Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Demonic Anarchy. For Children. A Tribute to Barry Polisar.

Somehow I missed out on Barry Louis Polisar when I was a kid. Which, I think, explains certain mental imbalances in me as an adult. Polisar has been entertaining children for three decades with albums titled "I Eat Kids," "My Brother Thinks He's a Banana," "Naughty Songs for Boys and Girls," and the wonderfully misnamed "Songs for Well Behaved Children." It was this last album that earned him a letter that read "This is demonic anarchy and I've added you to the top of my prayer list." Which, of course, means that Polisar and the listener both truly understand childhood..which is mostly demonic anarchy, punctuated by times tables and naps.

Polisar wrote to me recently about a tribute album that was just released, called "We're Not Kidding: A Tribute to Barry Polisar." The album is the result of his song "All I Want Is You" appearing, 30 years after it's first release, in the open title sequence for the hit movie Juno. This got Polisar a lot of media attention and reconnected him with a generation of fans who's grown up on his albums. It turned out that his fans started a LOT of bands, who came together to record 60 covers of his songs for the 2-disk album.

It also turns out that a lot of his fans are Jewish, as is Polisar who's also written his own Haggadah. (Which, it turns out, I happen to own). The result is that there are an entertaining number of Jewish-music influenced recordings on the tribute album. A quick scan turned up:
  • Sephardic indie-rockers, DeLeon, covering "My Brother Thinks He's a Banana" and "My Name is Hiram Lipshlitz.
  • Deborah Berman and the Nogoodniks, performing "Shtek Nit Dayn Finger in Der Noz," their own Yiddish translation of Polisar's "Don't Put Your Finger Up Your Nose."
  • Kid Kazooey and His One-Man Klezmorkestra Band, performing "I've Got a Teacher, She's So Mean and He Eats Asparagus, Why Can't You Be That Way?"
  • The Brothers (Boaz and Moshe) Vilozny performing a When the House is Dark and Quiet. "
That a whole lot of other great bands doing spirited renditions. If updated, rollicking, versions of some wonderful and seriously demented kids songs are your thing...definitely check out the tribute album. You can hear clips of most of the tracks on the website. And while you're at it, check out Barry Louis Polisar's original albums and stories. Like a fine whine, they've aged very well.

For the record, I recently introduced my (happily demonic) 5 year old daughter to his song "I Used to Have A Sister." She's been wandering around the house all weekend singing it to herself and imagining her elder sister turned into an apple tree. Yeah. He gets kids.

For a final treat, here's a truly awesome video. It's about a minute of Polisar making his first TV appearance, on the "Bozo The Clown's Wide World of Wonder" show in 1975, singing "He Eats Asparagus, Why Can't You Be That Way?." According to Polisar, his "little sister was watching TV with her friends when he came on singing. They all got very excited and said, "Emily, isn't that your brother on TV?" She said, "No."

Barry Louis Polisar in his first TV appearance: Bozo the Clown, 1975

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