1. Archive

File these songs under "obscure'

I have a freak memory.

My friends, who frequently note that I can't remember where I put my car keys, or, frequently, my car, don't even bother to conceal their mirth when I tell them that I can remember being born, taking my first step and even being a Republican for four years _ no matter how hard I, and my Republican friends, try to block it out.

I love it when authors like Stephen King make you feel like you and they are the only people on earth who possess the arcane knowledge that it was Kathy Young and the Innocents who recorded A Thousand Stars in The Sky.

My recollection of the totally nonessential is hardly any help to me, though. I drew a lot of strange stares, not all because of the green beer stains on my T-shirt, at three St. Patrick's Day celebrations by asking musician friends if they ever heard Pat Malone Forgot That He Was Dead, which is about a guy who rethinks a life-insurance scam when the clods begin to hit his coffin top.

And I have endured years of indignity over The Eggplant That Ate Chicago.

"Are you sure," friends would ask, making brief eye contact with one another over my head, "that you're not referring to the mushrooms you ate while you were in Chicago?"

It would come up every once in a while when I was referring to something I found growing in my refrigerator or the uncontrolled growth of some government agency or politician's ego.

"It's like the Eggplant that Ate Chicago," I would write, and the young editors who oversee my copy downtown would shake their heads sadly at how advancing age has affected an otherwise mediocre talent. Then they would change it to some phrase like, "something really big" _ or, once, when the editor in question knew she was leaving and I would never find her, to "growing like Topsy."

Time after time I would meet either blank or worried or at least nervous stares as I confronted people and asked them if they knew The Eggplant That Ate Chicago. I had much the same demeanor I used a few months ago demanding to know if book store clerks had Succulent Wild Woman. They all looked at me like I might have thought it was a cookbook.

I remembered the eggplant song because it was released, and played interminably by Armed Forces Radio Vietnam, in 1966, most of which I spent in that tropical paradise.

The movies had it wrong. The Vietnam War wasn't fought to tunes from Wagner, although many of the political philosophies behind the war probably felt comfortable with him. It was fought to the tunes of the Rolling Stones, the Beatles, the Dave Clark Five and, darn it, Dr. West's Medicine Show and Junk Band, which recorded the heretofore mentioned eggplant song.

After a host of my colleagues offered disdainful substitutes (like The Persimmon That Ate Toledo) one or two admitted to remembering the song.

Crack Times researcher Barbara Oliver not only found the title and artist, but also came up with the lyrics, providing me not only with proof about this song, but also support for a congruent theory that somebody other than Roger Miller actually did write a song with the words "wacka-do, wacka-do" in it. Oliver also pointed out that Norman Greenbaum of Spirit in the Sky fame fronted for the Dr. West's Medicine Show and Junk Band _ so there.

And now, so that it will ring in your mind for a while as it has in mine for more than three decades, here is a verse:

You'd better watch out for the eggplant that ate Chicago,

For he may eat your city soon.

You'd better watch out for the eggplant that ate Chicago,

If he's still hungry, the whole country's doomed.

Stay away from me _ I mean it. I also have Tiny Tim lyrics and know how to use them.