That Was The Year That Was - Tom Lehrer

version 1.1, June 9, 1993
transcribed by Birgit Klug & Eike Krömer, May 1993 in TeX
converted to text by Jeff Morris, March 28, 1995
converted to HTML by Jeff Morris, Novmeber 21, 2006

These are all available at The Demented Music Database
  1. National Brotherhood Week
  2. MLF Lullaby
  3. George Murphy
  4. The Folk Song Army
  5. Smut
  6. Send The Marines
  7. Pollution
  8. So Long, Mom (A Song For World War III)
  9. Whatever Became Of Hubert?
  10. New Math
  11. Alma
  12. Who's Next?
  13. Wernher Von Braun
  14. The Vatican Rag

National Brotherhood Week

One week of every year is designated National Brotherhood Week. This is just one of many such weeks honoring various worthy causes. One of my favorites is National Make-Fun-Of-The-Handicapped Week, which Frank Fontaine and Jerry Lewis are in charge of as you know.

During National Brotherhood Week various special events are arranged to drive home the message of brotherhood -- this year, for example, on the first day of the week, Malcolm X was killed, which gives you an idea of how effective the whole thing is.

I'm sure we all agree that we ought to love one another, and I know there are people in the world who do not love their fellow human beings, and I hate people like that!

Here's a song about National Brotherhood Week.

Oh, the white folks hate the black folks,
And the black folks hate the white folks;
To hate all but the right folks
Is an old established rule.

But during National Brotherhood Week,
National Brotherhood Week,
Lena Horne and Sheriff Clark are dancing cheek to cheek.
It's fun to eulogize
The people you despise
As long as you don't let 'em in your school.

Oh, the poor folks hate the rich folks,
And the rich folks hate the poor folks.
All of my folks hate all of your folks,
It's American as apple pie.

But during National Brotherhood Week,
National Brotherhood Week,
New Yorkers love the Puerto Ricans 'cause it's very chic.
Step up and shake the hand
Of someone you can't stand,
You can tolerate him if you try!

Oh, the Protestants hate the Catholics
And the Catholics hate the Protestants,
And the Hindus hate the Moslems,
And everybody hates the Jews.

But during National Brotherhood Week,
National Brotherhood Week,
It's National Everyone-Smile-At-One-Another-Hood Week.
Be nice to people who
Are inferior to you.
It's only for a week, so have no fear;
Be grateful that it doesn't last all year!

MLF Lullaby

A considerable amount of commotion was stirred up during the past year over the prospect of a multilateral force, known to the headline writers as MLF. Much of this discussion took place during the baseball season, so the Chronicle may not have covered it, but it did get a certain amount of publicity; and the basic idea was that a bunch of us nations, the good guys, would get together on a joint nuclear deterrent force including our current friends, like France, and our traditional friends, like Germany. Here's a song about that, called the "MLF Lullaby":

Sleep, baby, sleep, in peace may you slumber,
No danger lurks, your sleep to encumber.
We've got the missiles, peace to determine,
And one of the fingers on the button will be German.

Why shouldn't they have nuclear warheads?
England says no, but they all are soreheads.
I say a bygone should be a bygone,
Let's make peace the way we did in Stanleyville and Saigon.

Once all the Germans were warlike and mean,
But that couldn't happen again.
We taught them a lesson in 1918
And they've hardly bothered us since then.

So, sleep well, my darling, the sandman can linger.
We know our buddies won't give us the finger.
Heil -- hail -- the Wehrmacht, I mean the Bundeswehr,
Hail to our loyal ally!
Will scare Brezhnev.
I hope he is half as scared as I!

George Murphy

During the last election we had a good deal of fun back east following your senatorial contest out here. I'm from Massachusetts, and I feel that we have a certain right to gloat over the other states because Massachusetts is after all the only state with three senators.

Anyway, here's a salute to your new junior senator:

Hollywood's often tried to mix
Show business with politics
From Helen Gahagan
To Ronald Reagan?
But Mr. Murphy is the star
Who's done the best by far.

Oh, gee, it's great!
At last we've got a senator who can really sing and dance.
We can't expect America to win against its foes
With no one in the Senate who can really tap his toes.

The movies that you've seen
On your television screen
Show his legislative talents at a glance.
Should Americans pick crops? George says "No",
'cause no one but a Mexican would stoop so low.
And after all, even in Egypt, the pharaohs
Had to import Hebrew braceros.

Think of all the musicals we have in store.
Imagine: "Broadway Melody of Nineteen Eighty-Four".
Yes, now that he's a Senator, he's really got the chance
To give the public a song and dance!

