TOM LEHRER


The Irish Ballad Lyrics

(Introduction, only on life album „Tom Lehrer revisited“, spoken:)
Now I'd like to turn to the folk song, which has become in
recent years the particularly fashionable form of idiocy among
the self-styled intellectual. We find that people who deplore
the level of current popular songs – although I admit they do
seem to be recording almost anything these days. Have you heard
Sesue Hayakawa's record of „Remember Pearl Harbor"? These same
people who deplore the level of current popular songs and yet
will sit around enthralled singing „Jimmy crack corn and I
don't care" or „Green Grow The Rushes, Oh!" – whatever that
means. At any rate, for this elite I have here an ancient Irish
ballad, which was written a few years ago, and which is replete
with all the accoutrements of this art form. In particular, it has
a sort of idiotic refrain, in this case „rickety-tickety-tin"
you'll notice cropping up from time to time, running through,
I might add, interminable verses – The large number of verses
being a feature expressly designed to please the true devotees
of the folk song who seem to find singing fifty verses of
„On Top Of Old Smoky" is twice as enjoyable as singing twenty-five.
This type of song also has what is known technically in music as
a modal tune, which means – for the benefit of any layman who
may have wandered in this evening – that I play a wrong note
every now and then, I think you'll notice that. (piano)
This song though does differ strikingly from the genuine
folk ballad in that in this song the words which are supposed
to rhyme – actually do. (piano)
I, ah, I really should say that – I do not direct these remarks
against the vast army of folk song lovers, but merely against
that peculiar hard core who seem to equate authenticity with
artistic merit and illiteracy with charm. (piano)
Oh – one more thing. One of the more important aspects of public
folk singing is audience participation, and this happens to be a
good song for group singing. So if any of you feel like joining
in with me on this song, I'd appreciate it if you would leave –
right now!

About a maid I'll sing a song
Sing rickety-tickety-tin
About a maid I'll sing a song
Who didn't have her family long
Not only did she do them wrong
She did every one of them in
Them in
She did every one of them in

One morning in a fit of pique
Sing rickety-tickety-tin
One morning in a fit of pique
She drowned her father in the creek
The water tasted bad for a week
And we had to make do with gin
With gin
And we had to make do with gin

Her mother she could never stand
Sing rickety-tickety-tin
Her mother she could never stand
And so a cyanide soup she planned
Her mother died with a spoon in her hand
And her face in a hideous grin
A grin
Her face in a hideous grin

She set her sister's hair on fire
Rickety-tickety-tin
She set her sister's hair on fire
And as the smoke and flame rose higher
Danced around the funeral pyre
Playin' a violin
'Olin
Playin' a violin

She weighted her brother down with stones
Rickety-tickety-tin
She weighted her brother down with stones
And sent him off to Davy Jones
All they ever found were some bones
And the occasional pieces of skin
Of skin
Occasional pieces of skin

One day when she had nothing to do
Rickety-tickety-tin
One day when she had nothing to do
She cut her baby brother in two
And served him up as an Irish stew
And invited the neighbors in
'Bors in
Invited the neighbors in

And when at last the police came by
Rickety-tickety-tin
And when at last the police came by
Her little pranks she did not deny
To do so she would have had to lie
And lying she knew was a sin
A sin
Lying she knew was a sin

My tragic tale I won't prolong
Rickety-tickety-tin
My tragic tale I won't prolong
And if you do not enjoy my song
You've yourselves to blame if it's too long
You should never have let me begin
Begin
You should never have let me begin

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