Vanilla is a product of Lussumo:Documentation and Support.
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Unlike Grandma Cope’s, the house in Glascote Heath had an indoor toilet, a bathroom, electricity and plumbing upstairs, a car parking space and – supplied by a pushy ex-suitor of my mother’s – a heavy walnut radiogram with a single 8” speaker that played records at 33, 45 and 78rpm respectively. Cannily, the ex-suitor also provided my parents with their first LP – a 10” record called SONGS OF TOM LEHRER – to go with the radiogram and, thus, we were all introduced to the dulcet tones of this cheerful Harvard mathematician. I say ‘we’ because I was always included in social gatherings in Glascote Heath, wielded as a one-metre mascot and magical totem by my mother, who loved to show off my memory and voice by parading me in front of her friends singing note-perfect renditions of Tom Lehrer songs. That Lehrer’s lyrics were somewhat ‘off colour’ (to use the vernacular of the day) only added further grist to my mother’s Modernist mill, and she later claimed throughout my teenage and early adult years to anyone who would listen that I had known all of Lehrer’s best songs by heart by the time I was three-and-a-half years old. And, dammit, from the trouble Lehrer’s lyrics got me into throughout my childhood, I do believe she may have been right. For Tom Lehrer was the ultimate Wolf-in-Sheep’s-Clothing, a bespectacled and Uber mild-mannered academic within whose tra-la-la catchy bastard songs were contained endless tales of incest (‘Oedipus Rex’), drug use (‘The Old Dope Peddler’, ‘Bright College Days’, ‘Be Prepared’), xenophobia (‘In Old Mexico’), violent institutionalized racism (‘I Wanna Go Back to Dixie’), violent homicide (‘The Irish Ballad’, ‘I Hold Your Hand in Mine, Dear’), violence to animals (‘In Old Mexico’ again, as well as ‘Poisoning Pigeons in the Park’), all these songs sitting quite happily alongside more acceptable targets of the day such as fear-of-Communist-spies and the atom bomb in ‘The Wild West is Where I Wanna Be’, and the end-of-the-world through the USA and USSR’s policy of Mutually Assured Destruction (‘We Will All Go Together When We Go’). Even a raunchy-sounding love song like ‘She’s My Girl’ in actuality celebrated the poor personal hygiene of the singer’s girlfriend. And thus, material that would have got a feistmeister such as Lenny Bruce sacked immediately was – in the hands of this congenial Harvard academic – easy enough to sneak past the unsuspecting authorities, as unnoticed as Sidney Vish warbling ‘You cunt, I’m not a queer’ at the beginning of ‘My Way’. I mean, no one but Tom Lehrer would – back in 1959 – have dared to introduce a song like so:??“This is a song about a young necrophiliac who achieves his childhood ambition by becoming coroner.”