The Folk Song Army

One type of song that has come into increasing prominence in recent months is the folk song of protest. You have to admire people who sing these songs. It takes a certain amount of courage to get up in a coffee house or a college auditorium and come out in favor of the things that everybody else in the audience is against, like peace and justice and brotherhood and so on.

But the nicest thing about a protest song is that it makes you feel so good. I have a song here which, I realize, should be accompanied on a folk instrument, in which category the piano does not, alas, qualify. So imagine, if you will, that I am playing an 88-string guitar!

We are the folk song army,
Every one of us cares.
We all hate poverty, war, and injustice
Unlike the rest of you squares.

There are innocuous folk songs, yeah,
But we regard 'em with scorn.
The folks who sing 'em have no social conscience,
Why, they don't even care if Jimmy Crack Corn.

If you feel dissatisfaction,
Strum your frustrations away.
Some people may prefer action,
But give me a folk song any old day.

The tune don't have to be clever,
And it don't matter if you put a couple extra syllables into a line.
It sounds more ethnic if it ain't good English
And it don't even gotta rhyme...excuse me: rhyne!

Remember the war against Franco?
That's the kind where each of us belongs.
Though he may have won all the battles,
We had all the good songs!

So join in the folk song army!
Guitars are the weapons we bring
To the fight against poverty, war, and injustice.
Ready, aim, sing!


I do have a cause, though, it is obscenity. I'm for it! Thank you. Unfortunately, the civil liberties types who are fighting this issue have to fight it, owing to the nature of the laws, as a matter of freedom of speech and stifling of free expression and so on. But we know what's really involved: dirty books are fun! That's all there is to it. But you can't get up in a court and say that, I suppose. It's simply a matter of freedom of pleasure, a right which is not guaranteed by the Constitution, unfortunately.

Anyway, since people seem to be marching for their causes these days, I have here a march for mine. It's called:

Give me smut and nothing but!
A dirty novel I can't shut
If it's uncut
and unsubt--le.

I've never quibbled
If it was ribald.
I would devour
Where others merely nibbled.
As the judge remarked the day that he acquitted my Aunt Hortense,
"To be smut
It must be ut-
Terly without redeeming social importance."

Nographic pictures I adore.
Indecent magazines galore,
I like them more
If they're hard core.

Bring on the obscene movies, murals, postcards, neckties, samplers, stained glass windows, tattoos, anything!
More, more, I'm still not satisfied!

Stories of tortures
Used by debauchers
Lurid, licentious and vile
Make me smile.
Novels that pander
To my taste for candor
Give me a pleasure sublime.
Let's face it I love slime!

All books can be indecent books,
Though recent books are bolder.
For filth, I'm glad to say,
Is in the mind of the beholder.
When correctly viewed,
Everything is lewd.
I could tell you things about Peter Pan
And the Wizard of Oz -- there's a dirty old man!

I thrill
To any book like Fanny Hill,
And I suppose I always will
If it is swill
And really fil--thy.

Who needs a hobby like tennis or philately?
I've got a hobby: rereading Lady Chatterley.
But now they're trying to take it all away from us unless
We take a stand, and hand in hand we fight for freedom of the press.
In other words: Smut! I love it.
Ah, the adventures of a slut.
Oh, I'm a market they can't glut.
I don't know what
Compares with smut.
Hip, hip, hooray!
Let's hear it for the Supreme Court!
Don't let them take it away!

Send The Marines

What with President Johnson practicing escalatio on the Vietnamese, and then the Dominican crisis on top of that, it has been a nervous year, and people have begun to feel like a Christian Scientist with appendicitis.

Fortunately, in times of crisis like this, America always has its number one instrument of diplomacy to fall back on.

Here's a song about it:

When someone makes a move
Of which we don't approve,
Who is it that always intervenes?
U.N. and O.A.S.,
They have their place, I guess,
But first -- send the Marines!

We'll send them all we've got,
John Wayne and Randolph Scott;
Remember those exciting fighting scenes?
To the shores of Tripoli,
But not to Mississippoli,
What do we do? We send the Marines!

For might makes right,
And till they've seen the light,
They've got to be protected,
All their rights respected,
Till somebody we like can be elected.

Members of the corps
All hate the thought of war;
They'd rather kill them off by peaceful means.
Stop calling it aggression,
Ooh, we hate that expression!
We only want the world to know
That we support the status quo.
They love us everywhere we go,
So when in doubt,
Send the Marines!


Time was when an American about to go abroad would be warned by his friends or the guidebooks not to drink the water. But times have changed, and now a foreigner coming to this country might be offered the following advice:

If you visit American city,
You will find it very pretty.
Just two things of which you must beware:
Don't drink the water and don't breathe the air!

