H. gems that followed.  Who can forget "With A Sow Like You" and the other "Pigmania" hits of the day?  Soon, spray painted across London, right next to the "Clapton is God" phrase, we began to see "Some Pig!  Terrific!" hastily scrawled in almost spiderweb-like precision.   And then, we knew.  We still couldn’t find our car keys, sure, but let’s face it – we all knew. 

In 1967, the Hogs teamed up with the ebullient but vaguely paranoid Frank Slappa and Mothers of Pretension, to record the classic cult album "Pig Out!"  They also scored a minor late 60’s hit with their trucculent version of "(Sniffing For The) Savoy Truffle" before their career was thought to have ended, quite justifiably I’d say, with 1970’s self-titled mope "Let It Slop."

The decades that followed – filled as they were with the advent of lesser lights such as turkey bacon and polymer footballs – were the nadir for the members of the M.T.H.   However, the advent of the "other white meat" campaign a few years ago brought new life to the Porkers.

They picked up their guitars, and, after four painful years of practicing, put strings on them again. 

The result is what you hear today.  Enjoy, but please don’t pour the  grease down the drain when you’re done.

 

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