We Don’t Want the Bacon! What We Want Is…

Last night I did one thing I too often do and one thing I never do.

The too often: I stayed up late. Very late.

The never: I went to bed hooked up through earbuds and a Kindle to the album “Presenting That Celebrated Maestro MAX MORATH in a Scintillating Program of Waltzes, Shouts, Novelties, Rags, Blues, Ballads, and Stomps.”

And because the music is so much fun, I lay there listening, replaying, listening, replaying… I don’t know how many times I listened to it. I also don’t know what time I finally went to sleep.

Ragtime is my favorite music–piano only, no interference from lesser instruments. Morath is my favorite ragtime pianist. There’s something about his touch… I can’t describe it, but it’s right.

I discovered him years ago in a program on PBS. Then I bought the LP. Recently I repurchased it for Kindle. (Or Fire, or whatever this beast is supposed to be called.)

Tonight, googling for a link to the album, I came across a 1986 New York Times review of Morath’s one-man show, “Living a Ragtime Life.” Serendipity. I didn’t know there’d been a show. Or that Morath is a musicologist.

Or also, according to Wikipedia, a composer, actor, and author. Or known as”Mr. Ragtime.” Or called a “one-man ragtime army.”

I hadn’t planned to say this much about Max Morath, but he’s worth some words, so I’ll quote part of the Times review (which you may skip if you wish):

”IT’S our music that labels our history, more than our wars and our politicians,” asserts Max Morath early in his one-man show, ”Living a Ragtime Life.” Seated at a grand piano under a Tiffany lamp, and flanked by an Edison phonograph, the musicologist, storyteller and expert in turn-of-the-century Americana seems the very epitome of an old-time vaudevillian. But in reflecting with a sly ironic humor on our longing for ”the good old days,” Mr. Morath is much more than a devoted nostalgist. He is a philosopher of American popular culture with Mark Twain’s gift of gab and farsighted historical view. The picture he paints of the 1890’s, ”when sex was dirty and the air was clean,” is of a world that we might want to visit, but, he convincingly persuades us, we almost certainly wouldn’t want to live there. 

But back to what I was listening to over and over last night and why.

First the why: As I’ve already said, it was fun.

The what: Music from the turn of the century–that other century–through World War I. Some pretty bad songs. Some pretty silly ones. Some pretty good ones, usually because they were pretty bad or pretty silly.

Such as the one said to be General Pershing’s favorite song: “We Don’t Want the Bacon: What We Want Is a Piece of the Rhine.”

We_don't_want_the_bacon
By Unknown – http://www.pritzkermilitary.org/explore/library/online-catalog/view/oclc/17842776, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=47170152

Chorus:
We don’t want the bacon
We don’t want the bacon,
What we want is a piece of the Rhine.
We’ll feed “Bill the Kaiser” with our Allied appetizer.
We’ll have a wonderful time.
Old Wilhelm Der Gross will shout, “Vas is Los?”
The Hindenburg line will sure look like a dime;
We don’t want the bacon
We don’t want the bacon,
What we want is a piece of the Rhine.

 

 

 

 

And a cautionary song: “Heaven Will Protect the Working Girl.”

CHORUS 1: “You are going far away, but remember what I say
When you are in the city’s giddy whirl.
From temptations, crimes, and follies,
Villains, taxicabs and trolleys,
Oh! Heaven will protect a working girl.”

CHORUS 2: “Stand back, villain! Go your way! Here I will no longer stay,
Although you were a marquis or an earl.
You may tempt the upper classes
With your villainous demitasses,
But Heaven will protect a working girl.”

And a song the sheet music of which Max Morath’s fourteen-year-old mother was not allowed to bring home: “Always Take a Girl Named Daisy.”

If you take a girl out walking
Down a little shady dell
Always take a girl named Daisy
‘Cause daisies won’t tell

The lyrics quoted here are just excerpts of the songs, and are just a sample of Morath’s presentation.

So there’s my idea of fun, the pastime that kept me awake when decent folk were sound asleep. It’s not for everybody, I realize–though, of course, it should be.

Says Morath,  “Scorned by the establishment as ephemeral at best, trashy at worst, ragtime was the fountainhead of every rhythmic and stylistic upheaval that has followed in a century of ever-evolving American popular music.”

If ragtime and its offshoots strike your fancy, the album cited at the beginning of this post and “Living a Ragtime Life” are available from Amazon (and other vendors no doubt).

And the program “Max Morath: Living a Ragtime Life!” that I watched on PBS many years ago now appears in seven parts on Youtube.

A pilon:

CHORUS:
I’ve got a ragtime dog, and a ragtime cat;
A ragtime piano in my ragtime flat;

Got ragtime troubles with my ragtime wife:
I’m certainly living a ragtime life.