Pollution, pollution!
They got smog and sewage and mud.
Turn on your tap
And get hot and cold running crud!

See the halibuts and the sturgeons
Being wiped out by detergeons.
Fish gotta swim and birds gotta fly,
But they don't last long if they try.

Pollution, pollution!
You can use the latest toothpaste,
And then rinse your mouth
With industrial waste.

Just go out for a breath of air
And you'll be ready for Medicare.
The city streets are really quite a thrill --
If the hoods don't get you, the monoxide will.

Pollution, pollution!
Wear a gas mask and a veil.
Then you can breathe,
Long as you don't inhale!

Lots of things there that you can drink,
But stay away from the kitchen sink!
The breakfast garbage that you throw into the Bay
They drink at lunch in San José.

So go to the city,
See the crazy people there.
Like lambs to the slaughter,
They're drinking the water
And breathing [cough] the air!

So Long, Mom (A Song For World War III)

This year we've been celebrating the hundredth anniversary of the Civil War and the fiftieth anniversary of the beginning of World War I and the twentieth anniversary of the end of World War II. So all in all, it's been a good year for the war buffs. And a number of LPs and television specials have come out capitalizing on all this "nostalgia", with particular emphasis on the songs of the various wars.

I feel that if any songs are gonna come out of World War III, we'd better start writing them now. I have one here. Might call it a bit of pre-nostalgia.

This is the song that some of the boys sang as they went bravely off to World War III:

So long, mom,
I'm off to drop the bomb,
So don't wait up for me.
But while you swelter
Down there in your shelter
You can see me
On your TV.

While we're attacking frontally
Watch Brinkally and Huntally
Describing contrapuntally
The cities we have lost.
No need for you to miss a minute of the agonizing holocaust. Yeah!

Little Johnny Jones, he was a US pilot,
And no shrinking violet was he.
He was mighty proud when World War III was declared.
He wasn't scared, no siree!

And this is what he said on
His way to Armageddon:

So long, mom,
I'm off to drop the bomb,
So don't wait up for me.
But though I may roam,
I'll come back to my home
Although it may be
A pile of debris.

Remember, mommy,
I'm off to get a commie,
So send me a salami
And try to smile somehow.
I'll look for you when the war is over,
An hour and a half from now!

Whatever Became Of Hubert?

I wonder how many people here tonight remember Hubert Humphrey, he used to be a senator. From time to time you read something about him pinning a medal on somebody or making a speech, or every now and then you read something in one of those "where are they now" columns: Whatever became of Deanna Durbin and Hubert Humphrey and so on.

This became quite an issue last winter at the time of Winston Churchill's funeral, when President Johnson was too ill to go and somebody suggested that he send Hubert and he said, "Hubert Who?"

...and all America was singing:

Whatever became of Hubert?
Has anyone heard a thing?
Once he shone on his own,
Now he sits home alone
And waits for the phone to ring.

Once a fiery liberal spirit,
Ah, but now when he speaks, he must clear it.
Second fiddle's a hard part, I know,
When they don't even give you a bow.

"We must protest this treatment, Hubert",
Says each newspaper reader.
As someone once remarked to Schubert,
"Take us to your Lieder"...
(Sorry about that.)

Whatever became of you, Hubert?
We miss you, so tell us, please:
Are you sad? Are you cross?
Are you gathering moss
While you wait for the boss to sneeze?

Does Lyndon, recalling when he was VP,
Say "I'll do unto you like they did unto me"?
Do you dream about staging a coup?
Hubert what happened to you?

New Math

Some of you who have small children may have perhaps been put in the embarrassing position of being unable to do your child's arithmetic homework because of the current revolution in mathematics teaching known as the New Math. So as a public service here tonight, I thought I would offer a brief lesson in the New Math.

Tonight, we're gonna cover subtraction. This is the first room I've worked for a while that didn't have a blackboard, so we will have to make do with more primitive visual aids, as they say in the ed biz.

Consider the following subtraction problem, which I will put up here: 342 minus 173. Now, remember how we used to do that:

Three from two is nine, carry the one, and if you're under 35 or went to a private school, you say seven from three is six, but if you're over 35 and went to a public school, you say eight from four is six ...and carry the one, so we have 169.

But in the new approach, as you know, the important thing is to understand what you're doing, rather than to get the right answer. Here's how they do it now:

You can't take three from two,
Two is less than three,
So you look at the four in the tens place.
Now that's really four tens
So you make it three tens,
Regroup, and you change a ten to ten ones,
And you add 'em to the two and get twelve,
And you take away three, that's nine.
Is that clear?

