Songs Are Sad: Bridge Disaster Edition
By
April 3, 2014

Good morning, good afternoon, and good evening, dear readers. Before I crack open the sonic sepulcher of the Songs Are Sad Mailbag to explain to you why every last song you claim to enjoy is in fact bone-snappingly sad, allow me to address perhaps the most frequently posed query to our humble office.

That question is this: Rob, isn’t there any kind of music that you DO like? And the answer, dear readers, comes to you in three parts.

1) As always, I have no legitimate beef with music-in-general. It is songs which draw my ire, and their ability to transform even the cheeriest of tunes into a spine-bendingly dour thing with the addition of that most vile of human inventions: lyrics.

2) I can bring myself to enjoy a number of songs sung in languages other than English. Since I cannot understand the words, I lie to myself by pretending that they contain sentiments other than outrageous, lung-dampening sadnominy.

3) I also have a fondness for the late 1990s styles of “grunge” and/or “alternative rock.” It may be a simple matter of schoolbus nostalgia, but I choose to believe that it is because although the official language of these undoubtedly lugubrious tracks is said to be English, I have positively no idea what the earthly hell it is that any of these musicians were trying to communicate through their glowing heroin haze. Perhaps cries for help, perhaps simply cries for more heroin. The world may never know.

And now to your letters!

First out of the gate this month, one Joe Bowling of Los Angeles, California writes, “How about ‘Love Shack?'”

Thank you for your interest, Joe. I suppose the answer you’re expecting is with regard to the infamous shout of “Tin Roof! Rusted!” which is commonly thought to refer–in some inexplicable way–to pregnancy, perhaps as a side effect of spending time in the Love Shack. But the fact is much more horrifying. This phrase doesn’t mean anything at all. In its own way, it symbolizes the crushing reality that this very song tries to help us all to forget with its catchy uptempo music and nonsensical, often barely intelligible lyrics: that we are alone in the universe and yet remain utterly insignificant to the entirety of the cosmos, destined to provide as much meaning to our celestial surroundings your B-52’s Greatest Hits compilation disc provided to Christ.

Twitter user @LewisSequeira writes, “’Feelin’ Groovy’ by Simon & Garfunkel. Your move, sir.”

Indeed it is. First of all, you are referring to The 59th Street Bridge Song (Feelin’ Groovy), but I believe you already knew that. What I suspect you don’t know is that each line of this catchy little tune refers to a terrible disaster in the history of this engineering death trap. To wit:

“Slow down, you move too fast” refers to the flooding caused by torrential rain in 1929, which undermined the lift span cantilever resulting in a roadbed span of the bridge collapsing into the river.

“You’ve got to make the morning last.” “Morning” in this case is a pun on “mourning” and refers to the fire of December 29, 1934, which was caused by welding equipment repairing structural damage caused in the fire of December 22, 1934.

“Just kicking down the cobble stones” is a transparent reference to the disaster of 1909, just after the opening of the bridge, in which improperly protected footings led to the scouring of vital underfootings and twenty-two deaths.

“Hello lamppost, whatcha’ knowing” refers to the fire of December 22, 1934, which was caused by a gas lamppost.

“I’ve come to watch your flowers growing” is a reference to the 1951 railroad trestle collapse that is to this day unrepaired, leaving the bridge with two upper trestles instead of three. A passenger train slowed to allow sightseers to photograph an open-topped train filled with enormous grown trees being delivered to the city for transplant into Central Park. The combined weight of the two trains was too much for the uppermost–and thus weakest–trestle.

“Ain’t ya got no rhymes for me” refers to the extremely well-known at the time collision of the freighter Emerald Morning into the bridge in 1919. The following “doot an’ do do” in the lyrics are the letters E and M in morse code, the standard of ship-to-ship communication in that era.

“Got no deeds to do… ready for sleep.” This three-line phrase is a reference to Robert Frost’s poem “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening” which does not allude to a bridge disaster. However, a snowy evening was the cause of a 33-automobile collision on the bridge in 1962.

“Let the morningtime drop all its petals on me. Life I love you” refers to an incident in 1941 in which a single iron girder collapsed due to hidden defects in the iron. The bridge was closed while surrounding supports were inspected. This incident is remarkable as it is the only event of its kind not to result in passenger casualties.

So there you have it folks. Unfortunately that response took so much time that there’s no more room for letters this month, but if you think you can think of a happy song, or even a song that isn’t simply spleen-twistingly sad, let me know at SongsAreSad@thehiggsweldon.com. Until then, keep your ears plugged and eyes to the sky!

 

The Higgs Weldon is a humor website with funny stories, articles, cartoons, and one liners. It was started by the Los Angeles stand-up comedy community, but takes submissions from everybody. Please read and enjoy our jokes!


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