So there we are tooling along cheerfully in my daughter’s LeBaron convertible, top down, temp in the high 80s, the moving air thick and summery. The baby, 7 months old yesterday, giggling maniacally in the back, his little fuzzy hairs dancing on his little fuzzy head in the welcoming wind.
We pick up the 4 year-old at pre-school and switch from NPR news to the oldies station – our convertible singalong common denominator – and we endure a commercial break of no less than four full minutes (it’s a Clear Channel station after all), and then brighten to the skiffly beginning of Herman’s Hermits’ “Mrs. Brown You’ve Got a Lovely Daughter.”
Now, unlike many an officious snob, I love Herman’s Hermits: Peter Noone’s thick Manchester tenor had a sweet Merseybeat appeal, and under the direction of producer Mickie Most, the Hermits had some great pop-rock material in “No Milk Today,” the lilt and swing of “I’m Into Something Good,” “Can’t You Hear My Heartbeat,” the lovely “There’s a Kind of Hush,” and the cheery novelty “I’m Henry the VIII, I Am,” which brings us back to “Mrs Brown.”
It skiffles along just fine through the verses, with Noone feigning a stiff upper lip while confiding his heartache to his heartacher’s mother. I am singing along, Lily is doing her very fine hearing-a-song-for-the-first-time, keep-up-with-the-melody-while-mumbling-along-with-the-words (hauntingly reminiscent of her sister at the same age under very similar circumstances) in her sweet small musical voice, when – SWEET MOTHER OF PEARL – the damn bridge hits and I almost break my neck trying to wrap my vocal chords around the single most awkward modulation in the history of recorded music.
I had completely forgotten what an odd mess that bridge – which is committed not once but twice in the song – is, not only changing key and ranging from the highest mountain top to the lowest sea, like Gandalf fighting the Balrog, but also completely halting the momentum of the song with a misbegotten unison stop. Even Lily said, “What happened to the song, Daddy?”
Was the song arranged by orcs? Anton Webern?
Anyway, had to tell you about it. I feel better now.