Now instead of four in the tens place
You've got three,
'Cause you added one,
That is to say, ten, to the two,
But you can't take seven from three,
So you look in the hundreds place.

From the three you then use one
To make ten ones...
(And you know why four plus minus one
Plus ten is fourteen minus one?
'Cause addition is commutative, right!)...
And so you've got thirteen tens
And you take away seven,
And that leaves five...

Well, six actually...
But the idea is the important thing!

Now go back to the hundreds place,
You're left with two,
And you take away one from two,
And that leaves...?

Everybody get one?
Not bad for the first day!

Hooray for New Math,
New-hoo-hoo Math,
It won't do you a bit of good to review math.
It's so simple,
So very simple,
That only a child can do it!

Now, that actually is not the answer that I had in mind, because the book that I got this problem out of wants you to do it in base eight. But don't panic! Base eight is just like base ten really -- if you're missing two fingers! Shall we have a go at it? Hang on...

You can't take three from two,
Two is less than three,
So you look at the four in the eights place.
Now that's really four eights,
So you make it three eights,
Regroup, and you change an eight to eight ones
And you add 'em to the two,
And you get one-two base eight,
Which is ten base ten,
And you take away three, that's seven.

Now instead of four in the eights place
You've got three,
'Cause you added one,
That is to say, eight, to the two,
But you can't take seven from three,
So you look at the sixty-fours...

Sixty-four? "How did sixty-four get into it?" I hear you cry! Well, sixty-four is eight squared, don't you see? (Well, ya ask a silly question, ya get a silly answer!)

From the three, you then use one
To make eight ones,
You add those ones to the three,
And you get one-three base eight,
Or, in other words,
In base ten you have eleven,
And you take away seven,
And seven from eleven is four!
Now go back to the sixty-fours,
You're left with two,
And you take away one from two,
And that leaves...?

Now, let's not always see the same hands!
One, that's right.
Whoever got one can stay after the show and clean the erasers.

Hooray for New Math,
New-hoo-hoo Math!
It won't do you a bit of good to review math.
It's so simple,
So very simple,
That only a child can do it!

Come back tomorrow night...we're gonna do fractions!

Y'know, I've often thought I'd like to write a mathematics textbook someday because I have a title that I know will sell a million copies; I'm gonna call it "Tropic of Calculus".


Last December 13th, there appeared in the newspapers the juiciest, spiciest, raciest obituary it has ever been my pleasure to read. It was that of a lady named Alma Mahler Gropius Werfel, who had, in her lifetime, managed to acquire as lovers practically all of the top creative men in central Europe. And, among these lovers, who were listed in the obituary, by the way, which is what made it so interesting, there were three whom she went so far as to marry: One of the leading composers of the day, Gustav Mahler, composer of "Das Lied von der Erde" and other light classics; one of the leading architects, Walter Gropius, of the "Bauhaus" school of design; and one of the leading writers, Franz Werfel, author of the "Song of Bernadette" and other masterpieces.

It's people like that who make you realize how little you've accomplished. It is a sobering thought, for example, that when Mozart was my age, he had been dead for two years!

It seemed to me, on reading this obituary, that the story of Alma was the stuff of which ballads should be made, so here is one:

The loveliest girl in Vienna
Was Alma, the smartest as well.
Once you picked her up on your antenna,
You'd never be free of her spell.

Her lovers were many and varied
From the day she began her -- beguine.
There were three famous ones whom she married,
And God knows how many between.

Alma, tell us,
All modern women are jealous,
Which of your magical wands
Got you Gustav and Walter and Franz?

The first one she married was Mahler,
Whose buddies all knew him as Gustav,
And each time he saw her he'd holler,
"Ach, that is the Fräulein I must have!"

Their marriage, however, was murder.
He'd scream to the heavens above,
"I'm writing 'Das Lied von der Erde'
And she only wants to make love!"

Alma, tell us,
All modern women are jealous.
You should have a statue in bronze
For bagging Gustav and Walter and Franz.

While married to Gus she met Gropius,
And soon she was swinging with Walter.
Gus died and her tear drops were copious,
She cried all the way to the altar.

But he would work late at the Bauhaus,
And only came home now and then.
She said, "What am I running, a chow house?
It's time to change partners again!"

Alma, tell us,
All modern women are jealous.
Though you didn't even use Ponds,
You got Gustav and Walter and Franz.

While married to Walt, she'd met Werfel,
And he, too, was caught in her net.
He married her but he was careful,
'Cause Alma was no Bernadette.

