I practised beforehand...

Philip.Belben at eme.co.uk Philip.Belben at eme.co.uk
Wed May 14 06:49:54 EDT 2003

>> I think I shall have to discover this Tom Lehrer.
> Yes, yes, you must.


> He covered such diverse topics, in his singing career, as Boy Scouts, war,
> plagiarism, pollution, the Vatican, sex, pigeons, folk songs, mathematics,
> drug dealers...

What I'm beginning to find is that Tom Lehrer and Flanders and Swann is that
they actually cover a lot of the same ground.  In quite different ways, and both
very well.  "The Bedstead Men" goes well with "Pollution" and "Pee Po Belly Bum
Drawers" with "Smut", to cite a couple of examples.  Tom Lehrer coined the term
"Survival Hymn" for "We Will All Go Together When We Go", because it was
inspired in part by the revival hymns of a generation or two earlier [*].  But
for me, by far the best example of a survival hymn is "Twenty Tons of TNT":

I have seen it estimated
Somewhere between death and birth
There are now three thousand million
People living on this earth.
And the stockpiled mass destruction
of the nuclear powers that be
equals - for each man or woman -
Twenty tons of TNT.

Of course nowadays I always sing "six thousand million", but does anyone know
what the current world figure is for aggregate nuclear arsenal?

Philip.  (Who has finally caught up with the list again.)

[*]  I could never relate We Will All Go Together to any revival hymn until in
Church once I almost found myself singing those words to the tune of "When the
Roll is Called up Yonder".  On the other hand, 20 Tons is in a standard hymn
metre, and can be sung to any number of hymn tunes.  Try Robert Lowry's tune to
"Here is Love Vast as the Ocean" for starters...

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