If you had been invited to an event entitled ‘A Bring Your Own Song Evening’, what would you have thought?
Exactly, you would have thought that you had to bring your own song, a song of your own, one that you had written yourself. Which explains why we panicked so much when the invite dropped through the door and on to the mat.
To be fair, the envelope looked innocent enough, at least until we opened it. It seemed that our friend Trish was having ‘a few special friends’ over for a meal and a bit of a sing-along and she hoped that we could make it.
Now, we love being invited to things, and Trish is great fun to be around, so we really should have been at least a little bit excited about this. But, we weren’t.
The whole thing seemed, well, it seemed a bit odd. For starters, Trish isn’t the type to send out invitations, she’s more an email kind of person. And, being the outgoing sort that she is, she knows absolutely everybody on the planet. With all those people to choose from why we were being invited to such an event? Neither one of us could write a limerick, much less a whole song. We also couldn’t, as my father used to say, carry a tune in a wheelbarrow. Neither, for that matter, could she. So, a sing-along, with our own song? What was going on?
I blamed the new boyfriend. He’s arty.
Don’t get me wrong. He seemed like a perfectly nice chap. A bit on the earnest side, perhaps. Maybe missing a few cynical bones here and there. Possibly not the wittiest person on the bus. But he was seriously … ok. After all, a sense of humour isn’t everything. I suppose.
Anyway, we spent the next month fretting, not in the musical guitar-related way, but in the less amusing, angst-ridden one. What kind of song could we possibly come up with?
We toyed with alternative words to popular tunes. We explored popular words to alternative tunes. We read poetry, and fortune cookies, and greeting cards for inspiration. We considered telling her that we had come down with bubonic plague and couldn’t come but decided that, what with her being a nurse and all, we were probably not going to get away with it. So, we carried on trying. Right up to the morning of the evening. And then we got it, words and music both.
We printed out our song, we ran through our timings and we hauled ourselves over the river and up to north London. We knew it wasn’t a great song but it was ours. Besides, there was free food and drink on offer. How bad could it be?
Well, let me first tell you that when we arrived every single other person was wearing tie dyed clothing. I am seriously not kidding. And sandals.
Oh, ok. Maybe they weren’t physically wearing tie dye and sandals but, beyond a doubt, they were spiritually wearing them. With socks.
The first person gets up and starts singing…. Amazing Grace.
Uhmmm….Amazing Grace? Really? I could have sworn that I had heard that one before, once or twice. How could this possibly be her own song?
She, Carmen or Carmel or something that sounds like Carla but isn’t, didn’t appear in the least upset that some clergyman had stolen it from her, about 250 years ago, and turned it into a movie starring that Welshman with the totally unpronounceable name. In fact, she was really getting into it. Her eyes closed. Her face turned towards the heavens, well the ceiling but you get the idea. She started swaying in time to the background music, which she happened to have on her ipod. Everyone else started swaying, and humming, and looking as if they were in the midst of a religious experience.
Except for me and Tom. We were much too busy giving each other that ‘well, this is a bit weird’ look. I guess it was lucky that everyone else had their eyes closed, wouldn’t want to antagonise the audience before we had even started. We decided she was just the warm-up act, just testing the acoustics as it were. Not yet singing her own material. Nothing to worry about.
The next person got up, with a guitar, and started belting out I Walked the Line. He was pretty good. Actually, he was very good. Not as good, however, as Johnny Cash, whom I knew for an absolute fact had written it, or even Joaquin Phoenix, who was robbed when he didn’t get an Oscar nomination for singing it in that film.
Two non-original songs in a row, there was a pattern developing here. I started getting a very bad feeling about all this. Judging from the look on his face, so was Tom.
I pulled the invite from my pocket and studied it while someone else started singing a Joni Collins number about clouds or clowns or something. I wasn’t really listening. No, we weren’t wrong. The invite definitely said ‘your own song’, not ‘your favourite song’ or ‘the song you danced to at your wedding’ or ‘the one you want played at your funeral’ or even ‘the one you heard on the way over here and is still running around in your head’. It said ‘your – own – song’. Definitely. What other way was there to read it? None.
So how come everyone else got it so wrong?
It’s hard to describe quite how we felt as we sat there, awaiting our turn, but if you imagine turning up at a party where the invitation said ‘fancy dress’ and everyone else is wearing a dinner jacket or evening gown and you’re dressed as a giant tomato, you would be on the right track.
I toyed with the idea of feigning a heart attack, or of pretending that we had gotten a phone call saying that our house was on fire, but I doubted I could pull it off. I was barely capable of speech at that point, much less invention. The rest of the evening passed in a blur, a kind of slow motion blur that you knew was going to end badly.
It’s hard to remember quite what the running order was, or who did what when, but suffice it to say that over the course of the next hour or so we were treated to an Irish folk song, complete with that drum-thing that you hold in your hand, a bit more Gospel music and some Joan Baez classics. We also had Michael rowing his boat ashore, and Puff the Dragon hanging out down by the sea and something on a flute that sounded suspiciously like Ode to Joy.
And then it was us.
Tom and I got up. We stood there in our non-tie dyed outfits. We faced the crowd, without backing music or hand-held instruments of any kind and started singing:
The Oink-Oink Song
It goes like this:
I’m a happy oink-oink.
I’m a happy oink-oink.
Oink, oink, oink.
While others jog through smoggy parks
I eat, eat, eat
While others sweat in leotards
I eat, eat, eat.
There are an amazing number of verses. I’ll spare you them. It does, however, go on for quite awhile. And then, we reached the big finale:
The local cream cake baker faced
Bank – rupt – cy
Then I swept in and saved the day
Hurray for me
No me (Eileen solo)
No me (Tom solo)
Oink! Oink! (Ensemble)
The silence was deafening.
Until, that is, Trisha started clapping, and laughing, and shouting ‘They brought their OWN song. They win! Oink. Oink’.
The boyfriend, we noticed, was not amused.
I’m not sure how long we are giving this relationship. I just hope that the next one isn’t a surgeon because I am really not looking forward to the Bring Your Own Scalpel evening.