And that is the story of Alma,
Who knew how to receive and to give.
The body that reached her embalma
Was one that had known how to live.

Alma, tell us,
How can they help being jealous?
Ducks always envy the swans
Who get Gustav and Walter,
You never did falter
With Gustav and Walter and Franz.

I know some people feel that marriage as an institution is dying out, but I disagree. And the point was driven home to me rather forcefully not long ago by a letter I received which said: "Darling, I love you, and I cannot live without you. Marry me, or I will kill myself." Well, I was a little disturbed at that until I took another look at the envelope, and saw that it was addressed to 'occupant'...

Speaking of love, one problem that recurs more and more frequently these days, in books and plays and movies, is the inability of people to communicate with the people they love: Husbands and wives who can't communicate, children who can't communicate with their parents, and so on. And the characters in these books and plays and so on, and in real life, I might add, spend hours bemoaning the fact that they can't communicate. I feel that if a person can't communicate, the very least he can do is to shut up!

Who's Next

One of the big news items of the past year concerned the fact that China, which we call 'Red China', exploded a nuclear bomb, which we called a 'device'. Then Indonesia announced that it was gonna have one soon, and proliferation became the word of the day. Here's a song about that.

First we got the bomb and that was good,
'Cause we love peace and motherhood.
Then Russia got the bomb, but that's OK,
'Cause the balance of power's maintained that way!
Who's next?

France got the bomb, but don't you grieve,
'Cause they're on our side, I believe.
China got the bomb, but have no fears;
They can't wipe us out for at least five years!
Who's next?

Then Indonesia claimed that they
Were gonna get one any day.
South Africa wants two, that's right:
One for the black and one for the white!
Who's next?

Egypt's gonna get one, too,
Just to use on you know who.
So Israel's getting tense,
Wants one in self defense.
"The Lord's our shepherd," says the psalm,
But just in case, we better get a bomb!
Who's next?

Luxembourg is next to go
And, who knows, maybe Monaco.
We'll try to stay serene and calm
When Alabama gets the bomb!
Who's next, who's next, who's next?
Who's next?

Wernher von Braun

And what is it that put America in the forefront of the nuclear nations? And what is it that will make it possible to spend twenty billion dollars of your money to put some clown on the moon? Well, it was good old American know how, that's what, as provided by good old Americans like Dr. Wernher von Braun!

Gather 'round while I sing you of Wernher von Braun,
A man whose allegiance
Is ruled by expedience.
Call him a Nazi, he won't even frown,
"Ha, Nazi, Schmazi," says Wernher von Braun.

Don't say that he's hypocritical,
Say rather that he's apolitical.
"Once the rockets are up, who cares where they come down?
That's not my department," says Wernher von Braun.

Some have harsh words for this man of renown,
But some think our attitude
Should be one of gratitude,
Like the widows and cripples in old London town,
Who owe their large pensions to Wernher von Braun.

You too may be a big hero,
Once you've learned to count backwards to zero.
"In German oder English I know how to count down,
Und I'm learning Chinese!" says Wernher von Braun.

The Vatican Rag

Another big news story of the year concerned the ecumenical council in Rome, known as Vatican II. Among the things they did, in an attempt to make the church more...commercial, was to introduce the vernacular into portions of the Mass to replace Latin, and to widen somewhat the range of music permissible in the liturgy. But I feel that if they really want to sell the product in this secular age, what they ought to do is to redo some of the liturgical music in popular song forms. I have a modest example here; it's called "The Vatican Rag"!

First you get down on your knees,
Fiddle with your rosaries,
Bow your head with great respect,
And genuflect, genuflect, genuflect!

Do whatever steps you want if
You have cleared them with the Pontiff.
Everybody say his own
Kyrie eleison,
Doin' the Vatican Rag.

Get in line in that processional,
Step into that small confessional.
There the guy who's got religion'll
Tell you if your sin's original.
If it is, try playin' it safer,
Drink the wine and chew the wafer,
Two, four, six, eight,
Time to transubstantiate!

So get down upon your knees,
Fiddle with your rosaries,
Bow your head with great respect,
And genuflect, genuflect, genuflect!

Make a cross on your abdomen,
When in Rome do like a Roman;
Ave Maria,
Gee, it's good to see ya.
Gettin' ecstatic an' sorta dramatic an'
Doin' the Vatican

Eike Krömer
Institut für Theoretische Physik
Universität Hannover

"...but plagiarize, plagiarize, plagiarize,
only be sure to always call it please -- research"
(Tom Lehrer: Lobachevsky)

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