99 bottles of beer on the wall

When I was growing up, every kid knew alternate lyrics to the Christmas carol “We Three Kings”:

We three kinds of Orient are
Trying to smoke a rubber cigar.
It was loaded, it exploded…

Those of you born after 1960 probably sang this one:

Jingle bells
Batman smells,
Robin laid an egg.
Batmobile lost a wheel
And Joker got away.

Many adults, too, delight in replacing original lyrics with something silly. Comedy writer Allan Sherman was a master at setting new words to other people’s melodies. His clever parodies include “Won’t You Come Home, Disraeli” (“Won’t You Come Home, Bill Bailey”) and “One Hippopotami” (“What Kind of Fool Am I?”) and “I See Bones” (“C’est Si Bon”).

World War II Army nurse Muriel Engelman recalls ribbing the pilots by singing these words to the tune of a popular 1944 song, “I’ll Walk Alone.”

I’ll walk alone, because the Air Corps’ afraid of the Buzz Bombs
I’m not afraid of the Buzz Bombs, but I can’t get away, so here I stay.
I’ll walk alone, because the Air Corps’ afraid of the ack, ack..

She explains on Kathryn Atwood’s blog, The Song’s the Thing:

“We nurses dated some pilots whose air base was at St. Trond, Belgium, I don’t remember how far they were from Liege, somewhere like a 45-60 minute ride away but they weren’t getting buzz bombed and when they came to see us they weren’t comfortable with the bombs coming in every 12-15 minutes and they would want to take us to their air base where it was peaceful, so we teased them about it with that song.”

During a recent informal performance at an assisted living home, a small group gathered around the piano after lunch, singing and sharing memories sparked by the music. My set list included the 1911 barbershop quartet standard “I Want a Girl Just Like the Girl That Married Dear Old Dad,” one of my grandfather’s favorites. I can still hear his voice when I play it:

I want a girl, just like the girl that married dear old Dad
She was a pearl, and the only girl that Daddy ever had.
A real old-fashioned girl with heart so true
One who loves nobody else but you…

When I announced that “I Want a Girl” was my next selection, Una piped up.

“There are other words to that song, you know.”

“Oh, what are they?” I asked.

“Well, they’re not very nice.”

Una didn’t seem to want to expand, so I dropped the subject and got started playing. Pretty soon she was singing in her high, thin voice:

I want a beer, just like the beer that pickled dear old Dad
It was a beer, and the only beer that Daddy ever had.
A real old-fashioned beer with lots of foam
It took six men to carry Daddy home
Oh, I want a beer, just like the beer that pickled dear old Dad.

“My dad taught me that,” she said afterwards, misty-eyed. For a moment, I glimpsed the little girl she must have been when he did so.

Copyright © 2016 by Paulette Bochnig Sharkey
All rights reserved.

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This entry was posted in Audiences, Music and emotion, Volunteering and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to 99 bottles of beer on the wall

  1. Judie says:

    I can also still hear him sing that song. Thanks for jogging my memory. Made me a little misty eyed.

  2. Sharie Van Gilder says:

    Another fun one, thanks, Paulette…

  3. Jessa says:

    Those are funny lyrics!

  4. rlpiano says:

    I appreciate your inclusion of the history of parodies. I’m of a generation that grew up with “Weird Al” Yankovic, and have always found parodies second nature. I’ll regularly write and perform (with my brother) parodies to Christmas carols at our family gatherings–to a combination of laughter and grimaces from our family. Our best effort was a tribute to our 95-year-old grandmother. It was to the tune of “Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer”, but with the lyrics changed to “Grandma Nelson Just Gets Better Each Year.”
    The WWII anecdote gave me a kick, but then especially your story of the old barbershop tune. Thanks!

  5. June ritchie says:

    Dad always said the Irish are born with their bladders under their eyes! Judie and I are proof of that! Tears for me also!!😢👍

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