Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody is the gift that never stops giving. The release of the Freddy Mercury biopic this year led to many tribute videos, from parodies to cover versions, one of which was performed in the styles of 42 different musicians and music groups.
But the gold standard remains a 2007 live performance by one Rick Miller, singing it in the style of “25 of the most annoying voices in the music industry”.
While Miller is consistently good as he segues from one celebrity rocker to another, his send-up of Mick Jagger is clearly the pièce de résistance, with “any annoying lead guitarist” coming a close second. Since the song begins with Bob Dylan, the 2016 Nobel laureate for literature, it is the perfect peg to plug and share yet another gem I rediscovered recently on YouTube. And that is John Lennon reading a newspaper article while strumming on an acoustic guitar, one of his three Dylan parodies – “satires” – released posthumously.
After he’s done reading the article, with minor interjections, Lennon ad-libs some silly rhymes and concludes with typical Lennon jibes – and they are clearly aimed not only at Dylan’s Memphis Blues.
“...a postage system that never fails
to land me in jail
And look through my mail
Perhaps have a garage sale
And you know, go save the whale
and, you know, get a boat and go for a sail
and, and, oh, oh, oh, oh, how do you get out of this hell?
Stuck inside of a lexicon with the Roget’s thesaurus blues again
Sometimes I wish I was just George Harrison –
you know all the answers, oh my god, oh my god.”
The baggage between Lennon and Dylan goes back to Norwegian Woods and Fourth Time Around, about which Lennon is on record, saying:
“I was very paranoid about that. I remember he played it to me when he was in London. He said, what do you think? I said, I don’t like it. I didn’t like it. I was very paranoid. I just didn’t like what I felt I was feeling – I thought it was an out and out skit, you know, but it wasn’t. It was great. I mean he wasn’t playing any tricks on me. I was just going through the bit.”
There is enough documentation online about their relationship, right upto Roll on John in 2012, but the real interested readers would have to look up the Lennon anthology At Home or the four-CD Box-Set Anthology for his memorable Lord, Take This Make Up Off of Me, an excerpt from which is included in this video.
“Lord, take this makeup off of me.
I said, “Lordy, lordy, lordy, take this makeup offa me.”
It’s bad enough on the beach,
But it’s worse in the sea.
Because i’m knockin’ on heaven’s door.
Because i’m lookin’ for my ma.”
Lennon’s third “satire”, Serve Yourself, was a response to Dylan’s “You gotta serve somebody” during his born-again Christian period, and not one of my favourites, but talking of Dylan parodies, perhaps nothing attracted as much attention as the whole “Dylan Hears A Who” saga in 2007 when Kevin Ryan, a Houston-based music producer, did a retro mashup of sorts, taking text from seven Dr Seuss classics and singing them in the style of vintage Dylan. While the songs went viral, the Seuss estate was not amused and threatened to sue.
And if that is not reason enough to put a smile on your face, perhaps we should end with “Weird Al” Yankovic’s brilliant parody of Dylan’s Subterranean Homesick Blues, done entirely in palindromes, starting with the title, Bob:
“I, man, am regal – a German am I
Never odd or even
If I had a hi-fi
Madam, I’m Adam
Too hot to hoot
No lemons, no melon
Too bad I hid a boot
Lisa Bonet ate no basil
Warsaw was raw
Was it a car or a cat I saw?”